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Whether you have insurance does not affect liability

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Richard M. Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

Q. Recently, I had an accident. Someone failed to stop at a stop sign and ran into me. It turns out the owner who was driving the car that hit me doesn’t have insurance. I was wondering what rights I have against the owner. Am I out of luck?
A. I am often asked questions about liability and insurance, and as I have written many times before, whether someone has insurance does not affect liability. Insurance is design to pay in the event that the person insured is legally responsible. The fact that someone has insurance does not change the rules of liability. In other words, the owner of the car is or is not liable. The fact that the owner has insurance will affect how you collect, not liability.
Having said that, for the owner to be responsible you would have to show that the owner was “negligent,” and that is why the accident occurred. You say the other driver went through a stop sign and that would constitute negligence. Because the accident was his fault, he is legally responsible regardless of whether he had insurance.
Although the fact that the owner does not have insurance may make it harder to collect compensation for your damages, you are not out of luck. You still have a claim for damages against the owner. If the amount is under $10,000, you can sue in justice court. If your damages are more, you will probably need an attorney to assist you.
Q. I am a jogger. A policeman recently told me that I had to jog on the sidewalk. He said it was illegal to jog in the street. This can’t be the law.
A. As far as the law is concerned, sidewalks are made for walking and jogging, not the street. Under the law, when you jog you are a pedestrian. You are subject to the same laws as a person walking. This means you must jog on the sidewalk, unless there is not one. In that case, you may jog in the street, facing traffic.
Q. How long do you need to live together to have a common law marriage? I was told seven years.
A. I am always surprised by all of the misconceptions people have regarding common law marriage. One of those misconceptions is how long you must live together to create a common law marriage. Some people think three years, some think seven, and others something in between. In fact, there is no time limit for establishing a common law marriage. To have a common law marriage, a couple must agree to be married, hold themselves out as married, and live together as married. The time period could be as short as one day.
Q. I have reason to believe a child I know is being abused. I am considering reporting this. Who should I contact?
A. First, let me emphasize that if you suspect child abuse, the law requires that you report it. Abuse occurs when a person causes or fails to prevent injury to a child. It may involve mental or emotional injury, physical injury, sexual conduct or child pornography.
If you suspect or learn that a child is being abused you must report it immediately to the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services or Child Protective Services. You may contact the 24-hour toll-free abuse line at 1-800-252-5400.The agency cannot accept emails.
Q. I recently stop paying on a credit card. I can no longer afford the payments and had to default. I have been told that the company will sue me and take my home. Can a credit card company do this?
A. If you do not pay your bills, the entity you owe money to has the right to sue. In Texas, there are “exemption” laws, however, that protect some of your property from your creditors. Even if a credit card company successfully sues you, the company cannot take “exempt” property. Exempt property in Texas includes your wages, retirement accounts, such as an IRA, most personal property, and your home. For more details about Texas exemption law, take a look at the “debt collection” section of my website below.


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