Uninsured motorist accidents in Alabama will be targeted by law enforcement with new enforcement measures, which are set to take effect Jan. 1.
Passed by lawmakers in 2011, the Alabama Online Insurance Verification System will verify vehicle insurance information when renewing your license plates or during traffic stops. Officials estimate nearly 1 in 4 drivers are on the road without insurance. The Insurance Research Council reports Alabama has the sixth-highest rate of uninsured motorists in the nation.
The Alabama Mandatory Liability Insurance Law requires a minimum of $25,000 death or bodily injury per person ($50,000 per accident) and $25,000 property damage coverage. These minimums have been in place for years but are often times inadequate in the event of an accident. A motorist should purchase as much coverage as he or she can reasonably afford — frequently substantially higher limits are available for a small increase in your premium payment.
Alabama’s Uninsured Motorist Statute also requires insurance companies to provide uninsured and underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage with every policy issued. UM/UIM provides coverage to you if you’re involved in a car accident and the other driver is uninsured or doesn’t have enough coverage to compensate you for your injuries (underinsured). UM/UIM is relatively inexpensive. This coverage must be provided by the insurance company unless the consumer rejects it via a written waiver. Again, a motorist should purchase as much UM/UIM coverage as reasonably feasible.
UM/UIM coverage may be stacked in Alabama. Stacked coverage allows you to combine the policies or coverage on up to 3 vehicles. Thus, assuming you have three insured vehicles, a $250,000/$500,000 UM/UIM policy stacked would provide up to $750,000 in UM/UIM coverage in the event of an accident.
Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is vital. With so many drivers being uninsured (and many more carrying only mandatory minimums), protecting yourself in the wake of an accident — even when you are not at fault — will help ensure the financial well-being of you and your family in the event of an injury accident.
Starting Jan. 1, the new database will be used to verify insurance status of vehicles as drivers renew their registration. Officers will also be able to check the status of insurance during a traffic stop. Supporters of the law contend this will help prevent motorists from buying insurance long enough to renew their license plates, and then allowing coverage to lapse. In such cases, motorists often kept the policy card as proof of insurance during a traffic stop even though coverage had lapsed.
A driver convicted of not carrying mandatory insurance faces a fine of up to $500 for a first violation. A second violation can result in a $1,000 fine and a six-month suspension of your driver’s license. Motorists will also be subjected to a re-registration fee of $200 to $400.
Last year, the Insurance Research Council reported about 1 in 7 drivers are uninsured nationwide. States with the most uninsured drivers were Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida and Alabama.
Being struck by an uninsured driver can leave a motorist in a precarious position. Speaking to an experienced car accident attorney in Alabama as soon as possible is critical. As discussed, recovery may be available from your own insurance carrier. But that puts you and your carrier in adversarial roles. You should not expect to be treated fairly without experienced legal help.
Driving uninsured will become tougher, FOX10TV, Sept. 24, 2012.
Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Thomas: Car Accidents on the Job in Alabama, Published by Cross & Smith, LLC, Sept. 5, 2012.