New Rhode Island law bars auto insurers from hiking rates on the widowed

The Rhode Island State House. File photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A new Rhode Island law prohibits auto insurers from charging policyholders more solely because they have been widowed.

The new law bans insurers from treating widows or widowers any differently than married people in terms of classification or rates beginning with policies issued after Jan. 1, 2025. Democratic Gov. Dan McKee signed the bill into law on Friday.

Democratic Rep. Arthur Handy, a co-sponsor of the bill, said he learned of the change in rates after his wife, Tish DiPrete, died in 2021. Handy said marital status is one of many factors companies weigh when they decide what their risk is to insure a driver.

“But a person doesn’t become a bigger risk as a result of losing their spouse. Besides being baseless, it’s just callous to add higher insurance rates to the heavy burdens of those who are grieving their spouses,” he said.

Another sponsor, Democratic Sen. Valarie Lawson, said the issue was brought to her attention by a constituent whose husband had died and was notified that her car insurance would be increasing by $450 a year, according to Lawson.

“Everyone who has experienced loss knows how devastating it is to deal with the practical matters and expenses and the uncertainty of a major life change on top of the heavy emotional toll of the grieving process,” Lawson said in press release.

“Adding an additional expense to the lives of those mourning a loved one is unnecessary and unfair,” she added.

The bill had the backing of the local insurance industry, according to supporters.

Rhode Island isn’t the first state to take such a step.

In 2015, then-Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart and then-Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller both announced they would no longer approve auto insurance company’s rate submission that included what many people call the widow’s penalty.