Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
What happens if you are in a car accident and the other driver does not have enough insurance to cover all your damages, such as medical care, car repairs, and pain and suffering?
Car Accident: Uninsured Motorist And Unknown Driver Coverage
Under Virginia law, drivers are not strictly required to have auto insurance. It is possible to register a vehicle and pay a $500 fee for not maintaining car insurance (although we do not recommend this, as it may leave you vulnerable in many situations). However, if you do have car insurance, your insurance company is required to provide the same amount of liability protection you purchased in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. So if you have $100,000 in bodily injury liability insurance, you should have that much in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as well. Or if you have $50,000 in property damage liability, that will translate to $50,000 in uninsured motorist property damage insurance (UMPD). (You can reject this coverage, but most people do not do this.)
Uninsured Motorist Definition
Virginia law also specifies that a motor vehicle is considered uninsured in the following situations:
- If the vehicle is covered by an insurance policy that does not meet minimum requirements as laid out in Virginia statutes. This includes a minimum of $30,000 in bodily injury liability and $20,000 for property damage.
- If there is applicable insurance but the insurer rejects the claim for any reason, including the insured party’s failure to cooperate.
- If the uninsured party has not made a bond or deposit in lieu of having insurance.
- The vehicle’s owner does not qualify as a self-insurer under state regulations.
- The vehicle’s owner qualifies for liability immunity under any state or federal law.
- The vehicle’s driver or owner is unknown (for example, a hit and run).
What’s the Difference Between Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage protects you in situations where you are in an accident caused by another driver who does not have insurance. In Virginia, this accounts for a little more than 10 percent of drivers.
Underinsured motorist coverage should cover you where the other driver’s insurance policy falls short of your damages: in other words, if they do not have enough coverage for all your damages. For example, if the other driver only has $30,000 in bodily injury coverage but you have $70,000 in medical bills, they would be underinsured and you could make a claim on your underinsured motorist coverage.
Virginia law mostly treats underinsured drivers as uninsured drivers so the distinction of uninsured vs. underinsured motorist coverage is not as important here as in some other states. Currently, the process to get coverage starts with seeking compensation from the at-fault driver and their insurance policy. After you have received the maximum amount from their policy, you can make a claim on your own underinsured motorist policy for the remainder. Please note, the law is set to change and the change to the law will take effect on July 1, 2023, which will allow you to seek the full amount from your own insurance company right away. This will help to streamline the process and allow you to receive a settlement for your damages sooner.
How Do You Get Your Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Settlement?
First, you need to find out what, if any, insurance coverage the other driver has. If you are able to, it is always a good idea to exchange contact and insurance policy information with the other driver at the scene of an accident. Unfortunately, sometimes it is not possible to do so. If you are seriously injured, you may not be able to think straight or get out of your car. Or, the other driver may not want to provide you with their insurance information. They might even take off – a hit and run.
If the other driver did stay at the scene, but you did not get their information, the police officer who responded should have done so. Request a copy of your accident report (details should be on the local police department’s website) and the information will be there. You can also submit a request form to the Virginia DMV, this generally takes longer.
If the other drive left the scene of the accident, the police often will attempt to find and ticket the driver for leaving the scene. Depending on the particulars of the crash, the fleeing driver could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. In most situations, the police simply are not able to find the hit-and-run driver. The police report will reflect this.
Filing a Claim
The next step is to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. This is not difficult to do, but insurance companies often reject claims for a wide variety of reasons. If you have enough underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, you can use that instead, but if you have high-dollar damages, this may not be enough. It could also take a very long time to recover your damages if your accident occurs before July 1, 2023. We recommend speaking with a Virginia personal injury attorney who can help ensure your claim is filed correctly and that you have the best chance of maximizing your recovery amount.
What if the Other Driver Claims the Accident is Your Fault?
This is a common reason for disputes with insurance companies or other drivers. Often fault in an accident is not clear – to either the responding officer, or the two drivers involved. It is not unusual for a driver to think the accident is their fault when it is in fact not their fault. For this reason, we advise you not to speculate about the cause of the accident at the scene. You should cooperate and answer the officer’s questions about what happened, but do not volunteer any information or be gratuitous and take the blame for the accident.
Virginia has contributory negligence statutes for personal injury cases like car accidents, which means that if you are found to be even one percent at fault for the accident, you cannot collect damages from the other party. This is one very important reason to contact a Virginia car accident lawyer as soon as you can after your car crash. Your attorney will begin investigating your accident right away and compile evidence to show you were not at fault. We also recommend that you speak with an attorney before giving a recorded or written statement to either your insurance company or the other driver’s insurer.
In many cases, an experienced lawyer will be able to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company after making it clear that the accident was not your responsibility. Settling out of court is the most common resolution to most car accident cases. But if this does not work out, we are prepared to argue your case in court and fight for your right to compensation.
Get Help from a Virginia Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you have suffered damages in a car accident and have questions about uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, or other concerns about your claim, please contact Lugar Law for a free case evaluation. We will be happy to answer your questions, and if we take your case, there is generally no fee until we win. Please call today to get started on your uninsured or underinsured motorist claim.