Each state has its own unique insurance laws. Texas follows the 30/60/25 coverage rule. Under Texas law, this means that each driver must have at least $30,000 of coverage for injuries, reaching up to a total of $60,000 per accident and $25,000 of coverage for property damage. As we know, not everyone obeys the law. Some people fail to have even the basic minimum state requirements for car insurance.
But even if someone has the state required minimum car insurance, the law in Texas does not force its drivers to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage at all. Opting in to get this insurance typically costs the policyholder more.
What is uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is additional coverage you can buy so that if you are ever hit by a driver who does not have enough insurance to cover your damages, you can use your own policy to cover the damages caused by a driver with little or no car insurance. It can also help cover damages from a hit-and-run accident where you cannot locate the driver at fault.
Considering the car crash statistics, buying this additional coverage may be a good idea. Currently, an estimated 20 percent of Texas drivers are uninsured. And, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), there was an all-time high in the number of motor vehicle deaths in 2021 – up over 15 percent. What is does this damage look like in dollars? TXDOT estimated a total of $51,400,000,000 in economic loss as a result of all motor vehicle crashes.
Most insurance companies allow you to buy more uninsured and underinsured coverage in $5,000 increments, but this depends on the company. As a general rule of thumb, the Texas Department of Insurance recommends that you have enough insurance to cover the value of your vehicle.
Lawsuits have revealed that insurance companies have bad faith when they claim not to have underinsured motorist coverage when, in reality, the insurance policy clearly showed that there was underinsured motorist coverage. This can increase the value of your claim against the insurance company.
What do I do if I am hit by an uninsured/underinsured driver?
Safety first. If you are injured and need medical attention, call 9-1-1. You may not feel like you or your passengers need medical attention in the heat of the moment. After a car accident, it is possible that the shock of being involved in a traumatic event causes you to feel like you are fine. You may feel like your injuries are not severe, or as if you are not injured at all. For example, it is possible that you can suffer from a traumatic brain injury and not even realize the damage until several days, or even months later. While some damage like broken bones are obvious, your body can suffer injuries you that are not immediately of until later. By calling 9-1-1, you also bring police to your location. In addition to making sure the crash scene is safe, the police officer will write a report which typically has the contact information of all the drivers involved in the accident, whether they have car insurance, and the report may be used as evidence in your case later. For example, the police report may note important factors such as if the weather was bad. If the at-fault driver or insurance company tries to claim that he could not see your vehicle because of the rain, and the report shows that the weather was clear and sunny, the other driver will be discredited. It will be clear that he lied, and the judge and jury will be more likely to believe your side of the story.
Take photos. Once you are sure that everyone is safe, you should also take photos of the scene of the accident such as where the cars are positioned on the road and all of the vehicles’ damages. In many cases, insurance companies try to undermine the extent of the damages and injuries you suffered.
Notify car insurance. File a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and notify your insurance company. If you have an attorney, let the insurance companies know so that they will know to expect your attorney’s call. Note that when you speak with the insurance company, the insurance company representative may try to get you to give a recorded statement. Anything you say in a statement may be used against you in your case moving forward. Refer them to your attorney instead of giving a recorded statement that can be used against you.
Watch what you say. Just like you need to be wary of giving a recorded statement to an insurance company, be careful what you say to other drivers, witnesses and the police officer. In some cases, the police officer will also be wearing a body cam which records the statements of everyone he or she talks to at the scene of the accident. At the time of an accident, people feel emotional. They may say things like “I am so sorry,” “this was my fault,” or “I looked down at my phone’s GPS just for a second” that can be used to show fault.
Identify witnesses and cameras.
Get the names and contact information of any witnesses of the car accident. Sometimes witnesses disappear, especially if they think they will be involved in a lengthly lawsuit that does not personally or directly affect them. Also take note if there is a local business nearby, and see if they have a security camera. For example, let’s say you notice a fast-food restaurant near the scene of the accident. It is possible that the restaurant’s security camera coincidentally was pointed in the direction of the accident and captured the whole sequence of events. In some cases, if the resolution of the footage is clear enough, you can see important details like if the at-fault driver was on his or her cellphone through the window.
Most importantly, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer
Navigating complex personal injury cases and handling insurance companies can make the recovery process even more difficult. Experienced attorneys analyze the evidence and can advise you of your options in car accidents, and weigh the cost and benefits of each case to minimize the time and expense involved while maximizing their client’s compensation.
Are you trying to secure your financial recovery with the help of experienced attorneys? If so, we can help.
The Pusch & Nguyen Law Firm has helped countless Texans handle their insurance disputes. Our experienced trial lawyers have gone up against some of the biggest names in the insurance industry while successfully bringing home payouts for clients. Our successful reputation speaks for itself, and with offices in both Houston and San Antonio, we are well equipped to assist Texans who are in dire need of our services. Register online for a free case evaluation or call us today at 713-528-8108 (Houston) or 210-702-3000 to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.