What Happens if You're Caught Driving Without Insurance?

Driving any vehicle is a responsibility and not being an uninsured motorist is part of that responsibility. You must obey the rules of the road and avoid behavior that might cause an accident or injury. That’s one of the reasons drivers in Florida and most other states are required to buy car insurance to avoid traffic violations that can lead to hefty fines.

But what happens if you are caught driving your vehicle without insurance? If you’re working with a tight budget or you’ve never had an accident, you might think that you can get away with not buying insurance – but that’s not the case. So, let’s examine what you might experience if you were to get caught driving without insurance.

What Type of Car Insurance is Required in Florida?

Since Addition Financial is a Florida-based credit union, let’s start by reviewing the car insurance requirements in the state of Florida. All Florida drivers are required to carry the following insurance coverage:

  • $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP)
  • $10,000 of property damage liability coverage (PDL)

You must purchase your car insurance through a carrier licensed to do business in the state. You will need to carry proof of auto insurance with you at all times. If you are stopped for a violation and do not have proof of insurance with you, you will be penalized.

What Are the Consequences of Driving Without Insurance in Florida?

The penalties for driving without car insurance vary from state to state. Forty-eight states require drivers to carry car insurance. The two that do not are New Hampshire and Virginia. In Virginia, uninsured drivers are personally liable for up to $50,000 for injuries and $25,000 in property damage if they cause an accident. Virginia drivers may pay a $500 fee to avoid buying car insurance but they are personally liable for any damages caused by their behavior behind the wheel.

For an overview of the typical penalties for driving without insurance, we turned to Jaime Arias, a licensed insurance agent with Dynamic Insurance Solutions. He told us this:

“Driving without insurance is illegal... and can land you fines, cause you to have your car towed and can even land you in jail. The only exception to this is if your state has the option to post a surety bond or place a deposit instead of obtaining liability coverage. There are 32 states that allow this, and generally the amount required for the bond is the same as the minimum liability coverage for the state.”

The option of posting a surety bond or deposit is not something that’s available to Florida drivers. You must carry the minimum insurance we outlined above.

Laura Adams, MBA, is an Auto Insurance Expert at AutoInsurance.org. She mentioned that penalties typically increase when the driver is a repeat offender or the damage caused is extensive:

"The penalties vary depending on your driving history and the amount of damage you cause. Getting caught means you may face significant fines, license suspension, vehicle impoundment or jail time."

In terms of the specific penalties you can expect if you drive in Florida without insurance, here’s what Brad Cummins, the owner of Insurance Geek, told us:

“While Florida doesn't class driving without insurance as an offense punishable by jail time, they do issue $150 fines and suspend licenses and registrations for up to three years.”

The minimum fee is $150 but may be as high as $500. The fees may be on the lower end of the spectrum if it is your first offense, and are likely to increase if you are a repeat offender.

If you are deemed to be a risky driver, then you may also be required to carry an SR-22 certification, which is not insurance, but rather a certificate of financial responsibility. You will need to have an SR-22 form if you have been involved in one of the following driving-related misdemeanors:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Reckless driving
  • Causing an accident in an uninsured motor vehicle
  • Failing to satisfy a financial judgement resulting from an accident
  • Failing to provide proof of insurance after being stopped for a traffic violation

Florida takes the issue of car insurance seriously and repeat offenses can cause you to lose your license for as long as three years. Remember your driving privilege can be affected by failing to purchase your insurance.

What Are the Personal Consequences of Driving Without Insurance?

So far, we have focused on the legal repercussions of driving without insurance. Now, let’s pivot to discuss the personal consequences of failing to procure the required coverage.

Melanie Musson is a Car Insurance Expert at CarInsuranceComparison.com. She talked to us about the ways in which driving without insurance can impact people on a personal level:

“Your financial stability could be jeopardized if you cause an accident and have to pay for damages out of pocket. You may not be able to purchase insurance if you’ve received several tickets for driving without insurance. Even with the penalties for driving without insurance, a startling 13.8% of drivers are uninsured.”

We think this is an important point that some drivers don’t consider. While nobody loves the idea of taking on an additional bill each month, there’s a reason that most states require car insurance. It isn’t in anyone’s best interest if an uninsured driver causes a serious accident and is financially ruined as a result.

We should note here that buying the minimum amount of insurance required by law in Florida is not enough to protect you if you’re at fault in a serious accident. Most of our experts agree that you should carry the following limits:

  • $250,000 personal injury liability for each person injured in an accident
  • $500,000 total personal injury liability for all parties injured in an accident
  • $100,000 in property damage liability

Remember, you can save money by bundling your insurance with a single carrier and maintaining a clean driving record to take advantage of available discounts.

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What Should You Do if You Are Caught Driving Without Insurance?

We hope that you never experience what it’s like to be caught driving without insurance, but let’s review the steps to take if you drive a car without insurance in Florida.

When you are stopped for a moving violation, the officer who stops you will scan your license plate. If there is no proof of insurance on record, they will issue you a ticket. While you won’t be placed under arrest for the lack of insurance, you should know that the record will show that you have been charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

You will be given a ticket. For first offenders, the amount is $150. The officer will also request a suspension of your license plates and license. The good news is that you have the option of skipping the reinstatement fee or penalty if you present proof of insurance before the suspension of your license and plates is processed.

You should know that if you have auto insurance but cannot provide proof by presenting your insurance card at the time you are stopped, your offense will be treated as if you do not have insurance coverage. If you don’t have insurance, you will need to obtain it right away and present proof to the Division of Motorist Services to avoid the penalty.

What we do not recommend is delaying your response. There is no hardship license reinstatement option in Florida. That means if you need your car to get to and from work, there is no exception to the rule. You must present proof of the minimum required insurance to avoid further penalties and consequences.

As we noted above, repeat offenders get larger fines. The maximum allowable by law is $500 but even if you pay that fee as a repeat offender, you may still lose your license for up to three years. 

How Can You Find Cheap Car Insurance?

We recognize that it can be difficult to afford car insurance if you’re living on a tight budget. Here are some pointers to help you save money on your car insurance and avoid any penalty. Remember that driving uninsured is against the law and getting involved in a car accident could mean the need of hiring an insurance attorney.

  1. Bundle all of your auto insurance with one carrier. Most insurance companies offer discounts to policyholders who give them more business.
  2. Ask about discounts. You may qualify for a safe driving discount or a low mileage discount if you don’t drive a lot.
  3. Consider pay-per-mile insurance. You’ll still need to meet the minimum coverage requirements for Florida but if you drive less than 6,000 miles per year, pay-per-mile coverage can help you save money.

We recommend carrying the required PIP and PDL at the higher limits we noted above, and you should also consider Bodily Injury Liability insurance and Collision insurance. That way, you’ll have full protection if you’re in an accident.

Driving without car insurance is illegal and potentially risky to your personal financial well-being. Taking into account the information we’ve included here, you now know what your responsibilities are as a Florida driver to pick the insurance company that best suits your needs.

Are you in the market for a new or used car? Addition Financial is here to help. Click here to read about our affordable car loan options and start your application today!

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