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“They sent somebody to visit me in the hospital and get my side of the story (totally free). I was assigned Mr. Crawford and told that we had a case. Fast forward about 9 months later and I received literally 14x what the insurance company had offered me. This is after the lawyer and medical fees as well. So basically this was totally free and I barely had to do anything I am so glad I called Marks and Harrison and I will be recommending them to all of my family and friends.”— Robert Smith
They’re out there on Virginia roads: Drivers who have no insurance or barely enough insurance to cover the damage they cause. They are called uninsured and underinsured motorists. If one of these drivers causes a crash that impacts your life, you can still seek a financial recovery. The claims process may be a bit more complex than typical. Still, with help from an experienced Richmond uninsured & underinsured motorist lawyer, you can overcome those challenges and pursue all the compensation you deserve.
Here, we present some general information about these common types of Richmond car accident insurance claims. To discuss the specific facts of your case in a free consultation, contact Marks & Harrison today. We can put more than a century of legal experience on your side and the resources of 10 offices located throughout Virginia.
How Serious Is the Uninsured Motorist Problem in Richmond & Virginia?
For a seven-year period leading up to 2015, the uninsured motorist rate in our country steadily declined, the Insurance Research Council (IRC) reports. But in 2015, the rate increased and hit 13.0 percent, or “one in eight drivers on the road,” according to the IRC.
In Virginia, an estimated 9.9 percent of drivers lacked insurance, the IRC reports. That rate was lower than neighboring states Tennessee (20.0), Maryland (12.4) and West Virginia (10.1) as well as the District of Columbia (15.6), but it was higher than North Carolina (6.5). One reason for the high number of uninsured Virginia drivers – one in 10 drivers on the road, basically – lies in our state law.
Under Virginia law, you do not need to carry liability insurance in order to register your vehicle. You can pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee. So, even though your car may be legally on the road, you will still have no insurance to cover the bodily injury and property damage that you cause in a crash. It’s safe to say that many drivers on Virginia roads fall in this class.
Many other drivers in Richmond may lack auto insurance because they have no driver’s license, or maybe they allowed their insurance to lapse because they couldn’t keep up with payments. Some drivers have insurance – but not enough of it. If you buy auto insurance in Virginia, your policy must provide liability coverage in the following minimum amounts:
- $25,000 for the bodily injury or death of one person
- $50,000 for the bodily injury or death of two or more people
- $20,000 for damage to property.
If a driver has liability insurance that is below these minimum limits, the driver is considered to be uninsured. A driver is also considered to be uninsured if the driver is unknown (or a “hit-and-run” driver).
In addition to uninsured drivers on Virginia roads, many are “underinsured.” In other words, they may carry only the minimum amount of insurance – which doesn’t go too far these days when it comes to covering medical expenses, lost wages, vehicle damage and other losses from a car crash.
Fortunately, if you are involved in a crash that an uninsured or underinsured driver causes, you may have several different options available to you for pursuing compensation.
How UM and UIM Claims Work in Richmond, VA
While not required, motorists who purchase an auto insurance policy in Richmond or Virginia can also purchase uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides benefits to the insured motorist in the event an uninsured motorist causes an accident. The minimum policy limits mirror those for liability insurance.
You do not have to carry uninsured motorist insurance. You may inform your insurance agent and reject this coverage in writing. If you reject this coverage in writing, all individuals covered under your policy will be deemed to have rejected this coverage as well. (Rejecting UM coverage is not advisable.)
Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage provides benefits if the individual responsible for the crash does not have an auto insurance policy that covers all of your losses. For example, if the individual who caused your accident has only $25,000 in bodily injury coverage, and you have suffered $35,000 in damages, the UIM coverage would step in and pay the difference between that $25,000 and the amount of your injuries, or $10,000. UIM coverage is typically available for an additional premium.
Recovering Compensation After a Uninsured Car Accident in Richmond
Typically, if you get hurt or lose a loved one in a car accident in Richmond or Virginia, you file a claim through the at-fault driver’s liability auto insurance. If the driver’s insurance company accepts liability and offers to pay fair damages (up to the policy’s limit), the case may settle. If the insurer contests liability and/or damages, it may go to trial.
Let’s say a motorist plows through a red light and “T-bones” your car at an intersection. The motorist’s auto insurance policy provides up to $25,000 in compensation for bodily injury. If you suffer injuries totaling $25,000 or less, and that driver is determined to be at fault, then that insurance company should pay your claim. That would be the end of your case.
However, if the other driver’s policy limits are not sufficient to cover your losses, or the driver is uninsured, your options would be to:
- File a claim through your own UM/UIM policy – If you have UM or UIM coverage, you can file a claim with your own insurance company. Like other types of auto insurance coverage, UM/UIM will pay up to the policy limits you have purchased.
- Turn to other insurance coverage – You may have purchased medical payments, or “medpay,” coverage. This policy can pay for at least a portion of your medical bills caused by an accident. You may also have collision coverage that will pay for damage to your vehicle – regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
- File a claim against a responsible third party – In addition to the driver who hit you, other parties may be liable for your bodily injury and property damage. For example, the uninsured / underinsured driver who caused your crash may have been acting on behalf of his or her employer at the time. The employer could be held liable for any negligent acts of its employee that occurred within the scope and course of the employment. In some circumstances, the employer may be liable because it was negligent in its own right. So, you could file a claim through the employer’s liability coverage.
- Seek a recovery through the driver’s personal assets – If no other source of compensation is available, it may be necessary to bring a lawsuit that seeks a recovery directly from the at-fault driver’s personal assets. It is highly likely that the driver’s assets will not be sufficient to cover your losses. Still, having a judgment in your favor and against a driver can allow you to intercept certain assets of which the driver may come into possession (such as inheritances, lottery winnings and/or tax refunds).
Additionally, if you suffer from a disability a car accident causes, you may be eligible to pursue disability benefits (including workers’ compensation benefits if your accident occurred while you were on the job).
Our Richmond Uninsured & Underinsured Lawyers Can Help with Your UM/UIM Claim
At Marks & Harrison, we are committed to helping injured motorists and passengers in Richmond and throughout Virginia to pursue just compensation after a car accident, including crashes that involve uninsured or underinsured drivers. Our experienced attorneys will carefully review the facts of your case as well as all insurance policies that may be involved. We will fight vigorously and pursue full and fair compensation for your car crash injuries and all damages you may be entitled to receive. You can rely on us to track down all sources of compensation.
Contact us today to discuss your case in a free consultation. In addition to our Richmond office, we have offices in nine other locations in Virginia.