Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages are two portions of your Virginia car insurance policy that you may never use. However, they are extremely important components of your package and although you may never utilize them, understanding them may help you with future claims. They don’t cost much, but they provide valuable benefits. And you are required (by law) to have these benefits on your policy.
Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if the other driver does not have insurance on their car. For example, suppose you had just stopped at a stop sign in Richmond. And as you were about to drive ahead, you were struck by another car from behind. A police report was filed, and the other driver was clearly at fault and received a citation.
But…one problem. Their policy lapsed and their vehicle is not insured. And the damage to your car is $2,000. However, the uninsured “property damage” portion of your policy will pay most of that $2,000 for you (a small deductible will apply). There are various available limits of coverage and you can choose which option you want. Since the value of most vehicles is more than $7,500 higher limits may be a better choice. The increase in cost would be nominal.
Uninsured Motorist bodily Injury is also required in Virginia. Unlike physical damage to the vehicle, this will pay for the “big ticket” items such as health care expenses, lost wages from your employer, and many other expenses to you or other passengers that are hurt in an accident caused by someone driving without insurance. If the other driver flees the scene of the accident, benefits are also provided. It is likely that you may require help from an attorney in determining the extent of your injuries (if any) and how you should be compensated for them.
Underinsured motorist coverage is designed to protect you if the other driver is at fault but actually has insurance. However, if that driver’s listed limits are not enough to pay for the damage to your car, you are able to recover the difference between their coverage limits and your own policy limits. This is referred to the “property damage” portion of your policy.
For example, suppose your vehicle is totaled in an accident and the value at the time of the loss is $22,000. But the other driver only carries $15,000 of property damage. Instead of paying the difference yourself, it would be insured. Otherwise, you would have less available funds to purchase a replacement vehicle.
Underinsured Motorist bodily injury occurs when the other driver actually has insurance, but not enough to pay your qualified injuries and expenses. In those situations, you can recover the difference (up to your policy benefits) of their limits and your own. This can make a tremendous difference, especially if you sustain chronic injuries that will have to be treated for your entire life.
The UMV Fee
If you own a vehicle that is not presently covered, it can be legally registered. Along with the normal registration charges, you are required to pay an additional $500. This does not apply to your new policy, since you must purchase coverage separately from an authorized insurer. This extra charge is waived after 12 months, assuming you have obtained a valid policy that meets all of the state minimum liability requirements.
If you knowingly claim you have qualified coverage, and you actually don't, you will be subject to a license and registration suspension, along with a $500 penalty and an additional reinstatement fee. You will also be required to show proof ov coverage for three years. If your coverage lapses during this 36-month period, your carrier is required to notify the Department Of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Are You "Underinsured"?
Virginia has many drivers that are severely underinsured. Often, they are “first-time” drivers that purchase the state-minimum limits to keep their premiums low. And ironically, these are the types of drivers that tend to have the most at-fault accidents. Therefore, it is important to periodically review your coverages and ensure they are keeping pace with inflation.
The cost of increasing your Virginia coverages will vary depending on the company. For example, Geico’s rate to increase limits to $100,000/$300,000 might be higher than Progressive in some areas of the state and lower in others. That’s why we encourage you to view multiple quotes from several different carriers. Typically, the increased amounts will not substantially increase your rate and might in fact, cost much less than you anticipate.
Also, your uninsured or underinsured bodily injury per person limits can not exceed the limits you carry on your normally liability coverage. Thus, if you wanted $100,000 (per person), you must have this amount on all of your liability coverages. When requesting a quote for Virginia car insurance, it is very easy to compare the costs of each option and determine which limits fit within your budget.
Edward Harris is the owner and founder of this website. Since 1980, he has been helping individuals and families with their car insurance needs. During that time, he has handled more than 10,000 applications and continues to provide service for thousands of clients.
Ed is married with two children and enjoys tennis, golf, and international politics. Reluctantly, he bowls once every 10 years.