Although statistics do not matter much to a personal injury victim who was hurt by an uninsured motorist, it is estimated that more than 10% of drivers on Texas roads do not carry the minimum liability insurance required by Texas law. However, injured Texans who are victims of the carelessness of an uninsured motorist have important rights and insurance coverages they might be able to rely on in the event of a car crash.
Texas requires every driver to maintain at least $30,000 in automobile insurance to pay for any bodily injury the driver might cause to an injury victim because of the driver’s carelessness, as well as $25,000 to pay for any property damage. So, in Texas, an uninsured driver, or “uninsured motorist,” is someone who has not procured, or otherwise does not maintain those minimum coverages.
While an uninsured driver is a driver who does not have liability insurance, as is required under Texas law, an under-insured driver is a driver who does not have enough liability insurance to pay for the amount of injury they caused in a motor vehicle crash.
In some cases, a personal injury victim who has been injured in a car crash caused by an uninsured motorist might have some viable options. However, those rights typically depend on whether the personal injury victim has any Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) available under an applicable automobile insurance company.
As discussed here, UM coverage protects a personal injury victim from being hurt by an uninsured motorist. There are multiple ways a personal injury victim might have the benefit of UM coverage. For example, the personal injury victim might have purchased UM coverage on their own automobile insurance policy. Or, the injury victim might have been a passenger in a vehicle that is covered by an UM policy. In those cases, the personal injury victim can usually assert the same type of compensatory damages claims as the car crash victim would otherwise be able to assert had the careless driver been properly insured. The main difference is that the injury victim’s own UM insurance carrier, rather than the careless driver’s liability carrier, will pay to compensate the injury victim for their losses.
However, if the car crash injury victim does not have UM coverage, the victim’s options are usually limited to filing a lawsuit against the careless driver, and seeking to secure a monetary judgment against the driver for the damages the careless driver caused. This is generally a poor option, since many uninsured motorists do not have personal assets that are sufficient to pay for damages they caused.
Like a personal injury victim who is hurt by an uninsured driver, victims who are hurt by an under-insured driver have options, which depend on whether the injury victim has the benefit of Under-insured Motorist Coverage (UIM). Similar to UM coverage (and almost always sold in one package), UIM coverage protects a personal injury victim in the event the injury victim is hurt by an under-insured driver. Essentially, UIM coverage stacks on top of whatever liability coverage the careless driver maintained on their own automobile insurance policy, thereby increasing the available insurance proceeds that are available to compensate the personal injury victim for the economic and non-economic losses. So, when a personal injury victim is hurt by an under-insured driver, a victim who maintains UIM coverage is generally in a better position to receive fair compensation for their losses than a victim who does not maintain UIM coverage.
Probably. Like any car crash, taking a few minutes to have a free consultation with a good personal injury lawyer is a good idea. There’s no reason a personal injury victim should put themselves at the mercy of insurance companies when there are personal injury lawyers out there who are happy to take the time to educate them about their rights. And, of course, talking with a personal injury lawyer can help the injury victim avoid common pitfalls that can cost them thousands upon thousands of dollars down the road.
With regard to personal injury victims who are hurt by uninsured and under-insured drivers, speaking with a personal injury lawyer can be particularly useful. While most personal injury victims would like to believe their own insurance company would treat them fairly, including situations where the victim has been injured by an uninsured or under-insured driver, insurance companies will generally attempt to pay the personal injury victim as little as possible in order to protect their profit margins. There are laws in Texas that are designed to protect personal injury victims from being treated unfairly by their own UM and UIM insurance carrier by imposing serious penalties against the insurance company for misconduct. However, the Texas Supreme Court has steadily taken steps to strip personal injury victims of their ability to punish insurance companies who act in bad faith when evaluating UM and UIM cases. Speaking with a Texas personal injury lawyer can help an injury victim understand their rights and make sure they are treated fairly by all insurance companies, including their own.
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