Texas is a fault state, allowing any accident victim to hold the responsible party liable for their injuries. In a car accident, the responsible party is often another driver.
As such, Texas law requires all drivers have insurance to cover damages when they are responsible for a crash.
But despite the penalties for driving without car insurance, including fines, losing their license, and even a possible jail sentence, approximately one in eight (12.6%) of drivers across the country don’t have insurance.
If you’re in a car accident and the other driver has no insurance, what can you do? Can you claim compensation — and is it even worth it?
We explain your options.
Understanding What Texas Insurance Covers
In Texas, standard driver’s liability insurance will pay up to $30,000 in bodily injury coverage per person and $60,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident. It also covers $25,000 in property damage, such as car repairs.
But sometimes, this minimum amount won’t be enough to cover your accident, or a driver may not have this insurance at all.
That doesn’t mean you have no options when it comes to claiming compensation after a car accident with an uninsured driver.
Your Options for Claiming Compensation After a Car Accident With an Uninsured Driver
Check Your Insurance Policy
After a car accident with an uninsured driver, the first thing you should do is to check your own car insurance policy. You might have something called uninsured motorist coverage, which pays for damages when an uninsured driver has caused an accident by being reckless or negligent. If you were partially at fault for your accident, your insurance company will determine your percentage of fault and subtract it from your final payout.
Even if you have this type of insurance, it’s worth getting in touch with a car accident lawyer in McAllen or San Antonio, as claiming uninsured motorist coverage can be complicated, and your insurance company won’t pay out if they can avoid it.
You should also check if you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. You likely have this in your policy unless you explicitly refused it when you took out your insurance, as it’s included by default. PIP coverage is typically relied upon to cover your medical bills and a percentage of your lost income after an accident, especially if you’re waiting on an outcome from a personal injury claim, but it’s equally helpful for covering your expenses if you were in a car accident with an uninsured driver.
In addition to these two types of insurance, other policies can help you recover damages after a car accident when the other driver doesn’t have insurance or whose policy doesn’t cover the full cost of your damages.
These include underinsured motorist coverage and collision coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage is unique in that it kicks in when a negligent driver does have insurance, but it’s not enough to cover your expenses. This insurance will cover the difference between the other party’s maximum insurance coverage and your total losses. However, companies limit how long you have to file a claim. Some will honor your claim only if you get in touch within 30 days of the accident, so time is of the essence.
Collision coverage is a type of insurance policy that you can use only to pay for damages to your car during an accident. You can’t use this insurance to compensate you for your injuries, medical expenses, or lost wages.
Make a Complaint to the Texas Department of Public Safety
By filing a complaint with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), you can hold the uninsured driver accountable for causing your accident. The DPS can suspend the driver’s license and registration to get them off the road, and they can also help you recover damages.
To file a DPS report, you must meet specific criteria:
- The accident must have happened within the last 22 months
- The collision must have happened on a public highway, not private property
- You must have proof that the negligent driver didn’t have insurance via an accident report
- You must have evidence that you weren’t at fault for the accident
- Your damages must total a minimum of $1000.
If you meet these requirements, you can file an SR-106 form along with estimates and invoices for damages, injuries, and lost wages. The DPS will list these damages in a letter to the uninsured driver, after which they have twenty days to reply.
From here, the uninsured driver may contact you to set up a payment plan called an installment agreement.
DPS actions can be complex, so it’s wise to consult an attorney if this is your only course of action for recovering damages.
File a Personal Injury Claim
If your accident wasn’t your fault, you may be eligible for compensation. A successful personal injury claim can compel the driver responsible to pay for your damages, which may also extend to compensation for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment following your accident.
However, filing a personal injury claim isn’t always worth it. If the driver responsible for your accident chose not to take out insurance because they couldn’t afford it, they may not have the financial means to pay your damages. The result can be a long, tedious claims process for little to no reward.
However, it’s always worth speaking to a personal injury lawyer to review your options.
If the uninsured driver was acting as an employee when they caused the accident, you may be able to file damages against their employer.
On the other hand, you may be able to file a claim against a third party. For example, a defective car part may have played a role in causing the crash, or a road defect or hazard may pave the way for a claim against the roadway maintenance company. A dedicated car accident lawyer can conduct a thorough investigation into the factors that led to your accident and determine any alternative ways of recovering damages.
All is not lost if a third party wasn’t liable for your accident. You may still be able to claim against the uninsured driver and seek payment from any assets they may have, such as placing a lien on any property they own or seizing a portion of their wages if they have a steady job.
The immediate aftermath of and recovery from a car accident can be chaotic and terrifying, so it can be comforting to know that the other driver has insurance to help you move forward. But that’s not always the case. If you’re in a car accident and the other driver has no insurance, contact our car accident lawyers in San Antonio and McAllen for a free case review and find out your options for getting compensation.