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Driving without proper insurance is not worth the risk!

By Ryan Hurlbert on June 2nd, 2010
Auto Insurance

Every state in the U.S. except New Hampshire requires drivers to carry liability insurance. Each state determines a minimum level of coverage, outlines a method to provide proof of insurance, and establishes penalties to punish those who drive without car insurance.

Minimum insurance requirements

Each state that mandates drivers to carry auto insurance sets a minimum level of coverage. This is not an easy task. If states set the limits high enough to provide real protection, it could make insurance too costly for some drivers and increase the number of uninsured drivers. If the limits are set too low, there may be no point in carrying insurance at all. Not having enough coverage is like walking around during a hurricane with a folded newspaper over your head to keep you dry; it may be better than nothing, but really, what good is it? State mandated minimum liability requirements are often too low to provide real financial protection.

Violation of the Proof of Financial Responsibility Law

Most states refer to uninsured driving as "Failure to Provide Proof of Financial Responsibility." This violation encompasses uninsured drivers, or self-insured drivers who have not properly documented or qualified their self-insured status.

Each state that has a minimum auto insurance requirement has established punishments for driving without insurance. The penalty often depends on the circumstances under which the violation is discovered. If you can't provide proof of financial responsibility when you are pulled over for a driving violation, you can be ticketed for driving without insurance, and in some states your vehicle can be impounded on the spot. Get in an accident without proof of financial responsibility, and you could lose your license for a period of months or years.

Crime and Punishment

Each state sets their own punishment for failing to carry proof of insurance. Here is a coast-to-coast sampling of what can happen to you if you drive without insurance.

California

Get caught in California, and you may be fined no less than $100 and up to $200 for the first offense. A second offense in a three-year period ups the ante to a minimum fine of $200, and could go as high as $500. At the court's discretion, your car can be impounded, and you won't be able to get it back until you provide proof of financial responsibility and pay all towing and storage fees.

But don't try and use fraudulent proof, either. Doing so is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $750, up to 30 days in jail, or both. On top of that your license can be suspended for a period of one year.

New York

Failure to Provide Proof of Financial Security in New York garners a fine of $150 to $1500, jail time of up to 15 days, or both. In addition to the fine, a civil penalty of $1500 must be paid. Your license may be revoked as well. In New York, the owner of the vehicle could face the same penalties as the driver if the owner knowingly let someone drive an uninsured vehicle.

Florida

Florida is tough on uninsured drivers. Violate Florida's Proof of Financial Responsibility law and your driver's license and vehicle registration may be suspended for three years or until proof of financial responsibility is provided, whichever occurs first.

If you were uninsured at the time of the accident, and are at fault, a judgment could be filed against you for the amount of the damages. Until you have satisfied that judgment, or made arrangements to pay that judgment in installments, your license and registrations would remain suspended. If no judgment or bill is filed against you, meaning you are not at fault, your license and registrations can be reinstated after one year. Fines to reinstate your license and registration range from $150 to $500.

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, conviction of operating a motor vehicle without proof of financial responsibility is in itself a summary offense that carries a $300 fine and could result in your vehicle being impounded. Get a ticket in Pennsylvania, and the court asks that you provide proof of financial responsibility. If you can't prove it, the court notifies the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and your license and vehicle registration are suspended for three months. In such a situation, you have to surrender your license and registration plates to PennDOT to serve your suspension. You are also required to pay restoration fees to reinstate your license and registration.

Texas

A first conviction for violating Texas' financial responsibility law results in a fine of no less than $175 and up to $350. For subsequent violations, the fines increase to a minimum of $350 to a maximum of $1,000 and your license could be suspended. Your car can also be impounded. If you cause an accident that results in serious injury or death, and can't provide proof of financial responsibility, the penalty can be a fine up to $4,0000, a year in jail, or both.

Carrying Auto Insurance May Be Cheaper

It is much less expensive to carry auto insurance coverage than to be caught without it. Insurance laws vary widely by state and are subject to change, so you should check with your local DMV to get the latest information where you live.

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