For the first time in 36 years West Virginia lawmakers have increased the minimum amount of liability insurance that must be carried on a vehicle registered in our State. Beginning in 1979, West Virginia required each automobile policy to have liability and underinsured motorist coverage of at least $20,000.00 per person and $40,000.00 per occurrence for bodily injury and at least $10,000.00 per occurrence for property damage.
Beginning on January 1, 2016, the minimum required liability and underinsured motorist coverage limits will increase to $25,000.00 per person and $50,000.00 per occurrence for bodily injury and $25,000.00 per occurrence for property damage.
Critics of the new law contend that increased limits will be accompanied by increased premiums for policyholders that already have a difficult time affording auto insurance and that the increased premiums will result in additional drivers who opt not to purchase any insurance at all. Current estimates are that 11% of drivers in West Virginia are not insured. One insurance industry spokesperson suggested that approximately 17% of state drivers currently carry the minimum and that their premiums would increase an estimated $24.00 to $60.00 per year.
Supporters of the new law point out that over the past 36 years the limits have never been adjusted to account for inflation while the cost of medical care, especially trauma care like that which results from auto accidents, has skyrocketed, not to mention the value of the average automobile.
The increase in bodily injury liability limits brings West Virginia in line with the majority of other states (34) that require at least $25,000.00 person and $50,000.00 per occurrence.
Although the new law takes effect on January 1st, if you have a minimum limits policy that is in effect as of December 31, 2015, it will stay in effect at the old limits until it expires or is renewed.