You’ve probably seen the commercials. Using a digital insurance ID card at the DMV or when you are pulled over by the police? Is that really legal? Are you allowed to have a copy of your insurance policy on your phone rather than in paper form? Electronic proof of insurance: real or fake?
For decades, insurance companies have provided you with a small rectangular card, meant to be carried in your car, in case you are in an accident or get pulled over by the police. So, the question becomes, is an electronic proof of insurance a real or fake means to prove that you have updated insurance coverage?
The answer is: it depends. Depending upon your state of residence, you may be allowed to carry an electronic copy of your proof of insurance rather than a paper version.
Electronic Proof of Insurance
In general, an electronic proof of insurance has similar information to the paper format. It states your name, your vehicle information (make, model, year), the insurance company, your policy number, and the dates the policy is effective. Usually, the insurance company will send you an updated version every 6 months.
While many states now allow electronic proof of insurance, there are different definitions of what the card should be like. In California and Arizona, it needs to look official, like a PDF from your insurance company. You could even snap a photo of your paper copy and store it on your phone. However, there’s still confusion about what a police officer should and should not accept, so don’t rely on your electronic version just yet. Carry around a paper copy too, just to be on the safe side.
With almost everything at the touch of a button these days, it’s not surprising that insurance companies would begin to move to a more consumer-friendly, convenient, paperless system as well.
State governments are hopping on board the switch to electronic cards. As of June 26, 2014, there are 37 states that accept electronic proof of insurance. For some states, this is currently limited to use in traffic stops only. Still, that’s remarkable considering the fact that three years ago, no states allowed an electronic proof of insurance at all. As time passes, the number of states participating, and the uses for the electronic version, will surely expand.
States with e-card legislation:
One of the greatest advantages to the policyholder is the convenience factor. The insurance company can email you a copy of your proof of insurance. Or, they can put it in their smartphone app for you to download. In either instance, the insurance card can be updated quickly and efficiently.
It may even be better for the law-enforcement community. Currently, over 13 percent of drivers do not have auto insurance. In fact, some drivers will even cancel their insurance after being sent a proof of insurance card. That way, when they are pulled over, it still looks like they’re being a responsible citizen. Of course, if the police officer chooses to conduct a more thorough investigation, they can look up your insurance in a database. However, with this old system, there is a 60-day lag time for database updates.
With an electronic system, the most up-to-date version will be sent right to your phone. In addition, companies can even upload their most recent insurance information about their customers into a database for the police. As stated by Aaron Crowe of CarInsurance.com, “The newest method works in real time with a database insurers update electronically. It takes three seconds to verify if a registered car has valid insurance.”
You may be pulled over in a state that has unclear regulations regarding proof of insurance. In one instance, a South Carolina man named Ayaz Surka used the electronic version on his phone when pulled over. The police officer gave him a ticket after suspecting that the copy was a fake. After Surka brought his case to court, the judge waived his ticket. While Surka did not incur any fees for his actions, it definitely cost him his time and effort.
We’ve all been in a situation where our phone has run out of battery or has a bad signal. What if you were pulled over after your phone died and you had no way to prove your insurance coverage? Well, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, most states will only give you a “fix-it” ticket. This penalty may be dismissed as soon as you produce proof of insurance.
Speak to Your Agent
Set up an appointment or call your agent today. They will have all the necessary information you may need about the electronic proof of insurance regulations in your state. Additionally, they may be able to provide you with your own electronic version.
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Enhanced Insurance is not written by attorneys. If you’re looking for legal advice, you need to contact a lawyer. Further, insurance practices and forms change constantly and are varied from state to state. For definitive answers in your area, contact a local agent.
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