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December 11, 2012

Check insurance before disputing ticket validity

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I was pulled over by a state trooper in October, and he gave me a no-insurance ticket. I had an insurance card, but it did not include the vehicle because it was new, and it also had my maiden name on it instead of married name which is on my license. The clerk at the JP’s office said I still had to pay the ticket because it was a violation to not change your insurance card. I spoke to a police office friend who said the opposite of that. Which one is right? — Anonymous, Caddo Mills

The police office is probably correct, unless you left out some important facts.

First, you need to get a new card with your married name, and ensure that it shows your insurance was in place on the date you received the ticket. Next, you need to make sure that you were actually covered to drive other vehicles. Most policies have a grace period for new vehicles.  

Whether you will be required to pay the ticket will depend on the insurance policy requirements for new cars, and whether or not you were “excluded” as a driver. The best way to verify these facts is through a phone call to your agent prior to providing the insurance information to the court.

The clerk is wrong to automatically assume that you are not covered simply because the vehicle you were driving does not appear on the I.D. card. Many policies cover their owners regardless of whose vehicle they are driving. Again, the best thing to do is to verify coverage through the insurance company prior to speaking with the clerk.

I know people who have relied on what a misinformed clerk told them, and paid an insurance fine when they were actually covered and the violation should have been dismissed. As a result, they were needlessly convicted, incurred license suspensions and were required to pay hundreds of dollars of surcharges.

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