When you see commercials for insurance companies, the focus is often on how insurance companies are on your side – or even a “good neighbor.” In reality, many people have the opposite experience, particularly when it comes to dealing with insurance companies after a motor vehicle accident.
There are many companies that you can buy car insurance from in Virginia, with rates varying based on your driving history, age, and other factors. If you’re in an accident, you should make sure to understand your rights under your policy and Virginia law. You should also consider consulting with a Virginia personal injury lawyer before talking to any insurance adjuster.
Poole, Brooke, Plumlee is dedicated to helping accident victims get the compensation that they deserve for their injuries. Based in Virginia Beach, we represent individuals and families throughout the state. Reach out today to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our personal injury legal team.
Insurance Company Options
In Virginia, you are required to either have car insurance or pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you do carry car insurance (as every driver should protect themselves), then you are required to have minimum insurance of $25,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, $50,000 bodily injury coverage per accident, and $20,000 in property damage coverage per accident for policies effective before January 1, 2022. Those minimums increased to 30/60/20 starting on January 2, 2022 and will go up to 50/100/25 on January 1, 2025.
There are many different insurance companies that operate in Virginia. The insurance company that is right for you may depend on several factors, such as your driving history, whether you plan to bundle your car insurance with other policies (such as homeowner’s insurance), and your budget. There are also some differences when it comes to how each insurance company handles claims after a motor vehicle accident.
On average, Virginia drivers pay an average of $1,349 annually for car insurance. Some of the less expensive car insurance options include:
- State Farm, with an average cost of $838 annually
- USAA, with an average cost of $881 annually
- Main Street America, with an average cost of $965 annually
- Travelers, with an average cost of $1,036 annually
- Auto-Owners Insurance, with an average cost of $1,052 annually
Insurance costs can increase significantly for younger drivers – particularly teenagers. You will also pay more for car insurance if you are the at-fault driver in an accident, are charged with a DUI, or have other moving violations. For example, if you are insured through USAA and cause an accident, your $881 rate might shoot up to $1,322.
Of course, the cheapest insurance isn’t always the best insurance for your needs. There are many good reasons to have robust automobile insurance, particularly in a state where people can opt out of car insurance. Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage can protect you in the event that you are involved in an accident with a driver who either doesn’t have car insurance or doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your losses.
Another factor to consider is how insurance companies process claims. When you’re in an accident, you want to know that you are represented by an insurance company that will protect your rights and your interests. While you can’t control what type of insurance the other driver will have, it is important to know that you can potentially get financial compensation through your own insurance company through a UM/UIM claim.
How to Deal with an Insurance Company After an Accident
One of the most important things to realize after a car accident is that your interests typically will not align with the insurance company’s interests. This is particularly true in situations where you may be making a claim against your own policy. Your insurer may be motivated to minimize the amount that they pay you, so it’s usually a good idea to talk to a Virginia car accident attorney before giving a statement to your insurance company.
After a car accident, you should notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Insurance policies typically have a clause that requires you to notify them of an accident within a reasonable period of time. If you delay, then it may impact the insurance company’s ability to investigate the case. You can notify your local insurance agent or contact the claim department directly using the number on your insurance card.
When you talk to your insurance company, it is critical that you tell the truth. This doesn’t mean that you should apologize, blame the other driver, or offer extraneous details. Be clear, accurate, and as complete as possible. You should not lie or try to cover up what happened. The truth usually comes out in an investigation, and you could face consequences if you lie.
During this call, you can ask about rental coverage so that you will have a vehicle to drive while yours is being repaired (or you look for a new one). You should also confirm that your policy provides collision and liability coverage for the rental.
At this time, you can also ask for clarification on your repair rights. Under Virginia law, insurance companies cannot demand that you take your vehicle to a specific mechanic or body shop for work. They may provide you with a list of preferred shops, but they cannot demand that you use them as a policyholder or an accident victim.
If the cost to repair the damage to your car is greater than 75% of the vehicle’s pre-crash actual cash value, then your insurance company may declare it a “total loss.” If your car is “totaled,” then your insurance company is required to replace the vehicle or pay you the fair market value of the vehicle, minus any deductible. This settlement must also include state and local sales and use taxes and other applicable fees. Understanding this is important to ensure you get the money that you are entitled to after an accident.
If you were at fault in the accident, you should understand that your insurance company has a duty to investigate, try to settle the case, and hire a lawyer to defend you if necessary. Your insurer will pay up to your policy limits to compensate any accident victims. However, if it appears that the other person’s losses exceed your policy limits, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer on your own to learn your options.
If another driver was at fault, then you will be filing a claim with their insurance company. The insurer will likely try to find a reason to deny your claim or to pay out as little as possible. Because Virginia is a “pure contributory negligence” state, this is a very real possibility – which is why you should never talk to an adjuster without first consulting with a Virginia car accident lawyer.
Virginia’s contributory negligence rule is incredibly harsh. It essentially means that if an at-fault driver can show that the injury victim was at fault in any way for the crash – no matter how minor – then the victim is barred from recovery. For this reason, insurance companies are always on the lookout for a way to deny a claim, so you need to be particularly careful that you do not say or do anything that could negatively affect your right to compensation.
You may also be tempted to settle the claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance company on your own, without the help of an attorney. While this is certainly possible, it generally isn’t a good idea. Studies show that people who are represented by counsel recover an average of 40% more than people who represent themselves in personal injury claims.
Hiring an attorney does not mean that you will have to go to court. Instead, they will advocate for your rights throughout the process – which often means negotiating a fair settlement without the case going to trial. Having an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer on your side can increase the likelihood of getting maximum compensation because insurance companies know that you understand your rights – and that you’re willing to go to court to protect them.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
Car accident cases can be tricky, particularly in a state like Virginia where the contributory negligence rule can bar an injury victim from recovering any compensation for their losses. It’s vital that you understand your rights when dealing with the insurance company. It is also incredibly helpful to have a lawyer by your side before you make any decisions.
Poole, Brooke, Plumlee represents accident victims in all types of personal injury cases – including car crashes. We handle all personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means that you pay nothing upfront and only pay a fee if we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a Virginia car accident lawyer, give us a call at 757-499-1841 or fill out our online contact form.