Cracking Down on Automobile Insurance Fraud

Some drivers on the road are finding ways around the Mandatory Insurance law.

It's the law, you have to have car insurance. The mandatory minimum for vehicle liability insurance coverage in Illinois is now $25,000. However, many people are getting around the insurance requirement and it's putting you and your family at risk.

"I didn't really have a lot of money, had student loans, had a bunch of things. It was a financial burden, it was a mental burden." Cassy Greig said.

That's how Greig describes the aftermath of the car crash she was involved in several years ago. The driver of the vehicle that slammed into her car didn't have insurance.

"I didn't think it was fair that I had insurance and I did what I was supposed to but they didn't have any." Greig said.

Thankfully for Greig, she was okay. But, it's something attorney Mike Marincic says he's seen before and it can have devastating effects on families.

"A mom or a dad gets injured in an accident, sometimes there's only one wage earner in a family and say if that person happens to be driving to work gets in an accident, then they don't have any income, they have mounting medical bills and you know can't pay their normal bills so it just send them into a tailspin. There's no coverage available and really they're just stuck in a horrible situation with no remedy. So you do the math it's hard on a family. Horrible." Marincic said.

President of Mid Illinois Insurance, Ron Murphy,  explains that this situation isn't uncommon and that it's happening out on the roads more than they would like to see. 

"They could pay the initial down payment and the next month fail to pay it and the insurance gets cancelled. They still have an insurance card that states it's good for 6 months or a year." Murphy said.

In today's digital world, in a matter of minutes anyone can sign up for an insurance ID card online and print proof of insurance ensuring that you're covered on paper. This is creating an added challenge for law enforcement.

With no fool-proof way of verifying that that insurance is paid for and first priority of helping people at the scene of an accident, officers are left playing a guessing game.

"Normally on a crash or a traffic stop when somebody hands us their insurance card, we take it for face value." Trooper Ross Green, of the Illinois State Police District 8, said.

Green says if they don't have proof of insurance on them drivers will receive a ticket. However, he adds that an on-scene, immediate verification system similar to that of running a license plate would serve them well in this situation.

"From a law enforcement standpoint, I do think it'd be very helpful. And for all those innocent people who do have insurance and are struck by somebody without insurance, I mean those are the victims." Green said.

"There just isn't enough safeguards to prohibit them from doing this." Murphy added.

That message is being heard in Springfield.  Under the same bill that puts safeguards in place to protect against drunk driving, the Secretary of State is now working to find a solution for this problem, too, signed into law on October 23rd.

According to this new piece of legislation, a task force is now working to find a plan, for something Deputy Press Secretary, Henry Haupt, calls  "critical" for everyone on the road.

"Any program that provides immediate verification of automobile insurance is beneficial to everyone--law enforcement, secretary of state's office, victims, everyone. The key is how do we get there and that's what we're looking at doing." Haupt said.

Although, Haupt says Illinois has a strong system in place now to incentivize drivers to keep insurance, their office is still looking to do better, with an uninsured rate of over 4.5%  in Illinois in 2014.

"It would be a great one-two punch if you think about it you have the incentive to maintain automobile insurance and then you have the means to verify." Haupt added.

The budget impasse is providing a unique challenge, but still Haupt says they're still continuing to look for ways to combat the problem.

"Cost is certainly a factor but we want to make sure that whatever we put forward is something that works, it's efficient, it's effective and it best captures insurance, automobile insurance data." Haupt said.

Haupt adds that the task force will have a year to generate new ideas. This new legislation sets that deadline for the end of 2016. At that point a final report will be issued to the general assembly. Once that proposal is in place, the general assembly will have to pass it into law and provide a plan to pay for the new system.

 


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