One of several laws enacted in the 2021 Virginia legislative session that will benefit consumers is an upcoming increase in the minimum automobile liability insurance limits. Briefly, automobile liability insurance is the insurance that provides financial protection to you in the event you cause a car accident and injure someone. Conversely, liability insurance is the amount of insurance that the at-fault party has available to compensate you if you are the victim of a crash.
The current minimum required limits are $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident, meaning that if one person is injured in the crash, the automobile liability insurance company will pay up to $25,000 to one person in compensation; if two or more people are injured in the crash, the insurance company will pay a maximum of $50,000, to be allocated as fairly as possible among the three injured people according to the seriousness of their respective injuries.
While the cost of medical care has continued to gallop upwards over the years, the $25k/$50K minimum limits have been in place since the late 1970s (See VA Code § 46.2-472). Fortunately, through the hard work of many Virginia trial lawyers, some of whom serve in the legislature, the minimum limits will increase to $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident, effective January 1, 2022. The law also provides that the minimum required limits increase to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident effective January 1, 2025.
These relatively modest increases in the minimum required limits will help consumers in two ways. First, the increases result in the at-fault driver having more coverage available to compensate those injured in the crash, thereby lessening the risk of being personally liable for damages that exceed the coverage limits. As to the injured party, the increase results in more money available to compensate them for their injuries. As we handle many cases where the at-fault party carries minimum limits, the increases in limits will benefit many innocent victims of crashes.
The second way in which the increase in the minimum required limits helps consumers relates to uninsured motorist coverage and the definition of an “uninsured motor vehicle” in Virginia law (See VA. Code § 38.2-2206 B). As we have written about before, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is coverage included in your automobile liability policy and is available to compensate you if the at-fault party does not have insurance or if their insurance limits are less than your limits.
Virginia law defines an uninsured motor vehicle as a vehicle with insurance limits less than the minimum limits required by Virginia law. Any out-of-state vehicle insured with limits less than $30,000/$60,000 will be considered an uninsured vehicle. As such, the uninsured motorist coverage of an injured Virginia resident will stack on top of the liability coverage of the out-of-state at-fault driver.
By way of example, currently, if a Virginia resident with $25,000 in liability and uninsured motorist coverage is injured in a crash caused by an out-of-state driver with $25,000 liability limits, only the $25,000 in liability limits of the out-of-state driver will apply, resulting in a maximum of $25,000 available to compensate the injured Virginia resident.
Using the same example but applying the minimum $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident limits effective January 1, 2022, results in the injured Virginia resident having $55,000 available in compensation. That is, the out-of-state driver, with limits of $25,000, is considered uninsured, and the $30,000 uninsured limit is stacked on top of that $25,000. The same analysis will apply when the Virginia minimum limits increase to $50,000 per person /$100,000 per accident on January 1, 2025.
Currently, 7 States have limits less than $30,000 per person, and 23 States have liability limits less than $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident.
As these modest increases have potentially significant positive effects on the amount of coverage available to compensate you or a loved one in the event of an auto accident, you will be well served by contacting experienced personal injury lawyers such as us at Curcio Law. To schedule a free consultation, call or text us at 703-836-3366 or contact us online.
Tom Curcio has devoted his career to representing people seriously injured or killed in car, pedestrian, bicycle, and truck crashes, and by dangerous dogs, unsafe products, and premises. He works tirelessly to obtain the compensation his clients are legally entitled to so they may rebuild their lives with dignity. Tom is the co-author of the book Evidence For The Trial Lawyer, and a much sought-after speaker on personal injury, trial practice, evidence, and professionalism. Contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.