This is an extremely common question, particularly in Houston, Texas because nearly 1/3 of all drivers in the state of Texas do not have valid car insurance coverage at the time of a car accident. The truth of the matter is that the odds are extremely likely that you will be in an accident at some time with someone who has no insurance or low limits insurance.
This problem in the state of Texas has been exacerbated by political leaders who have allowed “junk” policies to be sold in the state of Texas. Recent requirements make insurance companies now disclose their extreme limitations in coverage, but the average policyholder does not comprehend nor read the insurance policy. Thus the problem of being in an accident with an uninsured motorist continues to unnecessarily hurt the average Texas family.
So you have been in an accident with someone who does not have insurance or who is not covered for insurance at the time of the accident. Here are a number of steps you can take in that situation.
Look at your own insurance policy.
the easiest way to protect yourself against being in an accident or someone who does not have insurance coverage is to buy what is called uninsured motorist coverage from your own insurance carrier. While this type of coverage is not necessarily cheap, the odds are darn good that if you live in Texas, you’ll be glad you bought that coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage also contains underinsured coverage for situations where you are in a car accident and the negligent driver had no coverage or inadequate coverage. In essence, this type of coverage provides insurance that the negligent driver should have provided. It also puts you in an adversarial relationship with your own insurance company, and those insurance companies can be ruthless in trying to avoid paying at all costs.
Recently we have found that it is necessary to sue the UIM policy provider in order to obtain fair compensation for our clients. This development is because of court rulings regarding what triggers the obligation of the insurance company to pay an uninsured motorist claim. Basically, Texas being a pro insurance anti-consumer environment makes the innocent car wreck victim take extra steps in order to collect what they are entitled to from their own insurance company.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage on your policy and have been informed that the person who hit you and caused your injuries has no insurance coverage you should make a claim with your own insurance company or hire a personal injury attorney to do that for you.
For property damage claims, if you had collision coverage on your own policy, you will want to make a claim with your own insurance company and ask if they will “sue for or collect your deductible”. We recommend that you find a shop that you trust to repair your vehicle and let them deal directly with your insurance company regarding repairs. Even in the middle of the repair cost battle is a thankless job that does no good.
If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage.
If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage on your own automobile policy, you will want to investigate whether the negligent driver who caused the wreck and or injuries actually had no insurance coverage. In some instances, insurance companies initially deny coverage only to later recant and pay a claim. Any interaction you have with an adverse insurance company should be filtered through a lens that knows whenever the insurance company says, their intention is to defend the claim and paid nothing or as little as possible if they can get away with.
Now that you know that insurance companies are out to defend, deny, and delay as part of their normal business procedures, what can you do? You may need to investigate claims of the insurance company in their denial of coverage. Do not accept a simple oral statement from an insurance company saying that there is no insurance coverage. Ask for a letter from the insurance company stating that there is no insurance coverage and why they say that is true. If you have uninsured motorist coverage your carrier will want confirmation that there is no coverage from the other driver. Once you have provided that to your own insurance company, the burden shifts to your insurance company to prove that there was in fact coverage. In other words, your insurance company then must investigate the claim fully.
Can you make the uninsured insured driver pay?
This is probably the most common question we have, and also one that is very hard for people to comprehend the answer. In Texas, it is extremely difficult to collect a debt from someone out of their own pocket. Barring certain accidents such as a drunk driving injury accident, the person who could not afford insurance coverage can simply file bankruptcy and keep most, if not all of their possessions without paying for the damages they caused.
Taking an uninsured driver to court can result in a judgment which is a piece of paper indicating that you are entitled to collect that money from the person, but that is a wholly separate question from actually getting paid. It is extremely hard to find an attorney to handle a case against an uninsured driver (unless you had uninsured motorist coverage) because the attorneys know how difficult it is to collect a judgment in Texas and the real possibility that they would be out their out-of-pocket expenses and time in the matter.
If the driver has been convicted of no insurance coverage, their license may be suspended and there is a small possibility that you may be able to collect from someone trying to get their license back by paying the damages. The district attorney handling the traffic court case would be the one to contact for help in this situation.
Because there is such a high percentage of uninsured drivers in the state of Texas, it is recommended that everyone can afford it by uninsured motorist coverage from their own insurance company at limits that they are comfortable with. We also recommend that Texas consumers shop for their automobile insurance coverage on an annual basis.
If you’ve been in an car accident where you been seriously injured, you probably should hire the best personal injury attorney you can find to best move forward on your claim against your own insurance company.