Uninsured motorist coverage

In Virginia, motorists are required by law to carry “uninsured motorist” coverage as part of their auto insurance policy. Should you add this optional coverage to your policy, and if so, how much coverage is adequate for accidents?

Uninsured Motorists Are a Danger on the Road

Despite it being prudent to carry insurance, many drivers in Virginia don’t have insurance because it is not required by law. 

If you are involved in a Virginia car crash and the other driver is 100% at fault, you can bring a lawsuit to get compensation for the damages incurred as a result of the accident, which the other party’s insurance will pay. Damages can include not only compensation for costs to repair your vehicle but also compensation for medical expenses, wages from time missed at your job due to the accident or medical treatments for injuries, and costs for pain and suffering.

But if the other driver doesn’t have insurance, you could be out a lot of money to repair your vehicle and heal from your injuries. If an uninsured motorist causes an accident, they don’t have an insurance company to pay out a personal injury or accident claim.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage 

If you get into an accident with someone who is driving without insurance, your insurance can be compelled to pay for your damages through your uninsured motorist coverage. But there are limits. Even if they do have insurance, the amount they carry could be very low and might not provide for all of the damages you experienced from the accident.

If you are trying to keep your insurance rates low, your carrier may suggest opting out of getting uninsured motorist coverage since it isn’t required by law. Insurance companies are interested in keeping the amount as low as possible that they might pay out for a claim. Opting out of uninsured motorist coverage in a state that doesn’t require drivers to carry insurance is not to your advantage. 

How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage to Carry

If you opt for uninsured motorist coverage in Virginia, the minimum is $30,000 per vehicle. Some people choose minimum coverage in an attempt to keep their rates lower. However, in the event of a serious accident, $30,000 might barely make a dent in your expenses. Car repair alone could cost $30,000 or more, and if you experience broken bones, brain damage, or even lose your life, the damages you or your loved one can recoup can be limited due to low uninsured motorist coverage amounts. 

We recommend discussing various coverage amounts and their costs with your insurance provider to ensure that you are adequately covered in the event of a crash.

Changes to Virginia Law

In 2023, Virginia law changed so that you can now claim uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist compensation even if the liability portion of your claim has not been fulfilled. Before July 1, 2023, your damages had to first exceed the amount of liability coverage you carry before you could file for compensation through the uninsured/underinsured motorist portion of your policy. So, for example, if you carried $100,000 in liability coverage and the cost of your damages was $100,000. Previously, you could only recover $100,000. Now, you can “stack” the damages and file for $100,000 against your UM/UIM policy in addition to the $100,000 of your liability coverage. 

Auto insurance policies issued or renewed after July 1, 2023, now include language to notify the insured that their uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage has been added (if not previously included) and is automatically increased to the full limit. While your policy may be a little more expensive, if you were to ever get into a serious accident, the benefits would far outweigh the increase in costs to keep this coverage, though you may opt to reduce it or drop it entirely.

This is why it’s important to work with an experienced car accident lawyer at Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas if you are involved in a crash in Virginia. They stay abreast of all changes to the law, understand how to deal with insurance companies, and will fight for the total amount of compensation you deserve.

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