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What Is the Penalty for Driving Without Insurance in Virginia?

Although it is legal to drive without car insurance in Virginia, doing so can have downsides. Every driver must either purchase insurance before registering or operating a motor vehicle or pay a special $500 fee to drive uninsured. But there are other penalties for driving without insurance in Virginia.

If you get into an accident without insurance, it can make the auto claim process more complicated. Getting caught without car insurance if you have not paid the fee can result in penalties as well, including fines and the temporary suspension of your driver’s license.

What Are the Auto Insurance Requirements in Virginia?

Before the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will allow you to register your vehicle or get license plates, you must verify that you have purchased at least the minimum required amounts of auto insurance. 

Otherwise, you will have to pay the uninsured motor vehicle fee to register the vehicle without insurance. This is a fee of $500 to the DMV, in addition to typical fees for registering a vehicle. The $500 fee does not provide coverage for your vehicle. It simply allows you to operate a motor vehicle uninsured for the next 12 months without additional penalties.

The minimum requirements for auto insurance in Virginia are:

  • $25,000 in bodily injury insurance per person
  • $50,000 in bodily injury insurance per accident
  • $20,000 in property damage liability insurance

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Personal Injury Protection Insurance

No-fault personal injury protection (PIP) insurance means that after any car accident, you can seek property damage and medical bill recovery directly from your insurance company. With PIP insurance, your insurance company will cover your damages whether or not you caused the crash.

Since Virginia is an at-fault state, you have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit against a driver for the damages you suffered in an accident. If you opt for fault-based insurance, the at-fault driver will pay for your damages instead of your own insurer. This could put you at risk, however, if the other driver does not have insurance. 

An accident with an uninsured driver means the driver must pay for your damages out of pocket. Not all drivers have this kind of money, putting you at financial risk if you decide not to add on PIP insurance to your policy.

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Penalties for Driving Uninsured or Underinsured

You must pay the $500 fee to acknowledge you are aware of the financial risks of driving without insurance if you wish to remain uninsured when you register your vehicle. If you do not pay the $500 fee but drive uninsured anyway, you could face serious penalties, including:

  • An additional $600 noncompliance fee
  • Driver’s license restriction
  • Vehicle registration restriction
  • $45 reinstatement fee
  • Proof of insurance requirement
  • Proof of financial responsibility (SR-22 Form) for three years

Insurance with an SR-22 is often much more expensive than typical car insurance. During the three years, your insurance company will communicate with the DMV to notify them if you cancel. 

You must avoid any gaps in your insurance coverage, temporarily deactivate your license plate or pay the $500 uninsured registration fee if you wish to avoid penalties for illegally driving uninsured in Virginia.

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What Happens After an Accident If I’m Uninsured?

One of the greatest risks of driving without insurance in Virginia is being financially accountable in the event of an at-fault accident. Driving without insurance means you take full financial responsibility if you cause a car accident. 

You will have to pay out of pocket for the other person’s vehicle repairs or replacement and medical bills, not to mention your own expenses if you also suffered damages.

If you cannot afford the other person’s losses out of pocket, he or she may request the courts arrange a payment plan or garnish your wages to force you to pay. You could also face a personal injury lawsuit from the injured party.

No matter how good of a driver you are, all it would take is one slip-up to ruin your financial future. Only Virginia and New Hampshire give you the option to opt-out of carrying insurance, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

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How to Prove That You’re Insured

If you’re in an accident, it’s quite likely the police will ask you for proof of insurance. If you don’t have proof, it’s quite likely you’ll get a ticket. Even if you prove that you have insurance later to the court, you may still have to pay court fees.

If you get charged with driving without insurance, and you haven’t paid the fee, you can request a hearing to make a case for why the state shouldn’t punish you. You have 180 days to do this, and we highly recommend hiring a lawyer if you go this route.

Common reasons for letting your insurance lapse include prolonged jail time, military deployment, or extended hospitalization. 

Requesting an SR-22 Form

If you’re caught driving without insurance, Virginia may require you to submit an SR-22 before you can legally drive again. An SR-22 form is also known as a “Certificate of Financial Responsibility.” These certificates prove that you hold the state’s minimum required liability insurance at least.

You can request an SR-22 form by contacting your insurance provider. Most providers are able to provide you with these forms free of charge, though they will make a note of your need for one on your record. If you’re not able to procure an SR-22 form through your provider, Virginia may require you to purchase a new insurance policy.

How to Protect Yourself From Undue Car Accident Charges

To get the most protection for yourself in the event of a car accident, we recommend you carry auto insurance with the optional PIP policy attached to it. It will be more expensive, but it will pay for itself should you ever get into a car accident.

Plus, with the PIP addon, it will be far easier for you to get compensation quickly after your accident. As long as you can present your receipts to the insurance company, they should pay them with no problem. If they do not, contact one of our car accident lawyers.

Verify Your Insurance Before You Hit the Road

Before you get behind the wheel, you can register your car’s insurance with a Virginia DMV. The state allows you to do this ahead of time courtesy of its Insurance Verification Program.

To register your insurance, you must provide proof of coverage to the program. You can submit this proof through the Insurance Verification Program’s online portal, through the mail, or in person at your local DMV branch.

Switching License Plates and Insurance Between States

When you permanently move between two states, you’ll need to cancel your previous state’s license plates. In turn, you’ll need to either transfer your affiliated liability insurance or cancel your plan before registering for a new one. 

If you cancel your insurance policy without canceling your license plates, the Virginia DMV will assume that you’re driving without insurance. As a result, you may find yourself facing uninsured driver charges even when you have the coverage required of you by the state. 

This remains the case even if you’re not using the car to which your license plates are registered. If you have questions about transferring your insurance policy between cars or vehicular requirements issued by the state of Virginia, contact the Virginia DMV. Alternatively, our attorneys can help you make sure that all your paperwork is in order prior to your move.

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