Alabama drivers caught without mandatory liability insurance will soon face civil penalties

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Troopers in Alabama will soon be enforcing a mandatory liability insurance law starting November 1st.

The law was passed and signed by the Governor in 2016, but drivers have been allowed a grace period.

Motorists are subject to a civil penalty that comes with a $200 fine for a first offense.

The Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Insurance said motorists who operate a vehicle without liability insurance drive up everyone’s rates.

For those who have been involved in accidents with uninsured drivers, it can leave them footing the bill.

Charles Thompson was in a wreck on his way home from work this summer on Interstate 59.

“All of a sudden this car darted out from the left center lane,” said Thompson.

Like anyone else in an accident, Thompson exchanged insurance information with the other driver, who appeared to have valid insurance.

“A couple of weeks later we get received a letter that this gentleman did not have coverage,” said Thompson.

Thompson said he and his insurance company were left to pick up the tab.

“That’s what I felt was so unfair that I was minding my own business doing nothing wrong and here I am out money,” said Thompson.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency tells CBS 42 that uninsured drivers are a big problem across the state.

“We think there’s about 23 percent of uninsured motorists in Alabama,” said Hal Taylor, Secretary of ALEA.

Taylor said some will buy insurance to obtain a coverage card and then only pay the first month.

“What will happen is, if you have an accident and at the time let’s say you don’t receive a ticket for no insurance because you produced a card saying that you had valid insurance. Let’s say it’s the month of March that you had the accident, and your insurance card showed that you were valid January through June, you only paid the payment in January. You’ve still got that card saying you had valid insurance January through June, but you didn’t make those additional payments to your insurance company, so you really didn’t have insurance. What we’ll do is come back, check that, and if you don’t have insurance you’ll be issued a civil penalty,” Taylor said.

In addition to fines, drivers caught without insurance can lose their license for 90 days if it is not paid or appealed within 45 days.

News that troopers will soon enforce the law is welcome news for drivers like Thompson.

“For people like us and all the other people that are trying to do the right thing, it will keep them from being a victim,” said Thompson.

According to ALEA, drivers should make sure their license address is up to date. If a penalty is mailed to the wrong address and remains unpaid, a driver’s license can be suspended.

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