After a car accident, one of the first things you know to do is to trade insurance information with the other driver. But what happens if the insurance information the other driver gives you turns out to be invalid?
Lots of Uninsured Drivers in Texas
Unfortunately, you wouldn't be the first driver to get duped by an invalid insurance card. Even though Texas law requires all drivers to carry insurance, it's estimated that 20 percent of drivers don't have any insurance at all. Some drivers can't afford it, some forget to re-up their coverage, while others play the system on purpose, buying auto insurance, paying the first month's premium and then canceling their policy. They'll still have a valid insurance card at the time of the accident, but they aren't really covered.
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.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Not everyone needs an attorney in cases like these. However, if you've been left with big damages and serious injuries and you'd like to discuss your options, it's worth setting up a free consultation.
To set up an appointment with the Anderson Law Firm in Fort Worth, Texas to discuss your rights, call 817-294-1900.
Download My Free Insurance Guide
Want to learn more about auto insurance in Texas, and what you really need to be fully covered? I wrote a free guide for Texas drivers to help them make the right choices - and to prevent costly mistakes - when choosing an auto insurance policy. You can download my guide here.