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Montana’s Minimum Liability Insurance Law for Motor Vehicles

Montana law requires that a motor vehicle operated on public roads be insured by a liability insurance policy that meets the state’s minimum coverage limits in Montana Code Annotated 61-6-103:

  • $25,000 because of bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident and subject to the limit for one person;
  • $50,000 because of bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident; and
  • $10,000 because of injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident.

Under Montana law, motorists stopped for a traffic violation or involvement in a motor vehicle collision are required to show proof of insurance to law enforcement, in addition to displaying their driver license and vehicle registration.

In order to help enforce this law, the Montana Legislature enacted legislation that authorized creation of an online motor vehicle liability insurance verification system. Montana Code Annotated 61-6-157 directs the Montana Department of Justice to establish a motor vehicle insurance verification system capable of confirming that vehicle owners and operators on Montana roadways are in compliance with vehicle liability policy requirements. The Montana Insurance Verification System (MTIVS) was implemented to fulfill this requirement.

Montana Insurance Verification System (MTIVS)

MTIVS uses information from Montana vehicle registration records and from insurance companies that write policies in Montana to access up-to-the-minute data to confirm if a vehicle has minimum liability insurance coverage.

Individuals can now verify their own insurance status using MTIVS.com.  Individuals will need the Vehicle Number found on the Registration Card or on the Registration Renewal Notice, as well as the plate number.

In May 2012, the Montana Highway Patrol began using the MTIVS web service to electronically verify proof of vehicle liability insurance during traffic stops. Use of the web service assists troopers and motorists in situations where drivers either can’t find their proof of insurance card or have an expired card. The web service also gives troopers the ability to confirm the validity of a proof of insurance card based on the response received from the issuing insurance company. Troopers may also use MTIVS to electronically verify that liability insurance was in effect at the time of an accident.

Highway Patrol troopers, like officers from other law enforcement agencies, have the discretion to make enforcement decisions, such as whether to issue a citation or warning, or neither, based on information gathered during a traffic stop or accident investigation. The new MTIVS service does not alter that use of officer discretion – it simply allows troopers to base their decisions on reliable, real-time insurance information.

Insurance verification capabilities were extended to local courts in August 2012, and MTIVS access was expanded to other Montana law enforcement agencies later that summer. In 2013, insurance verification will be used by the Motor Vehicle Division and County Treasurers for motor vehicle titling and registration transactions.

The ultimate goal of this system is to reduce the number of drivers in Montana who do not carry liability insurance as required by Montana law. Uninsured drivers are a serious problem, undermining traffic safety and driving up the costs for insured, law-abiding motorists. Real-time insurance verification will make the roads safer for everyone.

Vehicle Insurance Laws

Laws covering motor vehicle insurance responsibility and verification can be found in the Montana Code Annotated Title 61, chapter 6.

Laws covering certificates of title, registration, and taxation of motor vehicles can be found in the Montana Code Annotated Title 61, chapter 3.

For additional information about Montana auto insurance laws, visit the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance website.

Frequently Asked Questions

I already have car insurance. What will change for me?

Nothing. It could even help you. For example, MTIVS can help verify insurance for a driver who has forgotten to carry the current insurance card in their vehicle.

Can MTIVS verify a commercial insurance policy?

No. MTIVS does not contain information about commercially-insured vehicles. A commercial auto insurance policy is any coverage provided to an insured, regardless of number of vehicles or entities covered, under a commercial, garage, or truckers coverage form and rated using a commercial manual or rating rule (MCA 61-6-102(1)). Typically, the proof of insurance card for a vehicle that is commercially insured will show “fleet” or “commercially insured.”

We are self-insured. How does this work with MTIVS?

MTIVS provides a way to track separately or distinguish motor vehicles that are self-insured if a self-insurer wants to provide vehicle-specific information about their fleet. Otherwise, you may continue to rely on your proof of insurance card showing the “fleet” designation.

Can MTIVS verify an out-of-state insurance policy?

No. MTIVS only receives information from automobile liability insurance companies who are insuring vehicles registered in Montana. However, law enforcement may receive information about an out-of-state insurance policy status through other criminal justice networks, depending on that state’s law and procedures.

I presented an insurance card, but the system says I don’t have insurance or is not able to confirm my policy.

There are multiple causes for this situation.

  •  There will be rare occasions when MTIVS is not accessible due to the computer system being down. The law enforcement officer will exercise discretion, based on the individual circumstances, as to whether a citation is issued.
  • There could be a discrepancy between the vehicle identification number (VIN) listed on your policy and what is listed on your vehicle title. Verify that the numbers match.
  •  The response received from MTIVS supersedes an insurance card produced by a vehicle owner or operator, and notwithstanding the display of an insurance card by the owner or operator, the law enforcement officer may issue a complaint and notice to appear to the owner or operator for a violation of state law.
    •  The exceptions to this are if the vehicle is: covered under a commercial insurance policy; part of a self-insured fleet; or, included in an insurance binder that has not been entered into MTIVS at the time the system is accessed.

What if I get pulled over right after getting insurance on a vehicle I just bought?

Your new insurance company will give you a binder – a temporary card that’s good for a limited period. This will trump the status listed in MTIVS. Depending on how quickly your new insurance company updates its systems, that information may be available via MTIVS in a matter of days.

If my spouse’s vehicle is titled in their name but insured under my policy, will MTIVS verify insurance?

Yes, as long as that car is specifically listed on your insurance policy. MTIVS is a vehicle-based information system so it can only verify insurance if a particular car is associated with a specific auto liability policy.

My vehicle is not being used. Does it still need to be insured?

If the vehicle is registered, it must have minimum liability insurance on it.

What if I haven’t been insuring my vehicle because I can’t afford it?

Montana law requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. Penalties for not having insurance can be severe. You can’t afford not to have insurance.

What are the fines/penalties for not having insurance?

First offenders:

  • Montana law requires that you carry proof of Montana auto insurance in your vehicle and produce it if a law enforcement officer asks to see it. Driving without car insurance in Montana is a misdemeanor. The penalty for a no-insurance citation is between $250 and $500 or up to 10 days in jail for a first offense.

Repeat offenders:

  • A second offense will result in a minimum $350 fine or 10 days in jail. Your driver license will be revoked for 90 days. You will also get 5 points on your driving record; a total of 30 points will result in the revocation of your driver license.
  • A third or subsequent conviction is punishable by a fine of $500 or by imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.

What is the financial impact of uninsured drivers?

Accidents involving uninsured and underinsured motorists cost drivers and insurance companies millions of dollars every year. Those who insure their vehicles legally essentially pay the cost of the uninsured drivers and the policies they should be carrying. So in states with extremely high rates of uninsured motorists out on the roads, insured drivers pay a huge premium for their compliance with the law.

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