Car accidents happen every single day. On average, the United States has over 16,400 car crashes per day. Most people have car insurance and feel comfortable knowing that they can rely on their coverage in the event of an accident. But, what happens if you don’t have car insurance? Auto insurance is expensive – on average, Americans pay between $565 to $1,674 annually for their coverage. If an individual can’t afford this expense, they may take the risk and choose to drive without insurance. This may sound like an acceptable risk, but if an accident happens, it can result in serious consequences.
Car Insurance Laws
It’s illegal to drive without car insurance in all but two states: New Hampshire and Virginia. This is because drivers need to show they can financially cover the potential costs of an accident. In most states, you showcase this with auto insurance.
In addition to mandating car insurance, states generally fall into two categories for accidents: fault and no-fault states. The majority of states go the “fault insurance” route. Fault states have insurance policies in which each party involved pays according to their degree of fault. If you’re entirely at fault for the accident, your insurance pays all the costs. However, if the injured party doesn’t agree with the amount, they can take the matter to court and sue instead.
No-fault insurance states allow drivers to carry insurance that will cover their own costs (for their vehicle and any personal injury) in an accident. Who is at fault for the accident is irrelevant.
The no-fault insurance states are:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
A handful of states are “choice” states. These states allow drives to choose if they want a fault or no-fault insurance policy. In this case, if the driver takes out an at-fault policy, they retain the option to sue. Currently, the states that offer the “choice” option are Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Consequences of Driving Without Insurance
All of the above assumes a driver has car insurance. Not having auto insurance can come with severe consequences, depending on the state. Drivers can face penalties, impound car fees, jail time, and will often have to pay for the victim’s costs for vehicle damage, personal injury costs, and legal fees (if applicable).
Additionally, if the accident is serious enough, the DMV may suspend your license.
I was in Car Accident Without Insurance and I’m Not at Fault
If you get into a car accident without insurance and you’re not at fault, you’ll have to file a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance provider. Their insurance should cover the costs of damage to your vehicle and injury costs. If the other driver also doesn’t have insurance, they’ll still be legally responsible for paying your costs.
Note that if you’re in a state that legally requires car insurance, the state may limit how much the other driver can pay you out. The state may also charge you a fine for driving without insurance.
Car Accident Without Insurance at Fault
If you get into a car accident without insurance and it was your fault, you’ll have to pay for all the fees associated with the crash. Additionally, if the accident happens in a state where driving without insurance is illegal, you’ll be charged fines for breaking the law. Lastly, the other driver will have the right to sue you and, if they win, you’ll have to pay their legal fees.
Remember that any time you’re in an accident, you should gather evidence from the scene. You’ll want to take the other driver’s contact information, take pictures, and take the names of witnesses. If you’ve been hurt and the accident is not your fault, go to a doctor immediately. You’ll want a record of any injuries on file.
Seek Legal Help
Simply put, if you’re in an accident and you don’t have insurance, you’re at a disadvantage. Regardless of whether the accident was your fault or not, you may find the entire process more challenging because you don’t have coverage. Consider seeking legal consultation to see if it might be in your best interest to get a lawyer involved.