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.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If you get in a car accident without car insurance, you're in for a world of hurt. You may have to pay fines and you could even lose your license.
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.
Know the 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 $5,000 for driving uninsured.
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 if you choose this route, be you'll need a hefty bank balance to legally self-insure.
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.
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.
- LawFirms.com: Car Accident Without Insurance
- CarInsurance.com: What Are the Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in the State of Florida?
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Financial Responsibility (Insurance) Requirements for Vehicle Registration (FFVR 18)
- FindLaw: Leaving the Scene of an Accident/Hit and Run
- CarInsurance.com: Do All States Require Car Insurance?
- FindLaw: Driving Without Valid/Sufficient Insurance
- CarInsurance.com: Penalty for Driving Without Insurance for Every State
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.