As a personal injury firm, we recognize the significance of sufficient auto insurance coverage and the challenges faced by those who have experienced accidents without enough insurance protection. At Huffman & Huffman, we are dedicated to educating our clients and the wider community about the importance of auto insurance, as it serves as a crucial safeguard against the financial burdens resulting from accidents. Additionally, we want to keep our clients and community informed on any changes to the laws that impact the automobile insurance coverage landscape. In light of recent developments, we want to highlight a significant law change regarding underinsured motorist coverage in Virginia that went into effect on July 1, 2023.
Protecting Yourself Financially
Accidents can happen unexpectedly, and being involved in one can result in physical, emotional, and financial distress. Did you know that 1 in 10 drivers don’t have auto insurance? And many more drivers carry only the bare minimum coverage. Uninsured and underinsured motorists post a significant risk on all drivers, as their lack of insurance or insufficient coverage can leave innocent victims burdened with medical bills, property damage, and other costs arising from accidents. This is where your own uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage comes into play.
Understanding Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance
The uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage of your car insurance policy is there to protect you in the event that an at-fault party does not have any insurance or does not have enough insurance coverage of their own to compensate you for your personal injury. We refer to this coverage as UM/UIM coverage. This coverage can be key in safeguarding your financial well-being and ensuring you receive the necessary compensation for your injuries and damages. For additional information on how UM/UIM coverage works, be sure to check out our recent article on under and uninsured driver insurance.
Changes to Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Virginia
In the past, the amount of UIM coverage of your policy would be offset by the amount of coverage of the defendant’s policy. Starting July 1, 2023, the UIM coverage of your policy will now “stack” on top of the defendant’s policy, unless a person opts out. This change will make more insurance coverage available in the event of an accident and has the potential to really benefit injured people.
Let’s discuss an example. A careless driver runs a red light and causes a significant injury to the driver of the other vehicle. In the past, if the careless driver had bodily injury limits of $30,000 (minimum limits required in Virginia in 2023) and the injured party also had minimum limits, including UIM limits, the most insurance coverage the injured party could receive was $30,000. The injured party could make a claim for the careless driver’s $30,000 policy limits but she could not obtain any of the UIM coverage she paid for because her $30,000 UIM limits were fully offset by the defendant’s $30,000 limits under the old law.
Now under the new law, for new and renewed policies, under the same example, the injured party’s $30,000 UIM coverage will “stack” on top of the careless driver’s $30,000 limits. So, the injured party could potentially get up to $60,000 for the same accident under the new law, unless they opt out.
The expanded UIM coverage is the default position for new and renewed policies as of July 1, 2023. Ultimately, this new law increases the exposure of the UIM coverage to insurance providers and individual insurance rates are likely to increase slightly to some extent because of this. However, if you do not want the expanded coverage and the resulting increase in your policy premiums, you can opt out and have your policy revert back to having the UIM coverage be offset by the defendant’s policy limits. But opting out of the expended coverage could reduce the insurance coverage available to you in the event of an accident so it is highly recommended that you keep that benefit. The advantage of that extra coverage will far outweigh the cost and with so many people being under or uninsured, it’s in your best interest so that you and your loved ones keep this coverage and stay protected.
As we have previously noted, the number one way to protect yourself and your family before an accident happens is to make sure your own auto insurance policy is equipped to cover you in any situation – whether you or another driver is at fault for the collision. The amount of coverage you have directly affects the value of your personal injury settlement. Huffman & Huffman’s personal injury attorneys say the biggest mistake a driver can make is not having enough insurance in the event of an accident. And this change to the UIM coverage of your motor vehicle insurance policy goes a long way in increasing the insurance available in the event of an accident.
While Huffman & Huffman is not an insurance provider, we fully understand the laws related to your auto insurance policy and how you can ensure you are protected. If you have questions about auto insurance or any accident that resulted in an injury – contact our team today and we’d be happy to help guide you in the right direction.
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