If you have been in a car wreck, you naturally assume that the at-fault driver has liability insurance and will pay your damages. But a shocking 20% of Texas motorists — or about 3.5 million people — are not insured. And based on the number of times we see this happening, we think this number is higher. Almost everyone who has insurance carries the state-required minimum amount which only pays a maximum of $30,000 for the injuries to one person, $60,000 for the injuries to all people, and $25,000 for all vehicles damaged. This is often not enough, especially with the high cost of medical care. And that’s not to mention the multiple claims filed by drivers and passengers in chain-reaction car accidents. That is why you must purchase an uninsured/underinsured coverage policy to protect you and your family.
If you are injured in an all-too-common uninsured/minimally insured driver accidents, this post will answer your questions including
- When can you use your policy?
- What should you do if your insurance company does not make a fair offer of settlement?
- Do you have to file a lawsuit and testify at a trial?
When uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages apply
These two provisions, abbreviated as UM and UIM, are contained in Part C of a Texas auto insurance policy. They are far-reaching and can make a dramatic difference in your financial recovery.
Instead of potentially receiving no money or far less than your case is worth, you can be paid in any of these circumstances:
- The at-fault driver has no liability insurance – even if he whips out a fake card at the scene, had let his policy lapse, or is an excluded driver;
- The at-fault driver does not carry sufficient insurance, like when you are severely injured and your damages are $500,000 and he only has the standard $30,000 amount;
- You are a passenger or not the owner of the vehicle hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver;
- You are walking or riding your bicycle; and
- You are hit by a hit-and-run driver, as long as there is physical contact between the vehicles.
Further, you can sometimes stack two or more policies to increase your payments. For example, if you are a passenger in a friend’s car and are crashed into by a driver who does not have enough insurance, you may be able to make a claim on the friend’s policy and your own if your damages are substantial. There are many other complications that a personal injury lawyer can explain.
Berenson Injury Law has been helping injured people recover settlements and verdicts from insurance companies and negligent drivers for almost 40 years. One of the first things we do is research which policies and assets we can collect on so that our clients are fully reimbursed for their damages. We are often successful in getting large amounts of money paid to them, even finding UM/UIM coverage when their own company cannot prove that they rejected it in writing.
Here is more information about other sources of recovery.
You may have to go to court to get the insurer to pay your claim
Ideally, your insurance company would investigate the facts and, once it obtained adequate proof, work to make sure you were fairly compensated. After all, this is why you are paying it premiums each month.
Unfortunately, your company often engages in various tricks and games to postpone and even refuse to pay you for your perfectly valid UM or UIM claim.
Regrettably, a Texas Supreme Court case in 2006 allowed the insurance companies to engage in additional delaying tactics. As it stands now, you have to first file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment against the negligent driver before you get payment from your uninsured/underinsured coverage insurer.
The Brainard decision, a wrongful death lawsuit after a oil well service company truck hit a motorist head-on (and a related one named Henson) were recently challenged. However, two weeks ago the Court refused to hear the case of Weber v. Progressive (18-0231).
Will our state leaders fix this problem?
Hopefully the Texas Legislature will correct this injustice. The bill, HB 1739, would require a carrier “in good faith to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim once liability and damages have become reasonably clear.” In addition, attorney’s fees and interest will be due to prod the carriers to pay more quickly.
The amended law was proposed by Fort Worth’s conservative Republican Representative Charlie Geren, so this is as an indication of how important this problem is.
Texans have to spend almost one billion dollars a year buying insurance to protect themselves from uninsured drivers. This is not fair. The state of Texas needs to crack down on uninsured drivers.
Consumer groups like TexasWatch have come out strongly in favor of the proposed bill. But the powerful industry lobby has pushed back.
This new law will be completely different from the way these claims are handled now.
Expect the insurance company to delay paying your UM or UIM claim
Starting the process may be as simple as calling the claims number for the insurance company. However, there can be complications. For example
— you may not know the number to call, policy number, or information needed,
— the company will require a recorded statement and your answers can and will be used later when payment is being evaluated or you are in court,
— there may be more than one insurance company involved, with one claiming to be secondary to the other,
— health insurance company payments may muddy the “paid vs. incurred” waters,
— you need to obtain consent to settle after concluding the claim against the at-fault driver, and an offset can be taken depending on that settlement, and
— personal injury protection benefits can be claimed as an offset or waived.
Whether you are dealing with one insurance company or several ones, they may take actions so they don’t have to pay you. Many of the substandard companies make it almost impossible to contact them. Or they never respond to your inquiries. Or they change adjusters to make you start over. Or they delay investigating your claim and later claim you were at fault.
Time goes on. They may postpone evaluating the claim, saying they don’t have each and every document they say is required. Only when forced to do so, they may offer you an amount that is far less than your claim is worth or deny your claim entirely.
Under the Brainard decision, this forces you to now hire a car accident lawyer to sue your insurance company, but the damage and delay to your case is already done. You will have to get a court verdict to make your insurer pay you the money it should have paid you all along.
Take action to protect yourself
If you have been injured in a car or truck accident involving an uninsured or minimally insured driver, you should be pro-active. Do not assume your company is your friend. Far from it. While your insurance company’s commercial jingle may state that the company “is on your side” (Nationwide) or is “a good neighbor” (State Farm), they may be anything but those things when you are seeking a substantial payment of money.
You have to seek out a top personal injury attorney. Your attorney can help you get the information you need to take on whatever legal action is necessary and hold your insurance company responsible for doing what it promised to do when you first signed your policy contract and made payments. Your attorney can also help you assess whether or not your insurer is “low-balling” you in settlement negotiations. If your insurer has acted inappropriately in the handling of your claim, your injury lawyer can go over your options, including suing the insurer for its unfair claims practices and bad faith.
To get the legal advice you need, talk to a board-certified personal injury attorney who has extensive experience in handling car crashes, including those involving sometimes thorny underinsured/uninsured motorist insurance issues.
For your free case review, contact us today at 1-888-801-8585 or fill out this form.