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What is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) in Texas?

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Understanding UM/UIM Insurance in Texas: Coverage, No-Fault System, Uninsured Status, and Property Damage

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident in Abilene, Texas, chances are you will have questions about what, who and how all of your damages will be paid. One area that has become a very hot topic in Texas is that of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage. This guide will help you understand the basics of this often confusing coverage. If you have any questions about your own accident, please call a motor vehicle accident attorney at The Low Law Firm in Abilene, Texas at (325) 455-1889.

Underinsured Motorist (UIM) insurance is a critical aspect of automobile insurance policies in Texas, designed to protect drivers in the event that they are involved in an accident with a motorist who has insufficient coverage. In this article, we will explore the nuances of UIM insurance in Texas, including its relation to the no-fault system, its application in cases of uninsured drivers (UM), coverage for property damage, and scenarios where UM/UIM coverage can be utilized.

1. Overview of UM/UIM Insurance in Texas

UM/UIM insurance is an optional addition to an auto insurance policy in Texas that provides protection when the policyholder is involved in an accident with a driver who either does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover the damages. This type of insurance is particularly important in Texas, where, according to the Texas Department of Insurance, about 14% of drivers are uninsured, one of the highest rates in the United States.

1.1. What Does UIM Insurance Cover?

UIM (UNDERinsured Motorist) insurance in Texas typically covers both bodily injury and property damage. This means that if you are involved in an accident with an underinsured driver, your UIM policy can help pay for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and repairs to your vehicle or compensation for its value if it is totaled.

1.2 What does UM Insurance cover?

UM (UNinsured motorist) insurance in Texas typically covers both bodily injury and property damage, as well. This coverage kicks in when the at fault driver is without insurance coverage. Your UM coverage can also help pay for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and repairs to your vehicle or compensation for its value it is deemed a total loss.

2. No-Fault System vs. Tort System in Texas

Texas operates under a “fault” car insurance system. This means that the driver who is legally found at fault for causing an accident is responsible for paying the damages resulting from that accident. Understanding this system is crucial when discussing UM/UIM insurance.

2.1. Fault System Explained

In a fault-based system, individuals injured in auto accidents have several options. They can file a claim with their own insurance company, file a third-party claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance, or pursue a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver. This system contrasts with no-fault states, where drivers turn to their own insurance policies to cover minor injuries regardless of who caused the accident.

3. Uninsured and Underinsured Status in Texas

The prevalence of uninsured drivers in Texas highlights the importance of UM/UIM coverage. An uninsured driver is someone who does not carry any car insurance, while an underinsured driver has insurance that does not meet the minimum legal standards or is insufficient to cover the damages caused.

3.1. Legal Requirements for Auto Insurance

Texas law requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, known as 30/60/25 coverage:

$30,000 for bodily injury per person
$60,000 for bodily injury per accident
$25,000 for property damage per accident

Despite these requirements, many drivers in Texas remain uninsured, exposing other motorists to significant financial risk.

4. Property Damage and UM/UIM Coverage

While UIM coverage often focuses on bodily injury, it also extends to property damage. This part of the coverage is crucial for compensating the insured for damages to their vehicle that an underinsured driver’s policy cannot fully cover.

4.1. Property Damage Coverage Limits

It is important for policyholders to understand the limits of their UM/UIM property damage coverage, which is typically expressed as a dollar amount on the insurance policy. This limit represents the maximum amount that the insurance company will pay for property damage claims under the UM/UIM coverage.

5. When Can UIM Coverage Be Used?

UM/UIM coverage can be invoked under specific circumstances in Texas. These conditions are crucial for drivers to understand so they can effectively utilize their coverage.

5.1. Scenarios for Utilizing UIM Coverage

Accident with an Uninsured Driver: If you are involved in an accident and the at-fault driver has no insurance, your UM coverage can cover the damages up to the limits of your policy.

Accident with an Underinsured Driver: If the at-fault driver’s insurance cannot fully cover the damages they caused, your UIM insurance can make up the difference, again up to the limits of your policy.

Hit-and-Run Incidents: UIM insurance may also cover damages from hit-and-run incidents, provided you report the accident promptly to the police and your insurer.

UM/UIM insurance in Texas offers essential protection against uninsured and underinsured drivers, providing a safety net that covers both bodily injury and property damage. Given the state’s high rate of uninsured motorists and its fault-based insurance system, UM/UIM coverage is a strategic and often necessary component of any auto insurance policy. Drivers in Texas are advised to carefully consider their coverage limits and ensure they are adequately protected against the financial implications of accidents involving underinsured or uninsured drivers.

If you have been involved in a car accident and you have questions about UM/UIM coverages available to you or their applicability to your accident, call an experienced personal injury attorney. At The Low Law Firm, we offer free consultations. (325) 455-1889.

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