Even if you're not at fault, being involved in a car accident without insurance can have serious consequences
Driving without car insurance in the USA is risky business, as not only is having car insurance - or proof of financial responsibility - a strict legal requirement in all 50 states and Washington D.C., but getting into an accident, whether you're at fault or not, could also result in some pricey consequences. This could include fines, lawsuits, and medical bills. In some cases, you could even be charged with jail time.
According to a report compiled by the Insurance Research Council, nearly one in eight drivers did not have car insurance in 2021, and with more than 12 million vehicle accidents recorded in just 2019 alone, it's clear that the serious consequences of driving a car without insurance still need to be stressed.
There is a difference between not having car insurance at all, and simply not being able to produce the proof that you are insured. While having auto insurance is mandatory in all states, some vehicle owners may be driving without insurance or it may have lapsed. The penalty for not having insurance is generally more severe than having insurance but not being able to prove it on the spot. Penalties for not being able to produce proof vary between states and are also dependent on the number of infractions you have against your name. Examples of penalties for being caught driving without proof of insurance include:
A much more serious situation is being involved in an accident while being uninsured. Not having insurance and causing a crash will have severe implications legally and can be financially devastating if the other driver involved doesn't have uninsured motorist coverage either.
The severity of and the types of consequences do depend on the state, but here's what you could potentially face:
The police are usually involved when a road accident occurs, and if the police do show up at the scene of an accident you're involved in and find that your vehicle is not insured, you will still be in trouble even if you're not at fault. You will likely face similar consequences even if you're not at fault for a car accident and you're without insurance, but for first-time offenders, you may be slapped with:
For a useful guide on what to do after being involved in an accident, check out our handy guide here.
It's never a good idea to take chances and try to save money by forgoing vehicle insurance - there's a reason why this is a legal requirement in the USA. If you're looking at buying a car and are new to automotive insurance, read up on how to find the right insurance for you, here. Always make sure you are familiar with federal requirements in your state.
Driving without car insurance is a punishable offense, but the severity of the punishment is dependent on which state that offense occurred in. Only New Hampshire doesn't require insurance as long as you are able to provide proof of financial responsibility covering at-fault damages. Michigan requires that you have personal injury protection cover for covering medical expenses, regardless of who is at fault, at the very least.
Test driving a car without personal car insurance is legal as the seller or dealership will have insurance to cover any damages incurred as a result of an accident during the test drive. This shouldn't be an invitation to drive the BMW M2 you're testing like a maniac, however, so remember to be cautious.
If your car is registered, then you will legally require insurance. If you own a car that is not registered and does not have any license plates, you are legally allowed to store the car on your own property or in a garage without it being insured, and won't have to worry about being penalized. If your car will be on the road, it is legally required that you insure it - lapsed insurance or failure to insure the car will have consequences ranging from fines to jail time.
If your vehicle is hit by an uninsured driver, you can claim from your own insurance and make use of uninsured driver coverage to cover your repair costs and other bills. You could also sue the driver personally for any damages you incurred as a result of the accident.