My life has been turned upside down. A drunk driver crashed into me. I am left with medical bills and I hurt every day. The drunk driver has no insurance. Mr. Schwartz, what can I do?
To protect the victims of auto crashes, like you, against negligent drivers who have no auto insurance, every state requires uninsured motorist coverage to come to the rescue. Uninsured motorist coverage is just what the name says — insurance to protect you when you are hit by someone who has no insurance.
How do I get uninsured motorist coverage? Answer: Easy. All auto insurance policies in Virginia must have uninsured motorist coverage. If you buy an auto insurance policy, you have it.
How does uninsured motorist coverage work? If you are injured by a negligent, uninsured driver, your own insurance company is said to “step into his shoes” and pay your claim. After paying you, your insurance company has the right to go after the uninsured driver to get its money back. You do not have to chase him down to get payment. Your own insurance company does. Uninsured motorist coverage is a required consumer protection part of every auto policy.
Mr. Schwartz, I live with my sister and her husband as part of their household. I do not own a car, but my sister’s husband does. If I am seriously injured by an uninsured driver while walking to work, am I covered? Answer: Yes, you are covered. Virginia law requires all auto insurance policies to cover you under a relative’s auto policy (even an in-law’s policy) while you reside as part of their household. You do not have to own a car, nor have your own auto policy, and you don’t even have to be in a motor vehicle. The Virginia Uninsured Motorist statute requires coverage “while in a motor vehicle or otherwise.” The Virginia Supreme Court has interpreted the statutory term “otherwise” to include a pedestrian walking down the street, just like you. So, you are covered for uninsured motorist benefits under your brother-in-law’s policy.
Mr. Schwartz, if a driver with no insurance injures me, leaving me with a lot of medical bills, lost wages, pain and a permanent limp, how can I be made whole again? The truth is sometimes you never can be made whole – – the pieces just can’t be put back together to make you the way you were. The law’s only remedy is to compensate you in money for your harms and losses — your medical bills, lost wages, pain, mental anguish, inconvenience, your permanent limp and everything you are forced to go through because of the other driver’s negligence.
Mr. Schwartz, what if I do not have enough uninsured motorist coverage for all of my harms and losses? This is a good question and raises a difficult issue often faced
by severely injured clients and their lawyers. A million dollar verdict against an uninsured driver is useless unless there is a way to collect it through uninsured motorist coverage. Most of the time, a driver who has no insurance, has no assets to pay your claim.
The minimum limits of uninsured motorist coverage required in Virginia is $25,000/$50,000. $25,000 is the most the insurance company is required to pay any one person and $50,000 is the most they are required to pay all persons injured in the same crash caused by a negligent uninsured motorist. For example, if you only have minimum uninsured motorist coverage on your auto policy, and you, your husband and 10 year-old son are severely injured by a negligent uninsured motorist, the most your insurance company will pay is $25,000 per person with a limit of $50,000 total for everyone even if each family member obtains a million dollar verdict. For this reason, it is critically important for you to have adequate uninsured motorist limits to protect you and your family against negligent drivers with no insurance. The extra premium for higher uninsured motorist coverage gives you the level of protection that is necessary.
After reading this article, please call your insurance agent to find out the amount of your uninsured motorist coverage and ask her if it is enough protection for you and your family. If not, be sure to increase your uninsured motorist coverage immediately. In the blink of an eye, when you least expect it, you may need the protection of adequate uninsured motorist coverage.