Is It Illegal to Drive Without Insurance and What’s The Penalty?

Why is auto insurance a requirement?

It’s only natural to wonder why you’re required to carry auto insurance but not other types of policies like life insurance or disability insurance. At face value, it looks as if it’s a fair comparison but, in essence, it’s not.

This is because life insurance and disability are both products that provide you or your loved ones with benefits to recoup from death or an accident.

The required auto insurance coverage limits, on the other hand, are designed to give third parties who suffer damage while you’re behind the wheel an outlet to collect from.

While there are different types of coverage that can be built into a personal auto policy, these are optional and can be rejected either verbally or in writing.

Since cars can also be weapons, residents who choose to own a vehicle must operate it safely.

No matter how safely you drive, there’s a chance that you can have an accident.

Since accidents aren’t 100 percent preventable, officials have set laws so that everyone has the financial means to pay for others’ car repairs, medical expenses, and all of the other costs associated with accidents.

States With No Car Insurance Requirement

There are just two states that don't require car insurance: New Hampshire and Virginia.

Car insurance is not mandatory in New Hampshire, but residents are still responsible for damages resulting from a car accident: up to $50,000 for liability and $25,000 for property damage. Drivers who cannot pay for damages can expect to have their licenses and registrations suspended.

Virginia residents can skip getting car insurance if they pay the state $500 per year. However, that does not provide accident coverage of any kind. The driver who caused the accident is still liable.

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Liability Coverage and California Law

Liability coverage helps pay for injuries or damage to others when you are responsible. If you own and drive a vehicle, you must follow the financial responsibility laws in the state Vehicle Code. The most common way to do this is to buy auto liability coverage.

Liability coverage does not pay for injuries to you or the people in your family. You can buy medical payments coverage for you and your family.

Minimum Liability Coverage

By law, the limits below are the minimum insurance limits for a standard auto policy. You must have this much coverage.

Minimum Bodily Injury Liability Limits

  • $15,000 for the death or injury of any one person. If one person is injured in the accident, your coverage pays up to $15,000.
  • A total of $30,000 for the death or injury of more than one person in any one accident. If 2 or more people are injured, the coverage pays up to $30,000. The coverage will not pay more. The injured people share the money.
  • This coverage applies to injuries that you cause to someone else.

Minimum Property Damage Liability Limits

  • $5,000 for damage to the property of other people.
  • This pays for damage you cause to someone else’s car, or to objects and structures that your car hits.

You must buy liability coverage

Driving without insurance is illegal. Also, you must have liability coverage to register your car. Your insurance company tells the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if you buy auto insurance or if you stop paying your premium.

What happens if I do not have liability coverage?

If you do not show proof of insurance when asked, you will get a ticket. If you do not have any insurance, your license may be suspended and your vehicle could be impounded. Remember, driving is a privilege, not a right.

How do I prove that I have liability coverage?

Your insurance company will send you a card to show proof of insurance. It lists the insured vehicles and the name of the policy owner. It also shows the policy number and the dates the policy starts and ends. Keep this card in your car.

What if I cause an accident that costs more than my liability limit?

You can be sued for additional costs. It is possible that you could lose your savings and even your house.

Should I get higher limits than the law requires?

You may want higher liability limits than the law requires. In general, the more assets you have, the more you could lose in a lawsuit. You should discuss your situation with your agent, broker, insurance company, or financial advisor.

Are there other ways to show financial responsibility besides buying insurance?

Yes, there are several ways to show financial responsibility. For more information, go to the DMV website at www.dmv.ca.gov.

 

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Filling Out an Application

You will have to provide some information when you apply for auto insurance. The insurance company uses the information to decide if they will insure you and for how much.

  • How you use your car, such as for business, commuting to work, or family trips
  • How many miles you drive in a year
  • The years, makes, models, and vehicle identification numbers for all cars in the household
  • The amount you paid for the car(s)
  • The insurance requirements if you have a loan or lease
  • How long you have been driving
  • The names, ages, marriage status, and driver’s license numbers for all drivers in your household
  • The driving record for all drivers in your household including accidents, insurance claims, and tickets for moving violations, but not parking tickets
  • Most insurance companies will order a Motor Vehicle Report from the DMV—this is the state’s official record of your accidents, traffic violations, and suspended licenses

Before you sign anything:

  • Take time to review your application before you sign it.
  • Do not sign any forms that you do not understand.
  • Do not sign any blank forms.
  • Ask for copies of all forms and other documents for your records before you leave the office of the agent, broker, or insurance company.

When you get your new policy, review it

Make sure the information is correct and the coverage is what you bought. Contact the company right away if you find an error. Send changes to your agent, broker, and/or insurance company in writing and keep a copy. Do not be afraid to contact the insurance company directly to make sure that your agent or broker has requested the coverage you wanted. Use "certified mail/return receipt requested" to make sure that your letter was received.

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Need help finding a lawyer? Call Michigan Auto Law

Unfortunately, as I wrote above, if you are the owner and operator of your own motor vehicle and injured in a car accident, the law in Michigan will prevent me from helping you.

However, if you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by someone driving without insurance, you still have important legal rights including the right to sue and bring a lawsuit for your harms and losses. If you would like to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our injury attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced accident attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.

How much is a driving without insurance ticket in Michigan?

If you are convicted of driving without insurance in Michigan, you will be required to pay a fine of at least $200 but not more than $500. (MCL 500.3102(2))

Penalties for Getting Into an Accident While Uninsured

If you’re uninsured or have let your insurance lapse, getting into an accident can be a disastrous situation, both for you and the other driver—especially if they don’t have uninsured motorist coverage. Repair and medical expenses from a significant accident can easily cost thousands of dollars, even exceeding $1 million if serious injuries are incurred. Additionally, uninsured drivers who injure or kill other drivers can face significant fines, SR-22 requirements and prison sentences.

State Fines Driving Privilege Other California$360–$720, penalty assessment fees includedMandatory one-year suspension, after which you can have your license reinstated if you maintain an SR-22 for three years.Court may order impoundment of vehicle; 100% liability for other driver’s medical and vehicle expenses if you’re at fault.Texas$175–350 plus an annual surcharge of $250 for three years plus any damages for the accident you were in, if you are liable, up to a maximum of $4,000Automatic suspension of vehicle registration and license for up to two years. File an SR-22 for three years after the accident.Vehicle can be impounded for 180 days; cannot apply for release of car without evidence of financial responsibility. $15 fee for every day your vehicle is impounded; 100% liability for other driver’s medical and vehicle expenses if you’re at fault. Up to one year in jail, depending on severity of accident.Florida$150 reinstatement feeSuspended license until you have provided proof of insurance. SR-22 may be required depending on severity of accident.100% liability for other driver’s medical and vehicle expenses if you’re at fault.New York$150–1500 and an additional civil penalty fee of $750Your license and registration will immediately be revoked for at least one year and up to three yearsCourt may order impoundment of vehicle. Potential imprisonment of up to 15 days.

License Suspension

If you are caught driving without insurance, your license can be suspended in addition to your getting a ticket. The duration of the suspension can vary. In some states, it ends once you show proof of insurance or file an SR-22. In others, the court or DMV can suspend your license for a set period of time based on the state laws.

The circumstances that lead to suspension also vary between states. Some only revoke your license if you are caught without financial responsibility in an accident, while others suspend your license after a traffic violation and require proof of insurance within 24 hours. Reinstating a license can cost several hundred dollars; on top of any other fines, the total cost could equal the annual premium for an auto insurance policy.

For example, in Massachusetts your license will be suspended for 60 days if you’re caught driving without insurance. Similarly, in Wisconsin, your driving privileges will be suspended until you file an SR-22, proving that you meet the minimum level of required financial responsibility. In California, however, your license will only be revoked if you are caught without insurance after an accident, not after a routine traffic stop.

Vehicle Impounded and Loss of Registration

If you’re caught driving without insurance, especially if you’re involved in an accident, a court could order your vehicle to be impounded and your license and registration to be revoked. In most states you will not be able to drive the vehicle again until you submit valid proof of insurance to your state’s DMV, typically an SR-22.

For example, in New Jersey, if you cannot submit proof of insurance within 24 hours of being cited, your car may be impounded on top of its stripped registration. Getting your car back will require additional reinstatement or processing fees. Some states may even require your vehicle to be impounded for 30 days, causing you further costs and inconveniences.

Prison Sentence

In most states, driving while uninsured is considered a misdemeanor offense, and can potentially lead to a prison sentence. Jail time will most likely not be imposed for a first offense, unless you cause a serious accident. But repeat offenses will incur higher fines and stiffer punishments, possibly including jail.

If you are uninsured and caught driving, you could face as little as a few days or as much as two weeks of prison time. However, in some states, such as Michigan, you could face up to a full year. These charges may also accompany additional fines and fees.

Financial Consequences

The legal fines we describe above are costly repercussions set by the laws of your state. They can cost anywhere from $150 to $5,000 for your first offense, once all fees are added in. However, the cost of an accident while driving uninsured can be much higher, and may even be enough to drive you into debt or bankruptcy.

If a driver you crash into does not have uninsured motorist insurance, personal injury protection or collision insurance, an accident could easily cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of repair and hospital bills. You would be on the hook for most of those costs if you are found to be at fault. The other driver might even sue you, and go after any future earnings or savings accounts you may have, in order to pay their bills.

Penalties for Failure to Have Car Insurance

While each state establishes its own penalties for auto insurance violations, most states have significant fines for lack of insurance coverage. According to Agent Insure, the driver may also face license suspension, coverage denial if he or she has an accident, and full responsibility for medical and property damage costs in an at-fault accident. The other driver can sue you for the costs he or she incurs in this type of accident, so insurance provides financial protection from this type of lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances, the costs could range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars in cases involving significant personal injury.

New Hampshire is the only state that does not penalize drivers who do not have insurance coverage. Tennessee has one of the lowest ticket costs in the nation for this violation ($25), while fines can be up to $5000 in Massachusetts. Some drivers may even face jail time for failure to have car insurance. Check with an insurance company that services your state to learn more about minimum coverage laws.

The minimum coverage required to legally drive will typically be the most affordable option in your state. However, you have to maintain coverage by paying the monthly or quarterly premiums. If your coverage lapses because payment is past-due, you have no legal coverage and can also be cited if you are stopped by a police officer.

According to The Zebra, the following states mandate license suspension for motorists who drive without minimum auto insurance:

  • Alaska
  • Wyoming
  • Arizona
  • Wisconsin
  • California
  • West Virginia
  • Colorado
  • Virginia
  • Connecticut
  • Vermont
  • Delaware
  • Utah
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • Hawaii
  • South Dakota
  • Idaho
  • South Carolina
  • Illinois
  • Rhode Island
  • Indiana
  • Pennsylvania
  • Iowa
  • Oregon
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Kentucky
  • Ohio
  • Maine
  • North Dakota
  • Massachusetts
  • North Carolina
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Montana

If an officer pulls you over for driving without insurance, he or she could tow your vehicle. You would then be responsible for towing and impound costs. Louisiana and some other states have a law called “no pay, no play” which prevents uninsured drivers from receiving any insurance settlement after an accident even if the other driver was at fault. According to The Balance, some states may also suspend your vehicle’s registration for driving the car without insurance.

Insure.com notes that fines for driving without insurance are higher in Delaware than in any other state. The first offense carries a fine of $1500 to $2000, and a second offense and all subsequent offenses within the same three-year period carry a $3000 to $4000 fine as well as license suspension. The lowest fines are in Idaho, which currently charges $75 per offense, and Tennessee, where fines for driving without insurance start at $100. In most states, providing a law enforcement officer with false proof of insurance constitutes a felony offense.

What insurance is required for a financed car?

If you finance a car, your lender will probably require additional insurance above your state requirements. A lender wants to ensure that its collateral—in this case, your car—is protected. At a minimum, most lenders will require you to carry comprehensive and collision coverage until your loan is paid off.

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