Most people also know that they should exchange insurance information after a fender-bender. But just because the guy that ran into the side of your car has proof of insurance doesn’t mean that his policy is in force. All too often a person will take out a six-month policy, make their downpayment in the office, and then conveniently “forget” to pay the bill for the second month. But the insurance police don’t show up to their house to destroy their proof of insurance, do they?
Until recently, the only way to be certain that a policy is in force is to call the insurance company or the agent listed on the proof of insurance. (And believe me, it happens!) Now Texas law enforcement officers have instant access to the insurance database. Officers can verify your coverage during a routine traffic stop or at the scene of an accident. The average citizen, however, doesn’t have the means to verify another person’s coverage due to privacy issues.
Sometimes the parties involved in an accident don’t want to wait for the police, or the police won’t come to the scene unless there’s been an injury. If it turns out the other driver doesn’t have insurance, you could attempt to sue them, assuming the contact information they give you is accurate. That can be a lengthy process, though, and your vehicle is still damaged in the meantime. And let’s face it, you can’t get blood out of a turnip. If the other doesn’t have the money to pay for auto insurance, they’re not going to have a few thousand dollars laying around to fix your car.
The best way to protect yourself is to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and comprehensive & collision coverage. If the other driver doesn’t have insurance, your insurance company would pay to repair your vehicle, and would then use its own considerable resources to recover damages from the other driver. Make sure you get the following information to help the claims process:
- Name, address, and phone numbers of the other driver and any witnesses. Don’t just assume that the contact information listed on their driver’s license is correct.
- Driver’s license number of the other driver.
- Name of the insurance company and policy number of the other driver, and the phone number for reporting claims. This should all be listed on their proof of insurance card.
- License plate number of the other vehicle.
- Name, address, and phone number of the owner of the vehicle, if different from the driver.
- Photos of the vehicles before they’re moved.