If you have a Texas Driver License and somebody has called you or sent you a letter threatening the suspension of your driver license over an auto accident, it is highly possible that it could actually happen, but it is just as probable that the person making the threat doesn’t actually understand the rules as they apply in Texas. Only the Texas Department of Public Safety can suspend your driver license (and the DPS doesn’t call people to advise of a pending suspension, they will send a written notice). What an individual, insurance, or subrogation company can do is request the suspension of your license in accordance with Chapter 601 of the Texas Transportation Code, and there are a lot of exceptions and rules that have to be followed (it is notable that if you don’t have a license, a proper request will keep you from getting one, and the suspension is supposed to affect your registration, too).
If the person calling you is an insurance company or subrogation firm, they probably know how to get you suspended, and it is not required that you be sued. You can lose your license, registration, and ability to get a license even if you have not been sued. If you have been sued over an auto accident and you lost, then 99% of the time, you will be losing your license and registration privileges until you pay. Anyway, non-suit suspension of a Texas driver license is what this article is about, so here are some of the requirements your case will have to meet in order for your license to be in true jeopardy: The Texas Safety and Financial Responsibility Act has exacting rules that relate to the ability to get an individual’s driver license suspended due to a violation of the act, here they are in layman’s terms:
1. The accident must have happened on a public highway, road or way (like an alley) as defined by Texas rules.
2. Somebody has to file an accident report, either a police officer or a party that was involved in the accident.
3. There has to be a “reasonable probability” that you were at fault (like the police put on the report that you rearended somebody, or there are witnesses against you). This is the trickiest part, because there are so many factors that can indicate fault.
4. There must be bodily injury (any amount) or damages to an apparent extent of $1000.00.
5. If you are the owner of the vehicle, then you must have allowed the use of the vehicle either by saying the driver could use it, or by making it apparent by your actions that it was okay.
Keep in mind the rules I am relaying only apply to Texas and violations of the “financial responsibility law”. If all of these factors apply to you, then it is likely that your license will be suspended if the party threatening to take action follows the proper rules (in Texas) for requesting the suspension. Now, what can you do to protect yourself? Are there any loopholes? My best answer is “sort of”. If you were unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident that is probably your fault, and if you didn’t have insurance or some other way of complying with the financial responsibility law, then you have few choices. Here they are:
1. Pay for the damages.
2. Most companies will take less than what they are asking for if you can pay a lump sum, so if you have a little money, try and make a settlement for less than the alleged damage amount.
3. Work out a payment arrangement with the insurance company, subrogation firm, or person that is threatening you (it must be a written agreement that the State will accept in order to properly protect your license).
4. Fight about whose fault the accident was. In order to do this you must follow the rules for requesting a hearing when you get your first notice of suspension (also it is advisable to make sure the Department of Public Safety has your correct address because they will use the address on your driver license for all notices and you have a time limit to request a hearing).
5. If you were the owner of the vehicle that was involved in the accident, and the person who wrecked your car didn’t have permission to use your vehicle, then fight about that (again, you have to use the hearing rules to fight).
6. Always make sure you have researched all avenues of possible insurance. Sometimes you could be covered and just not be aware of it (like if you are a full time college student and your parents have insurance).
If you (as the owner) or the driver of your vehicle weren’t financially responsible at the time of an “at fault” accident, then the above things are pretty much the only things you can do to avoid a suspension outside of hiring an attorney. So, be careful about making the assumption that your license can’t be suspended for an auto accident (if you were uninsured). I can’t tell you how many times I tried to explain this to people and they simply didn’t believe me, so they ended up with a license suspension, and then having to call me to negotiate for their license or risk the consequences. If you get pulled over and you don’t have a valid license, you can be taken to jail. It is probably the best (and right) thing to do is to work out a payment plan to protect your driving privileges.