It is an unfortunate fact of life, but accidents happen. Every day in Texas, people behind the wheel find themselves in a collision with other drivers and sadly suffer injury to their bodies and their vehicles. However, the greatest loss in a fender bender tends to occur when one or both parties is uninsured.
Car insurance benefits not only you and your vehicle, but others who might end up in an accident with you as well. Without car insurance, both you and the other party or parties involved in an accident can end up paying thousands of dollars out of pocket. If you were involved in a car accident in Texas, contact an Austin car accident lawyer right away.
Chapter 601 of the Texas Transportation Code is known as the Texas Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act, and Texas Transportation Code § 601.051 establishes a requirement of financial responsibility. Under this state law, a person cannot operate a motor vehicle in Texas unless financial responsibility is established for their vehicle through either a motor vehicle liability insurance policy that complies with Subchapter D; a surety bond filed under Texas Transportation Code § 601.121; a deposit under Texas Transportation Code § 601.122; a deposit under Texas Transportation Code § 601.123; or self-insurance under Texas Transportation Code § 601.124.
Texas Transportation Code § 601.008 establishes that a violation of the Texas Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or confinement in county jail for up to 90 days. In general, a first offense of driving without insurance will cost up to $350 for a fine, but you will also face a surcharge of $250 that must be paid for three years.
Fines can reach $1,000 for second or subsequent offenses and those also involve three years of $250 surcharges. All of this is not to mention that you can face the possibility of your vehicle being impounded, which will only add more fees to be paid and your vehicle will not be released until you can prove you have valid insurance.
Even worse, you could also be required to obtain an SR-22 insurance form from your insurance company if you are responsible for an automobile accident, which is a type of high-risk motorist insurance typically reserved for people convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). There may be an automatic suspension of your vehicle registration and driver’s license for up to two years.
Under Texas Transportation Code § 601.195, a person commits an offense if they are required to establish financial responsibility, do not maintain evidence of financial responsibility, and during the period evidence of financial responsibility must be maintained, operates a motor vehicle or knowingly permit another person who is not otherwise permitted to operate a vehicle to operate on a highway a motor vehicle owned by the person. This offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or confinement in county jail for up to six months.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 8.3 percent of drivers in Texas are uninsured, which is 40th in the nation (Mississippi is highest with 29.4 percent while New Jersey is lowest with 3.1 percent). Texas requires all drivers to maintain automobile insurance policies with 30/60/25 coverage, which means $30,000 of coverage for injuries per person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 of coverage for property damage.
Texas does recognize two defenses to driving without proof of financial responsibility offenses. Texas Transportation Code § 601.193 states that it is a defense when a person produces to the court one of the forms of evidence of financial responsibility listed in Texas Transportation Code § 601.053(a) that was valid at the time of an alleged offense, and Transportation Code § 601.194 provides that it is also a defense that a motor vehicle operated by a person was in the possession of that person for the sole purpose of maintenance or repair and was not owned in whole or in part by that person.
Below are some common questions our attorneys hear about insurance in Texas. Reach out to our office directly if you have additional concerns.
In 2019, one in eight drivers did not have insurance, according to a study by the Insurance Research Council. That rate is, unfortunately, a nine-year high. Mississippi had the most uninsured drivers at nearly 1/3, followed by Michigan at 1/4.
In every state but New Hampshire, drivers are required to have auto insurance if they have a vehicle in their name. Consequences vary from state to state but typically include fines and paying a higher insurance premium.
According to a survey of 1,560 Texas zip codes, the average yearly cost of full coverage car insurance is $1,823. That is $151 monthly. Auto insurance in Texas costs $149 more per year than the national average. Here is a breakdown of the most expensive cities in Texas in which to purchase car insurance:
While these costs seem high, they are certainly more reasonable than being stuck with paying another driver for a new car after totaling their old one or paying for someone’s lifelong permanent disability. It’s not uncommon for a car accident claim to cost anywhere from $5,000-$250,000+.
Driving without insurance is a misdemeanor in Texas, but you are not likely to be arrested if you are driving uninsured. While you may not face jail time, you’ll more than likely receive a fine between $175-$350. There may also be an ongoing penalty on your driver’s license renewal of +$250/year for up to three years. If you are caught driving without insurance again, expect those fines to increase up to $350-$1,000. You can also have your car impounded or your license revoked for driving without insurance.
A policy from White Mountains is just $424 per year in Texas on average. USAA, which is only available to members of the military, is $395 per year. State Farm ($518), State Auto ($628), and Sentry ($721) also offer some of the most competitive rates in Texas.
In the Lone Star, roughly a quarter of drivers are underinsured. This is just as illegal as being altogether uninsured. To be underinsured means that a driver fails to carry the state’s minimum amount of liability coverage. Texas requires the following insurance coverage minimums— anything less can result in costly fines.
If you are involved in a car accident in Texas, you will need a skilled Austin accident lawyer in Austin, Texas. Contact Terry and Kelly at your earliest convenience for a consultation to get everything you are owed if you are in a collision with uninsured drivers.
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