In Texas, it's illegal to drive a car without liability insurance. However, it's estimated that 25 percent of drivers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area don't have the proper insurance, meaning that if you're in a wreck, there's a one in four chance that the other driver is uninsured.
So what happens if the driver who hit you doesn't have insurance? Don't panic. You do have options. I'd advise you to consult with your personal injury attorney to discuss your particular case, but here's an overview of what happens next.
Are You Sure the Other Driver Doesn't Have Insurance?
If they give you an expired insurance card at the scene of the accident, don't jump to conclusions. Write their information down and contact their insurance company anyway. It may just be that they haven't updated their information yet. Even if the insurance company confirms that this individual no longer holds a policy with them, they may still have insurance elsewhere.
Do You Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
If you're certain that the at-fault driver doesn't have insurance, it's time to review your own insurance. By law, every insurance company must offer you uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (also known as UM or UIM). You have the option of opting out when you sign up with a new insurance company, but my advice is to always have this kind of coverage. It costs a little extra, but if you're ever in a situation where you need it, you'll be really grateful that you have it.
If you have UM, you can pursue a claim for compensation to cover any medical bills related to the accident, compensation for missed work as a result of the accident or your injuries, etc. You can also seek damages to compensate you for the pain and suffering you've endured.
Uninsured Motorist Covers You Even If The Other Driver Has Insurance
Even if the other driver has insurance, sometimes it's not enough.
For example, if a driver crashes their car into yours and it turns out that they only have the state minimum of $30,000 in liability insurance coverage, but your medical bills amount to $40,000, you can use your UM to cover the missing $10,000, plus money for your lost wages, pain and suffering.
You might feel reluctant to make a claim against your own insurance company. This is understandable. However, I always tell my clients that if you’re paying for UM, you should use it. Your insurance company is NOT allowed to raise your rates based solely on this type of claim, so that’s one more reason to do it.
How to Use Uninsured Motorist Insurance in Texas
In situations where you need to make a claim against an uninsured motorists policy, your own insurance company takes the role of the at-fault motorist's insurance company. You would make a claim against them in the same way you would usually make a claim against another person's insurance company.
Unfortunately, making these kinds of claims can be stressful since insurance companies - no matter whether they're someone else's or your own - aren't eager to pay out lots of money in claims. You might be surprised to find that the company you've been paying premiums to all these years suddenly doesn't want to keep up their end of the bargain. For this reason, it's always a good idea to set up a consultation with your attorney to discuss the value of your case.
How To Know If You Need a Lawyer
Not all accidents warrant hiring a lawyer. In claims where the damages and injuries are fairly minor, an attorney likely won't be needed. However, if you've been in a wreck with big damages or serious injuries and you don't want to risk it on your own, it could be worth a consultation with a personal injury attorney - the first visit should be free.
Similarly, I've written a helpful article on how to figure out if you need an attorney. You can find that article here.
Other articles you might be interested in:
Learn About Uninsured Motorist (UM) & Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage
Should you call your own car insurance company have you have been involved in an automobile wreck?
How Much Does It Cost To Hire An Attorney?
How Will a Prior Injury Affect My Personal Injury Claim?
Claiming Lost Wages in Your Texas Personal Injury Case