What are Texas’s Auto Insurance Laws?

What are Texas’s Auto Insurance Laws?

Auto insurance is mandatory for all drivers under Texas law. This requirement is intended to ensure that accident victims will have access to the financial resources they need in order to recover. However, while Texas law requires all drivers to be insured, the state’s mandatory insurance requirements are relatively minimal. As a result, it is a good idea to purchase certain types of optional coverage as well; and, when you are involved in an accident, it is important to hire an experienced injury attorney who can help you recover the full compensation you deserve.

What Auto Insurance is Required in Texas?

Under Texas law, all drivers are required to carry liability insurance. As the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) explains: “Liability coverage pays to repair the other driver’s car if you caused the accident. It also pays the other driver’s and his or her passenger’s medical bills and some other expenses.” Liability insurance provides fault-based coverage. This means that in order to file a claim after an accident, you must be able to prove that the insured driver was negligent in causing the collision.

By law, all drivers in Texas are required to carry liability insurance with “30/60/35 coverage.” This means that the policy must cover:

  • $30,000 in compensation for personal injuries per person;
  • $60,000 in compensation for personal injuries per accident; and,
  • $25,000 in compensation for property damage per accident.

Additionally, in Texas, all drivers are required to carry proof of insurance. If you get pulled over or are involved in an accident, you must be able to provide documentation to prove that you are insured as required by law.

Otherwise, Texas law does not impose any additional requirements with regard to auto insurance for most drivers (there are additional requirements for commercial, rideshare, and delivery drivers). As long as a driver has 30/60/25 coverage, then he or she can legally drive.

What Auto Insurance is Optional in Texas?

While no other types of auto insurance are required in Texas, several other types of insurance are available, and purchasing additional coverage is a good idea. Purchasing additional coverage not only helps to ensure that your coverage will be adequate in the event that you cause an accident, but it can also help ensure that you will have adequate access to compensation in the event that you are seriously injured in a collision. Optional types of auto insurance in Texas include:

  • Medical Payments (MedPay) or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage – MedPay and PIP provide coverage for your (and your passengers’) medical bills regardless of who is at fault in a collision. PIP also provides coverage for lost income and certain non-medical expenses.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage – UIM coverage protects you in the event that you are seriously injured in an accident and the at-fault driver either (i) does not have insurance, or (ii) does not have enough insurance to fully cover your losses.
  • Collision Coverage – Collision coverage provides protection in the event that your vehicle is damaged in a collision and you do not have a claim under another driver’s liability policy.
  • Comprehensive Coverage – Comprehensive coverage provides protection in the event that your vehicle is damaged by fire, flood, theft, or a run-in with an animal.
  • Towing and Rental Reimbursement Coverage – These policies cover the cost of towing and getting a rental car if your vehicle is undrivable, and they usually only cost about $100 (or less) per year.

Although PIP and UIM coverage is optional under Texas law, they are automatically included in all auto insurance policies issued in the state. As a result, unless you have expressly opted out of paying for PIP and UIM, you should have these coverages under your policy.

What Are Your Legal Rights as an Insured Driver in Texas?

As an insured driver in Texas, you have the right to take full advantage of your insurance coverage in the event that your vehicle is damaged or you are injured in an accident. You also have the right to seek fault-based coverage under the other driver’s policy if you are involved in a collision (technically, this is true regardless of whether or not you are insured). Regardless of the policy (or policies) under which you seek coverage, you have the right to have your claim handled in good faith; and, if an insurance company engages in bad faith insurance practices, you are entitled to additional compensation under Texas law.

Additionally, all drivers in Texas are protected by the state’s Consumer Bill of Rights for Personal Automobile Insurance. Under this document, your rights include:

  • The right not to be misled with false or deceptive statements regarding the coverage that is available to you;
  • The right to opt-out of paying for PIP and UIM coverage should you choose to do so;
  • The right to purchase the 30/60/25 coverage required by law through the Texas Automobile Insurance Plan Association (TAIPA) if you have been denied overage by two or more insurance companies;
  • The right to pay your auto insurance premiums in installments (although you may be charged an additional fee);
  • The right to a written explanation if you are denied coverage for any claim (including, “the precise incidents, circumstances, or risk factors that disqualified you”);
  • The right not to have your coverage canceled after 60 days unless you fail to pay your premiums, file a fraudulent claim, or lose your driving privileges;
  • The right to receive at least 10 days’ advance notice of cancellation;
  • The right to choose the repair shop that works on your vehicle, and the right to choose the replacement parts that are installed;
  • The right to reject any settlement offer you receive when you file a claim, and the right to go to mediation, arbitration, or court to seek full coverage; and,
  • The right to be treated equally and not face discrimination on the basis of your race, color, religion, or national origin.

Do You Have an Insurance Claim After an Auto Accident in Texas?

If you have been involved in an accident and need help understanding your right to coverage under your or the other driver’s insurance policy, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation. To speak with our experienced Plano, TX auto accident lawyers in confidence, please call 972-380-4444 or request an appointment online today.

Auto Insurance Claim – When Should You Settle Your Texas Auto Insurance Claim?

Auto Insurance Claim – When Should You Settle Your Texas Auto Insurance Claim?

In most cases, recovering your losses after an auto accident means accepting a check from the insurance companies. But, while you may be anxious to get your vehicle repaired and move on, you need to be very careful to make sure that you do not accept a check too soon.

Why? Because once you accept a check-in settlement of your claim, your claim is over.

Many people do not realize that accepting an insurance check can waiver their legal rights. While some insurance companies will make partial payments without requiring a waiver, others will not. If you waive your rights by accepting a check – even if you do so unknowingly – you will not be able to seek additional compensation for your accident-related losses.

7 Tips for Making an Informed Decision about Your Auto Insurance Settlement

With this in mind, how can you avoid settling your auto accident claim too soon? Here are seven tips from our auto accident lawyers in Plano, TX:

Tip #1: Make Sure You Know Your Legal Rights

First and foremost, you need to make sure you know your legal rights. Your insurance adjuster will not explain your rights to you, and he or she is not going to handle your claim with your best interests in mind. Insurance adjusters get paid to ensure that the insurance companies pay as little for accident claims as possible, and, as a claimant, it is up to you to make sure that you receive the full compensation you deserve.

Where can you learn about your legal rights? Our article, 7 Important Facts for Auto Accident Victims in Texas, is a good place to start. For personalized legal advice, you will need to speak with an attorney.

Tip #2: Make Sure You Know the Total Cost of Your Medical Needs

If the other driver was at fault in your accident, you are entitled to compensation for the full cost of your current and future medical care. Before you settle your insurance claim, you must obtain a comprehensive assessment of your long-term treatment needs. Your health insurance might not cover all of your accident-related medical expenses, and, if it doesn’t, you will be looking at paying out of pocket unless you obtain the auto insurance coverage you deserve.

Tip #3: Make Sure You Know How Much It Will Cost to Repair or Replace Your Vehicle

In addition to taking care of your medical bills, you need to make sure that your insurance settlement takes care of the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle as well. The insurance companies use many different tactics to avoid paying accident victims the full amount they are owed, from sending accident victims to “preferred” repair shops to not disclosing the full amount of coverage available.

You have the right to take your vehicle to the shop or dealership of your choosing; and, if your vehicle has been totaled, you have the right to a replacement. The available coverage will determine the answers to questions such as whether you are entitled to new OEM parts (as opposed to refurbished parts) and how much you are entitled to receive toward purchasing a replacement vehicle.

Tip #4: Make Sure You Know the Other Financial Costs of Your Auto Accident

Beyond your medical bills and vehicle repair or replacement costs, if the other driver was at fault in your accident, you are entitled to compensation for your other financial costs as well. This includes both direct out-of-pocket costs and loss of income, and it includes both costs you have incurred to date and costs you will incur in the future.

For example, let’s say your accident-related injuries prevent you from working. Maybe you have a broken arm, and you will be out of work for a minimum of six months. Losses you may be entitled to recover through your auto insurance claim include:

  • Your lost wages or salary to date
  • The wages or salary you will lose over the next six months (or longer)
  • Your lost benefits for the entire period you are unable to work.
  • Your transportation costs for getting back and forth from your doctor’s office
  • The cost of prescription medications and medical supplies
  • The cost of physical therapy and rehabilitation

Tip #5: Do Not Overlook Your Right to Compensation for Your Non-Financial Losses

One of the biggest mistakes auto accident victims make is failing to seek just compensation for their non-financial losses. If you are entitled to compensation for your injuries’ financial costs, you are entitled to compensation for the non-financial costs as well. This includes costs such as:

  • Emotional trauma (including post-traumatic stress)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of comfort, companionship, and consortium
  • Loss of services, society, and support

In many cases, these non-financial costs are calculated as a multiple of accident victims’ financial losses. This means that your compensation for your emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and other non-financial losses could very well account for the majority of your auto accident insurance settlement.

Tip #6: Do Not Sign Anything (Including a Check) Until You Speak with an Attorney

If you don’t sign anything, you can’t waive your legal rights (unless you wait too long to assert them). With this in mind, you should not sign anything – including a check – unless an attorney tells you that it is safe to do so.

Tip #7: Consult with an Auto Accident Attorney Before You Deal with the Insurance Companies

Ultimately, the best way to avoid settling too soon is to hire an auto accident attorney to represent you. An experienced auto accident attorney will be able to (i) make sure you do not waive your rights, (ii) calculate your financial and non-financial losses, and (iii) deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. Your attorney will be able to determine if you have other compensation claims as well and will be able to take all necessary steps on your behalf to recover the full financial compensation you deserve.

Contact Us 24/7 for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation in Plano, TX

Do you need help protecting your right to just compensation after an auto accident in Plano, TX? To speak with an experienced auto accident lawyer at The Law Office of Joel M. Vecchio, P.C. in confidence, call 972-380-4444 or request a free consultation online now.

7 Important Facts for Auto Accident Victims in Texas

7 Important Facts for Auto Accident Victims in Texas

Recovering from a serious auto accident can be a trying experience, and the process can be made by all the more difficult by unfair and bad-faith insurance practices. As a victim, there is a lot you need to know, and there are several steps you need to take in order to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.

At The Law Office of Joel M. Vecchio, P.C., we are passionate about helping auto accident victims in Texas, and we believe that all victims should have access to the information, resources, and legal representation they need in order to recover. To help you get started on the road to recovery, here are seven important facts about protecting your legal rights after an auto accident in Texas:

Fact #1: You Need to Protect Yourself Against the Insurance Companies

Many people assume that the insurance companies will help them recover after an accident because this is what the insurance companies tell them. Unfortunately, the reality is that the opposite is often true. The insurance companies are not interested in helping auto accident victims recover their losses; instead, their interests lie in ensuring that they pay as little as possible.

With this in mind, if you have an insurance claim, you need to view the claims process for what it is—an adversarial process. You need to assume that all requests for information are designed to disprove your claim for coverage, and you need to make your own independent decisions rather than relying on the advice of the insurance adjusters.

Fact #2: You May Be Entitled to a Significant Financial Recovery

Why is it important that you take this approach to your auto accident insurance claim? The answer is simple: You may be entitled to a significant financial recovery. In Texas, auto accident victims can recover compensation for all forms of financial and non-financial loss. This includes direct out-of-pocket costs such as repair bills and medical expenses, current and future loss of earnings, pain, and suffering, and any and all other losses triggered by your accident-related injuries. If you let the insurance companies decide the outcome of your claim, you will almost certainly leave a significant amount of money on the table.

Fact #3: You May Be Entitled to Compensation Even if You Were Partially at Fault

Another assumption many people make is that they cannot file an insurance claim if they played a role in causing their accident. This assumption is flawed for a couple of reasons. First, unless you affirmatively declined coverage, you have personal injury protection (PIP) under your auto insurance policy. This is “no-fault” insurance, which means that you can file a claim even if you were partially (or fully) to blame.

Second, under Texas’s law of “modified comparative fault,” you can file a claim under the other driver’s policy as long as you were not primarily at fault in the accident. In order to determine if you have a fault-based claim, you will need to hire an attorney to investigate the accident and determine liability.

Fact #4: Filing an Insurance Claim Might Not Be Your Only Option

While most auto accident cases involve insurance claims, some do not. Some cases involve claims against vehicle manufacturers, dealerships, repair shops, road construction contractors, state agencies, and other entities. When investigating your case, your attorney will look for evidence of all possible causes to make sure that you can recover just compensation from all of the liable parties.

Fact #5: You Should Not Wait for Any Longer Than Necessary to Get Started

In addition to the steps we recommend taking in the immediate aftermath of an auto accident, there are several other steps that you (and your attorney) will need to try to take quickly as well. For this reason, we recommend that you wait no longer than necessary to get started with your claim. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible, and you should be prepared to work with your attorney to make sure you are able to recover just compensation.

Fact #6: You May Need to Be Prepared to Go to Trial

Regardless of whether you have an insurance claim, a “third-party” claim, or all of the above, it is important to be prepared for the possibility that you will need to take your case to trial. Most auto accident claims settle – and yours probably will, too – but you cannot bank on receiving just compensation without going to court.

When we represent auto accident victims in Texas, we let them know upfront that we will do everything we can to settle their claim quickly, but that we cannot make any guarantees. Ultimately, negotiating a settlement requires good faith on both sides. If the insurance company (or a third party) is unwilling to offer fair compensation for your injuries, then you will need to go to court to recover the compensation you deserve.

Fact #7: Hiring an Experienced Attorney is the Best Way to Maximize Your Financial Compensation

Given everything we have discussed thus far, if you have been seriously injured in an auto accident in Texas, hiring an experienced attorney is the best way to maximize your financial compensation. An experienced attorney will be able to help you by:

  • Dealing with the insurance companies on your behalf
  • Conducting a comprehensive investigation to determine liability
  • Helping you get your car fixed and receive appropriate treatment for your injuries
  • Calculating your financial and non-financial losses
  • Making sure you do not miss important deadlines or make other costly mistakes
  • Negotiating for a fair settlement
  • Taking your case to trial if necessary

Were You Injured in an Auto Accident in Texas? Schedule a Free Consultation Today

If you have been injured in a car accident and would like to learn more about your legal rights, we encourage you to contact us promptly. One of our Plano, TX auto accident lawyers will be happy to speak with you one-on-one about your case. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation as soon as possible, call us at 972-380-4444 or request an appointment online now.

What to Do After a Car Accident

What to Do After a Car Accident

Yesterday I struck up a conversation with a lady at Starbucks. When I told her I was a lawyer, she said “You know, I have always wondered, what should I do if I get in an accident? Is just exchanging insurance info enough?” It is really easy, in the midst of the stress and everything else going on at an accident scene, to overlook a lot of little important things. To help you out if you are ever in an accident, we have put together this list. Print it out and keep it in your glove box in your car! Here are a few steps to take after any type of motor vehicle accident:

  • Remain at the scene: The most important thing to do when considering what to do after a car accident is to remain at the scene. If you leave the accident scene without notifying the police, you may face criminal charges as a hit-and-run driver.
  • Check for serious injury: Make sure everyone involved in the accident is all right. Call for an ambulance if necessary.
  • Cooperate with the police: Notify law enforcement of the accident right away, and give them the information they request.
  • Police report: Get a police report or request the report number from the officer on the scene this is very important.
  • Exchange vital information: Provide the other party with your name, phone number, address, and insurance company details. Do not admit fault or provide any more details than necessary.
  • Gather evidence: Take photos of the accident scene and any visible injuries. Ask for the contact information and statements of any witnesses.
  • Speak with your insurance company: Tell them the facts about your accident but do not downplay your injuries. Do not give any statements to the other party’s insurance company without consulting an injury lawyer.
  • Keep track of medical treatment: Write down the names of your doctors, any treatments you receive, and the expenses you incur as a result of the accident.
  • Contact a personal injury attorney: You have two years from the date of your accident to file a claim, but it is best to get our injury attorney on your side right away.
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