Possibly the most daunting potential consequence facing people who have been arrested for DUI is the mandatory driver’s license suspension. And if an individual is unfortunate enough to have his or her license suspended either after an adverse administrative ruling by the DOL or as the result of a conviction for either DUI, Physical Control or Reckless Driving, a requirement for reinstatement by the DOL is proof of compliance with the SR-22 laws for a period of up to three years.
People who are required to obtain an SR-22 filing in order to maintain or regain their Washington state driving privileges often wonder two things. First, what is “SR-22 insurance”? And second, how can it be obtained? This entry attempts to answer those questions and provide considerations for individuals who find themselves faced with this situation.
SR-22 is not really a type of insurance per se. It is a certificate filed with the Washington Department of Licensing that informs the DOL that a driver is has the appropriate liability insurance coverage by an insurer licensed to do business within the state of Washington. Where someone acquires “SR-22 insurance” is really dependant upon a variety of factors including, whether or not the person currently has any auto liability insurance, the type and complexity of the current insurance policy, the desirability of keeping the current policy intact without the insurance company finding out about the transgression, and the potential cost of competing insurance possibilities.
Washington’s SR-22 requirement can be fulfilled in basically one of two ways. The first is that a person can post $60,000.00 with the secretary of state’s office for a period of three years. Assuming that alternative is not the desired one (and I’ve yet to either know or hear of anyone who has exercised that option in the last 17 years) a person can seek an insurance provider who is licensed to provide insurance in the state of Washington to provide the requisite level of coverage AND file a certificate of coverage with the Washington State Department of Licensing. This is obviously the more common route chosen to satisfy the SR-22 requirement.
And where a person obtains the SR-22 certificate depends on his or her own needs and circumstances.
In the instance where the individual is not currently insured and/or does not own a car, the answer is simplest. Regardless of car ownership, if he wishes to drive he still must file SR-22. This can be done through obtaining a broad form insurance policy. Such insurance provides liability coverage to an individual no matter what car he is driving. The filing of a broad form is a very common way of satisfying SR-22.
A more difficult decision arises when either the individual has a preferred policy that he would like to keep, has a policy that covers multiple individuals and/or vehicles and separation could be difficult and costly or if he simply wishes to try and keep the current policy intact in order to remain with a preferred provider in hopes that the suspension or offense is never discovered. In these situations there are different alternatives.
One is that the driver could simply contact his current insurance agent and try to get an SR-22 filing made on his behalf based upon his existing coverage. Depending on the agent and company involved as well as the expense and breadth of the current policy, that insurance company may agree to file the SR-22 certificate. Sometimes this is done at little to no extra expense, sometimes at great expense, and in some cases, the company can decide to terminate coverage based upon the information it has received. Termination of coverage is not as common today as it once was, with insurance carriers choosing to levy huge surcharges instead and leaving it to the individual to determine whether or not to keep the policy. It is, however, a possibility. It is also necessary to keep in mind that some preferred policies just will not allow for an SR-22 filing to be provided.
Another possibility is that the driver could contact an independent insurer to cover just himself while attempting to keep his more complex or preferred plan intact in the hopes that the suspension or offense is not discovered. In this case, the individual could obtain a broad form policy for the period of time required by the DOL. Such coverage currently cost about $1,000 a year and would need to be carried for up to three years. The benefits of this approach is that if the suspension or conviction was never discovered, the driver would be able to maintain his preferred insurance coverage. There are many ways in which the current insurance provider could discover the transgression but the fact is, sometimes they don’t. And as was mentioned above, even if it were discovered chances are that the policy would not be terminated, just made much more expensive. It is a gamble and one that should be undertaken only after consult with an attorney and, preferably, an insurance professional.
The final possibility would be to remove the driver and his vehicle form the current policy and seek coverage elsewhere, apart from the group coverage.
The bottom line is that there is no clear cut answer. If you or a client find themselves in a position that SR-22 becomes a requirement, determine what the costs and benefits of the above approaches are, get as many quotes as possible (at least 3-5), and find a trustworthy insurance professional to help guide you before making any final decisions.