Lawmakers Seek Better Insurance Protection for Motorists in Virginia Auto Crashes
Few things are as difficult as coping with the aftermath of a car wreck. Drivers and passengers often face an uphill task in dealing with insurance companies as well as the long-lasting effects of their injuries. Now lawmakers have filed bills that offer better insurance protection for motorists hurt in Virginia auto crashes. Legislators in the Commonwealth are considering three bills intended to give those hurt in an accident greater power to recoup costs after car wrecks, the Virginia Mercury reported.
The initiatives face resistance from the car insurance industry. It claims the legislation could raise premiums for insurers who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
How the New Laws Help People Involved in Car Crashes
The trio of bills would give consumers greater protection against the insurance giants. One of the bills would double minimum liability coverage levels. The second would give claimants more power to sue their own insurance companies for “bad faith” decisions. The third would allow victims to recover more money from insurance carriers on both sides of a collision rather than allowing the at-fault driver’s insurance to offset the victim’s insurance.
As Virginia car accident injury lawyers, we welcome any moves to give more rights to those injured in motor vehicle crashes. We believe these laws could help them in the one-sided battle with the powerful auto insurance industry.
Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, sponsored the bill to raise minimum coverage amounts. He told the Mercury the bill will help ensure injured motorists get their medical bills paid and receive “their fair sense of justice.” The law would also pass more of the cost of road wrecks onto bad drivers,” Surovell said.
Surovell said minimum insurance coverage amounts have not moved for decades in Virginia while the cost of living has soared. His bill would raise auto insurance liability amounts from $20,000 to $40,000 for collisions that cause property damage. The minimum insurance amount would rise from $30,000 to $50,000 for drivers who seriously injure or kill others and from $50,000 to $100,000 for crashes that seriously hurt or kill multiple people.
Surovell said the limits have not changed since 1975, a time when medical bills were considerably lower and cars were much cheaper. Although drivers can purchase higher coverage, the state-mandated limits are the maximum amount insurers pay for when drivers have bought the cheapest insurance on the market.
Industry groups say the proposed changes in minimum limits would make Virginia’s liability requirements some of the highest in the country. A Department of Motor Vehicles study indicted the “vast majority” of auto insurance claims in two years from 2014 to 2016 were within the state’s current minimum limits. Lawyers warned of rising healthcare costs that could change the equation.
The Mercury report stated Virginia Trial Lawyers Association backs the bill. It is likely to come with a price tag. The article noted 19-year-old men, the group that pays the most for auto insurance, would fork out another $12 per month. In contrast, 43-year-old men, the cheapest group to insure, would pay just a few dollars extra every month.
A second bill proposes changes in Virginia’s Uninsured/Underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) policies. When an at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover a victim’s costs, the victim’s own insurance carrier picks up the rest through an underinsured or uninsured motorist policy. At present, anything the other driver’s insurance company pays is offset from what the victim is entitled to under their own policy.
A bill proposed by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, advocates the “stacking” of the two insurance policies. If the culpable driver had $30,000 worth of liability and the victim had $30,000 of uninsured coverage, the victim would only receive $30,000 under the current law. Under the bill, the same injured driver who suffered damages of $55,000 would be entitled to $30,000 under his or her UM/UIM policy and a further $25,000 from the at-fault driver’s policy.
Both Obenshain and Surovell practice personal injury law in Virginia, the Mercury reported. Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, is also an attorney. He is sponsoring a bill that would make it easier for people who were involved in car, truck, or motorcycle wrecks to sue their own insurance companies.
Mark Dix, a lobbyist for the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, told the Mercury this legislation would act as an incentive to insurance carriers to negotiate more effectively instead of starting out with “low-ball offers” or making no offer to claimants. He said, at present, insurers may force customers to file personal injury claims and take them all the way to trial “for no reason or any reason that they see fit.”
As Norfolk-based personal injury lawyers, we await developments on these three bills in Richmond with interest. There is an urgent need for better insurance protection for motorists hurt in Virginia auto crashes. We are well aware of the difficulties clients face in dealing with car insurance companies in Virginia. Hiring a lawyer from our firm costs you nothing upfront and we could deal with all of the tricks used by the insurance companies. Read the reviews of our satisfied clients or call us today.