According to San Diego car accident lawyers at the Gomez Firm, the average driver will be involved in three or four car accidents in their lifetime. You of course, never plan to be in an accident, and insurance is the best way to protect yourself, along with being a proactive, defensive driver.
With that being said, as accidents aren’t something we typically consider happening, what would happen if you were in one and didn’t have insurance for some reason?
First and foremost, driving without insurance is illegal in the majority of states, so you should always have it when you’re behind the wheel, but if you don’t, the following are important things to know.
Whether you’re in an accident or not, if you drive without insurance, you may face legal penalties. For example, if you’re pulled over for something unrelated and the police officer finds out you don’t have insurance, you can face fines, loss of your driver’s license and loss of your car registration.
In some states, it could even mean jail time.
What If You’re In An Accident?
If you’re in an accident, the biggest penalties for not having insurance are often going to be financial. If you’re at-fault and particularly if you cause injuries or property damage, it can be a serious issue.
In a tort state, at-fault drivers are responsible for covering the costs of all damages of the other party. An injured driver can also file a lawsuit against you if you’re uninsured to try and recover damages for lost wages, property damage, and medical bills.
If a driver has tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills because of an injury, you will have to pay them out-of-pocket if you’re not insured.
A judge may rule that you can make the payments incrementally, or your wages can be garnished for payments in some states.
It wouldn’t matter if you had an at-fault accident and then bought insurance that afternoon—you’re still responsible, and the policy only applies to any accidents you have after you buy it.
What If You’re Not At-Fault?
The above scenario describes what happens in a tort state if you don’t have insurance, and you are found to be at fault for an accident.
What if you’re not determined to be at-fault?
In this case, even if you don’t have insurance, the other driver still has to pay for your damages. That doesn’t negate possible legal penalties for driving without insurance, though.
If you don’t have insurance and other driver causes harm or damage, there is even the potential for pursuing a liability insurance claim against the driver who is at fault.
If you were in an accident that wasn’t your fault and you didn’t get the insurance information from the other driver or the police report, it could hinder your ability to recover damages from the at-fault driver.
Some states do put limits on how much you can recover if someone else’s causes an accident but you don’t have insurance.
In two states—New Hampshire and Virginia—you aren’t legally required to have car insurance. In Virginia, if you’re going to drive uninsured, you have to pay the DMV a $500 fee.
In both of these states, while you might not face legal penalties, if you are in an accident and you’re at fault, you are still responsible for covering the costs of any injuries or property damage.
What About a No-Fault State?
There are 12 no-fault states in the U.S. This means that if you are injured in an accident, regardless of who’s at fault, your insurance company pays some or all of your lost earnings and medical bills.
No-fault claims are made through personal injury protection components of an insurance policy. This is required in a no-fault state, and in a non-no-fault state, you can also purchase this type of coverage on top of your traditional liability coverage.
If you live in a no-fault state and you don’t have insurance, a driver typically can’t file a lawsuit and name you as a defendant even if you’re at fault. There are some rare cases where this might be possible, however, such as when the medical expenses are in excess of $20,000.
Again, if a lawsuit is filed against you in a no-fault state after you’re at-fault in an accident, you may have to pay out of pocket. If you aren’t able to pay what you’re ordered to pay, a judgment may be entered against you.