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The Truth About the Family Member Exclusion in Texas Automobile Policies

At one time most Texas automobile liability insurance policies included a so-called family member exclusion which foreclosed liability coverage for any claim made by a family member against a family member. This exclusion was included in these policies based upon the insurance industry’s argument that providing coverage for claims by family members against family members would encourage fraud and collusion. In reality, excluded coverage for that class of individuals most likely to be injured, other than yourself, in an automobile collision other family members. It was in this backdrop that the Texas Supreme Court, in 1993, took up the issue of the family member exclusion in the case of National County Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Johnson, 879 S.W.2d 1 (Tex. 1993).

In Johnson, a policy holder’s truck collided with another automobile. His wife, a passenger in the truck, was injured and subsequently brought suit against him for negligence. Id. The policy-holder’s insurer, however, denied his request for a defense, stating that “Endorsement 575,” a family member exclusion clause, precluded coverage for a liability claim brought by a family member such as his wife. Id. The policy-holder filed a declaratory judgment action to determine his rights under the policy, while the insurer counterclaimed, asking the court to determine whether Endorsement 575 was valid under Texas law. Id.

On appeal of an adverse judgment in the trial court against the insurer, the Texas Supreme Court held that to the extent the family member exclusion purported to deny a family member’s claim within the minimum liability insurance limits required by Texas law, such exclusion was invalid:

  • Here, the Board’s approval of the family member exclusion results in a situation in which a claimant for damages resulting from an automobile accident is not allowed to recover damages under an automobile liability insurance policy that the legislature statutorily requires to protect such claimants from losses. The exclusion prevents a specific class of innocent victims, those persons related to and living with the negligent driver, from receiving financial protection under an insurance policy. Such a result is clearly contrary to the express legislative mandate. The Board’s action in approving a family member exclusion providing for such scenarios is inconsistent with the statutory purpose of the Act, and thus their approval of the exclusion is ineffective.

Id. at 3.

Hence, in Texas a family member may make a claim against a relative’s motor vehicle liability insurance for injuries received in a motor vehicle accident caused by that relatives negligence up to the minimum liability limited provided under Texas law currently $30,000 for each injured person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident. Despite this fact, even today insurers will sometimes purport to deny claims in their entirety under the family law exclusion. So arm yourself with the truth, and be aware that even if your automobile accident injuries were caused by the negligence of a family member, 30/60/25 coverage is still available to you as a matter of law.

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¹This basic coverage is referred to as 30/60/25 coverage.

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Who has a claim when someone is wrongfully killed

When a person is wrongfully killed in Texas due to the fault of another person, company, or a defective product the law provides two types of claims that may be brought. The first is a wrongful death claim which may be brought by the surviving spouse, parents and children of the deceased. Siblings and other relatives may not bring a claim. The damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death claim include pecuniary loss (loss of the care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, and contributions of a monetary nature that the survivor would have received from the decedent), loss of companionship and society (such as loss of love, comfort, and companionship the survivor sustained), mental anguish (emotional pain, torment, and suffering), and loss of inheritance. Of course the person bringing the wrongful death claim will have to have evidence of these damages. Although it is virtually impossible to put a dollar value of some of these things, juries in wrongful death cases are asked to do so.

The second type of claim that may be brought in Texas when someone is wrongfully killed is a survival claim. This claim may be brought by the estate of the deceased or a representative of the estate. The damages that may be recovered include the pain and mental anguish that the decedent experienced before his death, medical expenses for the treatment of the decedent’s injuries, and funeral and burial expenses. When a person dies instantly in an accident and does not incur any medical bills, a survival claim is limited to the funeral and burial expenses. On the other hand if the decedent experienced suffering before death then damages for pain and mental anguish may be awarded.

Exemplary or punitive damages may be recovered in both survival and wrongful death claims if there was gross negligence. The purpose of these damages is to punish the wrongdoer and to deter such conduct in the future.

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Four Die at DuPont Chemical Plant

Chemical Leak Kills Four in Plant Near Houston

A defective valve is blamed in the deaths of four workers at a DuPont facility in La Porte, Texas, around 4 a.m., Saturday, November 15. The federal Chemical Safety Board has sent investigators to the plant. Sources say that the dead included workers who were responding to the leak. Among the dead are two brothers, one of whom died trying to rescue the other. A fifth worker was treated for exposure, but released from the hospital.

The deadly chemical—methyl mercaptan is used to give the familiar rotten egg smell to natural gas, making it more readily detectable. It is also used in fungicides and insecticides. Industry officials say that, in large doses, it can lead to vomiting, loss of consciousness and death. Residents around the plant reported smelling the gas, but also acknowledged that there are funny smells produced by the plant all the time. Officials said that the methyl mercaptan gas spread across the area as a result of the leak, but claim that it dissipated and posed no threat to the public.

This is not the first time in recent memory that DuPont has seen the death of an employee in one of its chemical plants. The company was cited in 2011 by the Chemical Safety Board for allowing a series of preventable safety shortcomings that resulted in the death of a worker at its Belle, West Virginia, facility. A year earlier, the Chemical Safety Board determined the death of a DuPont worker in Buffalo, New York, was attributed to the company’s failure to monitor flammable gas levels in a storage tank scheduled to be welded.

Contact Us

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas family law attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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The Do’s and Don’t’s of an Accident


If you are ever involved in an accident, there are certain things you should absolutely do, and some things you should absolutely not do. These things are extremely important, not just for your well-being, but also to help you should a claim need to be filed, regardless of the type of accident.

The DO’s

DO seek medical attention immediately if you need it. This is the most important thing.

DO call the police. It is critical to get a police report.

DO get the names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance information and license plate numbers of every party involved in the accident.

DO get the name and address of the animal’s owner and any license information if you were injured by an animal bite or attack. Also, make sure to note the breed of animal and take pictures of the animal if possible.

DO get the names, addresses and phone numbers of every witness to the accident.

DO contact your own insurance company. That could include your auto insurance, your medical insurance or even, in some situations, your homeowner’s insurance.

DO take photographs of the accident. If it is an auto accident, take pictures of the vehicles and any visible injuries. If it is a slip and fall, take pictures of whatever caused the slip. If it is a dog bite, take pictures of the dog, the injuries and the area.

DO take detailed notes of what happened. Make sure you include every thought, feeling and impression you have. Include what you saw, heard, felt, smelled and experienced. Make notes of what happened before, during and after the accident.

DO contact Bailey & Galyen.

The DON’T’s

DON’T move your vehicle after an automobile accident unless necessary for safety or required by law. Many cities now require that you move your vehicle from a roadway if possible.

DON’T leave the scene of an accident until the police tell you it is okay to do so.

DON’T dispose of anything that might be evidence. This evidence could include car parts, bloodstained clothes or anything else that might help an investigator. It is better to collect more than you need and not use it than to not have something that would help your claim.

DON’T engage in discussions as to fault with anyone, and make sure you don t apologize for anything it can be considered evidence that you were legally at fault.

DON’T agree to settlement terms without contacting your attorney.

If you follow this simple list of Do’s and Don’t’s , you will be better able to help us, your attorneys, when you are ready to file your claim.

And, as always, if in doubt, call us.

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Texas Auto Accident Lawyers

Texas Auto Accidents

Auto Accident Litigation

At the Houston / Dallas law offices of Bailey & Galyen, our Texas Auto Accident Lawyers represent clients in the negotiation and litigation of serious auto accident lawsuits related to:

Catastrophic Personal Injury

Possibly the most common form of catastrophic personal injury, the negligent operation of an automobile on our roadways results in thousands of needless injuries and deaths each year.

The consequences of these accidents can be devastating to both you and your family, leaving you struggling to pay medical bills and replace lost wages while you recover. Adding insult to injury dealing with an insurance bureaucracy concerned only with its own financial well-being rather than fair compensation for your very real injuries.

  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Brain Damage
  • Amputation
  • Paralysis
  • Burns
  • Scars
  • Paraplegia
  • Back
  • Neck Pain
  • Broken Bones
  • Blindness
  • Deafness

Car Liability Insurance

Our lawyers are intimately familiar with your state’s liability laws and insurance regulations and won’t hesitate to take a case to trial if it’s the only way to secure maximum compensation. In addition, we utilize the latest technology in the investigation of auto accident liability, including accident reconstructions and expert witnesses, in order to identify all liable parties, including:

  • Operator
  • Manufacturer
  • Repair / Maintenance
  • Government (roadway & signage issues)
  • Liquor / Alcohol establishments (“dram shop” laws)

The cost of litigating an automobile / car accident claim against an insurance company is considerable, with substantial up-front expenses related to expert witness testimony, depositions and accident reconstruction. That is why Bailey & Galyen takes all car accident lawsuits on contingency, with NO FEES until we recover a positive judgment as compensation for your injuries.

The auto accident attorneys at Bailey & Galyen offer quality legal services and representation to clients throughout Texas, including Arlington, Bedford, Dallas, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Carrollton, Plano, Weatherford, Mesquite, Houston, Clear Lake, TX.

Bailey & Galyen is a nationally recognized Texas law firm with a nationwide practice in the litigation of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of clients across the country. Our TX trial lawyers and accident attorneys provide sound legal advice and aggressive trial representation to clients at multiple satellite offices, including:

Call Our Nearest Office for Prompt HELP:

Bedford Ph 817.868.5500 | Dallas Ph 214.252.9099 : 866.378.4705 | Fort Worth : Ph 817.263.3000 | Houston : Ph 281-335-7744 : 866-715-1529 | Arlington : Ph 817.276.6000 : 877.345.6767 | Grand Prairie : Ph 972.642.7900 : 866.380.3369 | Weatherford: Ph 817.594.5428 | Mesquite: Ph 972.682.7868