It seems strange, but it's true: people pay a lot of money for auto insurance coverage that they are afraid to use.
Everyone understands that car insurance protects you and your loved ones from financial ruin when you are the cause of a collision that injures others, but your insurance is also designed to protect you and your family in the event that injury is caused through the fault of another who has no insurance or inadequate insurance. You may also be entitled to medical expense benefits through your insurance if you elected that coverage when you purchased your policy.
It's common for people to be reluctant to make claims for these benefits from their own insurance company for fear of increased premiums or cancelled coverage. You should know that the law protects your right to make these claims.
The auto insurance industry is heavily regulated in Virginia and there are consumer protections in place to prevent unfair practices by insurance companies. There are only three circumstances where an auto insurance company can cancel your policy all together as long as the policy has been in effect for more than 60 days. They are:
- failure by to pay the premium;
- license revocation or suspension of the named insured, usual drivers of covered vehicles, or drivers living in the same house as the named insured; and
- the named insured has moved out of Virginia. See Va. Code § 38.2-2212(D). Making claims against your insurance policy for underinsured or uninsured coverage or medical expense benefits are not among the list of valid reasons for your insurance company to cancel your coverage during the policy period.
The Virginia insurance statute lists a number of factors that an insurance company cannot consider as a basis for refusal to renew an insurance policy. See Va. Code § 38.2-2212(C). The statute specifically prevents an insurance company from refusing to renew coverage on the grounds that claims have been made for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in cases where the uninsured defendant is known or there was physical contact between the unknown uninsured defendant and the victim. Va. Code § 38.2-2212(C)(n). The statute also prohibits an insurance company from refusing to renew a policy where a claim has been made for medical expense coverage in cases where the collision was not the insured’s fault. See Va. Code § 38.2-2212(C)(o). Additionally, the law specifically prohibits an insurance company from increasing its premiums or charging points as a result of a motor vehicle collision that was not the fault of the named insured, a resident of the named insured’s household, or a customary driver of the insured vehicle. Va. Code § 38.2-1905(A).
The insurance company must inform you in writing of the basis for its fee increase, cancellation, or refusal to renew the policy. You have a right to appeal those decisions to the Virginia State Corporation Commission Bureau of Insurance if you feel that your insurance company has unfairly dropped your coverage or increased your premiums. Don't be afraid to make claims through your own insurance company—you paid for the coverage and you are entitled to rely upon it without fear of adverse consequences.
At Allen & Allen we help our clients to recover compensation for their personal injuries from all available sources of recovery including their own insurance when necessary.
 Va. Code § 38.2-2212(C)(n) only makes reference to “uninsured motorist coverage,” but Va. Code § 38.2-2206(A) makes clear that such coverage encompasses claims for both uninsured and underinsured coverage.