Uninsured in Rhode Island? Here’s what you might be risking.
Ensure you have the required auto insurance coverage before driving in Rhode Island. The Ocean State mandates specific insurance amounts for bodily injury liability, property damage, and uninsured motorist coverage. Understanding these requirements can save drivers from legal complications and provide adequate protection in case of accidents.
The road is unpredictable. Accidents happen no matter what precautions you take. There is, however, one thing you can control when it comes to driving in Rhode Island, and that’s making sure you have the minimum auto insurance required by law.
Let’s take a close look at the Ocean State’s insurance mandates and how an uninsured driver may impact your ability to recover damages after a car accident.
Minimum auto insurance requirements in Rhode Island
Before you even take your car for a spin in Rhode Island, you’re legally required to purchase certain auto insurance coverage:
- Bodily Injury Liability: This insurance pays for the injuries sustained by OTHER drivers and passengers in a car accident that YOU cause. Under Rhode Island law, you’re required to carry bodily injury liability coverage in the amounts of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
- Property Damage Liability: This insurance pays for the property damage sustained by OTHER drivers in a car accident that YOU cause. Under Rhode Island law, you’re required to carry property damage liability coverage in the amount of at least $25,000 per accident.
- Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage: This covers both bodily injury and property damage you or your passengers might suffer from an accident with an uninsured driver. Rhode Island law necessitates that every auto insurance policy includes UM coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. You have the option to decline this coverage. However, if you opt for bodily injury liability insurance surpassing the minimum limits, UM coverage becomes obligatory.
While these are the minimum requirements, you may want to purchase more extensive coverage for added protection. Beyond increasing your liability and UM coverage, there are additional options available to bolster your protection, such as:
- Comprehensive coverage provides coverage for losses other than those caused by a collision (vandalism, falling objects, fire, etc.);
- Collision coverage provides coverage for damage to your vehicle caused by an accident with another vehicle or an object (such as a fence);
- Personal injury protection (PIP) provides up to $10,000 coverage regardless of who’s at fault (what’s covered depends on the specific policy); and
- MedPay provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers, regardless of who is at fault.
Consequences of driving without insurance in Rhode Island
Under Rhode Island General Laws Section 31-47-9, uninsured drivers face the following penalties:
|First offense||Second offense||Third offense|
In addition to the above penalties, uninsured drivers who cause an accident are personally liable for all of the damages that result.
The Insurance Information Institute reports that Rhode Island has one of the highest percentages of uninsured drivers in the United States, with 16.5 percent of its drivers lacking the required insurance.
Recovering damages from an uninsured driver
Rhode Island follows a traditional fault-based insurance system. This means the person responsible for causing a car crash is also responsible for paying the damages.
If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, you only have two options for recovering damages:
- File an insurance claim under your uninsured motorist policy (assuming you have one), or
- File a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the uninsured driver.
The unfortunate reality is that drivers who don’t carry insurance often lack the funds or assets to cover a civil judgment against them. However, personal injury attorneys have some legal tools they can use to enforce judgments, including:
- Wage garnishment
- Bank Levy
- Liens on property
Borrowing and lending your vehicle in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, car insurance typically follows the vehicle, not the driver. This means if a friend or family member borrows your car and is involved in an accident, your insurance will likely be the primary coverage. If the damages exceed your policy limits, your friend or family member’s insurance may serve as secondary coverage.
There are exceptions to this general rule, so it’s a good idea to review your insurance policy before lending your vehicle to a friend or family member.
FAQs about Rhode Island auto insurance
If you still have questions, the following might provide the answer you’re looking for:
Yes. If you’re driving in Rhode Island, you’re required to meet the state’s minimum insurance requirements, regardless of where your vehicle is registered. Luckily, auto insurance policies typically include a provision that automatically adjusts your coverage to meet the minimum requirements of any state in which you’re driving. This is known as a “broadening clause” or “out-of-state coverage” provision.
Rhode Island has a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims, meaning you must file a lawsuit within three years of the accident or your claim may be forever barred.
Yes. In Rhode Island, motorcycles are treated the same as cars for purposes of insurance coverage.
Whether you’re a resident or just passing through the state, understanding Rhode Island’s auto insurance laws can save you potential legal complications. Remember, if you’re ever in doubt or face challenges receiving the compensation you deserve following an accident, it’s a good idea to reach out to an experienced car accident attorney.