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Rhode Island Car Insurance Laws & State Minimum Coverage Limits

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Eric Stauffer is a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. His priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best...

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UPDATED: Feb 22, 2018

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Rhode Island State FlagRhode Island law requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of insurance in order to make sure all drivers are financially responsible in the event of an accident. This law protects both the person who is at fault in the accident from the high cost of paying for damages and the person who is not at fault from having to seek damages in court. Rhode Island requires liability insurance for injuries and for property damage.

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Mandatory Insurance Coverage

The law in Rhode Island sets minimum limits for coverage that all drivers are required to have. The basic liability policy includes:

  • Bodily Injury Coverage in the amount of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident for all people injured, to pay for injuries or death as the result of an at-fault accident
  • Property Damage Coverage in the amount of $25,000 to pay for damage to another person’s vehicle or other property that occurs as the result of an at-fault accident

The standard liability policy in Rhode Island also includes uninsured motorist coverage to pay for damages or injuries done by another motorist who has no insurance or does not have adequate insurance. The minimum limits to UM coverage are equal to those of the required liability. Drivers in Rhode Island can choose to decline this coverage but must do so in writing. Uninsured motorist is very recommended as approximately 15% of drivers are uninsured in Rhode Island.

In addition to mandatory coverage, Rhode Island drivers can select a number of options to improve their coverage.

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Optional Insurance Coverage

While minimum levels of liability coverage are required, drivers have the option to increase their coverage level to higher amounts.

There are also other available coverage options to choose from, including:

  • Collision coverage, which pays for damage to your own vehicle in the event of an at-fault accident.
  • Comprehensive coverage, which pays for damage or loss from any incident that is not a collision – theft, vandalism, fire, or weather. It also coverage glass repairs such as chipped windshields.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage, which as mentioned previously can be selected to protect against other drivers who do not have insurance or do not carry enough insurance for a given accident.
  • Rental Reimbursement, which will help to pay for a rental car during a covered claim.
  • Towing & Labor, to assist with breakdowns and other roadside needs.

Insurance companies in Rhode Island also offer a selection of other options that vary from company to company. Some insurance companies may offer entire packages of added coverage for a flat fee.

Proof of Insurance and Rhode Island Law

Early in 2015, the Rhode Island DMV started using an electronic tracking system, the Uninsured Motorist Identification Database, to reduce the problem of uninsured motorists. This system identifies vehicles that are missing valid insurance information, and automatically sends out notices to the driver. Failure to respond to these notices results in the registration being suspended and the driver being blocked from getting a license. Fees in excess of $250 are charged to reinstate the driver’s registration and licensing privileges.

Drivers in Rhode Island are required by law to provide proof of insurance to police during routine traffic stops or at the scene of an accident. Recent legislation allows drivers to provide digital proof, such as on a smartphone.

Drivers who are caught without insurance face a number of penalties:

  • First offense: $100-500 fine, up to 3 months suspension of driver license and registration, and $30-50 fees to reinstate each
  • Second offense: Up to a $500 fine, and up to 6 months suspension of license and registration, with $30-50 reinstatement fees
  • Third and subsequent offenses: Fines of up to $1000, and 12 months suspension of license and registration, with $30-50 reinstatement fees

Shopping for Car Insurance in Rhode Island

Rhode Island ranks at number 4 among the most expensive states to purchase car insurance, according to a 2017 Insure.com sample study. Rates are about $500 more than the national average. That makes shopping around for car insurance the most important tool Rhode Island drivers have to obtain a better rate.

The Rhode Island Department of Insurance offers drivers assistance and information on purchasing car insurance, including a shopping form that can help drivers to compare rates and determine how much coverage they need.

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High-Risk Drivers in Rhode Island

Rhode Island uses an assigned risk system to help high-risk drivers get the coverage they need. High-risk drivers are those who do not qualify for car insurance on the voluntary market, usually due to problems with their driving history. This can include multiple tickets and accidents, serious violations, or other issues.

In order to make sure that everyone has access to the insurance required by law, Rhode Island uses the Rhode Island Automobile Insurance Plan. This assigned risk plan places each driver with an insurance company, which is required by law to provide a policy to the driver. This system spreads the risk around among all of the insurance companies operating in the state.

Teen Drivers in Rhode Island

Like all states, Rhode Island uses a graduated system to license teen drivers. These systems reduce the risks to new drivers by allowing them to learn driving skills over time and graduate through several levels. These levels carry rules and restrictions and require certain skills in order to pass to the next level.

Rhode Island’s graduated system includes three levels:

Limited Instruction Permit

This permit allows the teen to begin driving under supervision in order to learn the skills necessary to pass a road test. Before obtaining this license, the teen must:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Pass an approved 33-hour driver education course
  • Have parental permission

With this license, teens can drive only with a supervising driver in the car who is at least 21 and has had a license a minimum of 5 years.

Provisional License

This license allows teens to drive without supervision, but there are still restrictions. To obtain this license, teens must:

  • Hold a permit for at least 6 months
  • Complete 50 hours of driving practice, 10 of which must be at night
  • Pass a road test

The Provisional License allows driving at any time with a supervising driver, but only allows unsupervised driving between the hours of 5 a.m. to 1 a.m or if you are traveling to and from work.

Drivers with a provisional license may not have more than one passenger under the age of 21, unless the passengers are family members, for the first year.

Full License

Drivers can graduate to the full license after at least one year with a provisional license. Teens must be 17 to graduate to the full license, although the 6-month requirement with a permit and the 12-month requirement with the provisional license make teens on average 17 and a half when they are eligible.

All teen drivers must meet the insurance requirements as soon as they are licensed. Parents or guardians can add the teen driver to an existing policy to save money and can keep the teen on that policy into college, as long as the teen doesn’t have a permanent separate residence.

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About Eric Stauffer

Author: Eric StaufferI am a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. My priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.

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