Understanding the Risks of Inadequate Automobile Liability Insurance Coverage

On New Year's Eve this past January, John, a middle-aged man living and working in Richmond, was seriously injured by a drunk driver.  Today, John has thousands of dollars in medical bills and has been out of work for six months.  And to make matters worse, the driver who hit him did not have liability insurance.


What recourse does John have?  This depends on John's pre-accident planning.  Trying to "chase dollars" from an uninsured drunk driver is not promising, but if John had protected himself and his family with Adequate Uninsured Motorist Coverage ("UM"), he may be entitled to recover up to the limit of his UM coverage whether by settlement or court action.


In Virginia, UM coverage is the same as the liability coverage that John purchased for the protection of others in case John was involved in an accident that was his fault.  This is how it works:

  1. John, through his CowanGates Personal Injury Attorney, either settles with his UM carrier or, if a settlement cannot be reached, he sues the drunk driver.  The suit papers are also served on his own liability insurance carrier, which is his UM carrier.
  2. His UM carrier is entitled to defend the case.  If it goes to trial and John wins the case, he can recover the amount of the judgment up to the limit of his UM coverage.
  3. The key question is how much UM coverage does John have?

In Virginia, a vehicle is required to have at least 25/50/20 thousand dollars in liability coverage.  This is referred to as "Minimum Limits." It means that the liability carrier is not required to pay more than $25,000 to any one person for injuries or death and a total of $50,000 for all who were injured or killed. The $20,000 is the limit for property damage.  People frequently say and think they have "full coverage", which, in fact, are minimum limits. 


So, if John bought minimum limits, he is "out of luck." The lesson is don't skimp on liability insurance coverage. Higher limits protect us and our assets for our own liability, and from the consequences of an at-fault driver being uninsured.  Higher UM limits can be rejected by John or any other named insured.  Rejecting such higher limits would not be a good decision for the protection of John and his family.  There may be other ways to find the availability of additional UM coverage.  Your CowanGates attorneys can be helpful in this regard.


Next time, learn how to protect yourself and your family against UNDERINSURED DRIVERS.


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NOTE: This newsletter is not intended to be and shall not be construed as legal advice.
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