Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists Coverage
In the state of Texas, everybody is supposed to have car insurance. If you go down to get your car inspected, if you go renew your registration, or if you want to get a driver’s license. Just about anything, they will ask you for proof of insurance. Everybody should have insurance but the reality of it is that there is about 25 percent of people driving around out there who do not have any insurance at all.
There are different types of car insurance.
This is the one that the state of Texas says you have to have. Liability insurance covers you if you cause a wreck. The minimum in the state of Texas is $30,000 which means that if you are in involved in a car wreck and it was your fault, your insurance company will pay for the damage to the other car and to the people who were harmed up to the limits of your policy. If it’s a minimum limits policy it will be $30,000 on the personal injuries caused and $25,000 on the property damage. What if there are multiple people injured in the wreck? The $30,000 limit is doubled to $60,000. So, it is $30,000 per person involved or $60,00 per occurrence.
The reality is that most wrecks that are of any significance, they cause damages that are more than the $30,000. If you get hurt, let’s say you have to go to the doctor, ER visit, or if you hurt your back and may need injections. Your medical expenses are going to add up above $30,000 pretty darn quickly. So, if the person who caused the wreck that you were in only has minimum limit liability policy the most you could ever be able to recover in a claim against that person is $30,000. Technically, you could sue them and you could get a big judgment against them but when you go to collect it, the only thing that’s going to be there is the $30,000 in insurance and then whatever other assets that person may have. Realistically speaking, if someone is only able to afford a minimum limits policy more likely than not they don’t have any assets that could satisfy your judgment.
So, what do you do in that situation? What if you are in a wreck and someone who caused the wreck caused you to suffer injuries and the value of that claim is above what the insurance limit is of the person who caused it. Well, that’s when you have to look into uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. So, remember the state of Texas requires that you have at least the minimum liability limits of $30,000. Well, the law also says that each insurance policy is to include what’s called uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists Coverage
This coverage kicks in when somebody else causes a wreck and they are either uninsured or the insurance that they have is not enough to cover the damages caused. Well, there’s one little catch on that issue. In the statute, it says that the UM UIM coverage can be waived if the person getting the insurance signs a waiver. Unfortunately there’s a lot of insurance agents that just as a matter of course when you go in to get insurance they will give you a quote on liability insurance and then slide the waiver of uninsured-underinsured motorist coverage and then you walk out of there thinking you’ve got full coverage when in fact you don’t have full coverage.
So, make sure you look at your insurance policy. You will have a form in which is your proof of insurance but the thing is that doesn’t tell you what your limits are. You need to go look at the declarations page on your insurance policy and it will tell you how much your coverage is. There will be a part that will talk about liability, property damage, and uninsured-underinsured. Uninsured-underinsured is the one that you’re concerned about because that’s what protects you and your family. If you don’t have that and if you can afford it, it’s only pennies a day to get that extra coverage you should go and talk to your insurance agent and make sure that you get the uninsured-underinsured motorist coverage.
Personal Injury Protection
One other aspect is when you get the UM/UIM coverage there’s also what’s called personal injury protection and that is usually $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000 and that coverage is a no-fault coverage whatsoever; if you get hurt in your car, lose time from work, if you have medical expenses. The personal injury protection is something that you get automatically because you pay for it. So, the idea is if you’re going to drive around in the state of Texas and you know there’s 25% of people out there who don’t have any insurance coverage, it’s in your best interest for you and your family to make sure that you have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
We have all experienced it, driving down the freeway in Texas only to see an 18-wheeler struggling to keep its massive rig in a single lane. Thoughts fill your mind: what happens if this truck loses control? How can I get ahead of this 18-wheeler before the situation takes an unsafe turn? These are normal concerns. Unfortunately, massive 18-wheelers cause wrecks on our Texas roads on a regular basis, and these concerns are realized far too often. So, what do you do if you find yourself in a car wreck with an 18-wheeler?
First and foremost, your physical well-being is the most important issue. These big trucks can cause severe injuries. Call 911 if you have the ability to do so. It is vital that you get checked out by medical professionals to ensure your safety.
Second, call Perdue & Kidd, and our attorneys will respond to the scene of the crash. The driver of the big rig will contact his or her insurance company immediately following the crash. The insurance company will send a representative to the scene of the crash. The insurance representative is not there is ensure you get treated fairly; the insurance representative is there to ensure the insurance company will pay as little money as possible towards potential injuries and medical fees or property damage to your vehicle. Having someone present and representing your interests is important. If you do not have someone at the scene of the accident from Perdue & Kidd, remember never to give a statement to the truck driver’s insurance company. You are not required to do so, and it will only be used against you by the truck driver’s insurance company.
Next, if healthy enough to do so, begin taking photographs and videos of the entire scene. Photograph the damage to your car and the truck that caused the crash. In particular, take a picture of the driver-side door of the truck. The driver-side door has important information on it, such as the truck’s Department of Transportation number. Also, be sure to get the driver’s name and the company the driver is driving for. Such pictures, videos, and information can be important pieces of evidence that can help assist you in getting maximum value for your personal injury claim.
In addition to taking pictures, obtain the names and contact information for any witnesses who saw the crash. In the legal world, uninterested witnesses who have no ties to the case can be very important. Insurance companies will expend a significant amount of time and energy attempting to discredit your recollection of the events leading up to the accident. Thus, witnesses can reinforce your testimony to assist in holding the driver and company financially and legally responsible. You may be wondering, who is liable for your damages–the driver or the company? The answer is both. The driver of the big rig is at fault for his or her own negligence in causing the crash (i.e., distracted driving, failure to yield, improper encroachment into another lane, etc.). However, the company for which the driver is employed is also at fault. Federal regulations impose a responsibility on the company, and the company is liable for the negligence of the driver.
If you or someone you know has already been injured by an 18-wheeler, contact an attorney at Perdue & Kidd immediately. We are waiting to represent you in your claims against the truck driver and the trucking company.
Distracted driving is any activity an operator of a motor vehicle is engaged in that both distracts them from their primary task of driving and increases their risk of an accident. Said another way, distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. There are four types of driver distraction:
- Visual – looking at something other than the road
- Auditory – hearing something not related to driving
- Manual – manipulating something other than the steering wheel
- Cognitive – thinking about something other than driving.
All distractions endanger the driver, passengers, and others on the road. Distractions come from four general sources:
- Associated with the vehicle – controls, displays, navigation systems
- Brought into the vehicle – cell phones, computers, food, animals, grooming aids
- External to the vehicle – signs and displays, scenery, roadside features
- Internal to the driver’s mind – daydreaming, “lost in thought”
The most alarming of these distractions is the one that requires the driver to take his visual, manual and cognitive attention away from driving: TEXTING.
Drunk driving is similar to distracted driving in that driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive skills are decreased by the intoxicant. The dangers presented by drunk drivers have long been a part of our national vehicle safety consciousness. Unfortunately, the number of injuries and deaths caused by distracted drivers is likely to eclipse the drunk driving toll due to the prevalence of smartphones.
According to the CTIA, The Wireless Association, over 170 billion text messages had been sent in the United States as of December 2012. That statistic is five years old. That’s an eternity in technology terms. Studies show that the average driver takes his eyes off the road for 5 seconds at a time while texting. At 55 miles per hour, that is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. At 70 miles per hour, that driving blind for almost 2 football fields!
Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that text messaging, browsing and dialing a call resulted in the longest duration of drivers taking their eyes off the road.[i] Text messaging increases the risk of crash and near-crash by two times and results in drivers taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds per text. Activities performed when completing a phone call (reaching for a phone, looking up a contact, dialing the number) increased crash risk by three times. VTTI also found that the risk of crash or near-crash events for commercial vehicle drivers who text is 23.2 times higher than non-distracted drivers.[ii]
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) governs 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles. It issued regulations prohibiting commercial drivers from texting while driving.[iii] FMCSA regulations also require that “[e]very commercial motor vehicle must be operated in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is being operated.”[iiii] Therefore, if a state or local jurisdiction has passed a law banning or limiting electronic device use, the commercial driver is required to follow that statute.
As of September 1, 2017, Texas has banned texting and driving. Texas is posting signs at each point where an interstate highway or US highway enters Texas stating: “The use of a portable wireless communication device for electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited in this state.” The penalty for a first-time offender is a misdemeanor fine of not less than $25 and not more than $99. For repeat offenders, the fine is $100 to $200. This new law preempts all local ordinances regarding texting and driving.
Distracted driving is deadly.
 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety-Critical Event Risk – Final Report, April 2013
 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, New Data from VTTI Provides Insight into Cell Phone Use and Driving Distraction, July 27, 2009
. 49 C.F.R. § 392.80; http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/driver-safety/distracted-driving
. 49 C.F.R. § 392.2.
The Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine published a study that evaluated how having the symptoms of insomnia can increase the odds of experiencing a fatal accident. Participants in the study had to report whether they had experienced any of the following:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Problems getting restful sleep
- Trouble staying asleep
Researchers then followed the participants over a lengthy period of time. They discovered that people who reported experiencing all three symptoms were almost three times more likely to suffer a fatal injury than people who had no signs of insomnia. Further, people who had difficulty falling asleep were more than twice as likely to lose their lives in a fatal accident than people who had no trouble getting to sleep.
Drowsy driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is responsible for more than 1,000 fatalities every year. People who are exhausted tend to have slower reaction times and an inattention to their surroundings. According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, insomniacs are far more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than people who are rested. In the study, 9 percent of people admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel and 4.1 percent said their exhaustion led to a car accident.
Experts recommend pulling over at the first hint of drowsy driving in order to avoid a tragedy.