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Examiner
  • Ken Garten: Liability and 'SS 22' insurance

  • Under Missouri Law, owners and operators of motor vehicles are required to maintain liability insurance.



    Compliance with this requirement is not generally monitored, except in certain circumstances.

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  • Under Missouri Law, owners and operators of motor vehicles are required to maintain liability insurance.
    Compliance with this requirement is not generally monitored, except in certain circumstances.
    One such circumstance is that when a driver is stopped by law enforcement, they are required to show proof of insurance.
    Another is when it is time to renew plates or licenses, showing proof is also required.
    Of course, these assurances are not fool proof, in that anyone can go to an insurance agent, hand over a check, and walk out with proof or insurance. However, this coverage will later be invalidated if the check is bad, or if subsequent premium payments are not timely made.
    Missouri law also provides that, after an accident, if an individual files a report with the Drivers’ License Bureau that the other party was at fault, has caused them damage or injury in the accident, and has failed to cover the damages, then the state will notify the other party.
    The other party is then required to file their report telling their side of the story, and also providing the identity of their insurance company.
    If they fail to respond, or if the state determines them to be at fault and they don’t have liability insurance or pay the damages, then their driver’s license and license plates are suspended until satisfaction is made.
    One instance in which insurance coverage is in fact continuously monitored is after a suspension, be it for alcohol, points or failure to respond to a damage report.
    This is where the term “SR 22” comes in.
    Look in the yellow pages, under insurance, and you’ll see many ads touting “SR 22” insurance.
    This term is greatly misunderstood.
    SR 22 is actually the name of a form created by the state that is required to be filled out by an insurance company and filed with the Drivers License Bureau, as a pre-condition to reinstatement of a driver’s license after a suspension, which must be kept up to date for a period of two years after the period of suspension ends, in most cases.
    When an insurance company files an SR 22 form with the state on behalf of its insured, the insurance company is certifying that it has liability coverage on that driver. If at any time during the required period, the insured driver lets that insurance lapse, then the insurance company notifies the state that it is revoking the SR 22 filing, and the driver’s license is automatically and immediately re-suspended. Hence, after a suspension, during the mandatory SR 22 period, there is actual continuous monitoring of a driver’s insurance coverage in this fashion.
    Whenever a prospective insured tells an insurance company they need an SR 22 filing, the insurance company knows that they have done something to suffer a suspension of their driver’s license, such as accumulating too many points, an alcohol related event, or causing an accident without insurance.
    Page 2 of 2 - These are all bad things that put them in the high risk category, which means only high risk insurance companies, with higher premiums, are generally interested in insuring them and filing an SR 22 with the state on their behalf.
    And high risk premiums can often lead to a lapse in coverage, and re-suspension of license.
    It can be a vicious cycle for the marginal motorist with marginal means, which may explain why, despite all the laws designed to ensure that all motorists be insured, one out of every seven motorists is not.
    Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at krgarten@yahoo.com
     

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