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Q

Why is it legal to drive in Texas without ANY insurance? I hear of many auto accidents where the driver at fault has no insurance. The innocent party is stuck with the damage and medical costs. The driver at fault gets to walk away without any penalty or jail time.


A

Texas law requires people who drive in Texas to be able to pay for any automobile accidents they cause. Most drivers do this buy buying automobile liability insurance.

Section 601 of the Texas Transportation code is titled the Motor Vehicle Responsibility Act and it discusses the financial responsibility drivers in TX should have and penalties for not doing so.

The requirement of financial responsibility is listed in chapter subsection 601.051. Here it states that a person may not operate a motor vehicle in this state unless financial responsibility is established for that vehicle through:

  • a motor vehicle liability insurance policy
  • a surety bond filed under Section 601.121;
  • a deposit under Section 601.122;
  • a deposit under Section 601.123; or
  • self-insurance under Section 601.124.

Most people choose to obtain financial responsibility for their vehicle with the first choice, an auto insurance liability policy. If you chose this method then Texas law requires minimum coverage of $20,000 per injured person, up to a total of $40,000 for everyone hurt in an accident, and $15,000 for property damage. This basic coverage is called 20/40/15 coverage. This coverage actually increased as of April 1, 2008.

Effective April 1, 2008, the minimum coverage amount required by the state's financial responsibility law increased to $25,000 for each injured person, up to a total of $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage. So this is now 25/50/25.

There are severe legal penalties for violating the state's financial responsibility laws. A first conviction will result in a fine between $175 and $350. Subsequent convictions could result in fines of $350 to $1,000, suspension of your driver's license, registration and impoundment of your automobile.

As mentioned above TX Transportation Code (chapter 601) contains the Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act where you can look for more information about the penalties for driving without insurance and for being in an accident as an uninsured motorist. We have listed some information from this section of TX law that is pertinent to your question below.

If a person was at fault in an auto accident and were found to be driving without insurance then Texas laws do require them to pay for the damages they caused. Subchapter F of the Transportation Code discusses the need for financial security after an accident.

This subchapter applies only to motor vehicle accidents in this state that results in bodily injury or death or in damage to the property of one person of at least $1,000. Under this section, 601.152 notes that the DPS shall suspend the driver's license and vehicle registrations of the owner and operator of a motor vehicle if:

  1. the vehicle is involved in any manner in an accident; and
  2. the department finds that there is a reasonable probability that a judgment will be rendered against the person as a result of the accident.

The suspension of the driver's license and vehicle registration should remain in effect until:

  • the date the person deposits security and files evidence of financial responsibility;
  • the second anniversary of the date of the accident, if evidence to the DPS is files that during this 2 year period that an action for damages arising from the accident has not been instituted; or
  • the date evidence to the DPS shows that there has been a release from liability for claims arising out of an accident or a final adjudication that the person is not liable for claims arising from the accident or an installment agreement has been agreed to.

If the person defaults on the arraigned payment plan then the DPS should promptly suspend the license and registration of the person again. There is also the Texas Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) which requires the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to assess surcharges based on certain traffic offenses, such as driving without insurance. The surcharges assessed for this program are in addition to other reinstatement fees required for other administrative actions.

The annual surcharge is $250.00 per year and is assessed on the license of each person who during the preceding 36-month period was convicted of driving while license invalid, failing to maintain financial responsibility, or operating a vehicle that has had its registration suspended.

So as you can see Texas law does try to get uninsured motorist off of the roadway through the laws they have enacted however there will be irresponsible people who believe they are above the law or will not get caught. Unfortunately a lot of the time those who do not purchase auto insurance also do not have money to pay for the damages they cause to others.

One way in which to protect yourself against uninsured drivers is to obtain Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage. This type of optional coverage pays your expenses from an accident caused by an uninsured motorist or if the other driver did not have enough insurance to cover your bills, up to your policy's dollar limits. Also pays for accidents caused by a hit-and-run driver if you reported the accident promptly to the police.

Bodily injury UM/UIM pays without deductibles for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and permanent or partial disability. Property damage UM/UIM pays for auto repairs, a rental car, and damage to items carried in your car. There is an automatic $250 deductible.


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3 Responses to "Why is it legal to drive in Texas without ANY insurance? I hear of many auto accidents where the driver at fault has no insurance. The innocent party is stuck with the damage and medical costs. The driver at fault gets to walk away without any penalty or jail time."
  1. Anonymous

    informative

      Reply»  
  2. Anonymous

    Very helpful. I have often wondered what you must do to cover your car yourself. It is especially great that you linked to the transportation code.

      Reply»  
    1. Pat February 16, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      This is not right! Driving without insurance and on top of that a license! My son was hit and got his SUV total out. This young woman did not have anything, so she gets a ticket. Now what? Do we take her to court? I live in Seattle, Washington and making my move to Katy, Texas. In Seattle, Washington they would be in big trouble. If you got a job, you will get your money and also they get a year in jail.

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