Many times has the question been posed as to whether or not a DUI will affect your insurance rates. The answer is not as straightforward as one would hope. Consequently, the answer is, "it depends."
First, we must look to what exactly is going on with your driving record once you receive a DUI. If you are arrested and your BAC is over 0.08 or you refuse blood alcohol testing, then on the 46th day after your DUI arrest, your driving privileges will be suspended.
Meanwhile, when the suspension becomes effective, your Driving Record will show "Statutory Summary Suspension" and the dates you are to be suspended.
If you and/or your family is insured under a car insurance policy, the larger insurance companies, such as State Farm, Allstate, and GEICO, will periodically review your policy. In that review, they will run the license statuses of each of the insured on your policy. If they discover that one of your dependants (or even yourself) has a suspended driver’s license, they will likely CANCEL your entire policy. Most license suspensions result from what insurance companies classify as major violations. Preferred rated policies, and in most cases even standard rated policies, will not allow for any type of major convictions or suspensions for any household driver within the previous 5 year period. Insurance companies will periodically re-underwrite existing policy holders and if it is discovered that a driver was convicted of a major violation and/or subject to a license suspension, non-renewal of the entire policy is a common result or even cancellation.
For example, if your son or daughter receives an underage drinking ticket, they plead guilty, receive court supervision, and the clerk mails notice of that disposition to the Secretary of State, your son/daughter’s driving privileges will be suspended for 3 months. Since your son or daughter never told you about the ticket or the suspension, you will likely find out the hard way because you’ll get into an accident and realize that your insurance policy was canceled. Now, the insurance company should send you notice in the form of a cancellation letter. However, if you don’t receive the letter or it’s lost in the mail, you may be driving without insurance and not even know it.
So what should you do if you find out about the suspension? This answer depends on the advice from your attorney, contingent on factors that will differ from policy to policy. One option is remove the suspended household driver from the policy and obtain a temporary policy under a different insurer, such as progressive or InsureOne. If the insurance company still tries to deny your renewal or attempts to cancel your policy, you can tell them the person is no longer a part of your household. If you would like to play the odds, you could keep the suspended dependant on your policy and hope that the insurance company doesn’t find out. The odds are in your favor that they will not find out because it is costly for the insurance company to review the driving records. It costs $12 per driving record to obtain. I’ve learned that the insurance companies will “periodically” review; however, it’s unlikely they’ll review unless your policy is up for renewal. If that is the case, option one may seem the most plausible. If it’s not up for renewal, you could probably play the odds and get by okay. However, that is most certainly NOT a guarantee.
This is typical for any type of suspension. A suspension for DUI would likely be taken more seriously than a suspension for parking tickets. It is unclear whether or not insurance companies draw that distinction. In our experience, insurance companies will usually do as much as they can to protect their bottom line.
As to insurance rates, it would be prudent to review your insurance policy to see what the fine print says about suspensions and traffic violations. If your policy raises rates for dispositions that do NOT result in a conviction, such as court supervision, you should take issue with that insurance company and possibly consider canceling the policy for a company that will NOT raise your rates.
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Article Author: Jeffrey R. Hall
Jeff Hall is managing partner at Hall, Rustom & Fritz LLC and concentrates his law practice in Criminal Law, DUI & Traffic law, driver's license reinstatement hearings and criminal record expungements.
If you have a legal question, email Jeff Hall.