Since most drivers cannot afford to pay large judgments, insurance issues typically loom large when an accident occurs that is primarily the fault of one driver. Vermont’s insurance laws are designed to ensure fair compensation for road accident victims even if the offending driver cannot afford to pay for the victim’s damages out of his own pocket.
Following is a description of some of the basic features of Vermont’s auto insurance and road accident compensation system.
Vermont’s “Fault” Auto Insurance System
Vermont, like about 75 percent of all U.S. states, applies a “fault” or “tort” system to road accident claims. If you believe the other driver was at fault for the accident, you may seek compensation in two ways — by filing a third-party bodily injury or property damage claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy, or by filing a lawsuit against him in Vermont state court.
If you carry insurance that will allow you to file a claim for your own injuries when the other driver was at fault (some health and auto insurance policies allow this), you can pursue this option as well. No matter how many sources you rely on, however, you are never entitled to more than 100 percent of your damages (in other words, you are not entitled to a double recovery from two different sources).
Mandatory Liability Insurance Coverage
Liability insurance is a legal requirement to drive on Vermont roads. Your liability insurance limits must be no lower than:
- $25,000 per victim in personal injury damages,
- $50,000 total per accident in personal injury damages
- $10,000 per accident for vehicle damage.
Such a policy would pay up to $60,000 per accident — $50,000 for personal injury and $10,000 for property damage. Extended coverage is available to those motorists who desire it.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Vermont requires its motorists to carry uninsured motorist insurance, which covers you for an accident with an at-fault but uninsured motorist. Vermont also requires motorists to purchase underinsured motorist insurance, which covers you when at at-fault but underinsured motorist’s insurance coverage limits are insufficient to pay your claim (the liability insurance coverage of a driver with minimum mandatory insurance coverage, for example, may not be able to fully cover damages arising from a serious accident). Minimum coverage limits for both types of insurance are $50,000 per victim, $100,000 per accident and $10,000 for vehicle damage (with a $150 deductible).
Penalties for Failure to Carry Appropriate Insurance
Driving without mandatory insurance is against the law in Vermont. Penalties include:
- A fine of $47 to $622
- Two points on your driver’s license
- A requirement to file proof of Financial Responsibility Insurance with the Vermont DMV.
Statute of Limitations
In Vermont, you have a three-year window (starting with the date of the accident) to file a bodily injury or property damage lawsuit. If you are the personal representative of the probate estate of the victim of a fatal accident, you have two years from the date that the defendant returns to Vermont (if the defendant leaves the state), two years from the date of a criminal conviction arising from the accident or seven years from the date charges were filed (if criminal charges are filed) or two years from the date of the victim’s death (if the defendant is in-state and no criminal charges were filed) to file a wrongful death lawsuit.