Car insurance is sure to play a big part in any claim brought after a traffic accident. Idaho, like most states, requires vehicle owners to maintain financial responsibility for any accident they might cause. Most drivers do this by purchasing car insurance coverage in line with the minimums required under Idaho law. Read on for the details of Idaho's auto insurance rules and how coverage is likely to affect a car accident case.
Idaho follows a traditional "fault"-based system when it comes to financial responsibility for losses stemming from a car accident: injuries, lost income, vehicle damage, and so on. This means that the person who was at fault for causing the car accident is also responsible for any resulting harm (from a practical standpoint, the at-fault driver's insurance carrier will absorb these losses, up to policy limits).
In Idaho, a person who suffers any kind of injury or damage due to an auto accident usually can proceed in one of three ways:
Note: In no-fault car insurance states, a claimant doesn't usually have this same range of options. After a car accident in a no-fault state, you must turn to the personal injury protection coverage of your own car insurance policy for payment of medical bills and other out-of-pocket losses, regardless of who caused the crash. Only if your injuries reach a certain threshold can you step outside of no-fault and make a claim directly against the at-fault driver. But Idaho drivers don't need to worry about no-fault after an in-state accident.
Unless a vehicle owner wants to post an indemnity bond or take some other rare action in order to comply with Idaho's motor vehicle financial responsibility laws (which are detailed at Idaho Statutes section 49-1229), the state requires that registered vehicles be covered by liability insurance. The required minimum amounts of liability car insurance coverage in Idaho are:
This basic coverage pays the medical bills, property damage bills, and other costs of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who are injured or have their vehicle damaged in a car accident you cause, up to coverage limits. You can (and in some situations should) carry more coverage to protect you in case a serious crash results in significant car accident injuries and vehicle damage. Remember, once policy limits are exhausted, you are personally on the financial hook, so higher insurance limits can help protect your personal assets in the event of a serious crash.
Your liability coverage will kick in if any family member is driving your vehicle, or if you've given someone else permission to use it. It will likely also cover you if you get into an accident in a rental car.
Remember that the liability coverage we discussed here doesn't apply to your own injuries or vehicle damage after an Idaho car accident. You'll need different (additional) coverage for that if you're involved in a car accident and no one else's coverage applies to your losses. For example, collision coverage (optional in Idaho) can pay for repairs to (or replacement of) your damaged vehicle after a car accident.
In Idaho, all car insurance policies must include uninsured motorist coverage (UIM), in an amount equal to the policyholder's chosen liability coverage for bodily injury, unless UIM coverage is waived in writing by the policyholder. That's according to Idaho Statutes section 41-2502.
For a first violation of Idaho's motor vehicle financial responsibility laws, the punishment is a $75 fine. For a second or subsequent violation within the next five years, the penalties get a lot more significant, including imposition of a fine of up to $1,000, and/or a jail term of up to six months.
Of course, these penalties will likely pale in comparison to the financial hit you could take if you're in a car accident and you don't have car insurance.
For more details on Idaho's car insurance rules, straight from the state, check out the Idaho Department of Insurance's auto insurance portal.