In An Accident With An Underinsured Car in Virginia?
If you've been in an accident with an underinsured motorist, or someone without insurance, you still have options.
Underinsured or uninsured motorists can cause big problems. However, they don’t have to cause problems for you.
Insurance can be expensive. However, all Virginia drivers must carry a minimum amount of insurance. Sometimes the state required minimums are not enough to pay for car accident damage. In fact, some drivers may not have insurance at all. This article reviews what drivers can do when the person who caused the accident lacks the insurance to pay for all the damage.
Virginia law requires that all drivers purchase minimum limits of $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person, $50,000 for two or more people, and $20,000 for property damage. This amount may not be able to cover the extent of accident costs. In some circumstances a driver can pay a $500 fee to operate an uninsured vehicle. In these situations underinsured motorist coverage can help cover costs related to car accidents.
Example: Richmond Car Accident
The following example illustrates how underinsured motorist coverage might be necessary. Doug collides with your vehicle on the I-95. Doug was driving negligently and is responsible for the accident. Doug only carried the minimum amount of coverage; $25,000/$50,000/$20,000. However, the damage done to you amounts to $50,000 and he causes $40,000 worth of property damage to your new car. In this example Doug is underinsured by $45,000.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage Kicks in When the Negligent Driver Can’t Pay
If you purchased insurance your insurance company can make up the difference for you in the above scenario. All Virginia insurance policies are required to provide coverage limits of $25,000/$50,000/$20,000 for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. See Virginia Code §38.2-2206(B). Although, drivers can also request higher coverage limits from insurance companies.
Because you are insured at the minimum coverage in this example your insurance company would have to pay the difference between Doug’s insurance and your damages. So you would use up the $25,000 and $20,000 limits of your underinsured motorist coverage. Insurance companies in Virginia only allow drivers to obtain the offset amount of benefits.
Keep in mind that if Doug was not insured at all, and your underinsured motorist coverage was not higher than the state minimums, you would have to secure a judgment against the negligent driver, Doug, to recover anything above your uninsured/underinsured coverage limits for your damages. In these situations your insurance company will provide legal defense to Doug, and then will pay the difference that the court orders. After establishing liability they also have the right to sue Doug to recover the amount of underinsurance coverage they give to you.
Stacking Insurance Policies
If your own underinsured motorist coverage cannot cover the amount of damage caused in an accident you may also be able use the coverage of household members if they have separate coverage for other vehicles. Similarly, if you are in a collision while in a friend’s car, you may be able to use your limits and your friend’s limits for underinsured motorist coverage if your injuries are more than the negligent driver’s limits and your personal limits.
Uninsured and underinsured motorists can cause major damage. Virginia law requires that insurance companies provide protection to consumers in order to avoid innocent parties from having to pay unreasonably large medical bills. However, if you are injured in an accident it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to best protect your rights to recovery. The attorneys of Christina Pendleton & Associates can help. Call for a free case evaluation today: (804) 554-4444.