Thursday, June 3, 2010

Insurance Law = Immigration Law?

Eugene Kane equates the new insurance law with the Arizona immigration law.
Beginning this week, if a police officer stops you while driving, he or she will be able to ask for your official papers.

Shades of Arizona!

But unlike the new Arizona immigration law, this isn't a check on your status as an American citizen; this time it's about auto insurance. The new law allows police to ask for proof of insurance during a traffic stop along with the standard request to see a valid driver's license.

For some people, it's no big deal. But for others, it's yet another way to get into big trouble.

Nichole Yunk, director of the Center for Driver's License Recovery & Employability in Milwaukee, sees problems ahead.

"It will definitely affect the client population we serve," said Yunk in reference to low-income residents with troubled driving records. "We know people will be pulled over and get tickets they can't afford. It's not really a matter of safety; it's about writing tickets."

Milwaukee Police Department spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said police will give drivers a 90-day grace period before implementing the law. Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. said his department would provide a grace period until July 1 and decide on a final policy after that date.

That's encouraging. It's my guess if local law enforcement started writing tickets for lack of insurance proof in some parts of Milwaukee today, half the drivers wouldn't have the required paperwork.

Including me. I'm going to have to remind myself to start carrying my insurance card in my car, because it's not something I normally do.

The maximum fine for not having proof of insurance is $500, but Yunk said state officials agreed the average citation would not be more than $50 in most cases, although that's up to the discretion of the officers and judges.

All drivers in Wisconsin need to realize getting behind the wheel of a car can lead to complications if their insurance coverage is not in order.

In other words, get ready to show your papers the next time a cop asks. And, no, you're not in Arizona.
The comparison is absolutely ridiculous. First of all, until June 1, Wisconsin was one of only 2 states that didn’t require liability insurance, the other being New Hampshire. The law did say, however, that if one decided not to carry insurance, one must prove proof of financial responsibility. Yeah – like that happened. When I moved to Wisconsin I was floored to learn that liability insurance coverage was not the law. I've been carrying my insurance card in my wallet since I got a drivers license.

Allow me to tell you a little story. A few years back, my parked car was hit twice in the same parking lot within a span of seven days. Yeah, I know...gotta stop shopping there! Now – the second driver had insurance. Awesome! I got his information, gave him mine, and within two weeks his insurance company paid for my damage. Simple, right?

On the other hand, the first driver who hit me did NOT have insurance. So here’s what happens. I got an estimate for the damages (a little over $1,000) and sent it to her. No response. I had an attorney send her a letter. No response. I offered to settle for $500. No response. So I filed a lawsuit, meaning I had to pay a filing fee. I then had to pay the process server to attempt to serve her. Naturally, this fine, upstanding citizen evaded service. I then had to serve her by publication, which of course involves another cost. Surprisingly, she showed up in court. We did end up settling, however she was going to make very minimal payments each month, which she did for awhile. Then she stopped. I then had a judgment entered against her, sent the paperwork to the DMV and had her license suspended. Eventually I actually did get paid in full plus my costs, but it was a royal pain in the ass, and it took years.

Why didn’t I submit it to my insurance, you ask? Well, unfortunately the way things are right now, I would be penalized for this other driver not having insurance. I would have paid a deductible, and my rates most likely would have gone up. Had it been more extensive damage, I may have had to do that. In this case, however, I didn’t.

Imagine what could have happened if this uninsured driver got in a serious accident and there were injuries to innocent parties? Why should they, or their insurance company, have to bear the cost of that? Why should those who are responsible enough to carry at least liability insurance have to bear the costs of those who are not?

So Mr. Kane and Ms. Yunk, this is not about “writing tickets” or “showing papers”…it’s about being a responsible driver.

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