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Because car insurance requirements vary so wildly between states, the insurance you had in Wyoming or Alabama likely won’t meet the Virginia auto insurance requirements. Whether you’re in Norfolk on deployment or retiring to lovely Shenandoah, make sure you’re prepared to meet the car insurance requirements.
Virginia is slightly more strict than other states, in that they require you have both liability insurance and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. However, because the state also allows residents to drive without insurance after paying a fee, the insurance requirements protect both you and other motorists.
Virginia Auto Insurance Requirements
In Virginia, you must have both car liability insurance and uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance (UIM). This is the minimum auto insurance requirement. They both must meet the 25/50/20 requirement, which means you need to have:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $20,000 property damage liability per accident
- $25,000 UIM coverage per person
- $50,000 UIM coverage per accident
- $20,000 UIM property damage coverage per accident
But what does that even mean? Does it mean you have to pay almost $100,000 just to be allowed to drive in Virginia? Let’s break it down.
What Is Liability Insurance?
Liability insurance is required by every state except for New Hampshire. In essence, liability insurance will help you pay for any accidents you get into, up to a certain amount. Having liability insurance protects you from going broke paying for car repairs or medical bills.
Liability is split into three parts: bodily injury liability per person, bodily injury liability per accident, and property damage liability per accident.
So what do the numbers mean? And how do these three parts affect each other?
Three Parts of Liability Insurance
Firstly, bodily injury liability is the amount of money your insurance company will put towards the medical bills of those hurt in the accident. In Virginia, your insurance must cover at least $25,000 of the injured party’s medical bills. If their treatment exceeds that, however, you will be on the hook to pay them yourself.
Bodily injury liability per accident is the upper limit that your insurance company will pay out per accident. For example, if you rear-end a family and four people are injured, your insurance company will pay a maximum of $50,000 instead of $25,000 per person. You’ll have to pay the remainder of their medical bills.
Lastly, property damage liability per accident is how much your insurance company will pay to repair the car or any other damaged structure. This is often the lowest amount of your coverage, as it usually costs less to repair a wrecked car than a wrecked person. If you drive in a wealthy area and are more likely to hit a Lexus or Bentley, however, you may want to up your property damage liability.
Of course, it is a good idea to exceed the minimum requirements for insurance. You want to be prepared, especially if you’ll be driving in a high-traffic area like Virginia Beach or the DC suburbs. If you’ll be driving through windy mountain roads and switchbacks, it’s still not a bad idea to up your coverage.
That said, many insurance companies do have an upper end to how much they’re willing to pay for your accidents. Many policies will stop at $300,000 or $500,000 bodily injury per accident. This is usually more than you’ll need but make a judgment call.
On the whole, you want to make sure that your assets are fully protected by your auto insurance policy. Most insurance agents will recommend you choose a 100/300/50 plan, which is generally referred to as “full coverage”.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage ensures that if you are hit by an uninsured driver or one with too-low coverage. UIM protects you and your passengers and ensures that your bills will be paid no matter who hits you.
UIM is divided the same as liability insurance: bodily injury per person, bodily injury per accident, and property damage per accident. Just the same as liability insurance, the bodily injury per accident rate is the upper limit of what your company will pay for medical bills.
The main difference between liability insurance and UIM is that while liability protects your assets, UIM protects you and your family. Having UIM ensures that you will be able to get help and replace your property.
You Can Drive Without Insurance… For A Price
Virginia is one of few states that does allow drivers on the road without insurance. However, you still must tell the state DMV that you plan to do so.
When you register your car in Virginia, you must either show proof of insurance (that meets the minimum requirements listed above) or pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee. The UMV fee must be paid annually, and can even be paid through a payment plan. You’ll need to keep proof that you paid the UMV in your car at all times as well, as UMVs are not consistently tracked by law enforcement.
However, not everyone is allowed to pay the UMV in lieu of getting car insurance. You must have a clean record and no history of car accidents or other wrecks. Having paid the UMV also does not provide you with any coverage: you remain personally liable for any accidents you are in.
Going Beyond the Bare Minimum
In addition to the minimum liability insurance and UIM, it’s a good idea to have some additional coverage. Personal injury protection and non-owner insurance will round out your auto insurance coverage and make sure you’re protected.
Personal injury protection (PIP), also known as no-fault coverage, covers your medical expenses whether or not you are at fault for an accident. PIP generally covers the medical bills that your health insurance and auto insurance won’t cover. It will also cover you if you are injured while not riding in a car.
PIP is required by fifteen states but is optional in Virginia. However, it’s a policy that you’ll be thankful to have when you need it.
Non-owner insurance is important if you find yourself driving other people’s cars often. If you don’t own a car, but share one with a roommate or family member, non-owner insurance will cover you if you get into an accident in that shared car. It’s also great if you have previously been found driving without insurance and have to file SR22s – but more on those later.
Driving Without Insurance
If you are caught driving without insurance and haven’t paid a UMV fee in Virginia, there are consequences. Depending on your record, the penalties will range from a one-time fee to having to submit proof of insurance to the DMV for three years.
Driving without insurance is a Class 3 Misdemeanor in Virginia, which means it will go on your criminal record. This is bad news, especially if you are found at the scene of a crash without insurance. If you are found driving without insurance, you’ll have an opportunity to plead your case before a judge.
The other possible penalties for driving without insurance or a UMV include, but are not limited to:
- Having your license suspended indefinitely
- Having your registration and license plates revoked
- Paying a fine up to $500
- Having to submit SR22s to the DMV for up to three years
- Paying an additional reinstatement fee to revive your license and registration
- Higher insurance premiums
The severity of your penalty will be determined by a judge. You may be able to argue for leniency, especially if you’ve been out of the country or deployed.
Keep in mind that in addition to legal consequences, your insurance premiums will be higher when you do seek coverage. Insurance companies determine your premiums based on your driving record, and being caught driving without insurance is a big smudge on your record.
What Is an SR22?
An SR22 is a form that you will have to file regularly with the DMV if you are found driving without insurance or a UMV. Essentially, an SR22 is a form that proves you now have the minimum auto insurance requirements. They’re also referred to as “Certificates of Financial Responsibility”.
SR22s are court-ordered, meaning you can face significant penalties if you miss a filing. You file them through your insurance company, which can present another hurdle: many companies refuse to provide insurance if you require an SR22. Because SR22s are required for other crimes besides driving without insurance (not paying child support, DUIs, multiple small violations), you may be able to add it to your existing policy if you have one.
Driving Through Virginia
Now that you know the Virginia auto insurance requirements, you’re ready to take a road trip across the Commonwealth! Make sure you explore everything the state has to offer: from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to the Blue Ridge Parkway. When you’re covered in Virginia, you can go anywhere.
So call your insurance company, plan your road trip, and drive safely wherever you are.