Unfortunately, it is often the case that there are many drivers on the road who fail to carry automobile insurance. In Virginia and North Carolina, if your vehicle is insured, then you automatically have something called uninsured motorist coverage (UM coverage), which should be coverage in the same amount as the limits of your liability coverage. What this means, is that in the event that the defendant driver is not insured, your policy will step in to cover you, and to also cover any passengers in your vehicle that may have been injured as well.
We have often seen vehicle owners and our own clients get very nervous and irritated in these circumstances. After all, why should your insurance have to pay for something that the defendant did? At first glance, it does not seem fair; however, it is important to keep in mind that you and/or the vehicle owner have paid premiums over the years precisely for this kind of coverage. In other words, the cost of the automobile insurance policy includes money to pay for uninsured motorist coverage, in the event you are hit by an uninsured motorist.
You can be sure that it is highly unlikely that you will obtain any recovery against the uninsured motorist directly. They are probably uninsured because they have no money, or, they are such a high-risk, that they cannot obtain insurance. Therefore, you should be thankful that you have the coverage that you have, and use it!
The other circumstance where this comes up is in the case where you may have very significant injuries and very high medical bills, and the party that hit you has coverage, but only has minimum coverage. In that case, in the event you carry more than minimum coverage, your policy will step in to make up the difference, and this is called underinsured (UIM) motorists coverage. Let’s take this simple scenario in a Virginia case:
The other driver has $25,000.00 per person minimum coverage
You have $50,000 per person UIM coverage.
That means that once the other driver’s insurance has paid or offered the full $25,000.00 limits of its coverage, you have another $25,000 in coverage available from your own insurance policy, bringing your total coverage to $50,000.00.
Obviously, if you can afford it, you should purchase as much UM and UIM coverage as you can afford, to protect yourself from circumstances where you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.