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What is House Bill 1739 and how does it affect you?
One out of every eight drivers does not have an auto insurance policy. Uninsured motorists make up 20% of Texas drivers and approximately 13% of drivers nationally, meaning there are around 32 million uninsured drivers on the road. When you get in an accident, you expect to be protected. To protect yourself from uninsured drivers, you pay extra for coverage from uninsured and underinsured motorists (UM/UIM). The problem is a Texas Supreme Court case called Brainard v. Trinity Universal Insurance complicates the claims process, forcing victims of auto accidents to go to court before the insurance company is required to pay up.
Brainard involved an underinsured motorist claim brought on by the family of an insured driver who was killed in a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler owned by a wells service company called Premier Well Service Inc. It was celebrated by insurance companies as a great victory.
In this case, Edward Brainard was killed in a head-on collision on July 1, 1999. His family (widow and children) filed a suit against Premier and sought out UIM benefits against their own insurance provider, Trinity Universal Insurance Company. Trinity paid the family $5,000 in PIP (Personal Injury Protection) benefits but wanted more information before paying UIM benefits.
When Brainard settled with Premier for their policy limits at $1,000,000, Trinity refused to pay, so the case went to trial and Brainard was awarded $1,010,000 and $100,000 in attorney fees. However, Brainard held that based on the insurance agreement itself, that they UIM insurer is under no contractual duty to pay benefits until the insured obtains a judgment establishing liability and underinsured status of the other motorist. The Brainard decision allows underinsured motorists carriers to use litigation as leverage in attempt to pay their insured drivers less uninsured or underinsured benefits than they are entitled to.
How Can We Protect Ourselves With UIM/UM Coverage?
To further protect yourself from these uninsured motorists, HP 1739 was created by Rep. Charlie Green to reestablish your rights. The bill makes insurance companies offer to pay UM/UIM policy benefits when “liability and damages have become reasonably clear.” If this bill is passed, drivers will be able to receive payment for their loss faster and avoid vexatious litigation.
Although Texas law does not require policy holders to have UM/UIM coverage, it is important to be fully covered so that you are not left with bills from an accident with an uninsured driver. Uninsured motorist protection is meant to protect the policyholder and family members in situations such as a hit-and-run or accidents. The minimum coverage in Texas is 30/60/25. To be fully covered in Texas, individuals need to have a minimum degree of coverage, policy holders need to have:
- $30,000 for injuries per person in an accident.
- $60,000 for injuries per accident
- $25,000 for property damage resulting from an accident.
If a driver does not maintain the minimum amount of coverage, the driver will be deemed underinsured. Options for uninsured motorist’s coverage vary by state and insurer, but in general there are three types of protection.
Uninsured Motorist (UM) insurance – otherwise known as Uninsured Motorists Bodily Injury (UMBI) insurance, this covers you and your passenger’s medical bill if you are involved in an auto accident with an uninsured driver. In addition, the insurance will reimburse you and your passenger for any lost wages. This also covers you if you are hit as a pedestrian by an uninsured motorist, or if you’re the victim of a hit-an-run.
Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) coverage – covers damages to your vehicle caused by an uninsured driver and damage to other personal property such as your house or your fence.
Underinsured Motorist (UIM) protection – In some instances, the at-fault driver may have liability insurance, but their policy’s limits do not cover the full extent of damage to your vehicle. In this situation UM will cover the loss.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance – sometimes referred to as “no-fault” coverage. An extension of car insurance that covers medical expenses and lost wages. It pays out claims regardless of who is at fault in the accident. If you have PIP and are hurt in an accident, you can receive maximum benefits, even if you were at-fault.
What If I Have Been in An Accident With An Uninsured Or Underinsured Motorist?
Underinsured and uninsured motorists can cause devastating injuries in an auto accident and leave you unsure how to cover the losses they caused. The process of filing a UM/UIM claim can be complicated and time consuming, but you do not have to face the insurance company alone. At Thompson Law, we’ve helped countless people file UIM and UM claims and we will help navigate you through the process and ensure your rights are protected at all costs. An experienced Dallas personal injury attorney will ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve after an accident. Call us today at 844-308-8180.