As of January 1 2001, Mississippi law states that all drivers must have liability insurance and carry proof of this in their car at all times. However, there’s more to Mississippi auto insurance laws than just this. From minimum required liability coverage to penalties and DUI incidents, here’s what you need to know.
What is Liability Coverage?
Liability coverage pays for any damage you might make to other people and their property if you’re in a crash and it was your fault. This includes medical expenses and damage to the other vehicle(s).
Liability coverage will only pay up to the limits of your insurance so if the damages cost more, you’ll be responsible for paying the difference. If you want your insurance company to pay for your own medical bills and vehicle repairs, you’ll need to buy additional coverage onto your policy.
What’s the Law in Mississippi?
Mississippi is a Tort state (also known as “at-fault”), meaning that the driver who caused the accident is responsible for compensating the other driver(s). Mississippian drivers are required to have the following minimum coverage amounts:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury.
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury.
- $25,000 per accident for property damage.
You must also carry proof of your auto insurance and liability coverage amounts in your vehicle at all times. Law enforcement officers cannot stop you just to check that you have this, but they can ask you for proof during a stop for any other statutory violation. If you fail to have an insurance card, you can be fined $1,000 and your license may be suspended for up to a year or until you show proof of insurance.
Most drivers buy an auto insurance policy to meet these requirements, but you can also:
- Post a bond for the minimum coverage amounts.
- Make a cash or security deposit equal to the minimum coverage amounts.
Types of Optional Coverage
Auto insurance companies in Mississippi also offer the following optional coverage types:
- Collision coverage – pays for damages made to your car during the accident.
- Comprehensive coverage – pays for damages made to your car due to non-accident related factors e.g. theft, severe weather conditions and wildlife.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage – pays for your expenses if you’re in an accident involving a driver who has no or too little insurance. Otherwise, you may not be able to collect the damages as they aren’t properly insured.
- Medical payment (med pay) coverage – pays for accident-related medical expenses.
- Rental car coverage – pays for the cost of hiring a rental car while your car is being repaired.
- Loan/lease gap coverage – pays the difference between the amount you paid for your car and the amount an insurance company would give you if it was stolen or totaled. Otherwise, you’d get much less because an insurance company would only pay you for what your car is worth at the time it was stolen or totaled – usually much less than what you initially paid.
- Roadside assistance/towing coverage – pays the cost of hiring roadside assistance or towing service in case you experience a flat tire, dead battery, run out of gas or are even just locked out of your vehicle. Some insurance companies have this folded into their policies so be sure to ask before you pay extra.
Violating Auto Insurance Laws and the Penalties
In Mississippi, there are strict penalties for violating auto insurance laws. They can range from fines to license suspensions.
Driving Without Car Insurance or Minimum Coverage Amounts
If you’re caught driving without insurance or meeting the minimum coverage amounts, you can face:
- A $1,000 fine.
- Suspension of your driver’s license for a year.
If you buy car insurance after you are cited and show proof of insurance when you pay your fine or at the hearing:
- Your fine will be reduced.
- Your license will not be suspended.
If you buy car insurance after your hearing or paying the fine, show proof of insurance and your license will be reinstated.
Failure to Show Proof of Insurance
If you’re caught driving without proof of insurance, you face:
- $300 fine for the first violation.
- $400 for the second violation.
- $500 for the third violation.
- Suspension of your driver’s license for a year – or until proof of insurance is provided.
DUI Car Accidents and Penalties
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a very serious crime and there are very strict laws and penalties in place to discourage drivers from getting behind the wheel when they’re intoxicated.
In Mississippi, you’re considered to be legally drunk if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is:
- At least 0.08 if you’re a non-commercial driver over the age of 21.
- At least 0.04 if you’re a commercial driver (includes bus drivers as well as 18 wheeler truck drivers).
- At least 0.02 if you’re a non-commercial driver under the age of 21.
The penalties for a DUI conviction depend on whether you have previous charges…
First Time Offenders
- A $250 to $1,000 fine.
- Driver’s license suspended for between 30 and 90 days. To reinstate it, you must complete the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program (MASEP) and it costs $200.
- A $175 fee to reinstate your license.
- 48 hours in jail.
Second Offense in Five Years
- $600 to $1,500 fine.
- Driver’s license suspended for two years.
- $175 license reinstatement fee.
- One to five years in jail.
- 10 days to one year of community service.
- Possible forfeiture of your vehicle, depending on the accident.
Third Offense or More in Five Years
- $2,000 to $10,000 fine.
- Driver’s license suspended for five years.
- $175 license reinstatement fee.
- One to 10 years in jail.
- Forfeiture of your vehicle.
There are also two penalties that you may be given, regardless of whether you’ve been convicted in the past:
- An ignition interlock placed in your vehicle which acts like a breathalyzer, preventing you from driving unless your BAC is below the legal limit. The length of time you must have it in your car depends on how many charges you’ve had. For first offenses, it’s up to 120 days. For second offenses, it’s at least a year. For third offenses or more, it’s up to five years.
- Required to show an SR22 (financial responsibility) for three years. This is for drivers whose licenses have been suspended for serious violations and will change your auto insurance risk factor to high. This can make your insurance more expensive or make it harder for you to find an auto insurance company as some don’t cover high risk drivers.
I’ve Been in an Accident. What are my Next Steps?
If you’ve been in a car accident and you’ve already spoken to the police about it, you might be wondering what your next steps are.
Gather as Much Evidence About the Accident as Possible
You should have already gathered as much evidence as possible at the accident scene. This can include:
- Photos and videos of the damage.
- Dash cam footage.
- Witness testimonies.
- Police reports.
Keep a Record of all Accident-Related Expenses
If you’ve been injured, make sure you keep a note of all the expenses related to the accident. This can include:
- Medical bills (from immediate care to recovery treatment costs).
- Loss of income (time taken off work and time you may need to take off work in the future).
Keep a Note of How the Accident Has or Will Impact Your Life in the Future
Perhaps the accident has left you traumatized or your injuries are so debilitating, you’re unable to go about your life as you did before. However the accident has impacted you or will do in the future, make sure you keep a note of this because you may be able to claim for compensation due to pain and suffering.
Find a Lawyer to Represent You
The reason why you should gather accident-related information (from medical costs to impact on quality of life) is because you file a claim for your ordeal and receive compensation. But before you do that, you need to find an experienced lawyer to represent you. It’s important you look out for some key qualities in a lawyer, such as their qualifications, success rate and client satisfaction.
At Coxwell & Associates, our team of qualified attorneys are experienced in handling personal injury cases. We’ve been helping Mississippians get justice for over 35 years and can help you claim the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a free case consultation.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.