In Texas, when you cause an accident you are required to pay for the damages to another person's property. In fact, you need proof of the ability to pay for these damages to lawfully operate a vehicle in the State of Texas. In most cases, this comes in the form of liability insurance. Vehicle liability insurance provides coverage for things like the other driver's vehicle repairs, medical bills, and even lost wages. Auto insurance can be expensive on its own; unfortunately, having a conviction for a DWI or DUI can cause those insurance costs to skyrocket.
Higher liability insurance premiums are just one reason example of how a DWI conviction can negatively impact your life. But being arrested for DWI doesn't guarantee you'll be convicted. DWI cases are defensible, and with the right Houston DWI attorney, you may be able to have the charge against you dismissed or reduced. In some cases, your attorney may win an acquittal at your trial. If you are in the market for a Houston DWI lawyer, the results of the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. speak for themselves.
What are car insurance minimum requirements in Texas?
To comply with Texas' financial responsibility law, you will need to purchase a minimum amount of liability coverage. As long as you provide for the minimum coverage required, you will be in compliance with the financial responsibility laws. In Texas, the minimum liability limits are $30,000 for every person injured up to a maximum of $60,000 per accident. Additionally, you must also carry at least $25,000 in coverage for property damage. This minimum level of coverage is referred to as 30/60/25 coverage.
It's worth noting that you can purchase more than the minimum liability rates. In fact, it's a good idea to invest in more robust coverage. Many new vehicles cost more than $25,000, and it's not uncommon in major accidents for medical bills to far exceed $30,000 per person. And while your liability insurance is required to pay up to the policy limits, any damages that exceed your coverage are on you.
You should also remember that this minimum coverage is for liability only. There are no requirements that you carry insurance to cover your own injuries or vehicle, but it's still a good idea. When car accidents happen, comprehensive coverage can take a lot of pressure off of an already difficult situation.
What is the average car insurance rate in Houston?
On average, Houston drivers face the highest liability insurance in the State of Texas. According to one study, Houston drivers pay on average over $930 per year towards their liability insurance. Statewide, the average is $677 annually -- according to the same study. The study found that generally speaking, insurance rates were higher in urban areas compared to rural ones. On average, annual premiums in the state's larger cities are between $200 and $300 more expensive per year.
Rates are higher in Houston than in the rest of the state in part because of the city's commuter culture. Houston has approximately 77,000 “super commuters” that spend 90 minutes or more commuting to work one-way each day. It's not hard to understand why, given that the Houston metropolitan area is spread out over 9,400 square miles. It is no surprise that car insurance rates go up in areas where there are more people on the road.
The higher cost of insurance in Houston relative to the rest of the state is even worse when you consider Texas ranks 10th for the highest liability insurance costs according to insure.com. The insurance rates for Texas are noticeably higher than most others states. The obvious exceptions include Michigan, Louisiana, and Florida who have significantly higher premium rates.
How does a DWI affect your car insurance rates in Texas?
While you are likely aware that a DWI conviction will carry consequences like fines and jail time, did you know it can also wreak havoc on your insurance rates? According to a study done by Quadrant Information Services as provided by insurance.com, premiums in every state go up significantly after a DWI conviction. The increases range from 28 percent on the low end and all the way up to 371 percent on the high end. In Texas, the study showed that insurance premiums increased by 59 percent after a DWI conviction.
The increase in your premiums only occurs in cases where your carrier doesn't simply drop you altogether. A DWI conviction is enough for most carriers to non-renew or outright cancel your policy, leaving you in a lurch. This makes things worse for you because having your policy canceled in and of itself will also lead to an increase in your insurance costs. The combination of a DWI conviction and a policy cancellation can lead to major premium increases for you in the future.
There's more bad news: a DWI conviction will stay on your record forever unless you take proactive steps to remove it. Texas does not have a so-called “washout period” where your DWI no longer shows up on your records. That means you could be paying for car insurance at the elevated rate forever.
Thankfully, Houston DWI attorneys may be able to have a DWI conviction removed from your record if you are a first-time offender and request expunction. The best way, however, to keep your driving record clean is to avoid a DWI conviction altogether. Houston DWIs are defensible, and attorney Doug Murphy has the experience necessary to give you your best shot at an acquittal. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to discuss your case with the best Houston DWI attorney available.
What is an SR-22?
One of the requirements for getting your license back after a DWI is by showing the State of Texas that you have complied with its liability insurance requirements. Once you have a DWI conviction, you are labeled a “high-risk driver.” That means that you will be required to carry more expensive high-risk liability insurance. The document your insurance company provides you as evidence or your compliance with the insurance guidelines is known as an SR-22. The SR-22 form, also known as a financial responsibility filing, verifies that your insurance coverage meets the minimum coverage requirements discussed above. You will be required to file the SR-22 form with the Texas Department of Public Safety in order to reinstate your license.
In Texas, you will be required to keep SR-22 coverage for two years from the date of your DWI conviction. If your policy lapses, the insurer is required to inform the State of Texas when they cancel your policy. This can lead to a quick re-suspension of your driving privileges, and in turn, lead to extra hardship for you, as you'll be forced to pay all of the license reinstatement fees again. When your two years are up, you will need to update your insurer that the SR-22 form is no longer necessary.
Does car insurance affect a minor with a DUI any differently?
A minor that has been charged with a DWI or a DUI should contact a Houston DUI attorney immediately. Houston DUI attorneys may be able to help that minor by having charges dismissed or reduced. While the penalty for an underage DUI is less than a DWI, they are still serious.
There is one benefit for minors convicted of a DUI or DWI compared to adults, however. While an adult will have a DWI conviction on their driving record forever, minors with a similar conviction will have their driving record wiped clean when they turn 18. Outside of this benefit, minors seeking the reinstatement of their driver's license will still be required to meet SR-22 requirements. They will also face the increased costs of high-risk insurance and the fees required to reinstate their license. Just like with their adult counterparts, hiring Houston DUI attorneys may give these minors a chance to avoid DUI conviction altogether.
Hiring the Best DWI Attorney in Houston
While the increased costs of vehicle liability insurance can vary depending on where in Texas you live and how old you were at the time of your DWI conviction, the end result is still a higher premium. If you are like most people, the possibility of a 59 percent increase in your annual liability insurance premiums may be more than your budget can handle. Luckily, merely being arrested for driving while intoxicated isn't enough to wreck your insurance. It's possible to win your DWI case and avoid the consequences of a DWI conviction, but you'll need to hire the right Houston DWI lawyer to give you your best chance at a positive outcome.
If you are facing charges of DWI or DUI in Houston, the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. is ready to help. Attorney Doug Murphy is an experienced trial attorney that approaches every case as if it would be a jury trial. This approach increases the chances his clients will have their charges dismissed or even prevail at trial. To discuss your case with Houston's Best DWI attorney, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation.