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Virginia Car Insurance Basics

If you're looking to purchase car insurance in Virginia, it's important to know what the state's car insurance requirements are, so you can be sure that any policy you purchase meets them. Otherwise, you may find it difficult to maintain your driving license or register a vehicle in the state. So if you want to drive safely and without any problems in VA, make sure you have the requisite types and amounts of automobile insurance.

Virginia's Financial Responsibility Requirements

Every state has certain types of car insurance that they require all drivers to maintain in order to register a vehicle and drive safely on the state's roads. Virginia is no exception to this, though their insurance laws have some nuances that other states lack.

In Virginia, it is required that all motorists take financial responsibility for any damage they may cause to other people and property. However, unlike some states which require all motorists to carry a certain type of insurance, car insurance is only one of the ways that people can assume this sort of responsibility in VA.

If you choose to purchase automobile insurance in Virginia, you must carry minimal amounts of bodily injury liability insurance and property damage liability insurance. Neither of these types of car insurance will cover injuries to you or your family or damage done to your property, but having them ensures that anyone else injured in an accident deemed to be your fault or any property you damage will be covered.

Bodily injury liability insurance refers specifically to car insurance that covers medical costs for any injuries or funeral costs for any deaths sustained in an automobile accident that is determined to be wholly or partially your fault. Additionally, bodily injury liability insurance usually covers claims for lost wages and pain and suffering that come as a result of the accident. In Virginia, you must carry a minimum of $25,000 worth of coverage for any injury to or death of one person and $50,000 for any injury to or death of more than one person.

Property damage liability insurance refers to automobile insurance that covers damage to any property that is not yours that gets damaged in an car accident determined to be wholly or partially your fault. This refers not only to damage done to another vehicle, though this is the most common type of damage covered by a property damage liability insurance policy, but also to damage done to buildings, signage, fencing, landscaping, etc. Virginia law requires that you carry at least $20,000 worth of property damage liability insurance.

It's important to know that you may be liable for amounts far above these minimums if you are determined to be at fault in a serious accident. Medical bills for one person can be much higher than the required $25,000 and property damage higher than the $20,000 that Virgina requires you to carry. If damages are beyond the amounts of insurance that you purchased, you, personally, can be held responsible. Thus, while these minimal amounts of insurance are a good start, it may be a better choice to carry liability insurance above and beyond what the state of VA requires.

In addition, if you choose to purchase automobile insurance to prove your financial responsibility according to the law in VA, your policy must also contain uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, though there are no minimal amounts of this insurance required by the state. This type of car insurance covers you if you are in an accident that is determined to be someone else's fault, but they either do not have car insurance or they do not have enough car insurance to cover all of the damage done to you. In addition, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will cover your costs if you suffer because of a hit-and-run driver.

Note that, while your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will pay the difference between your actual costs and the amount of insurance the at-fault driver carried, you will not receive more than the total amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage that you bought. This includes amounts from both the at-fault driver's liability insurance policy and your own coverage.

If you choose not to purchase vehicle insurance in Virginia, you can also satisfy the state's financial responsibility laws by paying an Uninsured Motorist Fee. This is a $500 fee that you must pay every time you renew your car insurance. While it does not give you any insurance coverage, it does permit you to drive without car insurance and to personally assume all the risk and responsibility in that action.

While paying this fee legally allows you to drive in Virginia, you will be held personally responsible to cover any damages determined to be your fault in case of an accident. Any assets you have, like your earnings and your home, may be used to pay off any claims against you. If you don't want to risk losing these, it is better to purchase the required car insurance.

The last option in Virginia for meeting the requirements of the financial responsibility law involves surety bonds or self-insurance. These options are mostly geared toward those who own vehicles used exclusively for business purposes, and you can obtain more information about them by contacting any Virgina Department of Motor Vehicles office if you are interested in this option. Again, if you choose this, you will be held responsible for any injury, death, or property damage in which you or another driver of your vehicle is determined to be at fault, and any assets you have can be used to pay off claims made against you.

Consequences for Not Assuming Financial Responsibility in Virginia

If you have not assumed financial responsibility in Virginia, you can face some stiff penalties. First, you will not be able to register or renew registration on any vehicle you own in the state until you can prove that you have covered that requirement. If you drive and do not assume responsibility, you can lose your driving license. To get it back, you will have to pay a $500 penalty, a $30 fee, and file an SR-22 form with the Department of Motor Vehicles for three years. This form certifies that you have car insurance, and will be issued by the car insurance company that is covering you.

While it could be tempting to try to get around these financial responsibility laws, Virginia requires that all car insurance companies report directly and electronically to them any changes or cancellations that you might make to your policy. This, combined with their electronic records of the Uninsured Motorist Fee and any self-insurance or surety bonds, means that you will not get away with driving without financial responsibility for long. Thus, it's much better to assume responsibility and drive safely.

It's simple and easy to follow the insurance laws in Virginia, once you're familiar with them. At this point, you should have the information you need to purchase a basic car insurance plan in Virginia. Once you do that, you should be able to register or renew your registration on any vehicles you own and maintain your driving license without any problems. Happy driving!

 

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