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Washington D.C. 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: Mar 1, 2018

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WASHINGTON D.C. State FlagThe District of Columbia has financial responsibility laws that protect all drivers from paying for damages done as the result of an accident, whether they are the responsible party or the victim of an accident. A minimum amount of liability insurance is required by all drivers in order to ensure that this law is met.

Mandatory Insurance

Washington, D.C. drivers are required to provide a basic insurance policy that ensures they are in compliance with financial responsibility laws. In D.C., the minimum coverage set out by law for all drivers includes the following:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage in the amount of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident to cover injuries or death in an at-fault accident.
  • Property damage liability coverage in the amount of $10,000 to pay for damage done to another person’s car or any other property in an at-fault accident.
  • Uninsured Motorist bodily injury coverage in the amount of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident to pay for injuries or death caused by a driver without the proper coverage.
  • Uninsured Motorist property damage in the amount of $5000, subject to a $200 deductible to pay for property damage caused by a driver without the proper insurance.

While these are the legally required minimums, most drivers recognize that accident costs can rise well above these amounts, and choose to carry higher liability limits to provide additional protection.

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Optional Insurance

In addition to higher liability limits, there are a number of other options that D.C. drivers can choose to add to an auto insurance policy in order to provide additional protection. These options are available from most D.C. auto insurers and drivers can choose what is right for their insurance needs.

Commonly available options include:

  • Collision coverage to pay for damage to your vehicle in the event of an accident in which you are found at fault. This coverage usually has a deductible that applies before benefits kick in.
  • Comprehensive coverage to pay for damage or loss that occurs as the result of a non-collision incident. This can include theft, vandalism, weather damage, and fire damage, and also provides coverage for glass repairs. This coverage also carries a deductible.
  • Rental Reimbursement coverage, which pays for a rental car during a covered claim.
  • Towing and Labor coverage, which will pay for roadside needs in a non-accident situation, including a tow truck.

Other coverage options are available depending on the insurance company and can include things like waiver of the deductible for certain types of claims, accident forgiveness, and new cover replacement coverage. Options vary in coverage and in costs.

Car Insurance and the Law

D.C. laws helps to ensure the financial responsibility requirements are met by all drivers by penalizing those who fail to comply. The DMV keeps records of all insurance policies in the state and is notified by the insurance company when a policy lapses or is canceled. Drivers will then be notified and required to provide proof of a new insurance policy. Lapses in insurance will result in suspension of vehicle registration and plates.

Drivers who are caught driving without insurance will face fines of $300 to $500 for a first offense and $500 to $1000 for subsequent offenses.

All drivers are required to provide proof of insurance not only to the DMV but also to a police officer during a traffic stop as well as at the scene of an accident.

Shopping for Car Insurance in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. drivers used to face some of the highest car insurance rates in the country, coming in as the 3rd highest in premiums in the country in 2015.  As of a 2017 Insure.com study, however, D.C. ranks as number 32 in average annual premium rates with an average of $1216 compared to the national average of $1318.

The best way for D.C. drivers to get a more affordable rate on car insurance is to shop around; there are multiple insurance companies offering a variety of rates, and each company can determine their own rates for a particular driver based on a number of risk factors.

The Washington, D.C. Department of Insurance keeps records of complaints against insurance companies and can assist drivers with choosing a reputable firm. This can ensure that drivers pay fair rates and get the most for their insurance dollar.

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High-Risk Drivers in D.C.

Drivers who have multiple tickets or accidents, or have serious infractions on their driving record may have trouble obtaining car insurance. In some cases, these high-risk drivers may find it impossible to obtain coverage on the voluntary market. With these drivers in mind, the District of Columbia offers assistance in the form of an assigned risk plan.

The District of Columbia Automobile Insurance Plan allows high-risk drivers to get the coverage they need. This plan will assign a driver who has been turned down for coverage to an insurance company, which will be required to provide a policy. This coverage is a last resort option, and can be very expensive; as a result drivers are encouraged to work towards a clean driving record in order to get coverage on the open market.

Teen Drivers in D.C.

Washington, D.C. uses a graduated system to license teen drivers intended to make them safer on the road. This system puts teens through a series of stages in order to learn the rules of the road and develop skills needed to graduate to a full license.

Learner’s Permit

D.C. offers two versions of the learner’s permit. The REAL ID permit is available to teens with a valid Social Security Number and allows voting, organ donation, and more. The Limited Learner’s Permit, like its name, limits what the teen is able to do with the license to organ donation only.

With the Learner’s Permit, the teen can begin practicing driving skills with a supervising driver in the car. This permit requires the teen to pass a written knowledge test, and allows teens to drive only between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Provisional License

Like the permit, both REAL ID and Limited versions of the provisional license are available. This license is available to teens that have held a permit for at least 6 months an have passed a road skills test. Teen drivers must also complete 40 hours of practice driving in order to apply for a provisional license, 10 of which mus tbe completed at night.

Drivers with a provisional license must follow specific restricted hours.

From September to June: 6 a.m. through 10:59 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 6 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

In June and August: 6 a.m. through 11:59 every day.

Full License

Teens can obtain a full license at the age of 17, but must still follow the same driving hour restrictions as the provisional license until the age of 18. The teen must be violation free for the past 12 months andhad their provisional licesnse for at least 6 months. At 18, all restrictions are lifted.

All teen drivers in D.C. must meet the financial responsibility requirements by carrying insurance. Most teens meet this requirement by having a parent or guardian add them as a driver on an existing policy. Teens away at school can continue to be insured in this way until they have established a separate, permanent 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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