This article examines Virginia's auto insurance rules and requirements, including coverage requirements for vehicles in operation in the state. Read on for the details. (To learn more about car accident cases in Virginia, check out our compantion article Car Accident Laws in Virginia.)
Virginia is a traditional "fault" insurance state when it comes to car insurance and liability after a car accident. That means anyone involved in a car accident in Virginia has several options when it comes to seeking compensation for any losses resulting from the crash.
For instance, a driver, passenger, or pedestrian may choose to file an insurance claim with his or her own insurance company. An injured person may also decide to file a third party car insurance claim with the other driver's insurance company, especially if it seems clear that the other driver was "at fault" for the accident. Finally, an injured person may decide to take the case to court, especially if fault is not clear or settlement negotiations have failed.
(Note: "Fault" states differ from "no-fault" states in several ways. If you do most of your driving inside Virginia, you won't need to master no-fault rules. But if you're interested in learning more about how no-fault works (in other states as well as in Virginia's neighbor, the District of Columbia), see No-Fault Car Insurance and State Laws: The Basics.)
Vehicle owners in Virginia are not required to purchase car insurance, as long as they pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Note that this is simply a fee for operating an uninsured vehicle in the state; it doesn't provide the driver with any kind of insurance coverage. If you cause an accident and you're operating an uninsured vehicle in Virginia, you could find yourself personally on the hook for thousands of dollars in liability.
For vehicles that are insured, Virginia requires the following minimum amounts of coverage:
This coverage pays for medical bills, property damage, and other costs if you are at fault for a car accident that injures someone else or causes damage to their property. This minimum coverage doesn't provide protection for your medical bills or the costs to replace your vehicle (you can purchase other types of car insurance coverage for those losses).
Also, since the insurance company is only responsible for paying compensation up to the limits specified in your policy, it may be a good idea to have more coverage. That's because if you are found to be at fault in a catastrophic accident, you will be personally responsible for any payments above and beyond what your insurance will cover -- so higher limits can protect you.
Virginia requires that every car insurance policy include uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in an amount equal to the policy purchaser's liability coverage limits, unless the purchaser requests lower UIM limits in writing.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage helps "fill the gap" if you don't have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage or if you don't have enough coverage to pay the costs of your injuries, and the other driver involved in the accident doesn't have insurance to cover all (or any) of your damages. To learn more about uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, see our articles Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Underinsured Motorist Coverage.
To learn more about car insurance rules and regulations in Virginia, check out Insurance Requirements from the official website of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.