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Car Wrecks Not as Simple as They May Seem

You were in a car accident, end of story. Surprisingly, there is a lot more to a car wreck than meets the eye.

Texas law requires drivers to carry minimal auto insurance. At a minimum, drivers must carry $25,000 per person/$50,000 per occurrence limits for personal injury damages. What does this mean? The “per person” limits set out the maximum that the insurance policy will pay to any one person in an accident, and the “per occurrence” limits set out the maximum that the insurance policy will pay to all people involved in an accident.

For example, if three people are injured in a single wreck, the most that a 25/50 policy will pay any of the three people is $25,000, and the most that the insurance company will pay the three injured people combined is $50,000. If the driver is involved in a second wreck, the policy limits start over. On January 1, 2011, the minimum requirements will increase to $30,000 per person/$60,000 per occurrence.

In addition to the personal injury limits, the law requires drivers to carry $25,000 limits for property damage, the damage to other people’s vehicles or other property. These limits won’t be changed in January.

Drivers can satisfy their obligations through one of two ways. Drivers can simply purchase auto insurance. Most drivers choose this route. Alternatively, drivers can self-insure by proving that they have enough assets to satisfy the minimum obligations. Most people don’t have the resources to self-insure so this option is usually limited to company-owned vehicles.

While it’s a good idea to raise the limits, for many people the new 2011 limits still won’t be enough. That’s why Texas also encourages drivers to purchase uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage. UM/UIM insurance protects motorists from drivers who either have very little insurance or none at all.

If you think that’s probably not a big problem and opt to drive without carrying UM/UIM, be aware that just about 25% of all drivers in the state are out there without any coverage. And even when the other drivers do have insurance, $25,000 (or $30,000 starting in January) is often inadequate. We all know that the cost of health care is rising, and even a small wreck can result in costs of medical care and other damages that far exceed $30,000. If the person who caused the accident (the at-fault party) has no car insurance or not enough insurance, what happens? What happens is that the victim will have to fork out money for damages and injuries out of their own pocket. UM/UIM insurance helps minimize this risk.

Been in an accident recently and need an Austin personal injury lawyer? Make sure to find one that knows the latest arguments in the paid and incurred fight, what may be argued for extra-contractual damages in UM/UIM, and what may be done about subrogation liens. It’s a tough world out there when you get into a car wreck. Make sure you have the right Austin personal injury lawyer on your side to help you sort things out.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at or (512) 476-4944.


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