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. 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. Most states such as California require that all drivers have a minimum level of insurance. 

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.

Which States Do Not Require Car Insurance?

As of July 2017, New Hampshire and Virginia do not require their drivers to buy car insurance, but it is highly recommended. Although car insurance is not mandatory, New Hampshire will make you liable for damages up to $50,000 if you happen to get into an accident. Virginia will make you pay an uninsured motorist fee of $500 to the DMV  that lasts for 12 months. 

Does My Policy Contain An Uninsured Motorist Clause?

Some states, including Illinois and New York, require motorists to purchase this insurance. In states that do not have uninsured motorist mandates, such as California, Florida, and Texas, drivers may purchase it in addition to basic insurance. This coverage is beneficial, as it should cover the driver in the event they are involved in a serious accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver.

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.

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 insured 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. So 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. So, 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.

What Are Defenses to Driving Without Insurance?

Although there is no guaranteed defense for an uninsured driver, the driver can attempt to make several arguments. Among the factors that a court may consider are:

  • Whether there was a substantial length of time during which the driver was without insurance;
  • Whether the driver knew that he or she was driving without insurance
  • Whether the insurance company informed the driver in a certified letter about policy revocation; and
  • Whether the insurance company provided the driver with adequate and proper notice about policy cancellation.

What Are the Penalties to Driving Without Insurance?

Driving without car insurance can have many penalties especially in states that have strict laws regarding car insurance. If you were involved in a car accident while driving without insurance, the penalties can be worse especially if the car accident caused property damage or bodily injury. Additional penalties may include criminal penalties, fines, and the potential for extended jail time. 

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, a personal injury lawyer will be able to inform you of your rights and aid in the settlement process. Your attorney will be able to determine what your legal options are if you will be involved in an upcoming lawsuit.