Looking around the US, all but three states mandate drivers to carry liability insurance. Some states have no-fault schemes. Others add in a requirement to buy a personal injury protection policy. As the healthcare reform bill was signed into law, many asked whether all insurance mandates were unconstitutional. This is a fun debating topic which sounds possible but will get nowhere. States have always had the right to impose conditions on people’s voluntary activities. If you want to drive, you have to carry liability insurance to pay compensation to anyone else you may injure. A more interesting question is the amount of the minimum requirements imposed by your state’s lawmakers.
Most of these minimums have not been changed for thirty and more years. For example, in 1972, Maryland set $20,000 for a person injured subject to a maximum of $40,000 for losses arising out of a single traffic accident. This was intended to cover medical treatment, loss of earnings while recovering, and so on. In 1972, the average annual salary was $12,000 and most hospitals charged no more than a few hundred dollars for treatment. Most new vehicles cost less than $4,000 to put on the road. You could easily buy a new home for less than $30,000. Looking back now, you wonder how we managed on so little money. Prices have risen fast for medical treatment. Injure the wrong person and the claim against you for loss of earnings is going to be frightening. Why should this matter?The liability coverage only pays out the minimum. You get to pick up the bill for all the other losses. So any savings or property you have may be taken to satisfy a judgment against you.
Should states increase their minimums? Many are thinking about doing so, but the politics of actually making new laws is difficult. During the recession, people are under financial pressure. Forcing them to spend more on vehicle insurance is not going to be popular among the poorer sections of the electorate. For the middle classes, there is the option to buy more coverage including an uninsured and underinsured policy. This is the American way. Those who have money can use it to protect themselves against losses. Those who are poor must take life as it comes.
In Maryland, the legislators have just increased the minimums to $30,000/60,000. This is curiously unreal. An increase to match the rate of inflation since 1972 should make the minimums $100,000/200,000. But, the political situation does not permit the lawmakers to restore the value of the minimums overnight. The answer was annual increases to inflation-proof the amounts. We would have arrived at $100,000 without anyone being too upset about it. But we have grown used to accepting the cheapest solutions even though millions of people across America actually lose money because of it.
Why millions of people? These are all the victims of bad driving who never recover anything more than the minimums and suffer major financial losses as a result. This is injustice on a massive scale. And it will never be cured because it would cost too much to make the necessary increases. The only people who come out of this smiling are the investors in the auto insurance industry. Their profits and dividends have been rising steadily despite the recession. To protect yourself, always get auto insurance quotes from this site to find the most affordable coverage. Insurance may be mandated but you don’t have to pay excessive premiums.