Accidents happen, and they happen more than you might think. Car accidents occur at an alarming rate, reaching thousands each day. Most of the time, insurance policies will cover the expenses related to any damages or injuries—typically the at-fault driver’s policy in states with negligence laws like Virginia. However, you might be even more unfortunate if the other driver is underinsured or worse, has no insurance at all.
Don’t assume you have no recourse if the other driver doesn’t have enough auto insurance. There are always options available. Let’s get to the question of the hour: What if the at-fault driver is underinsured? Or what if they have no insurance at all?
Handling the Car Accident
Some people don’t always treat a car accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver as they would with a driver carrying full and sufficient coverage. This is mainly due to the resistance they often face from the at-fault driver, as the individual would rather avoid any consequences of driving without insurance or insufficient coverage.
Contact the police. You need an accident report. As you wait for law enforcement, take pictures of the scene, both vehicles (including the other individual’s license plate), and any injuries you or your passengers might have sustained. Get the contact information of the other driver and any witnesses to the accident.
Once all that is handled, be sure to visit your doctor. Many times, the adrenaline after a car accident can mask your injuries and you may not feel the effects for several days afterwards. It’s best to get checked out by a doctor to be sure you are okay and if you are injured, be sure to follow medical advice on any needed treatment. You will also need to contact your insurance company about the accident. Although your insurance company requires you to report a crash soon after an accident, you are not required to go into detail. Tell your insurance company the basic facts: time, location, and so on. If you are injured, simply let the insurance company know you are seeking medical treatment. And remember, you don’t have to talk to the other driver’s insurance company at all.
Understanding Your Insurance Policy
So why is your auto insurance policy important if you didn’t cause the accident? If the at-fault driver’s policy is not enough to cover the damage to your vehicle or injuries you or your passengers have sustained, your own policy can help. Now you might be thinking that is not fair to have to use your own policy or worry that it will have a negative effect on your rates, but rest assured, that is exactly why you have insurance in the first place! And as long as you are not found at-fault, using your own policy in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver does not negatively affect your policy rates in the future.
In the state of Virginia, if you have liability insurance, you also have the same amount of coverage in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Not all states require this—30 of them, to be exact—and it may be optional when you own your car outright (i.e., no more monthly payments). The advantage of this type of coverage depends on the nature and extent of your damages and injuries, as it can help cover the cost of:
- Current and future medical bills
- Present and future lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
As an added bonus, the state of Virginia recently changed its laws and allows stacking underinsured motorist coverage, which raises your coverage and protection by combining your own coverage limits with those of the at-fault driver’s insurance. It’s important to note that even if you have sufficient coverage between the at-fault driver and your own insurance policy, you most likely will still run into the fact that the insurance company’s settlement offer is less than you are entitled to. It’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced car accident law firm to explore what legal recourse you are entitled to for an accident’s economic and noneconomic damages.
Filing a Claim
If your car accident involved injuries to either you or your passengers, you have a right to make a personal injury claim. This is true in a situation where the at-fault driver has enough coverage for the value of your claim or if you need to turn to your own policy. Dealing with the insurance companies is not straight forward as they will do everything they can to diminish the value of your claim or may even outright deny the claim. Having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side to help you navigate the insurance companies and file a claim on your behalf will typically provide you with better results in regard to a full and fair underinsured motorist coverage settlement. This is especially true if there is a question of liability. In the state of Virginia under the contributory negligence rule, if you are found even 1% at fault for the accident, you may be prevented from obtaining any financial compensation at all. An attorney who specializes in personal injury and car accidents can ensure that your rights are protected, and you are properly compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain, suffering, and inconvenience.
In the event of a car accident, especially when it involves an uninsured or underinsured driver, contact Huffman & Huffman Brothers-in-Law. Our experienced legal team is well-equipped to assist you in navigating both the claims process and any potential liability challenges that may arise. Leave the insurance companies to us so that you can focus on your recovering and getting back to your life. Let our family, help your family.
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