UPDATED: Jan 25, 2019
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West Virginia has compulsory laws that state how much auto insurance each driver must have, at the minimum, to legally drive. These laws ensure that all drivers are protected from the high costs associated with car accidents, both when they are at fault and when they are not. The law also requires protection from uninsured motorists.
The law in West Virginia mandates a basic car insurance policy that includes liability coverage for injuries and damages caused in an at-fault accident, as well as coverage for damages caused by uninsured motorists. There are minimum limits that each type of coverage must meet.
Bodily Injury Liability:
Liability coverage must include at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident for all people injured.
Property Damage Liability:
Property damage coverage must provide at least $25,000 to pay for damage to another person’s vehicle or any other property damaged in the accident.
Uninsured motorist coverage is required at the same limits as the liability portion of the policy: $25,000 for property damage and $25,000 per person/$50,000 per incident for bodily injury.
West Virginia does not mandate underinsured motorist coverage, which is designed to kick in when the person who is liable for the accident has insurance, but it is not sufficient to pay for all the damage or injuries. Insurance companies, however, are required to offer this coverage to all drivers at minimums matching the uninsured motorist limits.
They are also required to offer higher uninsured motorist coverage, to a maximum of $50,000 for property damage and $100,000 per person/$300,000 per incident for bodily injury.
Although it is required that underinsured motorist is offered, drivers can select this coverage as an option on their insurance policy. There are also several other options to choose from.
The most common option is an increase in liability limits beyond what is legally required; many drivers choose this option to provide increased protection against the potentially devastating cost of a serious accident.
Other options are available to protect against other financial consequences of a car accident:
Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle in the event that you are found at fault in an accident. A deductible is usually applied when collision coverage benefits are used.
Comprehensive coverage is also sometimes called “other than collision” because it covers damage caused by incidents that are not collision-related. Comprehensive coverage typically has a deductible and covers things like theft, vandalism, fire, and weather damage. This coverage also offers glass-only repairs for cracked or chipped auto glass.
Rental Reimbursement provides coverage to pay for a rental car while your car is being repaired during a covered claim.
Towing and Labor
Towing and Labor coverage will pay for towing costs and other roadside assistance needs in non-collision events.
Penalties for Driving Uninsured
Drivers must provide evidence that they have the required insurance. West Virginia uses an electronic insurance verification system to track insurance policies on all registered vehicles in the state. Insurance companies report policy information as well as cancellations and lapses in coverage directly.
Although law enforcement can access the electronic system to verify insurance, drivers are still required by law to carry proof of insurance and present it during a traffic stop or at the scene of an accident.
Failure to provide proof of insurance either when requested for vehicle registration renewal or when requested by a police officer may result in the following penalties, with both criminal and administrative fines and consequences:
- Suspension of vehicle registration and plates, which requires a $100 fee to reinstate once proof of insurance is provided, along with an additional $50 fee if law enforcement has to confiscate your plate
- Suspension of driving privileges, with a $50 fee to reinstate
- Additional fines ranging from $200-$5000
- Possible jail time of 15 days up to one year
Penalties become harsher with each subsequent offense within a five-year period.
Buying Car Insurance in West Virginia
West Virginia drivers pay some of the highest insurance rates in the nation according to a 2017 sample survey by Insure.com. The state ranks at number 15 among all states for the average cost of insurance, the study came back with an average cost of $1369 compared to the national average of $1318. This does not seem like much of a difference, but there are 36 states that offer a less expensive premium.
West Virginia drivers can shop around to compare rates in order to reduce their premiums. There is currently no state program to assist drivers with low-cost insurance. The West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner offers resources to help drivers understand insurance and shop effectively for the right policy.
High Risk Drivers
West Virginia drivers already pay high insurance rates, but those who are considered to be high-risk drivers are likely to face some of the highest rates. In some cases, a driver who is classified as high-risk due to tickets, accidents, or major violations may find it very difficult to obtain an insurance policy at all.
The West Virginia Automobile Insurance Plan exists to help high-risk drivers who have been turned down for insurance on the voluntary market to get the coverage they need. This plan places each driver with an insurance company, which is required to provide a policy. The rates for such policies will still be high based on the level of risk presented by the driver, but will meet the legal requirements.
Teen Driver Licensing and Insurance
West Virginia’s Graduated Driver Licensing program has three steps that ease teen drivers into the responsibilities of driving. Each step has requirements and restrictions designed to keep teens safer on the road by helping to learn and practice driving skills.
This is the first stage of the GDL program, and allows a teen driver to begin practicing behind the wheel, with supervision. Teens must be at least 15 years old and pass a written test in order to obtain a permit.
Restrictions for the Instruction Permit are:
- Driving is only permitted with a licensed driver over the age of 21 in the passenger seat
- Driving is only permitted between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
- Only two non-family passengers are permitted
- Cell phone use is prohibited
Intermediate Driver’s License
The second stage allows teens to drive unsupervised within a few restrictions.
In order to obtain this license, the teen must:
- Be at least 16 years old
- Have held a learner’s permit for at least 6 months
- Have completed 50 hours of practice driving time with at least 10 hours at night
- Pass a road test
- Have had zero traffic violations in the previous six months
For this license, there are several restrictions:
- For the first 6 months – no passengers under the age of 20 are permitted unless they are family members
- For the second 6 months – only 1 passenger under the age of 20 is permitted unless they are family members
- May not drive between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. unless there is a driver over the age of 21 in the passenger seat, or for an approved school, employment, or religious activity, or in an emergency
- Cell phone use is prohibited
In order to graduate to a full, unrestricted license, teen drivers must have held an intermediate license for one year violation-free, and be at least 17 years old. At this point, all restrictions are dropped.
All teen drivers are required to have auto insurance under the same laws as all other drivers. Insurance is required as soon as the teen obtains the intermediate license. Most teens can be insured on the policy of a parent or guardian and remain insured this way throughout college, even if away at school. Teens who establish their own permanent residence will need to obtain their own insurance policy.
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