What Happens If You Get Caught Driving Without Insurance?

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In almost every state in the U.S. — the exception being New Hampshire — you are required by law to carry car insurance if you have a car registered in your name. The consequences of not doing so vary from state to state but generally include fines and fees that are more costly than car insurance premiums.

What are the consequences of driving without insurance? They may include fees, the impounding of your vehicle, loss or suspension of your license and even jail time. Let’s take a closer look at what happens if you get caught driving without insurance.

Do you have to have insurance to drive?

In 49 states and the District of Columbia, a minimum amount of insurance is required by law. In New Hampshire, it is required under certain conditions. If you have an accident without insurance, there are stiff penalties.

Although the mandatory amounts differ from state to state, the requirements for all states include the following:

  • Bodily injury liability: This covers medical costs for injuries incurred by the people in the other car. It ranges from $10,000 up to $50,000 per person and $20,000 up to $100,000 per accident, depending on your state.
  • Property damage liability: This part of your policy covers damage to the other driver’s car and to any personal property in the car or that is damaged by the accident (such as a fence or light post). It ranges from $10,000 to $25,000.

Some states also have other requirements, such as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, medpay, or personal injury protection (PIP). The latter two cover your medical costs in the event of an accident and are mandatory in some states, optional in others.

What are the consequences of driving without insurance?

What happens if you drive without insurance varies based on a number of factors, including the state you’re in when it happens, and whether this is your first or a repeat offense. It also matters whether you’ve been pulled over for a routine traffic stop, or if your lack of insurance is discovered following an accident.

What are the consequences if you get pulled over without insurance?

In most states, if you are pulled over for the first time and you have no insurance, there will be a fine. In California, for example, you’ll pay close to $500 for a first offense. In addition, other states, such as Florida, will suspend your driver’s license and registration and require significant fees to have them reinstated.

In some states, including California, the police officer who pulls you over has the right to impound your vehicle immediately if he or she deems it necessary. You would then be responsible for towing fees and other costs involved and might not be able to get your car back until you have proof of insurance.

Although it’s unlikely to happen with a first offense, most states also reserve the right to jail you for driving without insurance.

Once you’ve been dinged for not having insurance, your rates to be insured will rise significantly because you are considered an at-risk driver. You won’t be eligible for clean record discounts and may see annual premiums in the four-digit range.

What are the consequences if you get into an accident without insurance?

If you get into an accident without insurance, you’ll face some serious consequences. You’ll be see all the penalties above and are more likely to have your license suspended and vehicle impounded. You are also more likely to need to file an SR-22 with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

There may be injuries and property damage following the accident, and you may be liable for it all, especially if the other driver doesn’t carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you are at fault in the accident, the responsibility to pay those costs rests on your shoulders.

If you are unable to do so, you run the risk of bankruptcy or other financial trouble. Because costs for medical care can run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, this could be a disaster for you.

How do you get car insurance when you are uninsured?

If you have been driving without insurance, it is possible to purchase a policy that will cover you to the extent of the law and beyond, if you wish. You may not be eligible for the lowest premium prices because driving without insurance puts you in a higher-risk category. But careful shopping should turn up some reasonably priced policies for you.

Look at nationally ranked insurers like Geico and Progressive first because they tend to have the best deals. Also, look at smaller regional companies that are active in your community — they may be more willing to overlook your faults and offer inexpensive coverage. Finally, if necessary, take a look at insurers such as The General and Acceptance Insurance, which specialize in policies for high-risk drivers.

Frequently asked questions

Is driving without car insurance a felony?

No, it’s classified as a misdemeanor in every state. However, this does not mean that there aren’t significant penalties involved, including jail time, especially if you’re a repeat offender.

Can my license be suspended for driving without car insurance?

Yes. In fact, this is a common consequence if you are caught driving without insurance.

What can I do if I can’t afford insurance?

It’s your responsibility to have insurance if you are driving. Shopping around for quotes from a variety of companies may reveal some lower-priced options that will work for you, especially with discounts. A few states, such as California and New Jersey, offer low-priced car insurance for those who cannot otherwise afford it.

What are my state’s minimum requirements for insurance?

The non-profit Insurance Information Institute has a chart that lists the minimum requirements for each state. You can check this to see what the minimum liability requirements are and if there is any additional type of coverage you’re required to have.