What To Do if You Get Into a Car Accident Without Insurance

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Woman calling police after car accident

Driving without car insurance is illegal — but the consequences you could face depend on which state you live in. The way things work after a car accident with no insurance also depends on who’s at fault and your state’s laws.

One in eight U.S. drivers don’t have car insurance, according to the Insurance Research Council (IRC). Knowing what to do if you get into a car accident without insurance — when you’re at fault and when you’re not — can help you navigate the insurance and legal process.

We’ll explain everything you need to know.

Key Takeaways:

  • The consequences of leaving the scene of an accident can be far worse than not having car insurance.
  • Purchasing coverages like uninsured motorist, personal injury protection, or MedPay can help limit your out-of-pocket expenses if an uninsured driver hits you in an at-fault state.
  • Drivers living in no-fault states that have adopted the “no-pay, no-play” law have less financial responsibility if they meet the state’s minimum car insurance requirements.

What Happens if You Have an Accident While Uninsured?

If you get into a collision and are driving uninsured, you might panic  — but you should never leave before the police arrive. Leaving the accident scene could have serious consequences far greater than those you might face for driving uninsured.

Here are the steps you should take after an accident:

  1. Pull safely off the road to avoid blocking traffic.
  2. If someone has serious injuries, call 911 for an ambulance.
  3. Exchange information — such as your name, address, phone number, and insurance information — with the other driver.
  4. Get witness names and contact information.
  5. Take pictures of the vehicle positions and other details that can help recreate the accident scene.

You can call the police to complete a police report — especially if there are injuries or significant property damage. But if the police aren’t initially involved, you can always call and file the report yourself. Be sure to keep a copy of the report to share with your insurance company.

Although driving without insurance is illegal, not having insurance doesn’t change who’s at fault — only who’s financially responsible. You’ll need to get insurance at some point — though you might have to wait if your license is suspended or your vehicle is impounded.

Keep in mind that if you buy a car insurance policy after the accident happens, the new policy won’t cover it.

What To Do if You Caused the Accident

man looking at his car damage after an accident

If you’re the at-fault driver, the consequences for causing an accident depend on which state you live in and the state’s insurance requirements. All states but New Hampshire and Virginia require some form of insurance coverage.

States require different minimum levels of liability insurance, which pays for the other party’s injuries and property damage. You might also need one or more of the following coverages:

New Hampshire requires you to prove financial responsibility of at least $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury liability, and $25,000 for property damage liability. In Virginia, you have to pay an annual $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee to the DMV.

You either live in a no-fault or at-fault insurance state, and this determines which party is responsible for the accident and financially liable.

Consequences in a no-fault state

The good news is the legal consequences you could face for being at fault for an accident in a no-fault state are minimal.

If you’re injured, you’ll file a claim with your insurer, and it’ll pay for your medical bills and property damage up to your policy limits. The other party’s insurer will do the same — regardless of who’s at fault.

But there’s an exception: If the other party’s injuries are severe enough, they might be able to sue you if certain conditions are met. If you don’t have insurance coverage, you’d have to pay for your own legal defense and could be found liable for damages, which you’d have to pay out of pocket.

Consequences in an at-fault state

Most of the United States are at-fault states, also known as “tort” states. If you’re found at fault in an accident and don’t have insurance, you’re responsible for your own damages and injuries.

The other party can also sue you for damages such as medical bills, emotional and physical pain and suffering, lost wages, and property damage. If they win a judgment, they can take measures to satisfy it, like garnishing your wages.

That’s why it’s crucial to have enough liability insurance to protect your assets and pay for the other party’s injuries and damages — and your legal representation if a lawsuit is filed against you.

What To Do if the Other Driver Caused the Accident

woman on the phone after auto accident

If the other driver caused the accident, your options for compensation depend on where you live and your car insurance policy coverage.

In most states, uninsured motorist coverage is a requirement  — though you can waive it in some states after it’s offered. Your lender may also offer, or require, underinsured motorist coverage. These coverages can pay for your out-of-pocket injury-related expenses.

If you have uninsured motorist coverage but the driver doesn’t have insurance, you can file a claim with your insurance company for compensation. If the driver has low liability limits, and your injuries or property damage exceeds their coverage maximum, your underinsured motorist coverage can pay for your damages.

Collision insurance is another option to pay for your vehicle repairs if you have the coverage at the time of the accident.

How your case proceeds from there depends on whether you live in an at-fault or no-fault state.

Consequences in a no-fault state

If you live in a no-fault state, your own car insurance pays for your property damage costs and medical treatment. This means the other driver being uninsured may not have as much of a negative effect — but it also limits your rights to sue them.

If your medical costs exceed your insurance coverage or you have significant injuries, it might be worth it to get legal advice from an accident lawyer to see if you should file a personal injury lawsuit.

Even if you win the lawsuit, getting the money you’ve won could be difficult. Plus, you could be responsible for legal fees and other vehicle or medical costs your insurer won’t cover.

Consequences in an at-fault state

In an at-fault state, you can file an insurance claim with your company if you didn’t cause the accident and the other driver doesn’t have insurance. Your PIP or MedPay coverage can pay for your medical bills and lost wages, while your collision coverage can pay for your vehicle damage.

If you don’t have collision coverage, you can seek compensation if you have uninsured motorist property damage coverage.

You can also sue the at-fault driver — but even if you win, you risk not getting compensation if they don’t have sufficient assets. Your insurer may also seek reimbursement for damages through what’s known as subrogation.

‘No-Pay, No-Play’ Insurance Laws Explained

No-pay, no-play is an insurance law in several no-fault states that prevents uninsured drivers from getting non-economic damages — like pain and suffering — from drivers who have insurance after a car accident.

Some states make an exception for instances where the at-fault driver was driving under the influence or committing a felony. Injured uninsured drivers can still receive economic damages to pay for medical expenses and property damage to their vehicle if the other driver was at fault.

The no-pay, no-play law was designed to remove some financial responsibility from drivers who comply with their state’s minimum-coverage requirements. The rate of uninsured drivers has fallen by as much as 1.6% in states where the law was enacted, according to an IRCl study.

The no-fault states with no-pay, no-play laws are:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon

Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance

damaged black car after accident

If you’re caught driving without car insurance, you could face several legal consequences.

Penalties vary by state but can include one or more of the following, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I):

  • Jail time
  • Fines up to $5,000
  • License or registration suspension
  • License or registration revocation
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • License plate confiscation

Computer-data laws require insurance companies to update active and canceled policies regularly, making it easier to catch uninsured drives. If your policy is no longer active, you must submit proof of current insurance to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or face legal consequences. You’ll usually have to pay a fine as well.

Uninsured drivers can also experience an insurance gap, which may likely lead to higher insurance rates. Your premiums can be even more expensive if you were the at-fault party in a car accident and didn’t have insurance.

Accident Without Insurance FAQs

Getting into a motor vehicle accident without insurance could be costly. We answered the most frequently asked questions on the topic below.

Is it illegal to drive without insurance?

Yes. It’s illegal to drive without auto insurance in all states (except New Hampshire)

If caught driving without insurance, you could face fines, jail time, and a suspended license. The state may also impound your car, seize your registration plates, or suspend or revoke your registration.

What if neither driver has insurance?

Not having insurance as the at-fault driver means you’ll have to pay for your own injuries and property damage plus the other driver’s accident expenses.

The other driver could potentially sue you for additional damages, like pain, suffering, and emotional distress — unless you’re in a no-pay, no-play state that prohibits non-economic damages.

Which states have no-fault insurance systems?

Twelve states and Puerto Rico have no-fault insurance systems, which means each driver’s insurance pays for their own injuries and medical bills, regardless of fault.

The 12 states are Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

What happens if you get in an accident without insurance in Texas?

Driving in Texas without auto insurance can result in serious penalties, including financial liability if you’re at fault.

The state may also suspend your license, impound your vehicle, or issue you a traffic ticket. You might also have to pay a three-year surcharge of $175 to $350 annually.


  1. Insurance Information Institute, “Background on: Compulsory Auto/Uninsured Motorists,” Accessed October 10, 2023.
  2. Insurance Research Council, “New Study Finds Properly Enforced No Pay, No Play Laws Moderately Reduce Uninsured Motorists and May Also Trim Auto Insurance Costs,” Accessed October 10, 2023.
  3. Insurance Research Council, “One in Eight Drivers Uninsured,” Accessed October 10, 2023.
  4. New Hampshire Statutes, “Chapter 264 Accidents and Financial Responsibility Section 264:20 Amount of Proof of Financial Responsibility,” Accessed October 10, 2023.

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