What Happens if You Get Into an Accident Without Insurance?
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One of the major benefits of having a quality car insurance policy is the peace of mind it provides you. Knowing your insurance will help cover the expenses that result from a car accident can make this stressful time a little better.
But if you get into an accident without insurance, the situation becomes much more complicated. Now you have to be worried about the financial obligations that’ll fall in your lap, as well as any legal trouble you could be in.
Driving without car insurance is never a good idea and if you’re in an accident, it’s important to understand what might happen next.
- Driving without insurance is against the law in most states. So, you may bear a hefty financial burden if you cause an accident while driving without insurance.
- If your state requires car insurance and you’re caught driving without it, you may also be sued by the driver, requiring you to pay expenses out of pocket.
- When you cause an accident without insurance, your car may be impounded, your license suspended, and you may face jail time.
- If you live in a no-fault accident state, which means regardless of who causes an accident, you must file a claim with your insurance company. You can still be sued by the driver you hit.
- If your license is suspended as a result of driving without insurance, you may be required to get a SR-22. This certificate of financial responsibility shows you meet the minimum insurance requirements for your state.
If you find yourself driving without car insurance, you’re not alone. In fact, this scenario is surprisingly common, according to data by the Insurance Research Council (RIC). The RIC found that in 2019, one out of every eight drivers on the road had no car insurance, putting the estimated national uninsured motorist rate at 12.6%. The rates of uninsured drivers vary significantly depending on the state, too. Washington saw a 6.9% increase in uninsured motorists, while Rhode Island and Mississippi saw a 6.8% and 6.4% increase, respectively.
Just what happens if you’re in a car accident without insurance will depend on many factors, including the accident’s severity. The state in which the accident occurs also has important implications and can affect your financial and legal responsibility.
Accidents in States That Require Car Insurance
Most states require drivers to carry car insurance, and also set a minimum required amount of car insurance. Those state minimums can vary, but if you’re in an accident in a state where insurance is required, you could face multiple penalties. Those penalties will partially depend on whether you were at fault.
At-Fault Auto Accidents Without Insurance
If you drive uninsured and cause an accident, you are liable for all of the damages and injuries that result. You will need to pay for any property and vehicle damage along with injuries of anyone else involved in the accident.
At-Fault Accident Penalties
If you were at-fault for an accident and didn’t have insurance, you may face some or all of the following penalties:
- Vehicle repair costs: You will be responsible for the cost to repair or replace any vehicles involved in the accident.
- Medical expenses: If anyone was injured in the accident, including drivers, passengers, or pedestrians, you will probably be responsible for covering their medical bills. Those bills might include ambulance rides, ER bills, physical therapy, and other expenses.
- Legal fees: If you can’t pay for those damages out-of-pocket, the other parties involved could sue you for the damages and their legal fees.
In addition to these immediate expenses, you might face additional disciplinary penalties:
- License suspension: If you’re caught driving without insurance, the DMV might suspend your license and require proof of insurance before they activate it again. Some states will require you to complete a SR-22 or FR-44 form to prove that you have insurance before your license will be reinstated.
- Vehicle impounding: Your vehicle might be impounded at the scene because you drove without insurance.
- Fines: Many states will issue fines because you violated the law by driving without insurance. The amount of those fines often depends on the severity of the accident.
- Jail time: If you have repeatedly driven without insurance, then causing an accident while uninsured could even land you behind bars.
If you have driven without insurance and caused an accident, insurance companies will usually view you as being a higher-risk driver. You will also have a lapse in your insurance coverage, which often drives up premium costs. Chances are that when you do seek out insurance, you will pay higher rates than other drivers.
At-Fault Accidents in No-Fault States
If you’re in an accident in a no-fault state, your responsibilities may slightly change. Several states currently have no-fault insurance laws:
- New York
- North Dakota
In addition, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have choice no-fault insurance laws.
States with no-fault insurance require each driver in an accident to file a claim with their own insurance company. This is applicable regardless of which driver is at fault. These no-fault laws limit the ability of another driver to sue you if they’re injured in a car accident that you caused. In some states, another driver’s injuries might have to reach a specific monetary threshold before they can sue you.
No-fault insurance laws are complicated, and being in a no-fault state doesn’t guarantee that you can’t be sued or held liable for damages. Even if you aren’t required to pay for medical bills or damage to the other car in the accident, you will still be responsible for the damage caused to your own vehicle.
Not-at-Fault Accidents Without Insurance
Even if you weren’t at-fault in an accident, if you were driving without insurance, you could still face multiple penalties. While the other driver’s insurance should cover your damages and medical expenses, the state may penalize you for having been on the road without car insurance.
These consequences might include:
- License suspension: Your license could be suspended, even if you didn’t cause the accident. The police officer attending to the accident will usually ask for proof of insurance. If you don’t have it, the state may suspend your license and require you to show proof of insurance before reinstating it.
- Fines: Some states will fine drivers for not carrying car insurance.
- Vehicle impounding: If a police officer discovers you are driving an uninsured vehicle, they could impound your vehicle at the scene of the accident.
If you’re driving without insurance, the costs of an accident can still add up, even if you weren’t at-fault.
Accidents in States That Don’t Require Car Insurance
There are currently just two states that don’t require auto insurance: New Hampshire and Virginia. However, you do have to pay an annual fee in order to drive without insurance. Even though these states don’t have set car insurance minimums, while you won’t legally get in trouble, you still won’t have financial protection in the event of an accident.
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If you’re in an auto accident in New Hampshire or Virginia and you don’t have car insurance, the consequences will be different than what you would face in a state that does require car insurance.
At-Fault Auto Accidents
If you are at-fault in a car accident and you were uninsured, you will need to pay for any damage to the other driver’s car, as well as for any medical bills or injuries that the other driver or passengers sustained. You will also need to pay for any repairs to or replacement of your own vehicle.
If you are unable or unwilling to pay for the other driver’s damages out-of-pocket, that other driver can sue. If you end up going to court, you will also need to pay for your attorney fees and possibly theirs as well.
You may also have to report a more severe accident to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. You could face a license suspension or other penalties.
If you weren’t at-fault for the accident, then you would need to file a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance company. If the driver is insured, that insurance company should cover the damage they caused to your vehicle, as well as any injuries you incurred.
If the driver wasn’t insured, you might have to take them to court so they can cover the cost of your damages.
How to Find Affordable Car Insurance
Having car insurance can help to minimize your financial responsibility after a car accident. It also protects you from legal trouble and fines, and ensures that if your vehicle is damaged, you’ll be able to repair or replace it.
While car insurance can be expensive, there are many affordable car insurance policies available that will meet your state’s minimum insurance requirements. To find the best deal on car insurance, you will need to compare quotes from multiple companies.
Compare.com makes that process easy. With Compare, you can complete a single quote request form, which takes about five minutes. Then, you’ll receive personalized quotes from up to 65 insurance companies.
You can easily compare the quotes and find the policy that offers you the best coverage at a price that works for you. The process is quick and easy, and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that you’re insured, just in case you are ever in an accident.
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