A bureaucratic mess that a 24-year-old Oregon man found himself tangled up in last month should serve as a warning to drivers who are thinking about letting their policies lapse in order to temporarily save on car insurance. In an age of coverage verification programs, things aren’t always so easy.
According to a report from the Blue Mountain Eagle newspaper in Grant County, Ore., the trouble started when Nolin Page’s 88-year-old grandmother added him to the title on her pickup truck. She did it so that he would come into possession of the car when she passed away. When winter came, Nolin’s grandmother let the insurance on the vehicle lapse. She made a habit of avoiding driving on ice and snow and figured she might as well not pay for premiums on a car that she was keeping off the road.
But after Nolin’s grandmother dropped the coverage, her pickup just happened to be selected for a random insurance checkup from the DMV. The state’s DMV selects a handful of registered vehicles each month and mails out notices to their owners asking them to provide their insurer’s name and their policy number. After the DMV gets a response, they verify the coverage with the insurer. If there’s no response from the vehicle owner, his or her license gets suspended.
The DMV sent letters both to Nolin and his grandmother. The grandmother didn’t respond, and neither did Nolin, who was going to school in Idaho at the time. Pretty soon, Nolin was notified that he would lose his license in 30 days if he didn’t provide proof of insurance coverage. When they went to their insurance agent, who called the DMV, it appeared the only course of action would be for Nolin to lose his license, reapply, and then provide an SR-22, which would require him to prove compliance with the mandatory insurance law for the next three years. The SR-22 is a requirement for drivers who are identified through DMV verifications as not having coverage.
Ultimately, Nolin did not have to lose his license and file an SR-22. When the DMV wouldn’t budge on its plan to suspend Nolin’s license, the family reached out to their local legislator, who smoothed the matter over.
Avoid Sticky Insurance Verification Situations
Even though Nolin ended up keeping his license, they could have avoided the whole mess.
In Oregon and most other states, all registered vehicles must be insured at all times. If Grandma Page had discussed with her insurance agent the fact that she was planning on letting coverage lapse, the agent likely would have let her know that she’d be breaking the law by keeping the car registered and uninsured.
The situation also most likely could have been made a little less sticky if Nolin’s grandmother would have simply replied to the DMV explaining that she had let insurance lapse because she was keeping it off the road for a few months. That might not have necessarily gotten her off the hook, but it may have helped them avoid the prospect of having Nolin’s license canceled.
So the bottom line of all this? Take insurance-verification requests seriously and respond to them promptly. With the proliferation of online verification programs across the country, snafus like this one are likely to become more and more common.