What is an Underinsured Driver in Virginia?
Following up on my previous post of What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?, I want to next tackle the question of what is an underinsured driver in Virginia? An uninsured driver is someone who is driving without an insurance. An underinsured driver, on the other hand, is someone who causes an accident and has insurance. The problem is that they don’t have enough insurance to cover your losses.
You might be entitled to use underinsured insurance coverage, or UIM benefits, to compensate for the other driver’s inadequate coverage. As an example, let’s say that you have a claim that is worth $100,000 and you have $100,000 of UM/UIM benefits. But let’s say the defendant driver has a minimum policy of just $25,000.
In this situation, the other driver is underinsured. He doesn’t have enough insurance to cover all of your losses. That’s when you can work with your own insurance company to make up for the difference. Under the law, you can collect the first $25,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Then you can get the remaining amount of your $100,000 claim by obtaining $75,000 from your own insurance company’s UIM policy.
There are a couple of different ways that you would have the legal right to use UIM benefits. The most common way is if you have your own policy in which you are the policy holder or a named insured who is entitled to the benefits of the policy. Second, you can utilize UIM benefits if you use “the motor vehicle to which the policy applies with the expressed or implied consent of the named insured.”[i] Third, you might be a guest in a vehicle in which the UIM policy applies. Fourth, you may live with a relative who has UIM coverage on a different car than the one that was even involved in the collision. When that happens, you may be able to rely upon their UIM coverage.
Virginia law considers these various classifications of coverage as either “first class” insureds or “second class” insureds. That can be a pretty complicated matter to sort out. The type of classification you are may determine if you have underinsured motorist benefits available to you. Figuring out what class you may have for a UIM claim can be a complicated question that will probably require the assistance of an experience attorney.
There might be other complications regarding whether you have available UIM coverage. There may be questions of whether you resided in the same household as the policyholder. These questions typically arise for students, military personnel, or even families that are temporarily separated due to family problems. Other issues arise as to whether the vehicle in question was being “used,” as there are several cases in which injuries have occurred but the vehicle in question was not being operated.
Figuring out if you are entitled to underinsured motorist coverage in Virginia can be a difficult question that involves legal analysis. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident and you are trying to maximize the amount of money you can recover, give experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer Robert E. Byrne, Jr. a free, no-obligation call at (434) 817-3100 to discuss your options.
[i] Va. Code § 38.2-2206(B).