Even on beautiful Vermont roads, accidents happen. Are you adequately covered?
Driving in Vermont requires understanding its specific auto insurance requirements. With roughly 4,000 people injured in car accidents annually in the state, it's essential to ensure you're adequately covered. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of Vermont's car insurance landscape, from mandatory liability and UM/UIM coverage to the benefits of optional insurance.
It’s hard to imagine anything can go wrong when you’re cruising down a Vermont backroad in the middle of autumn, with the sky a robin’s egg blue and the trees a kaleidoscope of color. But car accidents can happen in the blink of an eye.
According to the Vermont Department of Transportation, roughly 4,000 people are injured in car accidents in the state every year.
Fortunately, you’ve thought ahead and purchased the necessary auto insurance. Or have you?
Vermont’s auto insurance requirements
To drive legally in Vermont, you must have the following minimum insurance coverage:
- Liability coverage: Auto liability insurance pays for damages suffered by another person caused by an accident in which you were at fault. In Vermont, you must carry the following liability coverage:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury,
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury, and
- $10,000 for property damage.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM): This type of insurance covers you if you’re injured by a driver who isn't insured or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your injuries. In Vermont, you must carry the following UM/UIM coverage:
- $50,000 per person, and
- $100,000 per accident.
In lieu of purchasing auto insurance, drivers can provide evidence of self-insurance in the amount of $115,000 to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.
Penalties for driving without auto insurance in Vermont
If you’re caught driving without car insurance in Vermont, you’ll be assessed a civil penalty of up to $500.
While that’s not ideal, the most severe consequence of driving without insurance is that uninsured drivers who cause an accident are personally liable for all of the damages that result.
Even if you don’t have any money in your bank account, the other driver can obtain a court order that allows them to garnish your future wages and sell your assets.
Optional insurance coverage
The minimum liability insurance required may not be enough to cover a serious car accident, leaving you personally liable for the amount of damages that exceed your policy limits. For this reason, many people choose to purchase additional liability insurance.
Along with additional liability insurance, drivers in Vermont can purchase the following optional coverage:
- 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 telephone pole).
- Personal injury protection (PIP) provides up to $10,000 coverage regardless of who’s at fault (what’s covered depends on the specific policy).
- MedPay provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers, regardless of who is at fault.
Vermont is a fault-based insurance state
Like the majority of states in the country, Vermont operates an “at-fault” insurance system (sometimes called a “tort-based” or “fault-based” system). This means the person responsible for causing a car crash is liable for any injuries or property damage that results from the crash.
Accordingly, if you’ve been involved in a car accident in Vermont that wasn’t your fault, you have three main avenues to recover damages:
- File a claim with your insurance company (your insurer will seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company),
- File a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or
- File a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
In Vermont, if you’re considering filing a lawsuit after a car accident, timing is of the essence. The state’s statute of limitations gives you three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim. If you fail to file your lawsuit within this time period, your claim will be forever barred, with few exceptions.
FAQs about car insurance in Vermont
Do you still have questions about car insurance in Vermont? Let’s see if we can get them answered:
In Vermont, auto insurance typically follows the car, not the driver. If a friend borrows your car and gets into an accident, your insurance will be the primary coverage, meaning it will be the first to pay for any damages or injuries up to your policy limits. After reaching those limits, the driver’s insurance may come into play as secondary coverage. Always check your specific policy details and consult with your insurer before lending your vehicle to ensure you understand potential liabilities.
Vermont operates under the "modified comparative negligence" system. In scenarios where fault is shared, if you are deemed partially responsible, your compensation will be reduced proportionately by the percentage of blame assigned to you. However, it's important to note that if you're deemed more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, Vermont law prohibits you from recovering any compensation from other parties involved.
Here are some simple—but important—steps to take following a car accident:
- Prioritize safety: Ensure everyone involved is safe and, if needed, seek immediate medical attention.
- Notify authorities: Always report the accident to the local police, regardless of the severity. A police report can be instrumental in insurance and legal proceedings.
- Document everything: Capture photographs of the scene, damages, injuries, and any relevant road signs or signals. Collect contact information from witnesses and involved parties. Jot down the sequence of events leading to the accident, as memories can fade over time.
- Contact your insurer: Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible, even if you believe you're not at fault. This proactive step can assist in efficient claim processing.
- Seek legal advice: If injuries are involved, or there's a dispute over fault, consulting a personal injury attorney can be beneficial. They can guide you through the legal nuances and help ensure your rights and interests are protected.
If you have auto insurance for your personal vehicle, it often extends to cover rental cars, making additional rental insurance unnecessary. However, it's crucial to verify with your insurance agent to understand the scope of your coverage. If you don't own a car and thus lack personal auto insurance, the rental agency will offer insurance packages. It's wise to consider these options to ensure you're protected during the rental period.