Our firm frequently represents people injured in motor vehicle collisions. Many times, the party causing the collision has inadequate insurance to cover the damages our client has suffered. Virginia law only requires that an automobile have minimum liability insurance coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Those figures have not changed in over 30 years. We feel those amounts were inadequate 30 years ago, and are certainly out of date today.
Unfortunately, our clients often have inadequate insurance coverage on their vehicle and are therefore "underinsured". What do we mean by that?
Most people assume that you purchase insurance for the purpose of providing you a way to pay for damages you, as a negligent driver, may be obligated to pay. That certainly is an important aspect of insurance. However, if you are a careful and responsible driver, you are more likely to be a victim of someone who is not as careful and responsible, than you are to cause injury to another. In the event you are the victim, the limits of insurance on your vehicles can be the source of payment of your damages for which the other driver, who caused your injuries, carried inadequate insurance. But this is true only if the limits of coverage on policies insuring you are higher than those of the other driver.
Virginia law provides that your Virginia automobile insurance policy must have uninsured/underinsured ("UM/UIM") coverage, and in amounts equal to your liability limits, unless you reject those equal limits. Your rejection must be in writing. You may not purchase UM/UIM limits of coverage in amounts greater than the limits of your liability coverage. If you carry liability insurance with limits higher than the minimum required by Virginia law and you reject UM/UIM limits in equal amounts, your UM/UIM limits will be reduced to the minimum coverage required by Virginia law. Remember the minimum limits of liability insurance required in Virginia are only $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
We strongly advise our clients to consider purchasing the highest limits of liability coverage they can afford and not to reject the accompanying amount of UM/UIM limits of coverage. You may be surprised at how little it costs to increase your liability limits.
And carry "Medical Payments" coverage on your Virginia automobile policy. This coverage is usually found as coverage C on your auto policy annual renewal declaration page. You are not required by Virginia law to have this coverage, and your agent may omit it, if you do not specifically request the coverage. Med Pay, as it is usually called, provides a source of payment for medical expenses you, or family members within your household, may have if you or they are injured in a motor vehicle collision, whether riding in one of your vehicles or any other, and regardless of who is at fault. The benefits are payable to the injured person, not the health care providers, and can be an important means of meeting financial obligations of the injured person, especially if earnings are affected. The cost of the coverage is usually small and coverage amounts of $5,000 or $10,000 can be a great help. If you do not see this coverage on your annual policy renewal declaration page, talk to your agent.