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Virginia Supreme Court Weighs in on Availability of Insurance Following School Bus Accident

Recently, the Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion stemming from injuries a student suffered while riding a school bus. The plaintiff was a passenger on a school bus when a car slammed into the bus. The student’s family filed a lawsuit against the car’s driver, the bus driver, and the City of Richmond School Board (the City), seeking damages of $1.2 million for her injuries. The car driver had insurance coverage totaling $125,000. The City was self-insured through a risk pool managed by a third-party, VACORP. This third-party provides uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage to anyone who suffers injuries while occupying a qualifying auto. The school bus, in this case, qualified under the contract.

The contract provided a $1 million limit for coverage relating to UIM claims. The agreement states that VACORP agrees to pay all sums the “covered person is legally entitled to recover”, from the owner or driver of the uninsured or underinsured vehicle. The plaintiff and VACORP disputed the available coverage to the City under the UIM provisions. As a result, the plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment, and the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The defendant argued that Code § 22.1-190 and Code § 22.1-194 provides a cap of $50,000 on UIM coverage, negating any contractual agreements between the parties. The plaintiff contended that the statute set a minimum and not a cap. The trial court found in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed.

Under the relevant portion of § 22.1-190, school boards must certify that every school vehicle obtains a certificate of self-insurance of at least $50,000 for injury to one person. Additionally, the policy must provide coverage for losses caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. The statute does not have a provision that forbids a school board for obtaining a contract through a pool for more than $50,000. Therefore, the court concluded that Code § 22.1-190 does not act as a statutory cap.

After reviewing various arguments, the court concluded that the General Assembly did not intend to foreclose the City’s ability to voluntarily provide additional coverage beyond minimum requirements. The City chose to provide additional coverage to protect their drivers or their students; therefore, the contract provisions applied. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff was entitled to the $1 million in UIM coverage per the contract.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Virginia Bus Accident?

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries or died in a Virginia bus accident, contact the attorneys at Robinson Law, PLLC. The attorneys at our law firm have a comprehensive understanding of complex Virginia insurance laws, which allows our attorneys to provide Virginia accident victims with top-notch legal representation in their claims for damages. Compensation in these cases typically includes payments for medical bills, ongoing expenses, and pain and suffering. These cases often present plaintiffs with procedural and legal challenges, and our attorneys can help you overcome these hurdles and obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact our office for a free consultation with our Virginia personal injury attorneys by calling 703-542-4008. You can also contact us through our online form.

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