red uninsured drivers sign with blue sky in backgroundIf you’re a Virginia driver who has spent a little time reading your auto insurance policy (as everyone should) then you might be wondering whether or not that uninsured motorist coverage you pay for every year is worth it.  After all, don’t most drivers carry insurance? Isn’t auto insurance required by law? The answers to those questions are no, not all drivers carry insurance, and no, auto insurance is not mandatory in Virginia. If this troubles you, then your instincts are right—uninsured motorists are indeed a problem on Virginia’s roads.  However, there are steps you can take to make sure they are less of a problem for you.

Being involved in an auto accident with an uninsured motorist or a hit-and-run driver means the injured driver’s insurance must pick up the tab.  That is if the injured driver purchased uninsured motorist coverage.  Also, because Virginia does not require drivers to carry insurance, there are drivers on our roads who are knowingly operating a motor vehicle without any insurance coverage at all. Because of this, uninsured motorist coverage is a very good thing for Virginia drivers.

Can You Drive a Car in Virginia Without Insurance?

Yes, you can drive a car in Virginia without auto insurance. Some drivers even let their insurance coverage lapse—either knowingly or unknowingly—by not paying their bills. It’s just one more reason to be cautious on the road—you never know if that aggressive driver in the next lane has insurance or not!

Virginia law requires that any motorist who wishes to register a vehicle without insurance pay the Virginia DMV a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee in addition to normal registration fees. This fee does not provide insurance for the vehicle; on the contrary, the motorist is still personally liable if involved in an accident. Motorists who falsely claim that they have vehicle insurance face stiff penalties if the DMV finds out they were not telling the truth: possible suspension of all driver and registration privileges, a $500 statutory fee, a $85 reinstatement fee, and filing proof of insurance for three years. Sadly, the threat of fines and penalties does not prevent drivers from either lying to the DMV about their non-existent coverage or letting their coverage lapse.

Insurance That Protects You From the Uninsured

Imagine you or someone you love has been injured in a serious auto accident, and you find out that the driver at fault was an uninsured motorist. Not only that, but the person does not have a great deal of personal resources, so even if you could bring a lawsuit against them for damages they don’t have much money to give you for your injuries. This isn’t a great situation to be in. However, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, then ideally your own insurance company will cover the difference between what the uninsured motorist could pay and the bill for your injuries—depending on how much coverage you purchased, of course.

Sounds great, right?  Not so fast. Unfortunately, if you file a claim with your insurance company to take advantage of the uninsured motorist coverage you’ve been paying for all these years, your insurance company will act as though it represents the uninsured motorist! Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The insurance company will always do everything it can to make sure that its own interests are looked out for first and foremost. Whether or not you are treated fairly after a serious auto accident with an uninsured motorist is not their problem.

Tips for Protecting Yourself From Uninsured Motorists

We advise Virginia drivers to do the following:

  • Always purchase uninsured motorist coverage.
  • Your uninsured motorist coverage should be at least as high as your general liability insurance limits. In fact, we recommend that you purchase the maximum uninsured motorist coverage available.
  • Make sure your policy covers uninsured, underinsured, and hit-and-run drivers.
  • Be aware that saving money in the short term by declining coverage might end up hurting you in the long run if you’re involved in an accident that is not covered by your insurance policy.

Defending yourself in an uninsured motorist accident case can be tricky, and often it is even more complicated than an auto accident with an insured motorist. If you or someone you love has been injured in an auto accident with an uninsured motorist in Virginia, then you’ll want an experienced attorney on your side to fight for your rights. 

Andrew Thomas
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Civil litigation attorney in Virginia and is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

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