When it Comes to Vehicle Insurance in Mississippi - Do You Have Enough?

Shopping around for car insurance can be almost as arduous and time-consuming as buying the car itself. This is especially true in Mississippi, where it's not always clear which types of coverage--if any--are required by law or how much protection one really needs for adequate protection.

When it Comes Time to Buy

If you've been looking into buying a car for a while, there's a good chance that somewhere along the line you've been told Mississippi is one of the only states that doesn't require auto liability coverage. You might have even found confirmation of that belief on the Internet, where numerous websites--many of which are updated regularly with supposedly current information--claim a driver isn't required by Mississippi law to maintain liability if he or she is willing to pay out of pocket for the non-responsible driver's repairs and expenses in the event of a traffic accident.

Not only is coming up with enough cash at the spur of the moment for expensive car repairs--not to mention astronomical hospital bills--unrealistic, but the widely-believed "fact" about the Magnolia State simply isn't true. On Feb. 23, 2000, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed House Bill 621, establishing a compulsory automobile liability system. In accordance with the law, all drivers are required to "maintain liability insurance and carry a card in their vehicles at all times showing proof of liability insurance." And 2006 saw the establishment of minimum liability requirements for all drivers, setting minimums at no less than $25,000 per person; $25,000 per accident for property damage; and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury. Failure to comply with the law can result in stiff penalties. In fact, simply failing to carry proof of a policy--even if you're insured--can net you a $1,000 fine and a one-year suspension of your driving privileges.

Go Beyond the Minimums for Peace of Mind

To put it bluntly, getting behind the wheel of a vehicle without the mandatory minimum liability coverage would be a foolish thing to do. For that matter, it would probably be wise to go beyond what's required of you.

Liability protects only the other driver if you're at fault in a collision. Since many people, especially those with spotless driving records, don't believe they'll ever be at fault in a traffic accident, they consider the minimum to be enough protection. After all, since any potential collision will be the other person's fault, they'll be financially covered. The fault in this logic is no one leaves the house believing he or she is going to cause an accident that day. However, statistics show an average of 1,500 car accidents of varying severity occur every day in Mississippi. And in a two-car collision, one the motorists is usually to blame. That means if you're involved in one of these accidents, you've got a 50/50 chance of being at fault. Are you really willing to bet your vehicle, your savings and maybe your home with odds like that?

A False Sense of Security?

Even if you're comfortable going without protection to cover theft, vandalism and your own repairs and medical costs, you might want to take a closer look at your liability limits. Even the Mississippi Insurance Department, the government agency that oversees all related practices and policies in the state, warns the required coverage of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury and $25,000 per accident for property damage might not be enough to handle another driver's bill and stave off a lawsuit. In a handbook distributed to state residents, Commissioner Mike Cheney notes, "In today's era of ever-rising medical costs and auto repair bills, the state-mandated minimum requirements may not be sufficient. It is a good idea to consider purchasing liability coverage with higher limits."

Another problem associated with sticking with the minimum is just because there's a law doesn't mean everyone abides by it. And considering that some people don't even believe they're required to carry liability, there's no telling how many uninsured motorists are on the road. If you're involved in a traffic accident with one of them, sure, he or she will be slapped with a huge fine and will likely lose driving privileges for a while. Still, however satisfying the uninsured driver's penalty is to you, mere satisfaction won't pay for repairs to your vehicle or whatever medical expenses result from the collision. Fortunately, there is an option to prevent your life from being turned upside-down at the random hand of a stranger: uninsured/underinsured motorists protection. With this type of plan, your car insurance company will step in and take on the role of the other party's insurer if he or she isn't compliant with Mississippi law.

Drive in Peace

With options to protect yourself from theft, vandalism, collisions and uninsured motorists, there's a whole lot more available beyond the minimum requirements. And buying an expanded policy might be less expensive than you think. According to a study by the Auto Insurance Institute, there are at least 25 states that top Mississippi in most expensive vehicle premiums. Considering the peace of mind it could bring, you might find that upping your limits was the smartest investment you ever made.

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