Do You Have Enough Auto Insurance?

Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Weighs In

At Slaughter & Lupton Law, our personal injury clients often tell us they have “full” automobile insurance coverage. But the term “full coverage” can be deceptive. Some of our clients who have been told they have full coverage have only minimal coverage and should have more. We’ll explain.

The basic types of auto coverage available for policies issued in Virginia and North Carolina, where we practice, include liability coverage, uninsured motorists coverage, underinsured motorists coverage, medical payments coverage (sometimes called medical expenses coverage or shortened to “medpay”), and damage to your auto coverage (which can include collision coverage and comprehensive coverage). The amounts of these coverages is stated in the declarations page of your policy. Generally, the people insured under your policy include you, your family members living in your household, and anyone using a covered vehicle with the owner’s permission.


Liability Coverage

This covers people insured under your policy for claims against them for wrecks that are their fault. These provisions cover claims for bodily injury and property damage up to the limits of your policy. For Virginia policies, the law requires minimum liability coverage limits of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident for bodily injury and $20,000 for property damage. You will often see that written as $30,000/60,000/20,000. The North Carolina minimum coverage is the same as Virginia’s for bodily injury and is $25,000 for property damage ($30,000/60,000/25,000). Effective January 1. 2025, the Virginia minimum limits will increase to $50,000/100,000/25,000. By paying higher premiums, you can buy coverage amounts higher than the required minimums.

We strongly believe that $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident for bodily injury is not enough. Bodily injury claims against you from an accident could easily exceed $60,000 (or, for that matter, $100,000). That would mean you would be personally responsible for the amount over the policy limit. You would risk a large judgment against you or even bankruptcy.


How much liability coverage should you have to cover you and your family? Our answer is as much as you can reasonably afford. In preparing your budget, this is not an area for skimping, particularly with the bodily injury limits. The current minimums are not adequate, and while the new Virginia limits will be an improvement, they will still not be enough.


Uninsured Motorists Coverage

When anyone insured under your policy has a claim for bodily injury or auto damage caused by an uninsured motorist or hit-and-run driver, this coverage can apply. The coverage limits will be the same as for your liability coverage unless the liability limits are greater than the required minimum, and you choose different uninsured motorists coverage limits. (For Virginia policies, those different limits can only be amounts less than your liability coverage limits.)

We believe you should never choose uninsured motorists bodily injury limits less than your liability coverage limits even though that could save you a little money. You need to protect you and your family from an accident not your or your family member’s fault. You certainly cannot count on an uninsured motorist to use personal assets to pay the claim.


Underinsured Motorists Coverage

This generally covers claims of people insured under your policy for bodily injury and auto damage caused by a driver who has liability coverage less than yours. For Virginia polices, underinsured motorists coverage is included in your uninsured motorists coverage and will be in the same amount as your liability coverage unless you choose a lesser amount. For North Carolina policies, you cannot have underinsured motorists coverage if you have only the minimum required liability coverage. If you have more than the minimum amount of liability coverage, you’ll have underinsured motorists coverage in the amount of your liability coverage unless you choose a different amount.

Because of, again, the importance of protecting you and your family from an accident that was not your or your family member’s fault, we believe, as with uninsured motorists coverage, you should never choose underinsured motorists bodily injury limits less than your liability coverage limits. Without adequate underinsured motorists coverage, you risk a wreck with an at-fault driver who doesn’t have sufficient liability coverage to pay the claim.


Medical Payments Coverage

Medpay, not required by law, provides payment for medical expenses of a person insured under your policy when in an auto accident, whether it was that person’s fault or not. The payments will not exceed the amount of coverage you pay for. We recommend buying some medpay coverage, but that isn’t as critical as purchasing ample liability, uninsured motorists, and underinsured motorists coverage.


Damage to Your Auto Coverage

Your decision whether to pay for this optional coverage will depend on your circumstances, which can include the values of the vehicles covered under your policy. This coverage can be important if one of those vehicles is damaged in a wreck that is the fault of the driver. Without the coverage, the vehicle owner would be responsible for repairing or replacing the vehicle. Keep in mind that if the vehicle is a total loss, the amount owed on a car loan is not a factor in determining the amount the insurance company must pay. So you could consider getting gap insurance to avoid ending up with a totaled car and not enough from the auto insurance recovery to pay off the loan (sometimes called being “upside down”).



That’s some of the basics. Auto policies have many nuances and exclusions we can advise you about. What we’d like you to remember, though, is that if an insurance agent or anyone else says you have full coverage, you may have all the coverages we’ve discussed, but the coverage limits could be way too low for adequate insurance protection if you or family members are in car wreck, particularly when serious injuries occur.


Need additional help understanding auto insurance after an accident? Talk to one of our seasoned lawyers by filling out the form below or calling us at our Virginia Beach, VA Office or our Edenton, NC Office today.

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