Are Mobile Apps Legal Auto Insurance Proof?

What are the advantages over carrying a paper card?

Paper cards can easily be destroyed or misplaced, failing you in the situation when you need them most. They can also be limiting. For example, say you and your spouse are in your spouse’s car. As the more responsible party, you would never be caught driving without your insurance card, but your spouse is a little more forgetful. You get stopped for a broken taillight. Your spouse remembers that she never transported her card from the kitchen table to the glove box, and she forgot her phone.

With mobile proof of insurance, you can easily pull up the app on your phone, select your spouse’s car from the coverage list (provided you have a joint policy), and the police officer can use your phone to verify.

With most insurance companies only providing new proof-of-insurance cards twice per year, you wouldn’t think these documents would be so hard to find during a traffic stop. Yet every year, millions of Americans make the mistake of not replacing old cards or never placing a proof of insurance card in their vehicles from the very beginning.

Forgetting can cause a hefty fine, though it will ultimately depend on the state where you live whether that fine is waived once you provide proof you were insured with no lapse in coverage from the time of the stop to the time of your court date.

Who needs the hassle?

Regardless of whether you can exonerate yourself for driving without proof of insurance, it’s a hassle you don’t want to face. In response to this common problem, many insurance companies have provided convenient apps allowing customers to show proof electronically.

These apps come as no surprise for RE/MAX Integrity employee Heidi Wills of Albany, New York. Wills recently spoke to the Albany Democrat-Herald about the mobile proof of insurance her company provides.

“Thankfully I haven’t had to use it yet but I do have an app on phone that lets me access it quickly,” Wills said. “My whole account is at my fingertips … It’s a pop-up menu and I click once and it’s there.”

Companies like Nationwide and GEICO have also joined in — in fact, you may be hard-pressed to find an insurer who hasn’t.

Is it legal?

In about half the country, yes. Currently, New York and 23 other states have enacted laws that specifically validate the ability for a customer to show mobile proof of insurance to verify coverage. To find out if it is legal in your state, you should contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in your area. Your insurance agent may also be a good resource, as he or she will likely have an understanding of current legal developments’ affect on customers.

Any drawbacks?

Yes. For starters, you may live in one of the 26 states that do NOT have laws on the books endorsing mobile proof of insurance. If you do, the app may or may not work depending on the leniency of the officer who stops you.

Also, while many people carry mobile chargers with them, an insurance customer will inevitably be caught in a situation where he or she runs out of juice. In that case, an up-to-date insurance card would come in handy. However, because we rely on our phones now for everything, there’s a chance you will be even more forgetful towards the physical card than you are now.

Translation: the likelihood of being caught without any form of proof, should your phone die, will probably increase.

In Summary

Insurance companies that provide mobile proof of insurance apps offer a great convenience to their customers, but ultimately it is up to state law as to whether or not they will be accepted. With 24 states endorsing them, it is clearly the wave of the future, but you may still want to keep that physical card handy, just in case.

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