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Uninsured Motorist Accident Lawyers

Uninsured Motorist Accident Lawyers

Texas law requires drivers to carry minimum amounts of auto insurance. Despite this, there are millions of drivers on our roads who fail to purchase a car insurance policy. If you get into an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, they might not be able to pay for your losses.

While your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage can help in this situation, issues might still arise with your own insurance company that require help from an injury attorney. Under Texas insurance law, you may have to sue your insurance company before you can obtain UM/UIM benefits. However, attorney’s fees in these cases are recoverable.

Jim Adler & Associates handles uninsured and underinsured motorist claims on a contingency-fee basis and offers complimentary case reviews. Learn how a car accident lawyer can help: schedule a free consultation.

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The Uninsured Motorist Problem: Millions of Texas Drivers Without Insurance

Under Texas insurance laws, drivers must purchase liability coverage in the following amounts:

  • $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident for injuries
  • $25,000 for property damage

This is known as 30/60/25 coverage. Beyond minimum coverage, motorists can choose to buy higher amounts of liability insurance, as well as optional coverages like collision, medical payments, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

But some motorists do not buy any car insurance. According to the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), about 12% of registered vehicles in the state—or 2.5 – 3 million vehicles total—are not insured. That means around 1 in 8 drivers you pass on the road may be unable to reimburse you for losses like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage if they cause an accident.

Texas doesn’t take driving without insurance lightly. Uninsured drivers can be fined hundreds of dollars, have their registration and license suspended, and, assuming they buy coverage in the future, pay increased premiums. Unfortunately, no matter how harshly Texas punishes these irresponsible motorists, it doesn’t help you if you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver.

The state can’t help you recover money from an uninsured driver. But our personal injury attorneys may be able to help. We’ve been helping injured Texas drivers for more than 50 years.

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How Are Accidents with Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Handled?

Texas is an at-fault state. Drivers who cause an accident in Texas are responsible for paying the victim’s car repair and medical bills. Usually, this is done through the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. But if you were injured by an uninsured driver, the situation is less straightforward.

Option 1: File a Car Accident Lawsuit Against the Driver

What happens if the at-fault driver doesn’t have auto insurance coverage? They are still financially liable for the damages they cause.

Theoretically, you could hire an injury lawyer and sue an uninsured driver for the costs of your bodily injury and property damage losses. But if somebody is not responsible enough to pay a few hundred dollars per year for basic liability insurance, suing them for accident damages might be fruitless. Plus, you will still face litigation costs in your attempt to recover money from the at-fault driver, and there’s no guarantee you’ll prevail.

Option 2: File an Uninsured Motorist Accident Claim With Your Insurer

A second option may be available if you carry uninsured motorist coverage. You don’t have to carry this coverage, but your insurance company must offer it, and it is highly recommended.

Uninsured motorist insurance protects you and your property if you’re hit by a driver who doesn’t have car insurance. It also helps to pay for hit-and-run damages when the driver cannot be identified and is used in situations where the at-fault driver has insufficient auto insurance.

Texas lumps together UM and UIM under the term “uninsured motorist coverage.” There are two types of uninsured motorist coverage:

  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury pays accident-related medical bills for both you and your passengers.
  • Uninsured motorist property damage pays for accident damage to your vehicle and personal property.

The minimum amounts of uninsured motorist coverage in Texas are the same as for bodily injury liability (30/60/25). You can usually buy higher amounts in $5,000 increments. The Texas Department of Insurance advises buying enough uninsured motorist property damage coverage to pay for the cost to replace your vehicle.

If you don’t have uninsured motorist insurance, you may have other types of insurance that can pay for some accident losses. Medical payments coverage, or personal injury protection (PIP), for example, could pay for your and your passengers’ medical bills. Collision coverage can be used to pay for vehicle repair costs. You could also have coverage that pays for towing and rental reimbursement.

But these optional coverages may not provide full compensation. Without a liability policy or uninsured motorist policy to cover your expenses, you could be stuck paying out of pocket for your injuries and vehicle repairs.

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Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claims

If your auto insurance policy includes UM/UIM coverage, you are protected in the following scenarios:

  • You are struck by a hit-and-run driver. Although you may have information (license plate number, vehicle make and model, etc.) that can lead to identifying the driver who hit you and fled the accident scene, you can initially file an UM claim with your insurer. If the other driver is found, your insurer will sort out payment with that driver’s insurance company.
  • You are struck by a driver with no insurance. When another driver has no auto insurance at all, the entirety of your losses (or at least those that do not exceed your policy limits) are picked up by your UM insurance.
  • You are struck by a driver whose insurance doesn’t fully cover your accident losses. As an example, let’s say that the other driver has Texas minimum bodily liability limits of $30,000/person, but your losses are in the amount of $40,000. Your UM coverage would pick up the remaining $10,000.
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Potential Issues in Uninsured and Underinsured Auto Accident Claims

Think that dealing with your own insurance policy, rather than somebody else’s, will make the process go smoother? Think again.

Every insurance company, whether it’s yours or another person’s, seeks to minimize the amount they pay out in car crash claims so they can keep more of the premiums they collect as profits. When filing an UM/UIM claim, your insurer may look for reasons to deny the claim or not pay you the full amount of compensation you deserve.

The following issues may arise when you attempt to use your uninsured motorist coverage:

  • The policyholder must establish fault on the part of the uninsured or underinsured motorist. You cannot just file a claim with your UM/UIM insurance and expect it to be paid, with no questions asked. You will need evidence to back up your case.
  • The policyholder must prove their damages to collect UM/UIM benefits. It is also not enough to simply assert that you are entitled to a certain amount of property damage and injury compensation. The carrier will want proof of your losses.

In short, at the time you file an uninsured motorist claim, you need to be prepared to treat it like a claim with another person’s insurer, with supporting documentation of fault and damages. Lacking evidence of both, the insurer may not have a contractual obligation to pay you policy benefits.

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Why You May Have to Hire an Accident Lawyer to File an Uninsured Motorist Claim

A 2006 Texas Supreme Court decision has made it much more difficult for policyholders to obtain their uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage benefits. Fortunately, there have since been changes to the law that favor the insured.

In the case Brainard v. Trinity Universal Ins. Co., the Court ruled that an underinsured motorist insurance carrier “is under no contractual duty to pay benefits until the insured obtains a judgment establishing the liability and underinsured status of the other motorist.”

This ruling essentially gave insurance companies a way to delay, deny, and underpay claims—or otherwise engage in “bad faith” against their insured—without immediately opening themselves up to an insurance bad faith lawsuit.

Since the Brainard decision, to obtain UM/UIM policy benefits, a policyholder must typically file a lawsuit for UM/UIM benefits against their carrier, go to trial, and prove that they are entitled to benefits based on a determination of the liability of the uninsured/underinsured driver and any damages caused by the accident.

Only once liability and damages are proved in court will an insurer then pay any UM/UIM benefits owed.

A more recent Texas Supreme Court case has made it possible to bring UM/UIM insurance carrier claims under the Texas Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (UDJA), instead of filing a breach of contract lawsuit. One result of this change is that plaintiffs pursuing UDJA actions against their insurance company can seek costs and attorneys’ fees, which the court typically awards to the prevailing party in such cases.

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Hit By an Uninsured Driver? Get a Free Consultation with a Car Accident Attorney

Getting in a car accident is bad enough. But the accident can be much worse if the other driver doesn’t have insurance—or doesn’t have enough insurance—to cover your claim. And even if you have UM/UIM coverage, you may have to fight your insurance company in court to receive the compensation you’re entitled to.

A thorough investigation of your claim could also uncover additional liable parties who do have insurance coverage. During a free case review with a personal injury lawyer at Jim Adler & Associates, we’ll go over every option for dealing with an uninsured driver accident.

Call us at 1-800-505-1414 or send us a message to get your FREE consultation today.

4 Convenient Texas Locations Near You

Houston Office

Houston Office

1900 W Loop S 20th Floor, Houston, TX 77027

Dallas Office

Dallas Office

2711 N Haskell Ave. Suite 2500, Dallas, TX 75204

San Antonio Office

San Antonio Office

7330 San Pedro Ave Suite 700, San Antonio, TX 78216

Channelview Office

Channelview Office

12605 East Fwy Suite 400, Houston, TX 77015

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