Full Coverage Is Not Always Enough Coverage: Understanding Your Automobile Insurance Policy

In our law practice, we routinely meet with clients who have been seriously injured in a car accident. When we ask clients about their automobile insurance coverage, we often hear the same familiar phrase: “I have full coverage.” To us, “full coverage” should mean that you have enough insurance coverage to compensate you in the event that you are injured. The person who caused the collision may not have insurance.

If the at-fault driver does have insurance, he or she may not have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate you for your injuries. This is why it is important for you to have sufficient uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage in your automobile insurance policy.

Understanding UM Coverage

This type of coverage provides a source of recovery to you in the event that an uninsured motorist causes injury to you. For example, if you are rear-ended by an uninsured driver, you can make claim on your own insurance company for compensation for your injuries. In this situation, your own insurance carrier has a duty to negotiate with you to resolve your claim and compensate you for your injuries.

Uninsured motorist coverage not only provides a source of recovery in the event that someone with no insurance injures you; it also provides insurance to you if someone with not enough insurance injures you. Virginia law requires all drivers who have insurance to maintain a minimum coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. If someone causes a serious injury, medical bills alone can easily exceed $25,000. In the event that the at-fault driver only has the minimum coverage required by law, you would then have to delve into your own insurance for your underinsured motorist coverage.

Examples Involving UM Coverage

To better explain this coverage, assume Mr. Right is severely injured when a vehicle driven by Mr. Wrong pushes his vehicle off the highway. Mr. Right spends several weeks in the hospital as a result of his injuries and incurs medical expenses and lost wages in the amount of $35,000. Unfortunately, Mr. Wrong has no significant assets and has only $25,000 in liability coverage. Fortunately, Mr. Right had purchased an automobile insurance policy providing $100,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. Because of the nature of Mr. Right’s injuries, everyone agrees that $100,000 would be a reasonable settlement for his claim.

In this scenario, Mr. Wrong’s insurance carrier will offer its limits of liability coverage in the amount of $25,000. But is there additional insurance available to Mr. Right to compensate him for his injuries? Fortunately, the answer is yes. We first have to compare Mr. Right’s uninsured motorist coverage with Mr. Wrong’s liability coverage. If Mr. Right’s uninsured motorist coverage exceeds Mr. Wrong’s liability coverage, then Mr. Right can make a claim on his own policy for underinsured motorist benefits (i.e., Mr. Wrong is underinsured when compared with Mr. Right).

Therefore, the analysis is as follows: Mr. Right’s UM coverage:

In our scenario above, Mr. Wrong’s insurance company would contribute $25,000 and Mr. Right’s insurance company would contribute $75,000 for a total settlement to Mr. Right of $100,000. If, in our scenario, Mr. Right had purchased only $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverage, Mr. Right’s insurance company would not contribute any additional amount.

Then the analysis would be as follows:

In this situation, the only money available to Mr. Right would be the $25,000 from Mr. Wrong’s insurance policy.

Call Our Newport News Accident Attorneys

As you can see, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is extremely important for your own protection. Leonard C. Heath, Jr. and Joseph F. Verser are attorneys in the law firm of Heath, Overbey. Verser, & Old, P.L.C. Heath can be reached by email at lheath@hovplc.com. Verser can be reached by email at jverser@hovplc.com. Office number is 757-599-0734.

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