Uninsured Driver Laws

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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Is Driver’s Insurance Required by Law?

In most states, drivers are required to carry automobile insurance.  While the details in each state may vary, insurance is a necessary part of driving and owning a driver’s license.  It’s generally a good idea to always have at least some form of basic driver’s insurance, since a lack of insurance can create many legal problems in the long run. 

For example, not having driver’s insurance can negatively affect the way monetary damages are issued in a personal injury claim.  Also, in some states, not having driver’s insurance can actually lead to criminal charges.  Similar legal issues can arise for underinsured drivers as well.

Can an Uninsured Driver Recover Damages From a Car Accident?

Some states may limit the amount of damages that uninsured drivers can recover in a personal injury lawsuit.  This may be true even if the person is not at fault.  In most cases, an uninsured driver may be prohibited from claiming non-economic damages such as “pain and suffering” awards.  These policies regarding damages limitations are intended to encourage drivers to obtain some form of insurance.

Also, an uninsured driver may actually be exposed to increased liability in some states.  For example, in some states, uninsured drivers may be held liable for all damage caused to the other party’s vehicle.  In comparison, an uninsured driver may have their liability “capped” at a certain limit, such as $500 or $1,000. 

Is it Possible to Recover Damages From an Uninsured Driver?

It is possible to recover damages from an uninsured driver, but the plaintiff may experience difficulties in doing so.  For example, the uninsured defendant won’t be able to rely upon an insurance company when defending their claim in court.  Thus, if they lose the case, they will likely have to pay for the plaintiff’s damages using their own personal assets. 

This can be problematic, especially if the person is unable to pay.  This can be somewhat common, since most uninsured drivers are uninsured because they can’t afford it.  Thus, they will probably not be able to afford the judgment costs from trial either.  In such cases, the judge may order the defendant’s property to be seized and sold through a judicial sale in order to cover the costs.  Or, they may garnish some of the defendant’s wages for the payments.

Some jurisdictions may suspend a person’s driver’s license if they have an unsatisfied payment resulting from a car accident.  They may not be able to recover their license until the judgment is paid.  Thus, it’s very important to carry insurance, not just to cover basic accident costs, but also to avoid unwanted legal consequences as well.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Uninsured Driver Laws?

Uninsured driver laws can vary widely depending on the state, and sometimes even the city or county.  If you need assistance with any issues involving uninsured motorists, you may wish to contact an experienced lawyer for advice and representation in court.   Your attorney will be able to determine what your legal options are if you will be involved in an upcoming lawsuit. 

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Last Modified: 06-25-2012 04:08 PM PDT

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