In Texas, every motor vehicle is required to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance in the event of an accident causing an injury, death or property damage. But the reality is that not everybody carries liability insurance. Likewise, there is something you can do to protect yourself in the event you are involved in an accident with a vehicle that is uninsured. You can purchase uninsured motorist (“UM”) and under-insured motorist (“UIM”) coverage.
Under Texas law, every automobile liability policy must provide for UM/UIM coverage unless it is expressly rejected in writing. Therefore, even if your coverage summary does not expressly provide for UM/UIM coverage, you are presumed to have the state minimum UM/UIM coverage unless the insurance company has obtained your signed rejection of that coverage. In all my years of practice as a car accident lawyer, however, I have only had one case where the insurance company could not produce my client’s signed UM/UIM rejection form. The end result was that the insurance company had to provide UM/UIM for my client’s accident even though she never paid for the coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage (“UM”) works just like it sounds. If you are in an accident with a vehicle that is uninsured, then your UM coverage will step into the shoes of the other driver’s liability insurance. However, in order to be eligible for UM coverage , the accident would have to be determined to be the fault of the uninsured motorist. If the accident is found to be your fault, then UM does not apply. You would then have to look to other coverages like collision or personal injury protection.
Once the other driver is determined to be at fault and uninsured, then your adjuster will evaluate your claim based upon what you would be legally entitled to recover from the uninsured driver. The adjuster will estimate the damages to your car and either pay for the repairs or will pay for the value of the vehicle if it is determined to be a total loss. If there are any personal injuries, then the adjuster will investigate and evaluate that part of your claim separately.
Under-insured motorist coverage (“UIM”) works a little different than UM coverage. With UIM coverage, the other vehicle does, in fact, carry liability insurance. However, the other driver’s insurance coverage is not enough to fully compensate you for your injury or damages. For example, if your car is totaled in an accident and is worth more than the coverage limits of the at-fault vehicle, then your UIM coverage will step in and pay the difference up to your coverage limits. The same is true for your personal injuries. If your injury claim is worth more than the coverage provided by the at-fault vehicle, then your UIM coverage will cover the short-fall up to the limits of your UIM coverage.