In the vast expanse of Texas roadways, collisions are an unfortunate reality.
When another driver is at fault, the usual course involves their insurance covering property damages and medical bills.
But what if the at-fault driver is uninsured? The complexity of the situation grows, and understanding your options becomes paramount.
In this article, we will explore the aftermath of an accident involving an uninsured driver in Texas and the steps you can take to recover your funds.
Understanding Fault vs. No-Fault Auto Insurance Systems
Texas operates under an at-fault auto insurance system, meaning that the at-fault driver’s insurance is responsible for covering personal injury claims.
This system allows victims to file lawsuits against the at-fault driver without the need for personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, making it essential to comprehend the insurance landscape in the aftermath of an accident.
Mandatory Minimum Insurance in Texas
Texas mandates a minimum level of auto insurance coverage for registered vehicles, known as “30/60/25”:
- $30,000 per person in personal injury liability coverage
- $60,000 per accident in personal injury liability coverage
- $25,000 for property damage
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)
While uninsured motorist coverage is optional in Texas, it proves invaluable when dealing with at-fault uninsured motorists.
UIM policies kick in to compensate for what the uninsured driver cannot cover, up to the policy limits.
This coverage also extends to hit-and-run accidents, providing an additional layer of protection.
Another optional coverage in Texas is collision insurance, which covers damage to your vehicle regardless of fault.
It includes coverage for ordinary accidents or one-car accidents but comes with a deductible.
It’s important to note that collision insurance doesn’t cover medical bills or damages to another driver’s vehicle.
The pivotal question arises when faced with an uninsured driver-caused collision: “What should I do?”
Let’s explore the available avenues for recovering your funds.
- Police Report and Documentation: The immediate aftermath of the accident requires a call to the police for an official report. The attending officer notes the lack of insurance of the liable driver, potentially resulting in fines, citations, or license suspension.
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage: If you possess uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company can step in to cover damages up to a specified limit. Checking your policy to ascertain this optional coverage is advisable, but be aware that such claims might lead to increased insurance rates and a deductible payment.
- Utilizing Health Insurance: In the absence of uninsured motorist coverage, relying on your health insurance becomes an option for covering medical expenses. However, bear in mind that this won’t extend to vehicle damages, necessitating out-of-pocket payments for repairs.
- Filing a Claim with Texas DPS: An alternative route involves filing an official complaint with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). This notifies the state of the negligent driver, potentially leading to license suspension and a mandated payment within 21 days. Strict criteria, including a minimum damages threshold and a recent accident on a public road, apply for DPS acceptance.
Steps for filing a DPS claim:
- Complete the SR-106 form.
- Send a $7 check.
- Include the police report and damages invoice.
- Submit a Total Loss Statement if applicable.
- Filing a Claim Directly Against the At-Fault Driver: Directly filing a claim against an at-fault uninsured driver is considered a last-resort tactic. Financial constraints that led to a lack of insurance coverage might also hinder their ability to pay a claim. In some cases, the at-fault driver may resort to Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection to avoid fulfilling their financial responsibilities.
Exploring Additional Defendants
Depending on the circumstances, pursuing additional defendants might be a viable strategy for compensation. This could include:
- Another driver who contributed to the accident
- The driver’s employer under the doctrine of respondeat superior
- An alcohol vendor under the Texas dram shop law for a DUI accident
- A social host who provided alcohol to a driver under 18
- A product manufacturer or vendor in cases of defective products
- The government, if inadequately maintained roads or faulty traffic lights contributed to the accident
Navigating the aftermath of an accident involving an uninsured at-fault driver in Texas requires a strategic approach.
Whether utilizing insurance coverage, health insurance, filing a DPS claim, or pursuing legal action, understanding the available options empowers individuals to recover their funds and move forward.
In such challenging situations, seeking professional guidance, such as that provided by Crystal Henry, a Personal Injury Lawyer in Houston, can be invaluable for a successful resolution.
What should I do immediately after an accident involving an uninsured driver in Texas?
Contact the police to file an official report. The attending officer will document the lack of insurance of the liable driver, which may result in fines, citations, or license suspension.
What if I have uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage is a valuable option. Your insurance company can step in to cover damages up to a specified limit. Be aware that utilizing this coverage might lead to increased insurance rates and a deductible payment.
Can I use my health insurance for medical expenses if I don’t have uninsured motorist coverage?
Yes, you can utilize your health insurance for necessary medical treatments. However, it won’t cover damages to your vehicle, requiring out-of-pocket payments for repairs.
What is the alternative to insurance claims?
Filing a complaint with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is an option. This notifies the state of the negligent driver, potentially leading to license suspension and a mandated payment within 21 days. Strict criteria, including a minimum damages threshold, apply for DPS acceptance.
What steps are involved in filing a DPS claim?
To file a DPS claim, complete the SR-106 form, send a $7 check, include the police report and damages invoice, and submit a Total Loss Statement if applicable. The accident must have occurred less than 22 months ago on a public road, and damages must exceed $1,000.
Is filing a claim directly against the at-fault uninsured driver advisable?
Filing a claim directly against an at-fault uninsured driver is considered a last-resort tactic. Financial constraints may hinder their ability to pay a claim, and they might seek Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.
Are there other defendants I can pursue for compensation?
Depending on the circumstances, you might consider pursuing additional defendants, such as:
- another driver who contributed to the accident,
- an alcohol vendor under the Texas dram shop law for a DUI accident,
- a social host who provided alcohol to a driver under 18,
- a product manufacturer or vendor in cases of defective products,
- or the government if inadequately maintained roads or faulty traffic lights contributed to the accident.
What if the at-fault driver is from out of state?
If the at-fault driver’s car is insured but registered in another state, you may not necessarily have an uninsured driver problem. However, challenges may arise if the other state requires less minimum coverage than Texas, potentially resulting in an underinsured driver problem.