All drivers in West Virginia are required to carry auto insurance in order to be on the road legally. However, if you have a record of traffic accidents or DUIs, you may find it hard to find auto insurers willing to insure you, because incidents like these make insurers view you as “high risk.” If you are turned down for auto insurance because of a less-than-stellar driving record, you may be able to turn to the West Virginia Automobile Insurance Plan (WV AIP) to meet state requirements. As long as you meet the eligibility criteria described below, you should receive coverage. West Virginia mandates that all drivers carry auto insurance for third-party liability and against uninsured motorists in at least the amounts of 25/50/25.
What is the West Virginia Automobile Insurance Plan – WV AIP?
In order to maximize the number of insured drivers on the road in West Virginia, auto insurers agreed back in 1970 to join this Plan. The Plan is an organization that assigns West Virginia drivers to auto insurers that already do business in the state. Because this assignment is at the discretion of the Plan, you will not have a choice of insurers.
According to the WV AIP itself, finding coverage through them should be considered a last resort. Your premiums might be higher than they would be otherwise, and the assigned insurers are only obligated to cover you for three years. Once you are assigned an insurer, all interactions regarding your policy, such as your bills, and your claims would be handled by the assigned insurer, not the West Virginia AIP.
West Virginia AIP Eligibility
As a high risk driver, you may find auto insurance through the WV AIP if you truthfully certify on your application that you have been turned down by a carrier within the previous 60 days. If that is the case, then you also need a valid West Virginia driver’s license and a vehicle that is registered (or about to be registered) in the state.
Last but not least, you must have no outstanding bills from previous auto insurance coverage in West Virginia. An unpaid premium bill will stop your application in its tracks. As soon as you pay the bill, your application can proceed.
Note that it’s important to fill out the WV AIP application accurately and completely. If your assigned insurer discovers that you’ve omitted or misrepresented information that is important to assessing you as a risk – like accidents, DUIs, speeding tickets, etc. – then they may decide you are acting in bad faith. In that case, they can refuse to insure you and bar you from reapplying to the WV AIP for 12 months.
West Virginia AIP Coverage
Auto insurance coverages for high risk drivers in West Virginia are the same as those offered to other drivers in the state. But they may prove to be more expensive to buy.
Once the West Virginia AIP assigns you to an insurer, the company will cover you for 3 years. This is a great time to work on improving your driving record. A clean driving record will allow you to find and choose West Virignia auto insurance companies with better rates. If you remain in the high risk category at the end of the 3 years, you may apply to the West Virginia AIP again, and you will be considered a “new” applicant. That means you may find coverage again, but it will likely be with a different insurance company.
The table below shows the mandatory coverages that the state of West Virginia requires for all drivers. Note that Uninsured Motorist coverage is required, while Underinsured Motorist coverage is optional (more on the two here). Talk with your insurance agent about the appropriate level of coverage for your financial situation. Buying just the minimum levels of coverage may not be enough to cover medical bills and other damages in case you have an accident.
|Mandatory Coverage||West Virginia Required Min. Limits||West Virginia AIP Maximum Limits|
|Bodily Injury (BI)||$25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident||$100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident|
|Property Damage (PD)||$25,000 per accident||$50,000 per accident|
|Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury||$25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident||$100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident|
|Uninsured Motorist Property Damage||$25,000 per accident||$50,000 per accident|
In addition, West Virginia auto insurers may offer you optional coverages for a higher premium. Note that Underinsured Motorist coverage has 2 parts: Bodily Injury and Property Damage. Should you choose either of these, the limits of your UIM coverage cannot exceed the limits that you selected for that coverage in the liability part of your policy.
With regards to Physical Damage coverage, Comprehensive and Collision coverage – which must be purchased together - may be offered with a choice of deductibles: $100, $250, or $500. Opting for a greater deductible usually results in a lower premium for that part of your policy. Be aware that if your auto is an antique (older than 25 years), or has an original cost of more than $25,000, your assigned insurer does not have to offer this coverage.
|Optional Coverage||West Virginia AIP Min. Limits||West Virginia AIP Maximum Limits|
|Medical Payments Coverage||$1,000 per person per accident||$5,000 per person per accident|
|Physical Damage (Collision and Comprehensive)||Actual cash value of your car||No more than $25,000|
|Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury||$20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident||$100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident|
|Underinsured Motorist Property Damage||$10,000 per accident||$50,000 per accident|
WV AIP Premiums and Payments
According to the West Virginia Office of the Insurance Commissioner, auto insurance premiums from an assigned insurer are likely to cost more than premiums for other drivers. But there is no exact calculation for determining just how much more. Insurance companies consider a number of different factors when determining your premium. The more you understand what these factors are, the more likely you are to be able to take actions that can reduce your auto insurance premiums.
There are two basic ways to pay your auto insurance premium to your assigned insurer. The first is to pay up front, with a payment of 30% of the annual premium accompanying your WV AIP application, and the entire balance paid within 30 days of receiving your policy in the mail. The second is an installment plan. This requires a deposit of 25% of the annual premium up front, and then you will be billed in 5 equal monthly installments until the full premium is paid.
In West Virginia, it pays to be an early bird! The Insurance Commissioner indicates that your insurance company may cancel you for nonpayment of a premium, even if the payment is just one day late. While you may be reinstated once payment is made, this is an unnecessary difficulty you can easily avoid.
How to Apply for West Virginia Automobile Insurance Program
Any licensed auto insurance agent or broker in West Virginia should be able to tell you about the West Virginia AIP, and help you apply if that’s what you choose to do.
For more information about the WV AIP, call the Consumer Services section of the West Virginia Office of the Insurance Commissioner at 888-879-9842 or check out the West Virginia AIP website here: https://www.aipso.com/PlanSites/WestVirginia.aspx