No liability insurance will soon be liability

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2000

Staff Writer

May 18, 2000 11 PM

In a couple of weeks all drivers in Alabama will be required to have liability insurance.

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As of June 1, the mandatory automobile liability insurance law passed by the Alabama Legislature in April will go into effect.

"It’s right around the corner," said Probate Judge Bill Stone, whose office issues vehicle tags.

"For many years we’ve heard a lot of commentary that we need mandatory liability insurance," Stone said.

That time is now here and drivers stopped by an officer, beginning June 1, will have to produce proof that they carry insurance.

Proof can be an identification card from an insurance company, certificate of insurance, copy of the policy, binder, a valid rental agreement specifying insurance coverage or a cash deposit receipt from the state treasurer in an amount of no less than $50,000.

According to information from the Alabama Independent Insurance Agents, proof will be required whether or not the driver is the owner of the vehicle.

The AIIA has reported a random sample of 10 percent of all motor vehicle registrations will be drawn for insurance verification. Those in "heavy rotation" will include: motor vehicle registrations suspended for noncompliance, those convicted of driving a non-owned vehicle without proof of insurance, those whose driving privileges have been suspended or revoked during the preceding four years, those who have received a disposition of supervision by the courts for noncompliance of the law within the past four years and anyone involved in an accident without proper proof of liability coverage.

Through the random sampling, individuals who are in violation will be identified. Those found to be guilty will have their vehicle registration suspended unless the owner can provide proof of liability insurance, which was effective on the verification date.

Stone said first-time violators will have to pay $100 for vehicle registration to be reinstated and show proof of liability coverage. That insurance will have to remain in effect for a year and the names will be given to the Department of Public Safety for inclusion in what Stone calls the "hot list."

On a second violation, the individual will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, will have vehicle registration suspended for four months, pay a $200 reinstatement fee and submit proof of insurance. The insurance will have to remain in effect for three years.

A list of violators will also be made available by the 10th of each month to vehicle registration officials who issue license plates. Those violators listed will be required to show proof of insurance to register or transfer registration of an automobile.

If proof of insurance is found to be false, the owner’s vehicle registration will be suspended for a period of six months. After the six-month suspension, payment of a $200 fee will be required along with proof of insurance will be required before the registration ill be reinstated. Proof of insurance will be required by the Department of Public Safety for three years following reinstatement.

Stone said the 30-page document also

assigns penalties for shoe who alter, forge or counterfeit an insurance card. A Class C felony conviction carries a fine of $500 to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for no less than one year and no more than 10 years.

Stone said the new law is patterned after an Illinois law. That state, he said, has reported an increase in those carrying liability insurance policies.

Right now, Stone said, approximately 27.5 percent of drivers are uninsured. That is quite a few vehicles since the estimated number of vehicles in Alabama is right at four million.

"The new law is expected to reduce that 27 and a half percent to five percent," Stone reported.

When going to get a license plate, individuals will be required to sign a statement affirming they have liability insurance.

The law applies to bother personal and commercial vehicles, but there are some exceptions, Stone said.

Motor vehicles from a dealers inventory, cars and trucks owned by banks and financial institutions, government vehicles, trailers, inoperable vehicle and vehicles subject to the Public Service Commission do not have to be insured under a liability policy.

However, log trucks are not exempt because they are not regulated by the Public Service Commission as are other large trucks.

"The people have asked for it and now we have it," Stone said of mandatory liability insurance.