What Happens If You Have a Car Accident & Have No Insurance?

by Fraser Sherman, Demand Media Google
    Penalties for driving without insurance range from $100 fines to a loss of license.

    Penalties for driving without insurance range from $100 fines to a loss of license.

    Nothing good comes out of most traffic accidents, but something bad certainly will if you don't have auto insurance. In most states, you were breaking the law the second you got behind the wheel. With a few exceptions, you need enough insurance coverage to meet your state's minimum requirements. Even if you are covered, you could still be fined for driving without proof of insurance.

    Your Fault

    The best-case scenario is you crash without damaging anything but yourself and your car. You can pay for your own repairs and medical bills on your own schedule. If you hit someone else's car, the other party won't be so patient. If he sues and the court finds you at fault, you have to pay up. States with no-fault insurance are an exception. Under no-fault, the other driver's insurance pays his medical bills no matter who was at fault. If the damage is greater than his coverage, however, state law may allow him to sue you for the rest.

    Legalities

    If the accident is the other driver's fault and he has insurance, paying for car repairs isn't your problem. That does not, however, get you off the hook for driving without insurance. In Florida, for instance, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can suspend your driver's license, your registration and your vehicle tags for up to three years or until you take out a policy. Your state can also fine you anywhere from $100 to $500 for driving uninsured.

    Financial Responsibility

    Some states do allow you to drive without insurance if you show you have the financial resources to cover basic accident damage. You'll have to do that when you register your car, and don't go without your checkbook. In California, for instance, while other people just have to show their proof of insurance, you'll have to deposit $35,000 with the Department of Motor Vehicles. They'll also accept a $35,000 surety bond or a self-insurance certificate. You'll have to carry that proof of financial responsibility in your glove compartment.

    Consequences

    You can't hide a lack of insurance after an accident. The other driver and the police expect you to present your insurance information. If the state takes your license because of your lack of insurance, you're walking or taking the bus if you know what's good for you. If you drive after that, the state will hit you with fines and possible jail time.

    About the Author

    Fraser Sherman is a former reporter with the "Destin Log" newspaper and now freelances full-time. His work has been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life," and he's the author of three film reference books, including "Screen Enemies of the American Way." He specializes in finance and tech articles.

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