NORFOLK, Va. — A new Virginia law that went into effect on July 1 allows you to potentially have more money available to you if you get into a crash.
It’s something people are becoming aware of if they aren’t already when they receive a notification from their insurance company about this new coverage option.
As of July 1, 2023, Virginia law allows you to use money from your insurance policy to cover your expenses if you’re involved in an accident and the other person or people involved don’t have enough insurance to cover the expenses.
“We ought to be able to use what we’re actually paying for and have been paying for,” Brother Rutter, an attorney with Rutter Mills Law Firm in Norfolk, said.
Prior to the new law, insurance companies would only allow you to use your policy to help cover expenses if your coverage was more than the coverage the other person involved had.
“This law says that wasn’t fair. We’re now going to let people stack, or add, their coverage to the defendant’s coverage,” Rutter explained.
He said some insurance companies are sending clients letters that notify the client of this new law but also notify them they can opt out of this additional coverage to avoid having their premiums go up.
Virginia resident Richard Gonzalez believes having the option to be covered would be advantageous but said having premiums go up could be tough for someone like him.
“That would be pretty frustrating being that I’m on a fixed income and that would probably hurt the bottom line,” Gonzalez said.
“The insurance companies are trying to avoid the law like they always do, and they’re trying to do it this time by sending letters to people scaring them about this new law that may change their premium or may hurt them,” said Rutter.
Rutter recommends not signing it because he doesn’t believe premiums will go up but, even if they do, they won’t go up much and opting out could mean you have to pay far more money if you’re in an accident.
Exactly how much a premium may go up because of this new law depends on the individual policy.
Peggy Huffman owns the Huffman Insurance Agency in Virginia Beach and said the law is driving recent premium increases.
“The Virginia Legislature, I’m sure, was trying to protect consumers but at the same time added a burden to consumers because if insurance companies are going to pay out more in settlement costs as a result of an accident they’re going to try to recover that somehow and obviously the way they do that is through premium increases,” said Huffman.
She, too, recommends people not opt out of the coverage.
“Why would you insure an uninsured driver for more than you would yourself,” Huffman said. “By opting out, you’re insuring yourself for less than that uninsured driver who may hit you.”
Rutter said another reason he recommends people not opt out of the additional coverage is studies, he said, show insurance premiums have been trending down in Virginia which means the additional coverage may not be a huge premium driver.
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Based in New York, Stephen Freeman is a Senior Editor at Trending Insurance News. Previously he has worked for Forbes and The Huffington Post. Steven is a graduate of Risk Management at the University of New York.