Most states require drivers to carry minimum car insurance coverage. In case of an accident, having the right auto insurance policy can protect you financially. In cases where you are at fault, it will pay to fix the other car or property and any medical bills for those you could have injured. Your car insurance policy can also pay to fix your vehicle in many circumstances if you have full coverage.
Getting into an accident without insurance can be financially devastating from vehicle damages and medical expenses. Not to mention the legal consequences you may suffer, such as a license suspension. Learn what happens if you get into a car accident without insurance.
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Getting In an Accident Without Car Insurance
Many issues can arise when you’re an uninsured driver, including breaking the law in almost every state. It can have severe consequences if you cause an accident resulting in injury or property damage to others. If uninsured, you may suffer various consequences depending on where you live, regardless of who may have caused the accident.
Besides the financial devastation of paying for bodily injury and property damages out of pocket, there could be fines, jail time, and even the suspension or revocation of your license. Knowing the risks can help ensure you do not drive without car insurance.
Uninsured and You’re At Fault
Causing a car accident can be scary and emotional without the added pressure of being uninsured. Sometimes it is clear that you were at fault, and other times it can take days before the fault is decided, adding to the stress of the situation.
If you don’t have insurance, you will have to pay out of your own pocket to repair any property damage you caused, whether to another vehicle, building, mailbox, or other property. Also, if you injured someone, you will be responsible for their medical bills, not to mention they may be able to sue you depending on the state.
For legal consequences, depending on where you are, you could face jail time, fines, and the suspension or loss of your driver’s license. You will not be able to drive your car after the accident since it is uninsured. Furthermore, you will probably pay higher rates when you obtain insurance after the fact because you will now be considered a high-risk driver.
Uninsured and Another Driver Is At Fault
Let’s say the accident isn’t your fault. Similar consequences will apply. Unfortunately, you will still be caught driving uninsured, which is a risk to you and other drivers on the road. While the other driver may have insurance and pay for your medical bills and car repairs, you will still face legal penalties.
Depending on the state, you could lose your license or have it suspended, have to pay fines, and even face jail time. And again, if you decide to purchase insurance down the line, you will end up paying more for insurance for at least some time.
Sometimes your car can be damaged in other ways. Like if a tree falls on your car during a storm, someone hits your car and leaves, or you hit an animal, and it causes damage. In all of these scenarios, if you are uninsured, you will have to pay out of pocket for the repairs.
Uninsured In States With Required Insurance
If you drive your car in a state that requires insurance, there will be some issues that you have to face.
The damage to your vehicle will have to be paid for out of your own pocket if you cause an accident without insurance. Other people may sue you if they suffer damage or injuries caused by you. Your car insurance policy will only cover accidents after you purchase it, so buying it right after the accident will not save you from the consequences.
Usually, states will require minimum limits for bodily injury and property damage. If you fail to carry car insurance in those states that require it (all but NH and VA), you will be penalized by one or more of the following:
- Jail time
- License suspension or revocation
- Vehicle Impoundment
- SR-22 filing requirement (similar to a bond that says you have the minimum liability needed)
Uninsured In States Without Required Insurance
Only New Hampshire and Virginia don’t require drivers to buy car insurance in the U.S. If you are a New Hampshire resident and choose not to have insurance, you may be required to provide proof of sufficient funds to compensate for all damages you cause, including bodily injury and property damage. Losing your driver’s license may be the legal consequence of not paying for damages. Sometimes you must show proof of insurance for a minimum of 3 years.
When registering a vehicle or renewing a registration, drivers in Virginia are required to pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee if they choose to remain uninsured. Keep in mind that this fee does not mean you have insurance. You will still be responsible for all financial consequences of any accidents.
Uninsured In “No-fault” States
Some states follow the no-fault rule. No-fault states require persons injured in car accidents to seek compensation directly from their car insurance companies for financial losses. Usually, this means you cannot file a lawsuit. There are infrequent circumstances in which you can, and this is usually when severe injuries are deemed financially devastating.
So if you cause an accident and live in a no-fault state, unless you have caused significant injuries, the other driver cannot name you in a lawsuit which is good if you don’t have insurance.
However, in those rare cases where you are sued due to severe injuries, you will likely have to pay for the financial loss out of pocket since you are uninsured. The best way to always be financially prepared is to carry car insurance, even in those states where it is not a legal requirement.
Uninsured In “Fault” States
Most states do not follow a “no-fault” insurance system like above, but rather “fault,” which is known as a “tort” state. If you cause a car accident and another person is injured, they can sue you for all the financial damages. There could be medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and mental and physical pain. Most lawsuits are filed due to pain and suffering, adding in all the other costs.
Your responsibility is to pay these damages to the injured person if you do not have car insurance. Therefore, you will be responsible for paying for them yourself without the backing of an insurance company. If your case goes to trial for some reason and a judgment is made against you, you must pay. The judge could even garnish your wages to do so.
Again, the best option for the most favorable outcome is to carry car insurance if you drive on the road or own a car.
Accidents When You Have Insurance But No Proof
If you have an auto insurance policy, you should always keep proof of insurance, or an auto id card, in your car. An alternative is to download a copy to your phone, or if your insurance company has an app, you can also have that on your phone so that it can be pulled up at any time. Besides accidents, you may need your id card during inspection or other vehicle maintenance.
While it is great that you have insurance, you could receive a citation for not being able to show proof. This is similar to if you don’t have your driver’s license pulled over. The good news is you can usually have this reversed once you show proof of insurance.
These days it is pretty easy to pull up a digital copy of your auto id card, so hopefully, this won’t be an issue. At the very least, call your insurance company immediately and report the accident in as much detail as possible.
What You May Pay After An Accident With No Insurance
You will be responsible for paying the cost of fixing your car, any damaged property, medical bills, and legal consequences. You will be fined hundreds or even thousands of dollars if you are found to be driving without valid insurance in a car accident. Moreover, your driver’s license will be suspended or revoked in most states by the Department of Motor Vehicles, usually for a period of a few months to a year if it is your first offense.
Just as an idea of cost, in 2020 the average cost of evident injuries was almost $30,000. This doesn’t include severe injuries, those causing a disability, or death.
Future Insurance Rates
Because you have now been in an accident without car insurance, there is a mark on your record with the insurance company. You will be considered a high-risk driver since you chose to drive without insurance, which is illegal in almost every state.
Some insurance companies will not insure a driver that was in an accident without insurance. Those that will insure you may impose higher insurance premiums. The insurance company could impose payment requirements, such as paying in full or auto pay. That way, they know your coverage is at less risk of lapsing.