Craig P. Tiller, Esq. PLLC

Virginia law delivers odd results in uninstured motorist crash

For residents of Virginia, auto insurance is something relied upon to help pick up the pieces after an accident. When an uninsured motorist is involved in an auto accident, however, a Virginia law dating back to 1976 can create an odd situation that pits policy owners against the insurance company that is supposed to protect them.

It happened to a couple in nearby Roanoke. The older couple was involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist that resulted in injuries that required hospital treatment. The couple's sedan was also totaled in the incident. Since the other driver was not insured, the couple filed a claim with their own insurance company. They believed their policy would cover both property damage and medical expenses under the uninsured motorist portion of the policy.

According to the couple, the insurance immediately processed a $9,000 payment for their totaled vehicle. When they requested medical and other compensation, however, they were told that the insurance company would represent the uninsured motorist. The odd action is legal in Virginia and relates to a legal decision in 1976 that states that a judgment establishes legal entitlement to compensation.

In order to protect their own financial interests, some -- though not all -- insurance companies fail to provide compensation without a judgement. They then represent the uninsured motorist in an attempt to reduce claims payouts. For the couple in this story, filing a lawsuit resulted in recovery of some damages. The couple received an addition $12,000 payment from the insurance company.

All drivers should have a good understanding of their insurance policies. Since insurance law is complex, consulting a Virginia attorney to help you get an understanding of specific legal issues following an accident can be the best way to ensure a more positive outcome with claims.

Source: The Roanoke Times, "Dan Casey: Whose side is insurance company on, anyway?" Dan Casey, Feb. 27, 2014

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