What does the Alabama Mandatory Insurance law mean for uninsured Alabama residents involved in a motor vehicle wreck?

CodeThe state can suspend a driver’s license or an owner’s vehicle registration until the proper forms are submitted and fees paid when an uninsured vehicle is involved in a collision or when a driver is pulled over and fails to provide proof of insurance.  The Code of Alabama has two different chapters governing mandatory car insurance and the penalties for not having coverage. They are Ala. Code §32-7-1 et seq. Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility Act and Ala. Code §32-7A-l et seq. Mandatory Automobile Liability Insurance.

§32-7-5 of the Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility Act requires that any driver involved in a wreck in Alabama, where any person is injured or killed or where more than $250.00 in property damage is sustained, must file a written report with the Department of Public Safety within 30 days of the date of the wreck stating, among other things, that the driver has the required minimum insurance coverage. This is the SR-13 form given to drivers after collisions. The drivers must submit the form whether or not the wreck is their fault.

Under §32-7-6, if one or more of the drivers in a motor vehicle wreck is reported as being uninsured, that driver has 20 days after the submission of an accident report to provide proof that the driver either (1) actually has insurance, (2) has been released from liability, (3) has been finally adjudicated as being not liable, or (4) has agreed to pay installments for any injuries or damages for which the driver is liable. If 60 days passes from the submission of an accident report and an uninsured driver has not provided any of the above information, the Department of Transportation has the power to suspend both the license of the driver and the vehicle registration of any vehicle owned by the uninsured vehicle’s owner.

The Department of Public Safety requires that uninsured drivers involved in collisions submit various forms before their licenses can be reinstated. If a driver was involved in an accident and was reported as being uninsured, but the driver actually had insurance, the driver must submit an SR-21 “Proof of Liability Insurance” form to the Department of Public Safety. If an uninsured driver has been released from liability for an accident, the driver must submit an SR-58 “General Release” form to the Department of Public Safety. If an uninsured driver has agreed to an installment payment plan for any damages or injuries they caused in a collision, they must submit an SR-59 “Conditional Release” form to the Department of Public Safety. If more than 2 years has gone by since a wreck where an uninsured driver caused injuries or property damage in excess of $250.00, but no parties have sought to hold the driver liable for those injuries or damage, the driver must submit an SR-33 “No Court Action Statement” form. The State will not reinstate the uninsured driver’s license until it receives the appropriate form and any accompanying fees, charges, or penalties.

§32-7-6.1 of the Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility Act requires that persons registering vehicles in the State of Alabama present proof of insurance at the time of registration, and also that drivers carry proof of insurance in their vehicles. This section also empowers law enforcement officers to request proof of insurance any time they request a driver’s license from a vehicle’s driver and to issue a citation for failure to provide proof of insurance.  If a driver is issued a citation for driving without insurance, or an owner knowingly allows a person to operate a vehicle without insurance coverage, and they are unable to provide proof of insurance to the court of appropriate jurisdiction, §32-7-6.1 (h) states that the driver or owner may be convicted of a misdemeanor, and fined no more than $500.00 for the first conviction, and no more than $1,000.00 for any subsequent conviction. The court may also suspend the individual’s driver’s license for no more than six months as an additional penalty for any subsequent conviction.

Ala. Code §32-7A-l et seq. Mandatory Automobile Liability Insurance gives the state Department of Revenue the power to enforce Alabama’s mandatory liability insurance requirement through the state’s motor vehicle registration system. §32-7A-4 requires that liability coverage be maintained for all vehicles registered with the state of Alabama. §32-7A-7 gives the Department of Revenue the authority to select random samples of vehicle registrations in the State to confirm that liability coverage exists for those vehicles. Under §32-7A-9, the State Department of Revenue can suspend the vehicle registration of any vehicle found to be operating in violation of §32-7A-4, or if the Department receives notice that the vehicle violated the law of another State that would be equivalent to §32-7A-4.

In the case of a first time violation, the Department of Revenue will reinstate a vehicle’s registration upon payment of a $100.00 reinstatement fee and submission of proof of liability insurance. In the case of a second violation, the Department will suspend the vehicle’s registration for a minimum of four months, and will then reinstate the registration upon payment of a $200.00 reinstatement fee and submission of proof of liability insurance. Additionally, upon conviction for a second violation, the violator will be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.

Since a driver can have their license suspended if they are involved in a collision where significant injury or property damage occurs but they do not have insurance, it is possible for a private citizen to hold that uninsured driver responsible for those injuries. Once the uninsured driver’s license is suspended, the injured party can refuse to sign an SR-58 “General Release,” or an SR-59 “Conditional Release” until the uninsured driver has satisfied the injured party.

Here at Siniard, Timberlake & League, we handle cases where no liability insurance exists on a daily basis.  If you find yourself involved in a collision with an uninsured person, contact us to discuss your options regarding any possible recovery.