As a motorist, you know that you should have adequate motor vehicle coverage. The road carries numerous unknowns from other drivers, and from weather and poor road conditions. While you might have auto insurance, how many drivers are on the road without insurance coverage?
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 12.6 percent of drivers had no auto insurance as of 2012. This number does not account for the number of people with inadequate coverage. Therefore, if you were involved in an accident, you face a one out of eight chance you will encounter an uninsured driver.
Many states impose laws that require motorists to have auto insurance at specific limits. If you drive on the road in that state, you must have the mandatory minimum coverage. Insurance companies offering plans in the state know the mandatory minimums. Therefore, they will not sell you a policy for less. If you do not have the minimum compulsory insurance coverage, you could face criminal penalties.
With the growing number of drivers on the road uninsured or underinsured, more states are also requiring that you carry uninsured motorist coverage. Depending on where you live, you may also be required to obtain personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
The following are the mandatory minimum coverages for Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia:
In Virginia, a motorist can choose to drive without insurance, but they pay the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles a $500 fee. This does not provide protection but allows the driver to operate a vehicle without insurance coverage. While you pay this to escape state penalties, you would still be 100 percent personally liable for any injuries or property damage you cause.
Even if a driver carries the minimum insurance required by the state, these minimums are hardly enough for a severe auto accident.
While a minor fender bender may not exceed the minimum coverage amount, an accident with severe injuries will quickly eat away at bodily injury coverage. Consider the cost of an ambulance ride, hospital stay, or even emergency surgery. These are just the medical treatments the day of the crash. They do not reflect the on-going or long-term treatments a person might need after a catastrophic accident.
$25,000 per person per accident will not be enough to cover medical costs. Therefore, if you are involved in a crash with a driver carrying the minimum, you may find yourself in an underinsured motorist accident situation.
When you purchase an automobile insurance policy, you may be presented with the option of uninsured motorist protection. While it is called “uninsured,” it also covers underinsured motorists. That means if a driver has insurance, but their insurance policy does not cover extent of your injuries, you would file a claim against your insurance company for the difference.
For example, you are involved in a severe accident and the case value is $250,000. The driver at-fault for the accident only has coverage of $50,000 for bodily injuries. The driver’s insurance company is only liable for the maximum policy limit. Therefore, they would not pay more than the $50,000 policy.
The remaining $200,000 would come from the driver’s assets (if any), or you could file a claim with your insurance company. If you have more than $200,000 in underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company should cover the remaining case value.
While you could file an injury lawsuit against an underinsured driver, realize that the chances of them having the assets to cover your costs are minimal. If the driver is paying for the base minimum, it is unlikely they have the income or assets substantial enough to cover your expenses. Your accident attorney will review the driver’s assets and see if there is a potential for filing a lawsuit and seeking damages. However, in most cases, you will have better chances of recovery if you file a claim with your uninsured motorist policy.
States that require PIP insurance or personal injury protection, first require that you exhaust your PIP coverage before you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. If your state requires PIP insurance, that means you are driving in a no-fault state. Regardless if the other driver is at fault for the accident, you still must file a claim through your PIP policy to cover medical costs and lost wages.
Once your medical costs exceed the PIP policy, the state might require that you use your health insurance until you meet the state’s minimum medical bill requirement before you can file an official lawsuit against the driver.
If your state is a no-fault state, it is best to consult with a personal injury attorney. PIP laws vary by state. Some states only require that you exceed the PIP policy maximum, while others require separate maximums before you can proceed with a personal injury suit.
If you or a loved one was seriously injured, you might be entitled to compensation after your accident. Speak with an attorney from Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, LLP. Speak with an attorney today in our District of Columbia office, Maryland office, or Virginia location. You can also connect with a team member online.