Auto Insurance Laws in Virginia
Virginia is a rare state that does not require drivers to have auto insurance. You merely need to pay a $500 annual fee if you choose to drive uninsured. Of course, you’re still on the hook if you cause an accident, which means you could face huge out-of-pocket expenses.
If you do buy auto insurance in Virginia, the minimum requirements are $25,000 in bodily injury liability for one person, $50,000 in bodily injury insurance for a single accident (for more than one person). In 2022, these limits will increase to $30,000 per person, and $60,000 per accident. And in 2025, they will again increase to $50,000 per person, and $100,000 per accident.
Liability in a Car Accident
Establishing fault in a vehicular accident is often determined by who violated the rules of the road. For instance, a rear-ender is generally assumed to be caused by the rear driver who was following too closely. Blame for a sideswipe is generally laid on the driver who crossed into the other driver’s lane.
Liability can also be established by eyewitness testimony, video or photo records, or by a police investigation of the accident. Cell phone records can also reveal if the driver was texting or talking at the time of the crash.
This brings up Virginia’s rule, known as a “pure contributory negligence rule,” which bars recovery for injuries from the other driver if they played any contributing part in the crash.
Filing a Claim
Since Virginia is a “fault” state, you (the victim) are free to make a claim to your insurance company, file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or file a lawsuit against the other driver. Your own insurer will doubtlessly seek a subrogation claim against the other driver’s insurance if you involve them.
Many insurance policies, however, require that you notify them of any accident you’re involved in, so you may want to start there. Virginia places a two-year statute of limitations for filing a claim after the date of an accident, but no insurance company will wait that long to be informed. You must notify the insurer within a matter of days at most to avoid violating the reporting language in your policy.
The two-year statute of limitations governs personal injury lawsuits, which will be necessary if the other driver is uninsured or under-insured, or in cases in which the insurance claims process hits a roadblock — for instance, the insurer won’t budge from its low-ball settlement offer.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
If you’ve lost a loved one in a car crash, a wrongful death lawsuit is an option, but under Virginia law, it must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. The personal representative is the person named in the deceased’s will or trust. If there is no will or trust, the court will appoint a personal representative, usually from the immediate family. The personal representative acts on behalf of the family, who will receive any court-awarded damages.
The circumstances of the death must be the kind that would have allowed the person to pursue a personal injury claim had they lived. The statute of limitations for wrongful death actions is also two years, but from the date of death, not necessarily of the date of the accident.
The Importance of Legal Representation
You have to remember that insurance companies are for-profit entities. The way they maintain a solid profit margin is by low-balling or denying claims. To do this, they use employees known as claims adjusters, whose main function is to trap you into saying or doing something that they can use to claim you’re partially or wholly at fault. Don’t deal with them. Let an attorney handle the process for you.