If you were at fault in a car accident in Virginia, you could be held liable for the resulting damages suffered by the victim(s) in the wreck. These damages generally include medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. How much you'll have to pay depends upon the following:
- The cost of repair or replacement of the victim's vehicle
- The seriousness of the victim's injuries and the cost of medical treatment
- The amount of time the victim will miss from work while recovering
- Your liability insurance coverage
- Your personal assets
- Your percentage of fault
Most Virginia car accident cases begin with an insurance claim filed by the victim against your insurance company. The victim provides evidence of the damages listed above and demands compensation.
Negotiations between the parties usually follow. If your insurer offers a settlement that the victim accepts, the case is closed. If you don't have sufficient liability coverage or the parties cannot agree on a settlement, the victim may file a personal injury lawsuit against you. The case still might be settled out of court, but if it's not, there could be a trial.
Auto Insurance Liability Coverage Limits in Virginia
Virginia's minimum liability coverage requirements for policies effective before 2022 provide up to $25,000 for injuries to or the death of one person in one accident, up to $50,000 for injuries to or the death of two or more people in one accident, and up to $20,000 for property damage in one accident. (This coverage is commonly abbreviated as 25/50/20.)
The minimum liability requirements for policies becoming effective in 2022 through 2024 provide 30/60/20 coverage. The minimum liability requirements for policies becoming effective in 2025 will provide 50/100/25 coverage.
Your Insurance Carrier Might Counter-Offer
Even if the victim's damages are within your coverage limits, you can't assume that your insurer will simply pay what the victim demands. Insurance companies are in business to earn profits by collecting premiums and paying out as little as possible in damage claims, so your insurer might try to devalue or deny the victim's claim to save money.
What If You Have Insufficient Coverage?
The high cost of medical care and the prices of automobiles make it possible that an accident victim's damages could be more than your insurer is required to pay if you have only minimum liability coverage. Of course, you may opt to purchase higher levels of coverage, and doing so is the best way to protect yourself before an accident happens.
Opting Out of Car Insurance in Virginia
In Virginia, you may also opt to have no auto insurance at all if you pay a yearly uninsured motor vehicle (UMV) fee. If you choose this option, you are personally responsible for all damages resulting from any accident that you cause.
Your Personal Assets and Umbrella Policies
If you have no auto insurance or insufficient liability coverage for damages in an accident you've caused, the victim can sue you for all damages or for the amount that your insurance does not cover. If the victim gets a judgment against you, you must pay with your own assets. To satisfy the judgment, the court can attach essentially anything you own, including bank accounts, real estate, jewelry, vehicles, and even future earnings. The best way to protect your assets against such a judgment is to purchase an umbrella insurance policy in advance.
You Might Be Judgement Proof
If you have few or no assets to pay a claim or satisfy a judgment against you, you're "judgment proof." This means the plaintiff cannot get what you don't have. You might be left penniless or with a lien against future earnings, but you cannot be incarcerated for being unable to pay. If, however, a death resulted from the accident, you could face a vehicular manslaughter charge, in which case you need the services of a criminal attorney.
Have You Been in a Car Wreck in Virginia?
An experienced car accident attorney can evaluate your case and advise you of your rights and options. Contact us online, start a chat, or call us at 540-341-0007 to schedule your free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.