Texas law requires drivers to carry minimum liability insurance policies, but 1 in 8 drivers do not have a valid policy. Motorcyclists who are injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver might be eligible for recovery if they carry an uninsured motorist bodily injury policy with their own carriers.
The good news is that although the number of registered motorcycles in the United States is way up, the number of injuries experienced by motorcyclists in crashes is down considerably from a decade ago, and helmet usage has risen 10 percent in the last decade. While this has reduced the number of fatalities, injuries from accidents sustained while riding can still be quite severe — and that means quite expensive, too.
When you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident in Austin, reach out to an injury attorney as soon as possible. This will help you learn about how to access medical care, understand your options for recovery, and feel confident about your next steps.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage?
Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UMGBI) is intended to provide you a backup source of recovery if you are harmed in an accident by a driver without liability insurance at all or without enough coverage to cover your damages. In total, there are two kinds of backup policies available to Texas motorists:
- UM/UIM Bodily Injury (BI) pays if you or any person in your car is hurt.
- UM/UIM Property Damage (PD) pays to fix or replace your property.
UMBI can also kick in if you are injured in a hit-and-run accident, where a driver flees the scene. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that a hit-and-run accident resulting in fatalities or injuries occurs every 43 seconds in the United States.
What Does UMBI Cover?
When you have a UMBI policy, you can file a claim when you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, and the at-fault driver does not have insurance. While it’s generally called uninsured motorist coverage, the majority of UMBI can be used when the other responsible party or parties does not have enough insurance to cover the cost of your economic damages that result from the accident, which may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral costs
In Texas, the minimum liability policy — meaning coverage that pays for another person’s damages when you are responsible — is only 30/60/25:
- $30,000 of coverage for injuries per person
- $60,000 maximum injury payout per accident
- $25,000 of coverage for property damage
UMBI is intended to cover some damages that exceed the amount of liability insurance carried by the driver who hit you. While commercial liability minimums can be higher, depending on the type of commercial vehicle, the chance of exceeding the state minimum is high.
The policy of the at-fault driver first pays you for the damages, and then if your damages are more than the limit their insurance company is required to pay, you can file a claim with your own insurance company to use your UIM policy. You should not expect, however, to get the full amount of your UMBI plus the full amount of the other driver’s policy, even if that total is still below the actual total cost of your bodily injury damages.
How Much Do Motorcycle Injuries Cost?
Medical care alone for the types of severe injuries experienced in a motorcycle accident can run into the six and even seven figures over just the first few years, but the average motorcycle accident settlement is closer to $200,000, according to most statistical models. Still, there is no way to predict in advance how much any one person’s medical treatment will be, and injuries from motorcycle accidents can vary enormously from person to person.
Some common injuries are:
- Bone fractures
- Severe head traumas
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Brain damage
- Loss of limbs
- Paralysis/impaired mobility
In the event of serious injury, medical costs add up quickly, right from the scene of the accident:
- Ambulance rides
- Imaging and diagnostics tests
- Blood transfusions
- Hospital stays
- Doctor visits
- Assistive medical devices
- Adaptive equipment
- Physical therapy
- Rehabilitative services
- In-home health care
Since UMBI is not legally required, there is no minimum, but a good rule of thumb is to purchase as much as you can afford. Some people think they don’t need UMBI because they have health insurance, but UMBI can be a valuable addition to your health insurance for a few reasons:
- UMBI premiums won’t jump up as high as some health insurance
- Health insurance might have a high deductible
- UMBI covers more than just medical bills
While you may not have an enormous UMBI policy, it can be a stress-reducer in the event that you are in an accident. UMBI can help pay your bills and expenses in the short term while you explore other options for recovery.
How Does UMBI Work If You’re in an Accident with an Uninsured Motorist?
When you are in a motorcycle accident, you are required to file a claim with your insurance carrier. This is required even if you are not at fault. If the other driver flees or does not have insurance, you will probably decide to file a UMBI claim. In the event the other driver does have insurance, once fault and the coverage are determined, you can then consider if you need to file a claim for your UMBI policy.
This is one reason why it’s important to remember that it’s never a good idea to speak to your own insurance company about your accident, aside from reporting the accident, without first speaking to an accident injury attorney.
Once you start trying to get money from your own insurance company, they are no longer in the ring for you — at least, not entirely. The Texas Supreme Court even acknowledges that.
In May 2021, the Texas Supreme Court handed down a monumental decision in the case of Allstate v. Irwin. This decision addresses the responsibility of the insurance companies when it comes to paying for their own clients’ uninsured motorist claims. The court acknowledged that insurance companies in Texas have been abusing and short-changing their own clients when it comes to uninsured motorist claims, making it more difficult to get a fair recovery.
This decision does not necessarily make it easier to get the fair amount without taking legal steps, but it validates what people who have been injured in accidents and ethical injury attorneys have known all along. Before this decision, those who wanted to take insurance companies to court in situations like this could not even have their attorneys’ fees covered, even when they won the case.
Now, judges have the discretion to make the insurance companies cover legal fees. This decision does not make major sweeping changes to UMBI laws or the actions of insurance companies, but it does level the playing field a bit for motorcyclists who have been injured and want to use their UMBI policies to help cover the costs of their injuries.
Can You Sue an Uninsured Driver?
When an uninsured driver hits you, you have a few options for financial recovery for the damages you suffer. These might include:
- Filing a lawsuit against the driver who hit you
- Filing a lawsuit against any other liable party
- Filing a UMBI claim and, if necessary, file a lawsuit
While it’s possible that the person who is responsible for injuring you has enough in the bank to cover the amount of fair compensation for your injuries and associated damages, it’s not likely.
Thankfully, accident cases are often complex enough that diligent work on the part of your attorney will be able to determine if there are additional factors at play that expand the cast of characters who are legally liable for your injuries. Your attorney can also help you determine if suing your own insurance company for damages that exceed the policy limit is an option on the table.
Many UMBI policies include fine print that invalidates the policy if you settle with other parties or take certain other actions, so it’s important to speak with an injury before you start trying to resolve your claims alone. They can walk you through your policy and help you uncover any potential danger zones when it comes to recovering from your losses.
How Can FVF Help in Case of Such an Accident?
Auto insurance can be a valuable resource, especially when you are hit by another driver, but the insurance company is not in control of your life and recovery. FVF wants everyone who has been injured in a motorcycle accident to understand that they have rights. Being educated about those rights is the first way you can make sure that you can advocate for yourself or your loved ones when a serious injury has occurred.
That’s why our mission is to make you get the information you need, regardless of whether you hire us to represent you. Contact us today for a no-cost case consultation.