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Being involved in a car accident is never ideal, but can be even more stressful if you were hit by a driver who then took off in a hit and run. Without the other person’s car insurance information, you might feel like there’s no way to get insurance to cover the damages that the other driver caused to your vehicle. Luckily, that isn’t always the case. Depending on the type of car insurance coverage you have, you may be covered after a hit and run in Texas. Learn what your rights and responsibilities are if your vehicle was damaged by a hit and run driver in the Lone Star State.
Hit and runs in Texas
In accordance with Texas law, a driver who causes an accident has a responsibility to stop, give aid if needed, and share contact and car insurance information with the other party. This applies even if the driver has hit an unattended vehicle, as the law requires that they place their contact and car insurance information in a visible place. Drivers who don’t do this are considered hit and run drivers.
Despite Texas law, these types of accidents are all too common in Texas. In 2013, the state passed new laws stiffening penalties for leaving the scene of an accident. Even with that hit and run Texas statute in place, the Lone Star State still ranks eighth for most hit and runs, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Texas hit and run laws
With strict hit and run Texas laws in place, you might be wondering what kind of penalties are in place for these types of accidents. It all depends on the damage the hit and run driver caused.
- Accidents resulting in deaths or serious injuries: If the other driver is found, they’ll be subject to a felony (second-degree for a fatality, third-degree for serious bodily injury).
- Accidents resulting in less serious injuries: The driver could face up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
- Accidents resulting in vehicle damage: The driver, if found, faces a Class C misdemeanor for less than $200 in vehicle damage. If the total reaches $200 or goes over that limit, it’s a Class B misdemeanor.
Ultimately, what you should know about the current hit and run Texas statute is this: Section 550.023 of the transportation code ultimately requires all drivers involved in an accident to stop, provide their information and provide assistance to anyone who was hurt in the accident.
The information you’re required by state law to provide to the other driver — and vice versa — is:
- Vehicle registration number
- Insurance information
- Driver’s license
When it comes to insurance, if the other driver is found, Texas law says you can make a claim on their liability insurance. If they aren’t found or they don’t have insurance, you’ll turn to your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage — assuming you have it.
4 things to do after a hit and run in Texas
A Texas hit and run can be scary. Take a deep breath and move through these steps:
1. Get everyone to safety
Move your vehicle out of the way of traffic. Check on your passengers and check yourself for injuries. After the shock of an accident — particularly one where the other driver sped away — you might not notice how you’re hurt right away. Take a moment to scan yourself and make sure you’re okay.
2. Call the police
The benefits here are twofold. First, getting law enforcement involved significantly increases the chances of finding the hit and run driver. Secondly, the police report you file can help with your insurance claim.
3. Write down anything you can remember
While you wait for the police to show up, start taking notes. Try and remember what the vehicle looked like, including its color, make and model. If you can recall what was on the license plate, even partial letters, numbers or the state it was issued in, that type of information can also be a big help for law enforcement. If you have a dash cam installed in your car, you may also want to share that footage with law enforcement officers.
You can also start to gather evidence yourself. If any pieces of the hit and run driver’s vehicle broke off, grab them. Also, check your car for any paint scrapes or other evidence that could help identify the other vehicle.
4. Call your insurance provider
They’ll let you know what information you’ll need to file your car insurance claim. If you’re unsure if your coverage will help with your Texas hit and run, your insurance representative can also help to clarify what coverage you have that can step in.
Will insurance cover a hit and run?
Assuming no one in your vehicle was hurt during the accident, this is probably your most pressing question after a hit and run.
For starters, unless you specifically told your insurer to leave off personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, your Texas auto insurance policy includes it. You can rely on that for any medical care you and your passengers need after the accident.
What about your car, though? In an ideal scenario, the other driver will be found and you’ll be able to make a claim through their liability coverage, just like you would with any other car accident.
But what happens if that driver eludes you and law enforcement? You have a couple of options:
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: This is an optional type of coverage that you can add to your car insurance policy. It is designed to help pay for damages to your vehicle if another driver causes an accident but doesn’t have enough insurance — or any insurance at all. If you have this coverage, your insurance company may help with the cost of repairs, even if the hit and run driver isn’t found.
- Collision coverage: Another optional coverage, collision coverage covers your vehicle repairs if you’re at-fault in an accident. In some cases, you might be able to turn to this coverage for repairs after a Texas hit and run. One thing to note: you’ll need to pay your deductible for this coverage first. If the other driver is found and a claim is filed through their insurance, this deductible amount you paid could be reimbursed to you.
Ultimately, insurance can cover a hit and run in Texas, but you’ll need to have opted for the right kind of optional coverage. If you’re not carrying uninsured motorist or collision coverage now, it may benefit you to consider adding it to your policy for increased protection.