Uninsured Motorist Identification Problems: What To Do?
The state of Minnesota is done with uninsured drivers, and now they’re seeking better ways to identify them. The uninsured are largely blamed for driving up the costs of auto insurance for everyone else. When there is an accident caused by an uninsured motorist, the damage may be too severe for the individual to pay out-of-pocket. While legal action can be pursued, it’s often easier and cheaper for the victim to file a claim provided they have full coverage.
They could go after the uninsured motorist in court, but that would typically result in expensive legal fees and the defendant would still likely be unable to pay, meaning the insured motorist’s company would have to take on the costs anyway.
The state, aware that its verification system is faulty, has set a deadline of February 1 to receive recommendations for how to properly identify uninsured motorists. Called a “legislative task force,” the group estimates they’re looking for 10 to 20 percent of the Minnesota driving population.
Currently the state does not require drivers to prove they have insurance when registering or renewing their car. The Grand Forks Herald also reports that the state’s Department of Public Safety information systems do not communicate with insurance companies to identify vehicle owners who don’t carry coverage.
“We have this law requiring mandatory insurance,” said state Sen. Susan Kent, head of the uninsured motorist task force. “But we know we don’t have any sort of meaningful verification system at this point.”
The news site reports that the task force includes law enforcement personnel and representatives from the insurance industry along with senior citizens and people from other constituencies.
“There’s a real sort of continuum of how strong we want to be in these enforcement mechanisms and how hard we want to pursue people to prove their insurance,” Kent said.
In 2013, the state of Minnesota issued around 71,000 tickets for driving without insurance. Only 33,000 of those tickets were paid.
This has led some task force members to believe that stiffer penalties aren’t the answer for identifying uninsured motorists.
“If people can’t afford insurance we don’t want to make it tougher,” said Republican state Rep. Joe Hoppe. “It’s the law that people have to have car insurance and there are good reasons for that. We’re just trying to find ways that make people hopefully voluntarily decide to go get insurance.”
Joel Carlson, a Minnesota trial lawyers lobbyist, feels this is a large part of the equation.
“Do I put dinner on the table?” he said. “Do I continue to drive my car to work to keep my job? Or do I buy auto insurance? In many instances, it’s an economic decision.”
Recommendations will be forthcoming in a little under two months, but it’s likely that with advances in technology, uninsured motorists won’t be able to stay off the grid for long.
Insurance agents are limited in how they can respond to this and similar situations throughout the country. After all, state law often determines how challenging a system is, and urging your existing clients to get coverage would be “preaching to the choir,” so to speak.
But it is possible to do your part in clearing up the confusion by marketing to a share of the driving population where cost is a concern. State minimum requirements, while generally low, are affordable to most. An uninsured motorist would want to upgrade as soon as possible as just buying the minimum still leaves one open to legal action, but it defrays some of the liability should an uninsured motorist cause an accident, while driving and causing an accident without insurance could create a situation that follows them around for the rest of their lives.
As Minnesota works out the details for how to identify uninsured motorists, you can use your position to educate clients, and potential auto insurance leads, as to the burden driving without insurance creates. By doing your best to keep the discussion front-and-center, it’s possible to influence a large amount of the driving population in taking responsibility for their actions out on the road.