With only 643,503 people, Vermont is the least-populated state in the U.S. after Wyoming. The state is a haven for skiers, hikers, and ice cream lovers as the birthplace of Ben & Jerry’s. Unfortunately, no state is perfectly safe from traffic accidents despite Vermont’s car accident laws.
In 2022, 77 people died in Vermont car crashes – a 10-year high according to the state’s Agency of Transportation. If you’re hurt in a Vermont car accident, the state’s laws and policies regarding vehicle operation and insurance apply to you.
We’ve rounded up a general overview regarding Vermont car accident laws and how they may affect you below. Direct advice, however, requires the counsel from a Vermont auto accident attorney. They will closely look into your case and verify whether you can sue for damages.
IMPORTANT: Review Vermont’s “modified comparative fault” rule. It allows for a financial recovery payment only when your level of responsibility for causing the accident is less than that of the other party (or parties) involved.
How to Report a Car Accident in Vermont
Drivers involved in a Vermont car accident must report to the police if a person is injured or there is total property damage of $3,000 or more. These accidents must be reported to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles within 72 hours of the incident. If you fail to report, you may receive a fine of up to $1,000.
You or the police officer at the scene will complete a Report of a Motor Vehicle Crash form. If a police report is made at the scene, that meets your reporting requirement…but it would be smart to verify with the responding officer.
It is important to grab a copy of the police report to give to your attorney for legal purposes. Facts detailed in your police report can help determine fault so your claim is stronger when fighting for a settlement.
Without concrete evidence for your accident claim, insurance companies may misrepresent your story to avoid giving you the compensation you deserve. They are incentivized to protect their profits, but a police report provides irrefutable evidence in front of a judge and jury.
What to Do at the Scene of a Crash
Vermont law 23 V.S.A. § 1128 says drivers should immediately stop at the scene of a crash. Violators of this rule may be fined up to $2,000, sentenced to two years in jail, or both if charged as a hit-and-run.
Pull over to the side of the road or in a safe area to move your vehicle out of traffic. Provide assistance to anyone involved in the crash if able, and call 911 if there’s an injury requiring immediate medical attention.
This is what the law says about your responsibilities in Vermont:
“The operator of a motor vehicle who is involved in a crash resulting in injury to any person other than the operator, or in damage to any property other than the vehicle under his or her control, shall immediately stop and render any assistance reasonably necessary.”
Next, provide all involved individuals with:
- Your name
- Driver’s license number
- Vehicle owner information
Get this information from the other party as well. Failure to do so could lead to a hit-and-run charge. During the exchange, make sure to never apologize or say anything that hints you were at-fault for the crash.
The insurance company can use that info to lower your settlement, and more facts may change how attorneys determine fault for the crash. Keep the interaction between you and the other party brief and cordial. It may be hard to contain your feelings after a car accident, but doing so will help you tremendously in the future.
Make sure to take photos of the scene so your attorney can look at the damages themselves. Your photos can help them find out who’s liable for the crash, while creating an argument for you to get a higher settlement for your damages.
Don’t forget to call your insurance company and tell them about your accident, no matter who is at-fault. In order to file a claim with an auto accident attorney, you need to first contact your insurance company and let them know about your situation. They may have additional coverage options available for you depending on the car accident.
Vermont Car Insurance Laws
Drivers in Vermont must carry minimum auto insurance coverage on the road. The ratio for minimum coverage is covered in 23 V.S.A. § 801 and includes:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability for one person
- $50,000 for two or more people
- $10,000 property damage liability
In addition to the minimum coverage, Vermont car accident law requires you to sign up for underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage (UM/UI). This type of coverage protects you from damages caused by uninsured or underinsured drivers. The minimum coverage ratio consists of:
- $50,000 per person
- $100,000 per accident
- $10,000 for property damage to the vehicle
If you are caught driving without auto insurance in the state of Vermont, you may be issued a fine or points against your driving record.
According to the Vermont DMV, you may be required to sign up for financial responsibility insurance for up to three years. Any lapse in your coverage will result in your driving privileges being taken away until financial responsibility insurance is reinstated.
Additional Insurance Coverage
Full auto insurance coverage in Vermont includes optional collision and comprehensive insurance beyond the minimums stated above. According to WalletHub, full coverage insurance costs an average of $1,212 per year in Vermont, while a state minimum policy costs $318 per year.
Collision insurance will cover all damages to your car resulting from a traffic collision, regardless of fault. These can include:
- Broken or destroyed windshields
- Damage to the engine
- Popped or deflated tires
- Dents or scrapes to the vehicle
Comprehensive insurance will cover all damages to your vehicle coming from all sources of danger not from traffic collisions. Examples of coverage can include:
- Water damage from a flood
- Break-ins from theft
- Fire damage
Is Vermont a No-Fault State?
No. Vermont is an “at-fault” state, meaning whoever is responsible for the accident will have to pay for the other party’s injuries and damages. So, that’s why it is important to determine who caused the accident.
IMPORTANT: You should be aware of the three-year statute of limitations deadline (from the date of the accident) for most car accident injury lawsuits in Vermont’s civil court system.
If someone died as a result of the accident, and you want to file a wrongful death claim against the person who caused the crash, the statute of limitations deadline for starting that case is two years from the date of the death.
Vermont Comparative Negligence Laws
According to 12 V.S.A. § 1036, Vermont is a modified comparative negligence state. This means your damages settlement will be reduced according to your share of responsibility for the accident. Many states like Massachusetts and Illinois work under a modified comparative negligence system.
IMPORTANT: Your share of liability must not exceed 50% in order to receive a monetary settlement from other at-fault parties (or their insurance policy holder).
The assignment of liability generally rests upon your ability – or your lawyer’s ability – to negotiate with an insurance claims adjuster, or to persuade a judge and jury.
What Happens if I Hit an Uninsured Driver in Vermont?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, 6.8% of drivers in Vermont do not have auto insurance. That’s a low number, but you could be involved in an accident with an out of state driver with no insurance. You can sue the uninsured driver or file an uninsured driver claim against your own auto insurance company.
This is why it is smart to carry uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage along with your own auto insurance policy. Uninsured drivers are extremely limited in the damages they can claim after an accident, if any at all.
Hit and Run Laws in Vermont
Leaving the scene of an accident that results in property damage is only a misdemeanor under 23 V.S.A. § 1128. However, leaving the scene of an accident that involves a death or a serious injury is a felony.
Section 1128 (b) states the penalty for leaving the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury is “a maximum of five years in prison and a fine, not more than $3000.”
Types of Damages After a Car Accident in Vermont
Economic damages: These are the measurable damages after a car accident, designed to restore accident victims to the same financial situation they were in before an accident. Examples of economic damages available under Vermont car accident laws include:
- Medical bills and related costs
- Car repair or replacement expenses
- Rental cars
- Lost wages
Additional examples of non-economic damages you can receive money for are as follows:
- Loss of reputation
- Mental anguish
- Wrongful death of a loved one
Vermont generally limits the max amount paid in most car accident cases to $500,000 to one person, and $2,000,000 to all victims of one accident.
LegalASAP Can Connect You with a Specialized Auto Accident Attorney
Vermont car accident laws can be hard to understand and navigate without a legal expert to guide you. An auto accident lawyer will handle the complex legal process for you. You usually receive a much higher payout with representation than if you accept the insurance company’s offer.
LegalASAP can connect you with a nearby lawyer in your part of Vermont who understands the state’s car accident laws to review your case for free. The whole process is free of charge until you win your settlement, so click the button below to begin:
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.