Getting into a car accident is never a good situation, but if you have auto insurance, you can rest assured that your vehicle damages and medical bills should be covered. Although car insurance is legally required in 48 states, not every driver has proper insurance. If you’re uninsured and you get into an accident, you can expect to face serious consequences.
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What if I get in an accident without insurance?
Although only 48 states legally require you to have auto insurance, all states have financial responsibility laws. This means you must be able to prove you have sufficient assets to cover any damages or medical expenses for an accident you cause in order to drive without insurance. If you get into an accident without insurance or the ability to cover damages, you’ll pay a hefty fee. Fines vary by state, but it will be more expensive than the minimum amount of insurance that’s required where you live.
If you get caught driving without insurance multiple times, the penalties will be much more severe. On top of fines, your driver’s license could get suspended, your car could get impounded and you might even face jail time.
If you cause an accident and the other driver has extensive damages or medical bills, you would be responsible for paying those fees entirely out-of-pocket. If you got hit by someone else, you would have no insurance coverage to pay for your losses. Driving without insurance could easily put you into serious debt if you get into a major accident.
What if I get caught driving without insurance?
You don’t have to get into an accident to get caught without insurance. A police officer will usually ask to see a driver’s proof of insurance in almost every traffic stop. The reason for the stop doesn’t matter. If you’re driving with a broken taillight, you may still be asked to provide proof of insurance.
If you don’t have insurance, there’s no easy way around it. If you admit to driving uninsured, the police officer will write you a ticket. If you pretend that you left your proof of insurance at home, you’ll still get a ticket. The fines vary by state, but you can expect it to be at least several hundred dollars. In some states, the fine could be more expensive than a standard car insurance premium.
After getting a ticket, you’ll be required to submit proof of insurance coverage within a certain timeframe. The officer who wrote your ticket will specify the time frame. It could be one day, or several days after you were stopped. If you’re unable to provide proof of insurance then you’ll have to pay your ticket in full and also pay for a new insurance policy.
How can an officer know if I have insurance or not?
The main way that a police officer can determine if you’re insured is by simply asking to see your proof of insurance. Drivers who are insured and carry proper proof of insurance won’t hesitate to share the documents. Drivers who are uninsured will generally use an excuse for why they can’t provide proof.
It’s also possible that you could get caught without insurance in a random traffic checkpoint. Police officers set up these checkpoints to force all drivers taking a certain route to provide a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance. This allows officers to catch uninsured or unlicensed drivers without having to pull them over in a traffic stop.
However, many states now use an Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) camera to find uninsured drivers during traffic stops. The camera, which is mounted to the top of a police cruiser, takes a picture of the license plate and runs the numbers through a state database that tells the officer if the driver is insured.
Although ALPR cameras are highly effective at catching uninsured drivers, an officer can’t legally run your plates and pull you over if you show up in the database without having first stopped you for a traffic violation. The camera is used to provide information about the driver after they’ve already been pulled over for a punishable traffic violation.
Will my license be suspended if I drive without insurance?
It’s possible that your license could be suspended if you’re caught driving without insurance. The laws vary by state, but a majority of states will suspend your license, especially if it’s not your first offense. The states that do suspend licenses for uninsured drivers are:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
The states that do not suspend your license for uninsured drivers are:
- New Mexico
If you live in a state that does suspend licenses for uninsured drivers, it’s likely that you will also have to pay a hefty fee on top of it. Additionally, the length of the suspension is different for every state. In some states, your license is reinstated as soon as you can show proof of insurance. Other states will suspend your license for a specified period of time, even if you purchase insurance.
If your license is suspended, don’t risk driving anyways. Driving without a license carries dire consequences in almost every state. The penalty for driving without a license ranges from a fine to getting your vehicle impounded and license plates taken away. If it’s your second or third offense, you could likely face jail time.
Is it mandatory to get insurance in every state?
There are only two states that do not require car insurance – Virginia and New Hampshire. However, these two states require drivers to instead show proof of financial responsibility. Either way, all drivers in the United States are required to pay for some form of liability coverage.
If you get pulled over and do not have insurance, you will get ticketed and be legally required to purchase insurance or obtain proof that you have sufficient assets to cover financial responsibility in states that don’t require traditional car insurance.
The officer who issues the ticket will let you know how long you have to purchase insurance and submit proof. It could be a few days, or as little as 24 hours in some states. Either way, you can’t get away with not purchasing insurance once you get a ticket. Your state’s police department or department of insurance will follow up with you if you miss the deadline, which will likely result in another fine.
The bottom line
Driving without insurance is never a good idea. There are many ways that police officers can determine whether or not you’re insured. Getting caught without insurance will lead to expensive fines, and worse consequences if it’s not your first offense. Ultimately, it’s cheaper to pay for car insurance than risk having to pay for the fees of a ticket, get your car impounded or have your license taken away.