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.
Answer These Three Questions First
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 UM/UIM 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 it's advisable 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 and your lawyer 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. Your lawyer can also fight to seek damages to compensate you for the pain and suffering you've endured.
Were You Involved in a Hit and Run Accident?
If so, you'll also need to use your uninsured motorist coverage.
What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is insurance that you buy with the intention of protecting yourself if you are hit by a negligent driver who doesn’t have insurance, or if you're involved in a hit and run.
Sadly, despite the fact that the law in Texas requires all drivers to carry a minimum of $30,000 in auto liability insurance, the reality is that around 25 percent of all Texas motorists are uninsured. Having UM, however, means that you and your lawyer still have the ability to make a claim (against your own insurance company) even if you are hit and injured by someone who doesn’t have any insurance.
Specifically, What Counts As "Uninsured?"
Here's a description of what constitutes an uninsured vehicle under Texas law. A driver who does not have any of the following:
Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Texas?
This kind of insurance is not required by law in Texas. However, I highly recommend that every driver carries UM. In Texas, it's estimated that 25 percent of drivers aren't covered by insurance (yes, that's illegal! People do it anyway). If you're in a wreck with someone who doesn't have insurance and you aren't carrying UM, you're out of luck.
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
Med Pay is optional auto insurance coverage that pays for your medical bills if you get into a car wreck. It doesn't matter whether you caused the wreck or another driver did - Med Pay will cover you. Med Pay is different than typical health insurance because it doesn't come with the "red tape" - Med Pay doesn't involve things like deductibles and it doesn't restrict the network of doctors you're allowed to visit. Med Pay will cover your fees from any licensed doctor, ambulance, hospital, etc.
Med Pay's only coverage restrictions deal with how much coverage you buy. In my experience, I've seen policies range from $1,000 to upwards of $100,000.
If you're considering purchasing Med Pay, I want to warn you that some policies sneak in a condition that will force you to pay them back after you use them. If you're going to buy Med Pay, make sure you're getting a no-deductible, non-reimbursable policy.
Though the benefits sound pretty great, I don't recommend purchasing Med Pay. Read on to find out why.
When Your Attorney Handles Med Pay
When an attorney is handling Med Pay for a client, they can submit it anytime the client has bills. The benefit of having your attorney handle your Med Pay is because you might be able to keep some of the Med Pay proceeds (as opposed to an adjuster sending it directly to the doctor or hospital). However, not all attorneys handle their clients Med Pay for them. If you have questions about who's in charge of your Med Pay, talk to your attorney.
Med Pay vs. Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Med-Pay coverage and PIP are both entirely optional in Texas. However, if you are considering adding Med Pay to your auto insurance policy, I would encourage you (as a Fort Worth injury attorney) to instead purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP).
Personal Injury Protection coverage and Med-Pay are very similar, but they are also very different in a number of crucial areas.
PIP will cover you for your accident-related medical expenses AND lost income due to your inability to work. Med-Pay, on the other hand, only covers the cost of your medical expenses. Since the cost of purchasing Med Pay and PIP is virtually identical, it makes sense to buy PIP instead.
The other important difference between PIP and Med Pay is that Med Pay creates a right of subrogation for your insurance provider, whereas PIP does not. Subrogation basically means that if you recover compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance policy, then your insurance provider can make you pay back the money that they already paid you from your Med Pay coverage.
If you're thinking of getting insurance and are considering buying Med Pay, don’t – get Personal Injury Protection instead. And while you’re at it, get Uninsured Motorist Coverage too.
Is Med Pay Worth It?
As I described above, Med Pay is a waste of money. I discourage my clients from purchasing it and recommend they buy PIP instead. Med Pay is similar to PIP in that it is a "no-fault" type of insurance that you can purchase on your own. However, Med Pay only covers medical bills - it doesn't reimburse you for your lost wages like PIP does.
The worst part about of Med Pay is that if you ultimately recover money from a third party in an injury claim, you must pay the Med Pay carrier back. That means if you're hit by another car and you file an injury claim against the other driver, any money you're awarded will be taken away from you by your own insurance company. Your insurance company is basically only loaning you the money to pay your medical bills until your case settles.
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