Family left to pay $1,000s in bills after hit by drunk, uninsured driver

Joey Gutierrez, left, and Shawntae Hall (KXAN Photo)
Joey Gutierrez, left, and Shawntae Hall (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In Texas, one in five drivers doesn’t have car insurance, which means if you get hit on the road you could end up paying thousands of dollars out of pocket.

This is what an Austin family is facing after a woman charged with driving while intoxicated slammed into their car and the owner had no insurance.

“I just flew straight forward and my ears were ringing,” Shawntae Hall, an expecting mother driving home on Interstate 35 said.

Hall was driving northbound between William Cannon Drive and Slaughter Lane with her son and husband in the car, when a truck rear-ended them.

“They called for the medics and it turns out as I threw up at the scene, I had liquid into my lungs, I had to go through a procedure which led me to ICU later that day,” Joey Gutierrez, Hall’s husband said.

According to crash reports, the driver who hit the family was Patricia Sias. She was arrested on scene for DWI.  The owner of the truck she was driving was Jacinto Gallegos, they’re both in a relationship

“She never got off the car to see if we were okay, she just stayed in her car the whole time,” Hall says about Sias.

Gutierrez made it out of ICU alive, with a spinal disk out of place, but they say the real headache is happening now.

“They [Gallegos] were like you know, we have full coverage, we’re sorry, we’re going to pay for this, and come to find out they didn’t have insurance or anything,” Hall says.

Now the family has filed a lawsuit against Gallegos and Sias. “These are the types of people that are abusing the system, that really need to have punishment coming down very hard,” the family’s attorney, Brad Bonilla said.

Bonilla tells us he found the owner of the truck, Gallegos, has been cited in Austin at least four times before for not having insurance. He says they want to hold Sias and Gallegos responsible.

“The insurance he presented to the police, appeared to have been valid, it had only been out of being paid for six days, so it didn’t even show up in the Texasure as being expired yet because it technically hadn’t lapsed. After non-payment for 30 days, then it goes as invalid,” Bonilla explains.

An Austin Police Department spokeswoman told us each insurance has a “grace period” after a payment lapses until they notify DPS you are uninsured.

When this accident happened, the car had only been without insurance for six days, not enough time for police to see it in the database.

“Stay off drunk driving, obviously you could’ve took my life, don’t get behind the wheel drunk driving again, pay for your insurance of course,” Gutierrez says.

As of Wednesday, Sias is still only charged with a class B misdemeanor for DWI, but charges could be upgraded because of the victim’s injuries.

Sias nor Gallegos were ticketed for being uninsured because of the insurance company grace period.

We tried reaching Sias and Gallegos for comment and have not heard back.

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