What Happens if you Drive without Car Insurance?

Driving without car insurance can get you into a myriad of problems. Regardless of where you live, some form of insurance is an absolute must – you aren't allowed to drive without at least the minimum Liability insurance in forty-seven states.

Excuses versus legal considerations

Before getting started, I would like to underline that there are lots of reasons why drivers would let their insurance lapse. You can simply forget to renew it and, if you are caught without a policy a few days after the old one expired, chances are you will only get a warning. But being pulled over and found with a policy that expired two years ago is a whole other ball game.

On the other hand, the following are not valid excuses for not carrying a valid insurance policy:

- You couldn't afford to renew your old policy. You should have left your car in the garage and used public transportation instead. It's cheaper, more eco-friendly and, most important, the only legal alternative.

- You feel that your car is worth so little that it's not worth being insured. If you think that your car is junk why are you driving it in the first place?

Penalties for driving uninsured

American traffic laws vary from one state to another and so do penalties for driving without a valid insurance policy. There are states that aren't so aggressive towards uninsured motorists, while others will rip your skin off.

The mildest penalty you can get for driving uninsured is a warning. Don't take it as a reason to drive without insurance, as this will only hold in several cases. It depends on whoever pulls you over and how you talk to the officer. A valid reason might be, as outlined above, that you forgot to renew your policy and you are only a few days past due (however, you will have to explain how you totally ignored the mail the insurer sends you when the insurance policy is close to expiring). In case of a medical emergency – like a woman in labor or a person injured in an accident – chances are you won't be fined and even get escorted by the police to the nearest hospital.

If you don't fall in the above category, your old policy has expired for quite a while (one month and upwards) and you don't show a so-called "high intent to drive" while uninsured, you will be fined something between $150 and $500.

Repeated offenders will be charged more. Some states impose hefty fines on those who continue to drive without a car insurance, since this is a sign of malevolence. In some cases you will have your license plates seized or even your vehicle impounded.

What the Court has to say about it

Driving without insurance always comes under the incidence of criminal law. Yes, it's a criminal offense to even exceed the speed limit in most states, so driving uninsured will get you an even harsher punishment. However, fixed penalties aren't usually considered for creating (or adding to) a criminal record and, luckily, you may find yourself in this category. Keep in mind, though, that you can end up worse:

- For lighter accidents you will then have to comply with the financial responsibility laws (SR16, SR22 and SR22s) and will have to pay for any material damage and others' bodily injuries out of your own pocket. You will also bare further costs if you are sued for collateral damage like pain and suffering, emotional distress or lost incomes.

- If you are at-fault, drive uninsured and do anything classified as a criminal offense, not holding a valid policy will be regarded as an aggravating circumstance. If, for instance, you drive while intoxicated or kill somebody on the road you are lucky to get off with a measly house arrest. If you have more aggravating circumstances – like more passengers in your car – then you will definitely be sent to prison.

- An average penalty you will receive from the court amounts to six to eight points, a $200 fine and the court taxes.

All in all, do your best to drive with a valid auto insurance policy. The risks are just not worth the hassle – sooner or later you will be caught, and the criminal record you will get might affect your current or future job and will put a rough impact on your budget.

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