New Virginia Car Insurance Law Changes Injury Litigation
Having practiced for 25 years as a Virginia personal injury attorney, I am amazed at the changes that will happen for the better in Virginia insurance law starting in 2016. The area of car accident litigation that changed has to do with what’s called underinsured motorist coverage or UIM.
Underinsured motorist coverage is on every Virginia policy as part of uninsured motorist coverage and protects you when someone hurts you in a car, truck or motorcycle wreck where the person who’s at fault has less insurance than you yourself have. That is the “under” part of underinsured motorist coverage. For example if you have a car wreck where you are driving your pickup truck that has $100,000.00 of UIM and the person who rear-ends you on Interstate 64 in their Hyundai Sonata is only carrying minimum limits in Virginia which is $25,000.00 per person per accident then you get the benefit of the higher limits that you paid for on your own insurance policy if you have an injury which is greater than $25,000.00.
Let’s say that as a result of this wreck you got taken to the hospital at Riverside Medical Center in Newport News where you had to stay overnight and have a surgery on a broken arm as a result of the wreck. Your bills including the hospital bill, the emergency room bill, the surgeon’s fee, the anesthesiologist and radiologist fees and the hospital and other charges might well exceed $50,000.00 so your case, even before you need follow-up care, is likely worth more than the $100,000.00 limits that you’re carrying on your own Ford pickup. Under the UIM law, you would be entitled to get $25,000.00 the full coverage available on the at-fault car’s insurance and then seek up to an additional $75,000.00 of UIM coverage under your own policy.
The major change in Virginia law effective on policies as they renew during 2016 is that you can get the first $25,000.00 let’s say from GEICO on the car’s minimum limits policy and then preserve your right to also claim the additional $75,000.00 from your own insurance company, let’s say State Farm, at a later time. This may not sound that great but it’s a major advantage over the old law. Under the old law before 2016 in Virginia, you couldn’t accept the $25,000.00 from the GEICO policy of the at-fault driver’s car insurance until you’d reached a final deal with your own State Farm insurer for the rest of the coverage.
What normally would happen is that State Farm would drag things out and refuse to pay until you got a court judgment or jury verdict against the at-fault driver for more than $100,000.00 and only then would it pay. Meanwhile, in the litigation, you would have two different lawyers – one from GEICO and one hired by State Farm – beating you up in depositions, interrogatories and other court procedures. This system was terrible for everyone including for the insurance companies because it was inefficient.
The new system which is more similar to what other states have, allows the person hurt under those facts to get and accept the first $25,000.00 and put that in their own bank account and still then make the claim against State Farm on the UIM claim. Then, if litigation is necessary to get State Farm to do the right thing and pay their full $75,000.00 policy limits you don’t have an extra lawyer from GEICO also trying to undermine your claim. Some of your bills and co‑pays are paid in the short run without having to wait. Also, if you’re not successful in litigation against State Farm getting all the UIM you still already have banked the first $25,000.00 which you were entitled to rather than risking that which posed a problem under the old system.
I’m trying to explain this as simply as I can with a concrete example. However, it is very much what I do as an experienced car accident and injury attorney. I know these rules like the back of my hand. I know what the issues are to make sure to get my clients the most that they are entitled to by knowing how the insurance rules work. I’ve often said that attorneys who dabble in personal injury when that’s not what they do on a daily basis are doing their clients no favors. I think this is especially true now with this new law change. It makes things different than they were when I went to University of Virginia Law School in 1985 through 1988 and different from how they’ve been during the 25 years that I practiced Virginia personal injury law. An attorney who dabbles and doesn’t specialize in car accident cases with injury may not be as aware of these new rules and how they can be used to work in favor of people who have been hurt in car, truck or motorcycle crashes.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car crash, call me at 757.455.0077 for a free injury consultation.