Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Virginia FAQs
As Virginia personal injury lawyers, we often get calls from people who were injured in a car accident by a driver without car insurance. They are understandably worried that they may be left paying large medical bills following an accident that was not their fault. They can often take advantage of uninsured motorist coverage in Virginia.
They want to know if there is any way to sue the at-fault driver, or if there are other options.
The simple answer is yes. You may have uninsured motorist insurance coverage available to you without even realizing it.
What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
If a negligent driver without car insurance injures you in a car accident, then your uninsured motorist coverage will step into the shoes of that uninsured driver and provide payment for your injuries. When you have uninsured motorist coverage, it is as if the other driver actually had insurance.
Do You Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Virginia?
If your car insurance policy was issued in Virginia, it is very likely you have uninsured motorist coverage and may not even realize it. When we provide free consultations to people injured by someone without car insurance, we always ask, “Do you have car insurance?” The answer is sometimes “Yes, but I don’t have full coverage, just liability.” Full coverage, liability coverage, and uninsured motorist coverages are all different types of coverage. Even if you only carry liability coverage, you likely have uninsured motorist coverage.
Virginia’s uninsured motorist insurance law §38.2-2206 requires all insurance companies selling insurance to Virginia drivers to pay all sums that the injured person is legally entitled to recover as damages from the an uninsured motorist.
If you have a Virginia issued car insurance policy, the only instance in which you won’t have uninsured motorist coverage is if you specifically opt out of the coverage. Insurance companies often won’t tell you about this opt-out option because they want to see you as much insurance as possible. As long as you have insurance on your car, you almost certainly have uninsured motorist coverage in Virginia.
What If You Don’t Have Car Insurance Either?
Suppose you are injured in a car accident by someone without car insurance, but you then realize that the car you were in also didn’t have insurance. You can find yourself in this situation if you forgot a payment and didn’t realize your coverage was cancelled, or you assumed the car you were in, or borrowed, had insurance, but didn’t.
You may still have uninsured motorist coverage available to you. If the car you occupied didn’t have insurance, but you have a personal policy of your own, that uninsured motorist coverage will follow you and provide coverage.
Virginia car insurance laws also often allow you to use the uninsured motorist coverage of resident relatives. For example, suppose you are a passenger in a car involved in an accident and you are badly injured, and neither driver has car insurance. You also have no car insurance, but you live with your mother, father, aunt, or any other relative by blood or marriage, and they happen to have a car with uninsured motorist coverage. That relative’s uninsured motorist coverage will likely have to compensate you for your injuries and other damages.
Virginia insurance laws are complicated. It is important that you consult with a Virginia personal injury lawyer and do a full insurance coverage investigation if you have been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident. Finding and pursing all sources of insurance coverage is a very important step in making sure you are fully and fairly compensation for your injuries.
Why Should I Use My Car Insurance When The Accident Wasn’t My Fault? Will My Rates Go Up?
You should not hesitate to use your, or a relative’s, uninsured motorist coverage following an accident that is no your fault. You pay for it. There is no point in having it if you aren’t going to use it. If you don’t use the insurance coverage, you may find yourself paying hospital bills out-of-pocket, and worse off following an accident that isn’t your fault. Second, Virginia Code §38.2-1905 forbids insurance companies from increasing your insurance rates and premiums if the accident was not your fault.
If I Use My Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Virginia Am I Letting the At-Fault Driver Off Easy?
The answer is no. You are not letting the at-fault driver off easy. While it is natural to be angry at the at-fault driver for not having insurance and negligently injuring you, you should use your uninsured motorist coverage to protect yourself.
Using the uninsured motorist coverage is the most realistic way to get paid fairly following an accident. If you use the insurance coverage to negotiate a settlement, or go to court and win a judgment, are you guaranteed payment for your damages up to the amount of uninsured motorist coverage.
Suing the uninsured at-fault driver directly without underlying uninsured motorist coverage in place to pay a judgment is usually not worth the trouble or expense. Suppose you spend the money to sue someone without insurance and don’t have, or decline to use, your uninsured motorist coverage. A judge or a jury could award you a significant amount of money, however without the underlying insurance company in place to pay you, it will be up to you to attempt the collect the money from the uninsured driver. Often the at-fault driver will not have the money to pay the judgment, and may decide to declare bankruptcy and possibly discharge the obligation to you.
By using your uninsured motorist coverage you are not letting the at-fault driver off easy. You are protecting yourself.
Since I’ll Be Dealing With My Own Insurance Company, Do I Need A Personal Injury Lawyer?
When making a personal injury claim under your uninsured motorist coverage, you’ll be negotiating with your own car insurance company. Many believe that since they are dealing with their own insurance company they will be taken care of as a loyal customer and treated more fairly. That would be a mistaken belief.
When you make a personal injury claim under your underinsured motorist coverage, your (or your relative’s) insurance company stands in the shoes of the at-fault driver. The insurance company will fight you just as hard. It does not matter if you have been a loyal customer and never missed a payment—the insurance company will try to pay you as little as possible. Oddly, it is sometimes actually more difficult to settle cases with your own insurance company than with the at-fault driver’s.
It is true that not every personal injury claim requires the help of an experienced personal injury law firm, however whether you happen to be dealing with your own insurance, or another driver’s, should not influence your decision.
If you are injured through no fault of your own by a driver without car insurance, we strongly recommend that you contact Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers for a free consultation to talk over your options and discuss making an uninsured motorist injury claim. We are experienced in dealing with uninsured motorists claims and locating possible sources of uninsured motorist coverage.
Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers helps drivers who have been injured by uninsured or underinsured drivers across Virginia. We have a main office in downtown Norfolk and client meeting locations in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Newport News and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Call us at (757) 455-0077.