Idaho Car Insurance Laws

Here's what Idaho auto owners need to know about the state's car insurance rules, including Idaho's minimum liability coverage requirements.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

If you register or drive a motor vehicle in Idaho, you're subject to the state's financial responsibility law. For the vast majority of Idaho drivers, this means buying an auto insurance policy with the minimum coverages required by law. But that's just the beginning, not the end, of what you need to know.

When you cause an accident that injures others or damages their property, you could face significant financial liability. Suppose you have only the minimum insurance required by Idaho law. Is that enough to protect you, or should you have more? Are there other insurance coverages you should consider?

What happens if you're injured in an accident? How do you collect compensation (what the law calls "damages") for your injuries? Can you file a lawsuit?

We start with a quick explanation of Idaho's fault-based insurance system. From there, we'll tackle those questions and more.

Idaho Is a Fault-Based Auto Insurance State

Idaho is a traditional fault-based auto insurance state. When there's an accident, the at-fault driver is liable (legally responsible) for all resulting personal injuries and property damages.

To make sure there's at least some money to cover those losses, Idaho, like every state, has enacted a financial responsibility law. As a general rule, Idaho requires that drivers buy an auto insurance policy meeting the state's minimum financial responsibility requirements. (See Idaho Code § 49-1229(1) (2024).) More on those requirements below.

When you're injured in a collision and another driver is to blame, you can bring an insurance claim or file a lawsuit against that driver. To collect damages, you must prove that:

  • the other driver was negligent—didn't drive as carefully as they should have under the circumstances, and
  • because of their carelessness, you suffered personal injuries or property damage.

What Are Idaho's Auto Insurance Requirements?

To satisfy Idaho's financial responsibility law, you must buy auto liability insurance with at least these coverages:

  • $25,000 for bodily injuries to, or the death of, one person in one accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injuries to, or the deaths of, two or more people in one accident, and
  • $15,000 for property damages in one accident.

(Idaho Code § 49-117(20) (2024).)

In insurance-speak, this is called "25/50/15 liability coverage." Idaho law doesn't require that you buy any other kinds of auto insurance.

How Do I Know What Insurance I Have?

When you buy auto insurance, your agent should give you a copy of your policy. One of the first sheets is called the "declarations page." This page summarizes all of the different coverages you have, the premium you paid for each coverage, and the policy limit for each coverage.

If you can't find your declaration page or your policy, you might be able to download a copy from your insurance company's website. Or you can call your agent and ask for a written or electronic copy.

What Does My Liability Insurance Pay For?

Your liability insurance compensates (in legalese, it "pays damages to") others you injure, or whose property you damage, in a wreck that's your fault. For example, if you hurt another driver, or a passenger or bicyclist, your liability coverage will pay, up to the amount of your policy limits, for their injuries and losses.

Here are some of the damages your liability insurance covers:

Your Liability Insurance Won't Pay for Your Injuries

Your liability coverage only pays for injuries and property damage you cause to others in a wreck that's your fault. It won't pay for your personal injuries, reimburse you for lost wages, or compensate you for your pain and suffering. If you want insurance coverage for your own losses (and you do, if you can afford it), you'll need to buy other insurance. We'll discuss this below.

What Drivers and Vehicles Does Your Liability Insurance Cover?

Your liability policy covers—meaning it pays for damages caused by—you and any other person who's named as an insured in your auto policy. It probably also covers your spouse and any other relatives living in your household. If you give someone permission to drive your car, that driver should be insured, too. (See Idaho Code § 49-1212(1)(b) (2024).)

Each motor vehicle listed in your policy is insured. So, too, are vehicles you rent while on vacation. If you take your car in for service and the dealer gives you a loaner car, the loaner is insured. (Idaho Code § 49-1212(11) (2024).) When you trade your car for a new one, the replacement auto should be covered, at least for a brief period. Let your insurance agent know you've bought or leased a new car as quickly as you can.

Should I Buy More Liability Insurance? Or Other Kinds of Insurance?

Not sure whether you have the right auto insurance in the right amounts? Ask your insurance agent to do an insurance analysis with you. The time to learn that you have coverage gaps is before you're in an accident, not after.

Is Idaho's Minimum Liability Insurance Enough?

Maybe, but don't count on it. If you're responsible for an accident that causes only minor injuries and minimal property damage, Idaho's liability minimums should be enough. But if you're liable for a collision that causes moderate, severe, or catastrophic injuries or substantial property damage, you'll burn through 25/50/15 policy limits in no time.

Ideally, you should have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case you're on the hook for a serious accident. If you can afford more liability insurance, give it serious thought.

What Other Auto Insurance Coverages Should I Consider?

If you can afford it, you should have what's sometimes called a "full coverage" auto policy. That policy will provide you with most or all of these protections.

Uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance. As the names suggest, UM and UIM coverages protect you if you're hurt in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, or a driver who doesn't have enough liability insurance. They're meant to pay you the damages—listed above—that the responsible driver's liability insurance should have paid you, if that driver had insurance.

Note, importantly, that UM and UIM insurance only pays for your personal injuries. It probably won't cover your vehicle damage. To repair or replace your damaged auto you'll need collision insurance, discussed below.

Idaho Code § 41-2502(1) (2024) says that both UM and UIM coverages must be included with your liability insurance policy. But don't simply assume you're covered. Why? Because Idaho Code § 41-2502(2) (2024) lets the insured waive either or both of these coverages. Because Idaho law lets you waive them, UM and UIM coverages are optional, not mandatory.

You want both UM and UIM insurance if it's within your budget.

Collision insurance. When your auto is damaged or destroyed in an accident, collision insurance will pay to repair it, even if the accident was your fault. While it's optional coverage under Idaho law, if you finance the purchase or lease of a new car, your lender will require it.

If your auto is totaled in an accident, your insurance company will probably pay you its actual cash value (ACV). Actual cash value is the depreciated, fair market value of your vehicle. When your totaled car was financed, ACV might be less than the balance of your loan or lease payoff. Should you find yourself in that situation, consider buying gap insurance to pay the difference.

Because you probably need a car for work and personal use, you should have this coverage.

Comprehensive insurance. This coverage works much the same as collision insurance, but with one important difference: It covers damage to your auto caused by something other than a collision with another moving vehicle. For example, if your car is damaged or destroyed by a hail storm, your comprehensive insurance will pay for your loss.

Like collision insurance, your lender will require comprehensive coverage when you borrow money to buy or lease a car. This insurance is a good idea if it's within your budget.

Medical payments (MedPay) insurance. Once again, the name is pretty self explanatory. Medical payments insurance will pay up to the per-passenger limit for medical expenses you or your passengers incur for accident-related injuries. It's a fairly inexpensive form of health insurance, but usually has modest limits ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.

You should consider MedPay coverage if you're not covered by a health insurance plan. Even when you do have health coverage, MedPay can still come in handy. You can use it to reimburse yourself for any health insurance deductibles or copays that come out of your pocket.

Collecting Compensation After an Accident

Your options for collecting compensation after an accident will mostly depend on who's at fault and the kinds of available insurance. When you're to blame or the other driver is uninsured, you'll bring claims under your own auto policy. When the other driver is responsible and has liability insurance, you'll file an insurance claim or a lawsuit against them.

Making a Claim Under Your Auto Policy

Sometimes, a claim under your own policy—known as a first-party claim—will be your best or only option. For example, if you're hurt by an uninsured driver who has no other assets you can pursue for payment, you'll make a claim against your UM insurance. To repair or replace your damaged car, you'll have to look to your collision coverage.

But suppose the other driver does have property damage liability insurance. A claim under your collision insurance still might be the way to go if you can't wait to settle up with their auto liability insurer.

Bring an Insurance Claim Against the Other Driver

When the responsible driver has liability insurance, you can bring an insurance claim—called a third-party claim—against their auto policy. Starting the claim is usually straightforward. You can probably use the insurance company's webpage or claims app to begin the process. If you do that, best practice is to follow your electronic filing with a written claim notice letter.

You should also notify your own insurance company that you've been injured in an accident. You're not bringing a claim. You're simply giving your insurer notice of the wreck and letting it know that you have a claim against the other driver.

File a Lawsuit Against the Other Driver

Most auto insurance claims settle. Yours likely will, too. But when you're not able to reach a settlement, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Lawsuits are expensive, time consuming, and stressful. Before filing, consider discussing your case with an experienced car accident lawyer. You might have other options.

If filing suit is the way to go, keep in mind that Idaho has a deadline, called a "statute of limitations," on filing car accident lawsuits. As a rule, you have two years, usually from the date you're injured, to file in court. (Idaho Code § 5-219(4) (2024).)

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in Idaho

It's against the law to drive without insurance (or other proof of financial responsibility) in Idaho. (Idaho Code § 49-1428(1) (2024).) The penalties you can face depend on whether it's your first or a subsequent offense. In addition, if you injure others in an accident while driving without insurance, you could end up getting sued.

First offense. The first violation is a traffic infraction (not a criminal offense) that will cost you a $75 fine. Your driving privileges will also be suspended. (See Idaho Code § 49-326(1)(h) (2024).) You won't be eligible for reinstatement for up to six months, or until you buy the required insurance.

Your vehicle registration can be suspended if you're without insurance for two consecutive months. Finally, you'll need to have an SR-22 certificate on file for a year, meaning you'll be considered a high-risk driver. Expect to pay more for the required auto coverage.

Second and subsequent offenses. A second or subsequent offense within five years is a misdemeanor. You're subject to a fine of up to $1,000, jail time of as much as six months, or both. (Idaho Code § 49-1428(2) (2024).) You'll also face the same license and registration suspensions, and you'll need to file an SR-22 for three years.

You might get sued. As you probably know by this point, driving without insurance can expose you to devastating financial liabilities. Those you hurt might decide to sue you, particularly if their injuries are serious or disabling. In that event, your best option might be bankruptcy.

Get Help With Your Car Insurance Claim

If you've been injured in an auto accident and are unsure about an insurance claim or a lawsuit, your best bet will be to speak to an experienced Idaho car accident lawyer. This is someone who understands Idaho's auto insurance requirements and can help you navigate the complexities of your car accident case.

When you're ready to move forward with your claim, here's how to find an attorney who's right for you.

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