A hit-and-run accident can be frightening, especially if there are injuries or severe damage to your vehicle. If you are involved in an accident where the other driver left the scene, understanding the best next steps can help you stay calm and take the necessary actions to ensure the safety of yourself and other passengers. Depending on your insurance policy and the accident details, your auto coverage may financially protect you from hit-and-run damage. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team breaks down the details so you understand what your rights and responsibilities are according to Texas hit-and-run laws.
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. Hit-and-run accidents are increasing in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2020, the most recent year for which there are statistics, there were 2,564 fatalities as the result of hit-and-run accidents — an increase of 26 percent over 2019’s numbers.
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 it’s safe to do so, you could collect any pieces of the hit-and-run driver’s vehicle that broke off. Also, check your car for any paint scrapes or other evidence that could help identify the other vehicle.
4. Call your insurance provider
Your insurance agent will 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 agent can also help to clarify what applicable coverage types you have.
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. This coverage type should cover medical care you and your passengers need after the accident, up to your policy limits.
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. Depending on the carrier and your policy’s coverage specifications, this type of insurance may or may not cover hit-and-run costs if the driver is not 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.
Frequently asked questions
There is no single company that is always the best option for every Texas driver. Finding the best company for your needs involves determining your priorities. For example, do you want cheap coverage, or are you willing to pay more for a company with excellent customer service? Other factors to consider are the number of discounts a company offers and the ratings for its mobile app and digital capabilities. If you’re looking for a place to start, consider quotes from Bankrate’s list of the best car insurance companies in Texas.
Driving safely and defensively is generally the best way to avoid being involved in a hit-and-run accident. Be alert and remain vigilant whenever you are behind the wheel, and use your mirrors frequently to check the location of any vehicles near you. Maintain a safe following distance from the cars around you, and be especially cautious at intersections. When parking your vehicle, always choose safe, well-lit spots and avoid parking anywhere that might have a blind spot. You may also want to consider investing in a dash cam, which can provide evidence in the case of a hit-and-run accident.
The average cost of car insurance in Texas is $565 for state-mandated minimum coverage and $2,019 for full coverage insurance, which includes collision and comprehensive. These numbers are not far off from the national averages, which are $622 for minimum and $2,014 for full coverage. Your own cost for car insurance will differ from these averages, as it is based on a number of factors that are unique to you and your vehicle, from your driving history and credit history to your car’s age, make and model. To find the most affordable coverage in the Lone Star State, Bankrate has researched the companies writing the cheapest car insurance in Texas.
Being the victim of a hit-and-run does not typically affect your car insurance rates. However, you may see your rates increase if the responsible driver is never found and if you decide to file a claim under your own collision coverage. However, if you are a driver who’s caught committing a hit-and-run, it could result in serious legal ramifications and a blemish on your driving record. In turn, you could be considered a high-risk driver and end up paying more for car insurance.