Every state requires motorists to have insurance. The type of policy and amount required may vary, but some type of insurance is mandatory. In some states, driving without insurance is a criminal offense. Despite these laws, whether or not a driver has car insurance has no bearing whatsoever on who is at fault for an accident.
Fault determined according to negligence law.
Someone is always at fault whenever there is a car accident. Which driver is at fault is determined according to negligence law, and fault may be apportioned between drivers on a percentage basis. Again, when determining who is at fault for the accident, whether or not a driver had car insurance is not an issue.
All drivers have a duty to obey all traffic rules and drive without distraction and with care. If an accident is caused because a driver breached that duty, for example, by running a red light, speeding or driving while texting, that driver has breached his or her duty and is at fault for the accident. Whether or not the driver had insurance is not a factor.
Defending allegations of fault.
Uninsured drivers who are accused of being at fault, but believe that is not true, will be hard-pressed to prove it. They most likely did not have insurance because it was too expensive. Then they are faced with defending themselves from a claim that they are at fault for the accident, but have no resources for legal assistance. The cost of defending on this issue alone may be prohibitive.
Damages imposed upon at-fault driver.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, one in seven drivers determined to be at-fault are uninsured. If the uninsured driver is at fault, the cost of paying for damages can be astronomical. Not only is the driver liable for paying for damages to all the vehicles involved, if people were injured in the accident, the at-fault driver is responsible for all the medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
If the injured person has suffered permanent injury and will have future lost wages and medical expenses, or need round-the-clock medical care, the damages may be astronomical. The uninsured driver may or may not be able to discharge these debts in bankruptcy.
An uninsured driver may not be at fault and may also have suffered serious injuries. In some states, there is a limit on the damages the uninsured driver can collect. For example, some states won’t allow the uninsured driver to collect damages for pain and suffering.
Other consequences for driving without insurance.
Whether at fault or not, the uninsured driver will face other consequences, which vary by state. In almost all states, the driver’s car will be impounded and cannot be redeemed until insurance is obtained. A daily fee will be charged for keeping the car in the impound lot.
Most states will suspend the driver’s license until insurance coverage is obtained. In some states, driving without insurance is a misdemeanor. A violator may have to pay a fine or even spend some time in jail.