Hit by uninsured driver in Texas? Study up on car insurance requirements and penalties in the Lone Star State
In a perfect world, every driver would be covered by ample car insurance to protect others on the road should they cause an accident.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and there are millions of uninsured and underinsured drivers all across the country.
The great state of Texas isn’t immune. In fact, the problem of uninsured drivers is an especially big issue here in the Lone Star State.
Uninsured motorists statistics
According to the most recent estimates gathered by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), 13% of drivers in the United States are uninsured.
In Texas, an estimated 14.1% of motorists are uninsured — slightly higher than the national average.
What’s more, it appears that a growing number of drivers are driving without insurance.
“While some states saw significant drops in their uninsured motorists rates, overall, the rate is increasing nationwide,” said Elizabeth A. Sprinkel, senior vice president of the IRC. “This can mean added risk for all motorists.”
The problem in Texas is so significant that the Texas Legislature directed the Texas Department of Insurance to create TexasSure to help reduce the number of uninsured drivers in the Lone Star State.
Along with other resources, TexasSure has a database that connects every registered vehicle in the state by its license plate, vehicle identification number (VIN), and liability insurance policy. This allows law enforcement officers to immediately verify if you’re driving without insurance.
Are there penalties for driving while uninsured?
Driving without the required auto liability insurance is against the law. The penalties vary depending on the number of offenses, but could include:
- A fine of up to $1,000 (plus an annual surcharge of $250 for 3 years)
- Vehicle impoundment
- Suspension of driving privileges for up to 2 years.
On top of that, if you cause an accident that results in serious injuries or death, you could face a fine of $4,000 and up to 1 year in jail.
What happens if the at-fault driver doesn’t have auto liability insurance?
Insurance companies in Texas are required to provide their customers the opportunity to purchase UM or UIM coverage when they purchase their auto liability insurance.
Let’s take a closer look at these 2 options:
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides payment for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving an uninsured driver.
- Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage provides payment for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving a driver who has insufficient insurance to cover the damages.
Having UM or UIM coverage added to your insurance policy helps protect you, your family members, passengers in your vehicle, and anybody driving your vehicle with your permission in the event you’re involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have auto liability insurance or who doesn’t have enough auto liability insurance.
Just how much UM or UIM coverage you choose to purchase is up to you. Most experts recommend carrying at least 100/300 bodily injury coverage (meaning $100,000 for 1 person in an accident and $300,000 for all people injured in 1 accident).
If you don’t purchase UM or UIM coverage, you can sue the at-fault driver for any damages sustained in the accident. The problem with this route is that a driver who doesn’t have money to purchase the minimum required liability insurance generally doesn’t have money to pay a judgment.
What if you can’t find an insurance company that will sell you the required auto liability policy?
If you can’t find a company willing to sell you an auto liability policy, you can get basic coverage through the Texas Automobile Insurance Plan Association (TAIPA).
TAIPA was created by Texas statute and is subject to regulatory supervision by the Texas Department of Insurance. The goal of TAIPA is to make the minimum auto liability insurance required by law available to applicants who have been deemed ineligible by companies in the voluntary auto insurance market (usually due to a high number of accidents or tickets).
Were you involved in a car accident with a driver who doesn’t have insurance? Talk with an experienced Texas attorney to see how you can receive the compensation you deserve.