Penalties for Driving Without Insurance: What Happens If You Get Pulled Over, Into an Accident, and More
One of the worst nightmares for any driver in the United States is to get into a car accident. There’s no telling what a bad accident can do to your car, not to mention your body. However, this nightmare gets even worse if you are driving without car insurance. What happens when you drive without insurance? Is it illegal to drive without car insurance? Let’s take a look at the law to find some answers to these questions.
Table of Contents
- 1 Is It Illegal to Drive Without Insurance?
- 2 What Happens If You Get Pulled Over Without Insurance?
- 3 Car Accidents Without Insurance
- 4 Car Accidents Where the Other Driver Has No Insurance
- 5 No-Fault Insurance States
Is It Illegal to Drive Without Insurance?
It is illegal to drive without car insurance in the United States, whether you own or are leasing a car. Different states have different requirements about the type and amount of coverage that you are legally required to have, but one thing is clear: there are penalties for driving without insurance.
It is worth noting that you are not personally required to have insurance for renting a car. Although it’s occasionally a good idea to get rental car insurance, the rental car company will have an insurance policy of their own for their fleet.
What Happens If You Get Pulled Over Without Insurance?
Whenever a police officer pulls you over, they will typically ask you to provide three things: your driver’s license, your vehicle registration, and your proof of insurance. This will be the same whether you are pulled over for speeding, driving recklessly, or even just because your taillight is out.
If you are pulled over and you can’t offer proof of insurance, then you will be held accountable with a penalty issued by the officer, whether it’s a ticket, a fine, or suspension of your licence and registration. It may be possible to have some of these penalties waived if you can demonstrate to a court that you did, in fact, have insurance coverage at the time you were pulled over.
The penalty for driving without insurance varies from state to state. You should contact your local DMV to find out the exact penalties and fines in your state. However, there are some common punishments if you get caught, whether you are pulled over by an officer who asks to see your insurance or you get into an accident without coverage. In many states, driving without insurance will lead to:
- Loss of your driver’s license and vehicle registration.
- A ticket citing your lack of insurance.
- Fines for driving without insurance that go as high as $5,000 in some states.
Car Accidents Without Insurance
If you get caught without insurance while driving normally the worst that can happen to you is a hefty fine or loss of your license. However, the worst case scenario is getting into a car accident without insurance. If this happens to you, there are a couple of ways that things can go.
Car Accident Without Insurance: Not at Fault
The better of two ways is that the accident is not your fault. This can be the case if the other driver was in error, or if it’s determined that nobody really did anything wrong that led to the accident. If the other driver is at fault and has insurance coverage, then their policy is technically required to cover any damages from the accident.
However, that doesn’t always mean that the other driver’s insurance provider will go along with this. They could try to file an Uninsured Motorist Claim against you in order to avoid footing the bill. In this case, you should plan to retain legal counsel to fight against the Uninsured Motorist Claim.
Car Accident Without Insurance: At Fault
If you are found to be at fault for a car accident and you don’t have insurance, then you are in a nasty situation. Typically your insurance would cover the damages to the other person’s vehicle and body. In a car accident without insurance where you are at fault, you can bet that the other driver will come after you in court to cover damages as a result of the accident.
Car Accidents Where the Other Driver Has No Insurance
Even if you’re a law abiding driver with up-to-date insurance, you still need to watch out for other drivers who are uninsured. If you get into a car accident where the other driver has no insurance and they are found to be at fault, it can be difficult to get them to pay you for damages. You can’t simply ask for money and, depending on your policy, your own insurance provider may be no help at all. This is a good time to seek out a lawyer and take the other driver to court in order to force them to pay you for damages to your vehicle and medical care that you needed as a result of the accident.
No-Fault Insurance States
As we’ve noted before, insurance laws differ from state to state. Most states are fault states, meaning that at least one driver involved in a collision must take the blame for that accident. However, there are 12 states that are called no-fault states. They are:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
What Is No-Fault Auto Insurance?
No-fault insurance laws limit the ways in which driver’s can sue one another for damages following a car accident. No-fault laws usually prohibit suing for damages up until one of two thresholds:
- Monetary Threshold: In some no-fault states, one driver cannot sue another for damages until medical bills related to an accident exceed a certain amount.
- Verbal Threshold: In other no-fault states, a driver must describe their injuries to a court of law and satisfy that court in declaring their injuries substantial enough to warrant legal action against the at-fault driver in pursuit of compensation for damages.
In three states — Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania — drivers have the option to choose whether they want to operate under a fault or no-fault policy whenever buying or renewing insurance.
Ultimately, the best way to avoid all of the trouble that comes with getting into a car accident without insurance is simply to buy a car insurance policy as required by your state. Talk to an insurance broker or provider to get a car insurance quote and you can end up saving yourself a lot of trouble in the event of a collision.
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Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.
This post was updated February 28, 2019. It was originally published May 1, 2018.