Elsewhere on this site, my Virginia (VA) personal injury attorney colleagues and I call uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage the most important protection your automobile insurance policy provides. While mandatory UM/UIM coverage increases your premiums, we don't stress its necessity and benefits because we want you to give more money to insurance companies. Quite the opposite.
Carrying uninsured motorist coverage ensures you will receive some compensation if you, a family member named on your policy or a passenger in your vehicle suffers injuries in any accident. Even if that wreck is caused by a hit-and-run driver police never manage to track down, your UM/UIM coverage compels your own insurer to provide compensation for medical bills, lost wages and, if applicable and within the coverage limit, pain and suffering. Expenses related to repairing property damage to your car, truck, SUV or van -- or replacing the vehicle if it gets declared a total loss -- can also be recouped with an uninsured motorist claim.
I have already written at length in answering the most common questions Virginia drivers and accident victims have about UM/UIM coverage. I urge you to click over to that FAQ for fuller details, but let me list here some of the essential facts about uninsured motorist coverage:
- Every licensed driver in Virginia who takes out an automobile insurance policy is required to carry a minimum of $25,000 worth of UM/UIM coverage.
- Premiums for uninsured motorist coverage are kept low in Virginia by annual $500 payments people without full insurance make to the state's Department of Motor Vehicle. The fees are deposited in an Uninsured Motorist Fund that can be tapped to reimburse insurers and injured individuals.
- You can add more than the minimum UM/UIM coverage to your policy. We recommend $50,000.
- Your premiums are very unlikely to increase if you file a UM/UIM claim.
- Filing a UM/UIM claim with your insurance policy holder does not prevent you from filing a civil lawsuit against, and pursuing additional compensation from, the driver who caused the accident.
To expand on that last bullet point, by law, any uninsured or underinsured motorist sued for damages must be provided a defense and insurance coverage up to the amount of your available uninsured motorist coverage despite having no or inadequate insurance. This means that your own policy pays the liability for the at-fault hit-and-run or otherwise irresponsible driver but the driver cannot benefit from that "borrowed" coverage. Admittedly, this is complicated. The UM/UIM rules confuse and confound, but they offer the only legal recourse for protecting you and your loved ones from economic ruin when hit by an uninsured driver on a Virginia street or interstate.
Should you ever become the victim of a crash caused by a driver so irresponsible that he or she doesn't have insurance or stop at the scene, you'll be glad to have your own policy's UM/UIM coverage as a safety net.