What Are the Penalties for Driving Uninsured in Virginia?
Although it is legal to drive without car insurance Virginia, doing so can have downsides. Every driver must either purchase insurance before registering or operating a motor vehicle or pay a special fee to drive uninsured.
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
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 not a traditional no-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.
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.
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.
Proving 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 are if you’ve been in jail, in the military, or hospitalized for a long time.
What We Recommend
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 will probably pay them with no problem. If they do not, contact one of our Richmond car accident lawyers.