Last updated: June 2023
Have you ever wondered is it illegal to drive without insurance or proof of financial responsibility? It absolutely is! Not all states are created equal when it comes to car insurance laws, but no matter where you live, driving without auto insurance or proof of financial responsibility is against the law. And if you're caught driving without insurance, you'll almost always be facing penalties that can hurt your bank account, serious legal ramifications, and circumstances that can complicate your day-to-day life.
What happens if you get caught driving without insurance?
Getting caught driving without car insurance can hold some hefty consequences. The punishments can include fines of up to $5,000, driver's license suspension, vehicle registration suspension, jail time, and a mandatory SR-22 filing with the state DMV, depending on the state and situation. Even in New Hampshire where they don't require a traditional insurance policy, you still must be able to show you can pay for an at-fault accident and face serious penalties if you fail to do so.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
Penalties for driving without insurance vary by state, but can include:
- Your driver's license and vehicle registration could be suspended: This would mean you couldn't legally drive until the suspension is lifted. If this happened, how would you get to work or visit friends? How quickly would rideshare app expenses add up? To get these items reinstated, you'd likely have to pay a reinstatement fee.
- You could have to pay for a traffic ticket for a no insurance violation: This would be in addition to the ticket costs for the reason you were initially pulled over.
- You could spend time in jail, have your license plate confiscated, or your vehicle impounded: The exact consequences depend on where you live, if it's a repeat offense, or if you cause a wreck, reports the Consumer Federation of America.
- You could be required to certify your insurance with an SR22: This would mean you might have to submit proof to the state that you've met certain insurance requirements. While there's no single set cost associated with an SR-22 certification:
- There is often a fee associated with the SR-22 filing.
- You'll be seen as a high-risk driver and likely experience an increase in your car insurance premium.
- In some states, you will be ineligible for a payment plan, meaning you'll have to pay your premium in full.
- You may find that your insurance company will not renew your insurance if it does not write SR-22 policies.
- You may not be accepted by all insurance companies.
In most states, insurers are required to notify the state's DMV if a driver's liability coverage lapses or is canceled for any reason. This means you don't even have to get caught driving a vehicle uninsured to get in some level of trouble.
What if you get into a car accident driving uninsured?
On top of the costs and legal penalties we mentioned above, you must also consider car accident expenses if you're involved in a wreck as an uninsured driver.
Could you pay out of pocket for damages you cause to others in an auto accident? If you drive uninsured and cause bodily injury or property damage to another person, you would be liable for those bills.
Not to mention you'll have no auto insurance coverage for your own injuries or property damage. Without insurance, your finances could suffer a serious blow because the cost of a car accident is much higher than many people realize.
As mentioned above, you could also be facing serious legal ramifications. For example, if you cause an accident that injures someone while you're uninsured, you could be facing jail time depending on where you live.
What happens if I am driving without insurance and someone else causes the accident?
Generally, the at-fault party and/or his or her insurer will be responsible for paying the damages caused. However, depending on the state you live in, there could be limits on your right to sue or recover from the at-fault driver. Some states, like Louisiana, have “no pay, no play” laws, meaning uninsured drivers are prohibited from collecting certain damages from an insured at-fault driver. So, even if you plan to drive carefully and never cause a crash, you're still potentially putting yourself at great risk.
What happens if you get hit by an uninsured driver?
After a car accident, make sure you follow the appropriate steps (check for injuries, call 911 if necessary, etc.) after collecting yourself. If you find out an uninsured driver hit you, most of the actions you take at the scene should be like those after any other crash, but there might be a few exceptions. Here's what to do:
- Swap information, document the scene, and get a police report. No matter how large or small the accident, or the insurance status of the drivers, it's always a good idea to collect as much evidence and information as possible. Get the other driver's registration info and contact info, take photos of the scene, talk to witnesses, and get a police report, if available.
- Don't get guilted, and don't take a quick payout: Driving without insurance is illegal, and the other driver almost certainly knows that. If they attempt to talk you out of calling the police because they're worried they could get in trouble, don't fall for it. If they attempt to offer some form of quick settlement, don't accept it. It's better to notify the authorities and find out how serious any damages or injuries are first.
- Contact your insurance companies: You should always report any accident to your car insurance company as soon as possible. Most insurance policies give you a certain time requirement to report any accidents to your insurer. Once you report the accident, a knowledgeable agent can walk you through what to do if the other driver is uninsured. It's also a good idea to talk to your health insurance company if you suffered any injuries.
Which types of insurance coverage protect you from uninsured drivers?
One of the best ways to safeguard yourself from uninsured drivers is to make sure you have the right auto insurance coverage in place before an accident. These types of coverage can help protect you from people who are driving uninsured.
If you're involved in a car crash, collision coverage pays to repair or replace your vehicle (after you meet any applicable deductibles), regardless of who is at fault. Collision coverage can even help you out financially if you're the victim of a hit and run, which is a possibility if the other driver is uninsured and afraid of the potential consequences. Please note, collision coverage doesn't help pay for your medical expenses if an uninsured motorist crashes into your vehicle.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
If you're in an accident with an uninsured driver or the driver can't be identified (hit and run), uninsured motorist coverage will help pay for your medical bills. Depending on which state you call home, uninsured motorist coverage might actually be mandatory, and it could also help cover some of the damages to your car.
No-Fault States: Personal Injury Protection and Medical Payments Coverage
If you live in a no-fault state, your own insurance coverage pays for medical expenses stemming from an accident. No-fault states typically require personal injury protection (PIP), which is often called “no-fault insurance.” PIP coverage can help pay for medical expenses, lost wages, service replacement (like childcare while you're recovering), and funeral expenses. Medical payments auto coverage is similar to PIP in that it helps pay for medical expenses following a covered loss. It isn't available everywhere, and it's required in some places.
Get covered with Direct Auto!
The best way to avoid the legal penalties and numerous fines for not having car insurance is by driving insured. It's also the best way to protect yourself from uninsured drivers. If you have any additional questions, we're happy to help! Give us a call, visit our website, or visit a nearby location for a free quote today.