Uninsured Motorists Coverage Can Apply When Police, Firefighters, or Other Government Employees are Immune from a Personal Injury Lawsuit | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is one of the more confusing and misunderstood aspects of automobile insurance policies. Nevertheless, it is also the most important insurance that Virginia drivers have. In fact, it is as important, if not more important, than bodily injury coverage. 

Our firm has been able to utilize uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to properly compensate our clients. Take, for example, this motorcycle accident that occurred in Fredericksburg, Virginia where our client suffered severe injuries resulting in more than $250,000 in medical bills. Our firm analyzed all of the available insurance coverage and was able to secure a $1,000,000 settlement primarily from available uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is also a huge help if you are the victim of a hit and run accident. Here is another article discussing the importance of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: Overview of UM/UIM Insurance in Virginia

Why is this form of insurance so important? Because this coverage will protect you, your spouse, your children or other residents of your home, if a drunk driver or if a negligent driver with no insurance harms you or one of your family members.  Bodily injury car insurance covers you when you are negligent against claims of other parties but uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is protection that gives you coverage and a recovery where the other driver has no insurance whatsoever and that includes circumstances where the other driver is immune from a suit under Virginia or federal law.​

However, there are some motorists who are actually immune from civil liability, even if they were negligent and cause a serious car wreck.

Police Officers Are Typically Immune from Civil Claims Involving “Simple” Negligence

Under Virginia personal injury law, police officers are normally not responsible for simply being negligent in causing injuries to other persons in motor vehicles or even pedestrians.  Basically, the only way to hold a police officer liable in a civil suit is to present evidence that they were grossly negligent (a much higher standard). This can be extremely frustrating for many Virginians who find themselves, or a loved one, seriously injured due to the careless actions of a police officer. It is not fair that you should suffer while the police officer is shielded from civil liability.

We Found a Loophole…

If a police officer asserts immunity against a regular or simple negligence claim, Virginia uninsured/underinsured motorist law steps in to provide very important coverage for you and your family. Once the police officer or their insurance company asserts immunity, your Virginia personal injury lawyer needs to examine whether uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is available.

Virginia requires no less than $25,000.00 per person/$50,000.00 per accident in all car insurance policies written in the Commonwealth Of Virginia.  Of course, many insurance agents urge their insureds to carry equal levels of bodily injury coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage because you want that coverage in case you are in an accident caused by a drunk or uninsured driver.  But actually it can come into play if a police officer causes injuries as outlined above.

Specific provisions of the Virginia Code detail how uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage may be accessed when a negligent party asserts immunity. Here is direct language from Virginia Code Section 38.2-2206 B.

Uninsured motor vehicle” means a motor vehicle for which (i) there is no bodily injury liability insurance and property damage liability insurance in the amounts specified by § 46.2-472, (ii) there is such insurance but the insurer writing the insurance denies coverage for any reason whatsoever, including failure or refusal of the insured to cooperate with the insurer, (iii) there is no bond or deposit of money or securities in lieu of such insurance, (iv) the owner of the motor vehicle has not qualified as a self-insurer under the provisions of § 46.2-368, or (v) the owner or operator of the motor vehicle is immune from liability for negligence under the laws of the Commonwealth or the United States, in which case the provisions of subsection F shall apply and the action shall continue against the insurer. A motor vehicle shall be deemed uninsured if its owner or operator is unknown.

Other provisions of the Virginia Code detail how a lawsuit will go forward against a police officer, firefighter or other law enforcement type of personnel who are immune from simple negligence. Below is language from Virginia Code Section 38.2-2206 F.

If any action is instituted against the owner or operator of an uninsured or underinsured motor vehicle by any insured intending to rely on the uninsured or underinsured coverage provision or endorsement of this policy under which the insured is making a claim, then the insured shall serve a copy of the process upon this insurer in the manner prescribed by law, as though the insurer were a party defendant. The provisions of § 8.01-288shall not be applicable to the service of process required in this subsection. The insurer shall then have the right to file pleadings and take other action allowable by law in the name of the owner or operator of the uninsured or underinsured motor vehicle or in its own name. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection A, the immunity from liability for negligence of the owner or operator of a motor vehicle shall not be a bar to the insured obtaining a judgment enforceable against the insurer for the negligence of the immune owner or operator, and shall not be a defense available to the insurer to the action brought by the insured, which shall proceed against the named defendant although any judgment obtained against an immune defendant shall be entered in the name of “Immune Defendant” and shall be enforceable against the insurer and any other nonimmune defendant as though it were entered in the actual name of the named immune defendant. Nothing in this subsection shall prevent the owner or operator of the uninsured motor vehicle from employing counsel of his own choice and taking any action in his own interest in connection with the proceeding.

Why This Matters To You

If you find yourself in a situation where a police officer, firefighter, rescue personnel, EMT causes an injury and are immune from civil liability, you may still be able to obtain financial restitution through your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. This can mean the difference of obtaining monetary damages to reimburse you for large medical bills and lost wages, or leaving you to shoulder the financial burden after a serious accident.

Talk to an Attorney Today

Contact the experienced attorneys at Shapiro & Appleton today for a free, confidential consultation. We understand the nuances of Virginia personal injury law and automobile insurance policies. When you contact our firm, you will have the opportunity to speak directly with a lawyer to have your questions answered. We are here to help.