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I WAS IN AN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT AND THE DRIVER DOESN’T HAVE LIABILITY INSURANCE. NOW WHAT?

Unfortunately, we often get calls from people who have been injured in car accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents where the negligent driver did not purchase automobile liability insurance.  This is a very frustrating experience because the person that caused the accident does not have the ability to pay for the damages he or she so obviously caused.

Every state requires that a driver maintain proof of financial responsibility for driving an automobile.  Most people fulfill this requirement by purchasing the minimum limits of automobile insurance, which in Texas for injuries are $30,000.00 per person and $60,000.00 per accident.  In New Mexico, the minimum limits of automobile insurance are $25,000.00 per person and $50,000.00 per accident.  However, there are many people who blatantly disobey the laws and drive without any insurance.

States like Texas and New Mexico impose expensive fines for failing to maintain proper automobile insurance; however, if someone doesn’t have insurance at the time of the accident, the fine imposed by the state is not going to help you get your car fixed or your medical bills paid.  The problem of getting compensation from the negligent driver is compounded by the fact that an uninsured driver is generally going to be a person with little or no assets and no ability to independently pay for your damages.  There is an old saying which applies here, “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.”

This situation is infuriating because it feels like the driver is “getting away with it.”  As personal injury lawyers, our job is to get you compensated for your injuries and damages, harms and losses.  Realistically, the chance of getting you money from an uninsured driver is slim to none.  But that doesn’t mean that there is no hope for a recovery.  We simply have to look to other sources of recovery to get fair compensation for your injuries and damages.

Here are some of your options:

Car Repairs and Property Damage

There are two sources of potential recovery.  You can get your car repaired or the property damage paid if you buy comprehensive collision insurance.  Most people call this “full coverage” insurance.  Under this coverage, you will have to pay your deductible, but your vehicle will be repaired regardless of who was at fault for the accident.

Another source of recovery is under the uninsured motorist provision of your automobile insurance.  With this coverage, you must prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident.  Texas and New Mexico both mandate that your insurance provide $25,000.00 in uninsured property damage coverage.  The only way for you not to have this coverage is if you reject this coverage in writing.  We do not recommend rejecting this coverage.

Bodily Injury and Lost Wages

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage is mandated under Texas law.  PIP pays for your reasonably incurred medical expenses up to the limits of coverage and will also pay for 80% of your lost wages up to the limits of coverage.  PIP is no-fault insurance, meaning that it doesn’t matter who is at fault in the accident for the coverage to apply.  The minimum limits of PIP in Texas is $2,500.00 per person.  You can opt out of PIP coverage by rejecting the coverage in writing.  We highly discourage rejecting PIP coverage.  In fact, we advise our clients to buy as much PIP as possible.  PIP coverage is a good bargain for the relatively inexpensive cost of coverage.

Medical Payments (Med Pay) coverage is another source of no-fault insurance offered by the insurance company.  Med Pay is similar to PIP except that the automobile insurance company will have the right to be repaid back if you ever get money from the person that caused the accident.  In New Mexico, you can optionally buy Med Pay; however PIP is not available.  In New Mexico, we suggest purchasing as much Med Pay as you can.  In Texas, we suggest purchasing PIP instead of Med Pay.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) is another coverage that will pay for your reasonable medical bills, lost wages and other damages when the at-fault driver has no insurance (uninsured) or not enough insurance (underinsured) to cover your losses.  In Texas and New Mexico, UM/UIM is mandated; however, you can opt out of this coverage by rejecting it in writing.  We highly encourage drivers to not reject this coverage because of the high percentage of uninsured drivers here in the Borderland.  In Texas, the minimum limits for UM/UIM for bodily injury are $30,000.00 per person and $60,000.00 per accident.  In New Mexico, the minimum limits are $25,000.00 per person and $50,000.00 per accident.  New Mexico allows for stacking of these limits for household family members for each car that is on the policy.  For instance, if you have three vehicles insured, the per person UM/UIM limits would be 3 x $25,000.00 = $75,000.00 in UM/UIM per person coverage.  An experienced car accident attorney will be able to determine the exact amount of coverage that is available.

Nothing will completely make up for the frustration you feel when being involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver, but purchasing the right automobile insurance will help tremendously on your road to recovery.

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