What happens if you get into an accident without insurance?

Driving without car insurance could carry expensive out-of-pocket costs if you’re at fault in an accident. You also risk having your license suspended and your vehicle impounded.

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You could be on the hook financially if you’re at fault in an accident and you don’t have car insurance.  (Shutterstock)

Most states require drivers to carry some level of car insurance. Even if you live in a state that doesn’t legally require you to have auto insurance, you may be financially obligated to pay for any damages or injuries you cause in an accident. 

Getting into an accident without car insurance may carry severe financial and legal consequences. In addition to the out-of-pocket expenses you may need to cover, you could be subject to serious fines and penalties, such as losing your license and vehicle. 

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What happens if you get into an accident without insurance?

The way you deal with a car accident when you don’t have car insurance can vary depending on where you live. The circumstances surrounding the accident matter, too, including whether you or the other driver were responsible for the accident and whether they have insurance. Not having insurance doesn’t have any bearing on who’s at fault. 

If you live in a state that legally requires drivers to carry car insurance, you’re breaking the law by not having coverage. The consequences of not having a car insurance policy can include:

  • License suspension or revocation (for multiple offenses)
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Fines
  • Jail time

Your state or court may also require you to obtain an SR-22. An SR-22 is a form submitted to the state that shows that you’re carrying at least the minimum car insurance coverage required by law. You’re responsible for any fees your insurance carrier or the state charges for submitting the form. 

Insurance carriers may consider you a high-risk driver if you’ve been caught driving without insurance, and this could lead to a higher insurance premium.

What to do if you’re in an accident without car insurance

Whether you have insurance or not, you should take these steps if you’re involved in a car accident: 

  • Seek medical assistance. Contact emergency medical support if you or anyone involved in the accident requires medical assistance.
  • Call law enforcement. Call local law enforcement to get the police on the scene as quickly as possible.
  • Exchange information. Exchange contact and vehicle information with the other driver.
  • Talk to witnesses. Gather contact information for anyone else who witnessed the accident.
  • Document the accident. Use your phone to take photos of the accident scene, vehicles, VIN numbers, traffic signs, injuries sustained, and anything else that may be beneficial to the authorities and your insurance provider.

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Who pays when you’re in an accident without car insurance?

A car accident may result in significant damage to your car or cause serious injuries to you or others. Luckily, most car insurance policies help cover the costs associated with accidents.

That’s why having car insurance is so important. If you don’t have insurance, you may need to cover those costs out of pocket, depending on whether the accident was your fault. 

If you’re at fault

If the accident was your fault, you could be liable for damages and injuries depending on where the accident occurred. The majority of states are at-fault states (also known as tort states), meaning that at-fault drivers are responsible for paying for damages and injuries that happen in a car accident. 

If you don’t have insurance, the other driver can sue you for damages from the accident. You might be required to pay for: 

  • Property damages
  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

If the other driver sues you and the judgment goes against you, you’ll have to pay for any damages out of pocket. If you don’t have the funds available, the court could garnish your wages until you’ve paid all damages in full. 

If you’re not at fault

If you’re in an accident and the other driver is at fault, their insurance would pay for any damages or injuries incurred. 

In some states, though, the amount you can receive from another driver’s insurance may be limited if you’re an uninsured driver. These are known as "no-pay, no-play" states. 

No-pay, no-play states also have limits on how much you can seek through legal action as an uninsured driver. If the accident occurred in a no-pay, no-play state, you could only sue an at-fault driver for quantifiable damages (like medical expenses), not other consequences like mental and emotional distress. Some states might not let you sue at all. You may also have to pay a deductible for repairs before you can seek legal action against the other driver. 

Because you don’t have insurance, even if the accident isn’t your fault, you could still have your license suspended or revoked, your vehicle impounded, or face hefty fines. 


If the accident occurs in a no-fault state

Some states are considered no-fault states. In no-fault states, blame isn’t assigned to either driver regardless of circumstances or insurance status. However, these states still require drivers to carry personal injury protection coverage.

If you’re in an accident in a no-fault state, each driver must file a claim with their own insurance carrier regardless of who caused the accident. If you’re uninsured, you can’t file a claim. You’re responsible for paying for any damages to your vehicle and any medical bills incurred from injuries sustained in the accident. 

If the accident occurs in a no-fault state, the other driver typically can’t name you in a lawsuit or seek compensation directly from you in most cases, even if you’re at fault and without insurance. 

You could be named in a lawsuit in limited circumstances where serious injuries occurred. If the expenses are beyond your state’s legal threshold, you could be required to pay damages out of pocket along with any legal fees incurred if you hire a lawyer. Legal actions available to either party may vary depending on the state. 

With Credible, you can compare car insurance rates from multiple insurance providers in minutes.