It is technically possible for you to recover more than the coverage limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy after a Texas vehicle accident, but this doesn’t happen often. When it does, the process is legally complex and requires the help of a car accident lawyer.
The attorneys at SJ Injury Attorneys will work hard to access every source of compensation when you have been seriously injured in a car accident that was not your fault.
Texas Auto Insurance Minimum Required Coverage
In the state of Texas, at least one vehicle crash occurs every minute. There are hundreds of thousands of traffic accident injuries each year and more than ten traffic fatalities daily. While the cost of medical care and vehicle repair for accident victims is rising sharply, the minimum coverage limits for auto liability insurance have not increased accordingly. Most Texas drivers still carry the minimum 30/60/25 liability limits, which breaks down as follows:
- $30,000 for bodily injuries to one victim
- $60,000 for bodily injuries in one accident
- $25,000 for property damage
If you’re injured in a crash caused by someone else, the at-fault driver is responsible for your economic damages, including medical bills, property damage, and lost income, as well as your non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. You’re entitled to file a damage claim against the liable party’s insurance company, but the insurer will always look for ways to dispute, devalue, or deny your claim. Even if your claim is successful, the insurer is not likely to pay you any more than the policy coverage limits require. If your damages exceed this amount, you do have some options to seek further compensation.
You Can File a Claim With Your Own Auto Insurance Policy
While Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is not required for Texas drivers, it is often included in auto insurance policies. If you have PIP, you can seek coverage from your insurer for damages that exceed the at-fault driver’s coverage limits. You might also have Medical Payments Coverage, which will take care of your medical bills and those of your passengers.
If you have collision coverage, it should pay for vehicle repair, no matter who caused the collision. With your own liability coverage, you’ll receive uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage unless you waive that option. UM/UIM covers medical and car repair expenses that exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits. The car accident lawyers at SJ Injury Attorneys can review your policy as well as the policy of the at-fault driver to help you obtain as much compensation as possible for your damages.
A Lawyer Can Help You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If the at-fault driver’s insurance company does not offer you a reasonable settlement, you’re entitled to file a suit and seek fair compensation in court. If you sue the insurer, however, you’re not likely to receive any more than the driver’s coverage limits allow unless you can prove the insurer has acted in bad faith. You can also sue the other driver personally, but there’s no guarantee that the driver will have the assets to pay the judgment, and you can’t get what the defendant doesn’t have.
Under the Texas Property Code, most of a defendant’s assets are exempt from collection to satisfy a court’s judgment. The resultant debt is considered unsecured and can be discharged if the defendant files for bankruptcy. There are also some circumstances in which you might collect further compensation by suing a partially liable third party, such as the following:
- A car or parts manufacturer, if an equipment malfunction caused your wreck
- A government agency or department if bad road conditions or faulty or missing traffic signals played a role in the crash
- The employer of the at-fault driver if you were hit by a commercial vehicle such as a truck or bus
If you accept an insurance settlement, you’re generally required to release the at-fault party from all further liability, so you cannot necessarily just take what the insurer offers and then sue the defendant for more money.
What Is the Texas Stowers Doctrine?
The Stowers Doctrine requires insurance companies to settle claims by providing reasonable compensation that is within the policy’s coverage limits. If you can prove the insurer in your case has failed to do so, the insurer could be held liable for an amount higher than the coverage limits if the court awards that higher amount. Under any circumstances, recovering more than the at-fault driver’s coverage limits is a complex and difficult business best handled by an experienced car accident attorney.