Do I Have Full Coverage? Explaining Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance
Texas requires the owner of an automobile to have minimum liability insurance coverage of $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage. These policy limits usually do not provide full coverage to drivers.
A full-coverage car insurance policy may include:
- Collision coverage that pays for the repair or replacement of your auto after a collision
- Comprehensive coverage that pays for damage to your car by something other than a collision, like theft or vandalism
- Medical payment coverage that pays the medical bills of you and your passengers in the event of an accident
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) that not only pays medical bills, but also pays for damages like lost wages and certain out-of-pocket costs
- Towing and labor if you're unable to drive your car
- Rental reimbursement if you need to rent a car after an accident
A true full-coverage policy should include one more thing: Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, about 20% of all cars that you see on Texas roads have no insurance at all. At least another 20% only have the minimum coverage required by law.
The Mandatory Offer
In Texas, uninsured motorist insurance (UM) is purchased separately from liability insurance. The coverage isn't mandatory, but your auto insurer is required to offer it to you. If you make an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist (UIM) claim, and your insurer says that you declined coverage, it must produce a copy of your signed rejection of the coverage. If it can't produce that signed rejection, Texas law deems you must be covered with UM and UIM.
Why You Need It
Look around you next time you're on the road — statistically, every fifth vehicle is underinsured or uninsured. Some people stop making their premium payments, forget to add a vehicle to an existing policy, or permit a person to drive who is excluded under their policy. UM and UIM coverage also applies in many situations involving stolen vehicles.
If you are injured in a collision with an uninsured or underinsured driver (and you report the crash to the police), you're likely covered under your UM and UIM coverage. This rule can also be used if you were hit and injured as a bicyclist or pedestrian.
Who Is Covered Under Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist?
Pursuant to Texas law, the general rule is that you and any family member who is a resident of your household are insured people under your UM and UIM. You're all covered even if you are the occupants of another person's vehicle. Any person who is an occupant of your vehicle is also covered.
What Uninsured Motorist Insurance Covers
Policy language may vary slightly from insurer to insurer, but typical UM coverage language states that the insurer will pay for the damages that an insured person would be legally entitled to recover from the owner or driver of an uninsured vehicle. Those damages include both bodily injury and property damage. You should confirm your specific UM coverage with your agent. If indeed you're covered for property damage, a $250 deductible is likely to apply. As per bodily injury, there is no deductible.
What Underinsured Motorist Insurance Covers
If you have UM, you have UIM too. Underinsured motorist coverage can be triggered if you're injured as a result of the fault of another driver who is insured, but doesn't have enough coverage to compensate you for all the damages that you suffered.
Take the following scenario as an example: A driver with the minimum $30,000 of liability coverage rear-ended you at 30 mph when you were stopped at a red light. The impact caused a cervical spine injury that required surgery and a spinal fusion. Your bodily injury damages are $100,000. You can pursue that extra $70,000 through your underinsured motorist coverage. The expertise of our Attorneys will simplify the complicated process of attaining your entitled sum.
Underinsured Claims and Permission to Settle
If you are going to pursue a UIM claim, your auto insurer must first agree to you settling with the underinsured party. Supposedly, this is so your insurer can confirm the underinsured motorist's policy limits, and protect their subrogation rights.
Don't sign a release of claims with the underinsured driver and their insurer until you receive that permission in writing. If you settle without written permission, your insurer can raise a policy defense and deny your UIM claim.
Insurance companies are highly aware that many people are unfamiliar with these laws and procedures. Our personal injury Attorneys can handle all insurance matters, saving you the headache.
Your Own Insurer Will Become Your Opponent
Auto insurance companies are in the business of collecting premium payments and banking them. Then, they invest that money to make even more money. Your own insurance company probably isn't going to be very generous with you. Often, they will do whatever they can to devalue or deny your UM or UIM claim — you'll quickly learn that you're not with a good neighbor or in very good hands at all.
Any covered person who was injured as a result of the carelessness and negligence of an uninsured or underinsured driver needs to take the necessary steps to protect their own best interests. Our experienced and effective personal injury Attorneys can assist with that.