The state of Virginia has minimum insurance requirements that every motor vehicle policy must meet or exceed, however there is an option for those who choose not to purchase insurance as well. While there is still a requirement for financial responsibility, the law allows drivers to take that responsibility upon themselves by signing a document and paying a fee.
The majority of Virginia drivers carry an auto insurance policy to provide for financial responsibility in the event of an accident. The legal minimum available for insurance includes liability coverage as well as coverage for incidents with uninsured motorists.
- Bodily Injury Liability – This coverage must provide at least $25,000 to pay for bodily injury or death of a single person in an accident, and at least $50,000 for bodily injury or death to more than one person in a single accident.
- Property Damage Liability – $20,000 in coverage is required to pay for any damage caused to another vehicle or to any personal property belonging to another person in the event of an accident.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist – A minimum amount of coverage, matching the liability limits of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per incident for bodily injury and $20,000 for property damage is required for UM/UIM coverage in Virginia. This pays for injuries and damages to you, your passengers, and your property in the event that you are involved in an accident with a driver who does not have insurance or whose limits are too low to cover all damages.
Uninsured Motorist Vehicle Fee
Drivers in Virginia can also choose to opt out of car insurance and instead pay an Uninsured Motorist Vehicle fee to the DMV. This fee allows the vehicle to be driven without insurance. This $500 fee is paid yearly and requires the driver to accept all responsibility for financial losses incurred in an at-fault accident. Every vehicle that is not insured must be certified through this system, or face penalties.
Currently, Virginia allows surety bonds and self-insurance as alternatives to an insurance policy for business-owned vehicles.
There are a number of insurance options Virginia drivers can add to increase coverage and provide better financial protection from the high cost of auto accidents. In addition to adding options, Virginia drivers can choose to increase liability limits above the required minimum, a common choice given the risk of a costly claim in the event of a serious accident. Also available as options:
- Collision Coverage – This option provides benefits to pay for damage to your vehicle in an accident that is not covered by another driver’s liability insurance, usually because the owner is the at-fault driver in the collision. This coverage also applies in single-vehicle accidents where there is no other driver, such as backing into an object.
- Comprehensive Coverage – This provides coverage for any damage or loss that does not result from a collision. This includes things like water damage, fire, theft, or vandalism.
- Medical Expenses/Loss of Income – These two coverage options pay for medical bills incurred by you or anyone else riding in or driving your car after an accident, or anyone covered under your policy as a pedestrian, as well as for loss of income as a result of an accident.
- Rental Reimbursement/Loss of Use – This option helps to pay for a rental car when the insured vehicle is being repaired under a covered loss.
Proof of Insurance Requirements
Virginia tracks auto insurance policies through an electronic verification system to which all new policies, cancellations, and renewals are reported directly by insurance agencies. When a policy is cancelled and no new policy is reported to replace it, the DMV will send out a letter to the owner requesting that they verify the insurance information or provide proof of sale or non-operational status of the vehicle.
Failure to carry insurance, unless the UMV fee has been paid, will result in the suspension of the vehicle registration and the plates as well as the suspension of the owner’s license. Suspensions remain in place until the driver pays a $500 fee to the Uninsured Motorist Fund, obtains new insurance, and pays any other reinstatement fees that are applicable.
Virginia requires drivers caught without insurance to file an SR-22, which is a document proving financial responsibility, for three years following the infraction. Insurance companies file this form to prove that the driver is meeting financial responsibility requirements, and if the insurance policy is cancelled, the insurance company will file another form informing the authorities of the lapse.
Buying Car Insurance in Virginia
Virginia car insurance rates are among the lowest in the nation according to an Insure.com study of 2015 auto insurance rates, ranking at number 43 in the nation. The average annual rate based on the study sample was $1008, less than half of what drivers pay in the most expensive state, Michigan.
The Virginia Bureau of Insurance provides an insurance company lookup on their website that allows consumers to find information about the various companies doing business in the state, a helpful tool for shopping for insurance.
Rates in Virginia are competitive, with each insurance company rating policies based on their own standards. Among the factors Virginia insurance companies use are your age, driving record, type of vehicle, and use of the vehicle. Virginia law also allows the use of credit scores as part of the insurance rating process.
Like most states, Virginia uses an assigned risk program to help high-risk drivers obtain auto insurance. High-risk drivers are those who are unable to obtain insurance on the open market due to a driving record that does not meet the standards of most insurance companies for underwriting.
The Virginia Assigned Risk Insurance Plan will assign drivers to an insurance company, which is then required by law to provide a policy. This allows insurance companies to spread out the risk of insuring a driver with a high-risk record, and allows all drivers to meet the legal minimums for auto insurance.
Teen Drivers in Virginia
Virginia’s graduated driver licensing program puts teen drivers through several stages, each with different rules and restrictions, in order to teach safe driving techniques over time. The program begins at 15 years and 6 months old and ends at the age of 18 with a full license.
At 15 years and 6 months old, teens in Virginia can take the 2- part knowledge test to obtain a learner’s permit. During this process, teens will complete and pay fees for both the permit and the license to follow.
With the learner’s permit, you may drive accompanied by a supervising driver 21 and over, or a driver 18 or over who is a legal guardian or sibling.
Learner’s permit holders may not:
- Carry more than one passenger under the age of 18 except for family members
- Drive between midnight and 4 a.m.
- Use a cell phone, even hands-free, while driving
In order to obtain a restricted license, you must be at least 16 years and 3 months old, and have completed/passed:
- 9 months with a learner’s permit
- A state-approved driver training course including classroom and in-vehicle instruction
- 45 hours of driving practice with at least 15 hours at night
- A road skills test
Drivers under 18 are subject to several restrictions designed to keep them safe on the roads. These restrictions are:
- You may not drive between midnight and 4 a.m., except for employment purposes or any other approved activity, in an emergency, or if there is a parent, guardian, spouse or acting in loco approved driver over 18 in the passenger seat.
- You may not have more than one passenger under the age of 21 in the vehicle during the first year, unless accompanied by an approved driver over 18. Family members are an exception.
- After the first year, you may carry no more than three passengers under 21 only for the purpose of school-sponsored activities, unless an approved driver over 21 is in the passenger seat or it is an emergency. Family members are an exception.
- You may not use a cell phone, even hands-free, while driving.
At 18 years old all of the driving restrictions are lifted and Virginia teens will graduate to the full, unrestricted license.
Teens in Virginia must comply in full with all of the financial responsibility laws, meaning they must have insurance as soon as they obtain a driver’s license. Most teens are covered under the policy of a parent or guardian – they must be added to the policy by contacting the insurance company – while they live at home. Teens away at school can continue to be covered under a parent or guardian’s insurance policy until they establish their own permanent residence away from home.
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