"I deal with folks who do not have checking accounts," Buchanan said. "I have sent out bills that increased premiums by a dollar and people called me and complained."
Buchanan said that many of his 5,300 customers drop their insurance when finances become tight around Christmas time, and then pick it back up in February.
Republican Sen. Chris Walters supported the higher coverage minimums because he said they would lead to fewer lawsuits. He said that if people can recoup the costs of an accident strictly through insurance claims, then they won't need to file a lawsuit. Walters was skeptical that the changes would make people drop their car insurance.
"If you're not going to buy insurance, you're not going to buy insurance," Walters said. "You can't force them."
About 11 percent of the drivers in West Virginia are uninsured. Mike Riley, the state insurance commissioner, was hesitant to say whether that number would change, and by how much, with increased coverage minimums.
The West Virginia law setting its minimum coverage was passed in 1979, a fact pointed out by Scott Blass, president of the West Virginia Association for Justice, a group of plaintiffs' lawyers. Blass said that the limits haven't even been adjusted for inflation, much less medical costs, which have increased more than 500 percent since the limits were set.
Blass said that the increases passed in the committee substitute were inadequate.
"Driving is a privilege," Blass said. "If you're going to get out there and drive, you have to have coverage to protect people that you could cause damage to."
Beth White, a spokeswoman for the same organization, echoed that sentiment."Look around the Capitol," White said. "How many of those cars could you even buy for $25,000?"