This Article Explains the Reason Motorists are Required to Have Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage on Their Insurance Policy
Many people mistakenly believe uninsured motorist (UM) insurance coverage is limited to accidents involving drivers without insurance. However, this is not accurate and one of the reasons why UM coverage is considered to be such a misunderstood component of car insurance coverage in Virginia.
UM coverage can come into play even when the at-fault motorist has insurance. It might also be accessed if you suffered a serious injury at the hands of a drunk, reckless or uninsured driver and they have no insurance on their vehicle, or insufficient coverage. If you find yourself in this scenario where the damages amount far exceeds the coverage available through the negligent motorist’s policy, you may be able to obtain additional coverage through your own UM coverage.
Here is how this works: Let’s say your wife is driving through a Virginia intersection at night and is T-boned by a reckless driver who turns out to be drunk. To make matters worse the drunk driver has a suspended license and no car insurance. How will your wife get compensated for the serious personal injury she suffers in this Virginia accident? The answer is through a good uninsured motorist coverage on your own car insurance. Virginia, like many states, requires all car insurance policies to have at least a minimum level of uninsured motorist coverage, and in Virginia it is currently, as of 2021, a mere $25,000. But let’s say your insurance agent counseled you and you have $300,000 of uninsured motorist coverage, the equal amount to your bodily injury coverage in your Virginia car insurance policy.
If we return to the example where the drunk driver has no insurance coverage that can be pursued to compensate your wife for her injuries, then your $300,000 uninsured motorist coverage will become extremely valuable and provide up to that amount of personal injury coverage protection for your wife who has suffered serious injuries.
Your Insurance Company Will Hire an Attorney to Try and Deny You Coverage
What shocks many of our clients is that your own insurance company must provide a lawyer and up to that $300,000 in uninsured motorist coverage to the drunk driver who negligently caused the accident at the intersection in the example above. Yes, your own insurance company hires an independent attorney to represent the drunk driver. Many of our clients are surprised that this provision of Virginia law will basically provide them coverage for their injuries by the uninsured drunk driver, but as this example illustrates, it can be the most critical part of your car insurance policy because it can provide that additional coverage you or a loved one when the negligent driver has no insurance, or little insurance, and caused you to suffer serious injuries in an accident.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in Virginia also kicks in if the same drunk driver had only $25,000 of insurance and your family member suffers injuries worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The same provision of Virginia law, on uninsured motorist coverage, says that your own insurance will kick in to provide coverage for you or a loved one for the amount over what the drunk driver has in car insurance. This is called UIM coverage in Virginia. The main Virginia law on uninsured motorist coverage is found at Virginia Code Section 38.2–2206, although there are other provisions a personal injury lawyer will need to refer to on a case like this. Here is the relevant portion of the statute.
§ 38.2-2206. Uninsured motorist insurance coverage.
A. Except as provided in subsection J, no policy or contract of bodily injury or property damage liability insurance relating to the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle shall be issued or delivered in this Commonwealth to the owner of such vehicle or shall be issued or delivered by any insurer licensed in this Commonwealth upon any motor vehicle principally garaged or used in this Commonwealth unless it contains an endorsement or provisions undertaking to pay the insured all sums that he is legally entitled to recover as damages from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle, within limits not less than the requirements of § 46.2-472. Those limits shall equal but not exceed the limits of the liability insurance provided by the policy, unless any one named insured rejects the additional uninsured motorist insurance coverage by notifying the insurer as provided in subsection B of § 38.2-2202.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage plays a part in nearly every Virginia motor vehicle case that our personal injury law firm handles and an experienced lawyer needs to investigate all potential sources of car insurance and uninsured motorist coverage in any significant Virginia car accident, and even in incidents involving pedestrians.
In some cases more than one uninsured motorist policy can provide insurance for you or your loved one and even business uninsured motorist policies can be implicated when a responsible driver was working for their employer at the time they caused personal injuries.
Injured in an Accident and Need Answers to Important Questions? We Can Help
My colleagues and I have written about uninsured motorist insurance coverage for over 20 years and have repeatedly explained how this insurance is so important because it covers you or a family member when you are harmed by someone lacking insurance or has insufficient insurance coverage.
If you have a question about whether uninsured motorist coverage applies in a car accident in Virginia or North Carolina, please contact one of our firm‘s attorneys.