Auto liability insurance minimum is the focus in West Virginia

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The state is mulling over a potential increase in the lowest possible amount of coverage.

In West Virginia, approximately 15 percent of vehicle owners are carriers of the minimum allowable amount of auto liability insurance, said the commissioner in the state when speaking to a legislative interim committee.

Mike Riley spoke to the committee on Tuesday, using the results of a survey of the largest carriers in the state.

west insurance Auto Insurance car accidentCommissioner Mike Riley spoke based on a survey that was conducted on the four largest auto liability insurance carriers in West Virginia. Depending on the insurer, the minimum coverage rates that were available were owned by between 8 and 20 percent of the policyholders. He explained that this figure represents about 177,000 vehicles covered with the lowest legal amount of protection.

Now, the joint Judiciary interim committee is going to consider whether the minimum auto liability coverage should rise.

The committee is working to decide whether or not it should enact legislation that would increase the current minimum levels. In West Virginia, the current minimum coverage is $20,000 for bodily injury to one person, $40,000 when bodily injury occurs to more than one person, as well as $10,000 for damage to property. The last time there was an increase to the minimums was in 1979, over 30 years ago.

During the regular session of 2013, a bill (SB443) was advanced by the Senate and Banking Insurance Committee, in order to increase those minimum levels to $25,000 for bodily injury to one person, $50,000 for bodily injury to more than one person and $25,000 for damage to property. However, it was shot down by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In November, the West Virginia Insurance Federation president, Jill Rice, cautioned legislators that by raising the minimum auto liability insurance levels might cause premiums to rise to the degree that coverage could become cost prohibitive for many low income drivers, forcing them to lose their insurance altogether. This would risk driving the cost of a policy even higher as the risk will increase in the state due to the large number of uninsured motorists on the roads.

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