In subrogation claims cases for vehicular incidents that involve an uninsured motorist, pre-suit license suspensions, also referred to as administrative license suspensions, are a useful tool for subrogation professionals to maximize recovery for their clients. In the above episode of On Subrogation: Pre-Suit License Suspensions, RG founding partner and attorney, Kim Rathbone, discusses the nuances of pursuing a license suspension on an uninsured tortfeasor before a subrogation lawsuit is filed. 

State Requirements on Pre-Suit License Suspensions in Subrogation Claims Cases

Administrative license suspensions are meant to be a deterrent for people to drive around without insurance, which is not only illegal, but also a risk to the public. The BMV is notified that a party involved in a traffic incident failed to show any proof of insurance at the time of the incident. Depending on the incident, the jurisdiction and the damage, the BMV will proceed with a license suspension, which usually lasts for 6 to 12 months.

In some states, only a letter notifying the BMV is required for them to proceed with a license suspension. But depending on the state, there may be additional requirements. To successfully get an uninsured tortfeasor’s license suspended pre-suit, subrogation attorneys need to know the specific laws of the state the incident occurred in, as well as the state in which the tortfeasor is a resident.

Additional State Requirements to Look for When Pursuing an Administrative License Suspension

Some states require an additional form to be included with the notification letter to the BMV. One example of this is Ohio, which has BMV 3303 form for this specific purpose.

Some states will only approve a license suspension if the traffic incident occurred in the same state as the uninsured motorist lives. For instance, in Louisiana, you cannot get a license suspended for an incident that occurred in Texas if the person you’re pursuing lives in Louisiana.

Some states have limitations on whose license gets suspended. Most states allow the owner’s as well as the driver’s licenses to be suspended. Other states, like Nebraska, only allow the driver’s license to be suspended.

Many states also have benchmarks for personal injury, death or property damage to be able to request a license suspension. In Wisconsin, property damage must total $1000 or more to pursue a license suspension in your subrogation case.

Caveats on Suspending an Uninsured Motorist’s License

Certain states make it harder than others, but in general, all states have time and administrative limits on who can request a license suspension and when. For instance, in Ohio, the BMV must be notified within 6 months of the incident that led to the subrogation claim. If you successfully get a pre-suit license suspension, states also place a limit on the suspension; in Delaware it’s 6 months, whereas in Louisiana it’s 12 months. Keep in mind that pre-suit resuspensions are exceptionally uncommon, so you should pursue a resolution and payment arrangement within that timeframe.

Exactly who can request a license suspension varies by state as well. Some states will only accept requests from the insured, not their insurer or the insurer’s representative, even in a subrogation claim. An example of this is Georgia. In other states, only the police officers at the incident are allowed to file for a license suspension. Nevada goes one step further and protects its constituents by requiring a hearing to determine liability before they will suspend a license.

RG’s Recommendations on How to Successfully Get a License Suspended Pre-Suit

Kim gives us some useful advice on how to navigate license suspensions, so you have the highest chance of achieving your goals of pursuing subrogation recovery:

  • Use general language in your letter to the BMV, and never direct them to suspend the license. The BMV has their own processes for that which protect both you and them.
  • Send a copy of the letter you send to the tortfeasor. Remember that some states have requirements for mailing notifications, so follow those.
  • Once you reach a settlement in your subrogation case and have made a payment arrangement, notify the BMV of the arrangement immediately. Most of the time, you’re allowed to do this via email or fax. As before, send a copy to the tortfeasor as well. 

It is courteous to recommend to the tortfeasor they go to the BMV with a copy of the payment arrangement. The BMV has its own processes for reinstating suspended licenses; just because you’ve notified them of the arrangement doesn’t mean the tortfeasor’s license is automatically reinstated. Usually, they must go to the BMV and provide proof of insurance. Sometimes there is an additional fine to pay, and in some states they may even be required to pass a new driver’s exam.Keep in mind that, usually, there is no chance of resuspension unless you get into litigation and get a judgment. If you want to know more about subrogating underinsured motor vehicle claims and what to do after you receive a judgment, check out our educational video and companion article, On Subrogation: Post-Judgment License Suspensions.