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What Happens If You’re in A Car Accident Without Insurance?

Driving without Insurance in Utah

Insurance Coverage Isn’t Just Smart – It’s Mandatory 

No one anticipates a car accident. It can be the most frightening and stressful time in your entire life, and without the proper insurance coverage, you’ll be adrift in a sea of legal woes as well.

If you get behind the wheel without insurance, you’re in for a swarm of trouble here in the Beehive State. You could face fines, lose your license, or even end up behind bars. 

Liability insurance is legally required in 44 of the 50 states. (Arizona, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Texas, and Virginia have some exceptions to the rule, but they’ll cost you anywhere from $500 to $55,000.)

 

If you cause a car accident, your liability insurance is there to cover the other driver’s injuries and property damage for which you could be held legally responsible. This is the minimum coverage required.

But don’t be so quick to cut corners when shopping for an insurance policy.

After an accident, a ton of expenses can pop up for you. These can go way beyond repairing or replacing your car. There are medical bills, towing costs, and arranging for a rental vehicle, just to name a few. While you might want to pinch pennies and choose a cheap plan with minimum liability coverage, you should think twice. More comprehensive insurance plans can help you protect yourself from these and other risks, too – like if you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver. And what if you haven’t paid off your car note, but the car is deemed a total loss after a nasty accident? Insurance can help keep you from ending up upside down in your car loan.

In the aftermath of even the most minor of car accidents, stress piles up fast. Don’t let inadequate insurance coverage add to your anxieties.

Insurance Laws in Utah

Keep in mind, the purpose of this article is not to give specific legal advice, but rather, to give an overview of the ins and outs of insurance in Utah. For specific questions or advice, it is critical that you contact a licensed insurance agent or attorney.

Utah’s car insurance laws require all drivers to present proof of liability insurance when registering a vehicle. 

When it comes to accidents and insurance, there are fault states and no-fault states.

In fault states, you must determine who was at fault before getting compensated for any ensuing expenses after an accident. The insurance company of the at-fault driver will pay for everything.

Utah is a no-fault state, meaning your own insurance pays for your initial medical bills up to a certain limit. The limit – also known as the PIP or personal injury protection amount – varies by state. Here in Utah, it’s $3,000. If your medical treatment exceeds $3,000, you can file a personal injury claim. You and your insurance company can be reimbursed for any further costs by the at-fault person’s insurance company.

Utah Insurance Code specifies all registered automobiles must carry liability insurance with minimum limits of 25/65/15. This split limit means $25,000 is the max payout for bodily injury per person, $65,000 is the max payout per accident, and $15,000 is the max payout for property damage sustained in the accident.

Driving without Insurance Can Lead to a Criminal Conviction

driving without insurance - jail timeSo, what is the penalty for driving without insurance in Utah? While you may think you can shrug this off like a mere traffic ticket, consequences stretch beyond the courtroom: driving without insurance is a criminal charge that will appear on background checks. 

Permanently. 

It can even prevent you from getting other criminal charges expunged.

In Utah, driving without insurance, driving without proof of insurance, and allowing insurance coverage to lapse are all criminal offenses. In fact, driving without insurance in Utah is a class B misdemeanor punishable by a maximum penalty of up to 180 days in jail, suspension of license and registration, and a $1,000 fine. 

If a police officer approaches you at a checkpoint or accident scene to ask for proof of insurance, you don’t want to be empty-handed. If you do have insurance but are unable to prove it when asked, the penalties can be just as severe. (However, if you can obtain a letter from your insurance company verifying your policy, your case may be dismissed.)

If you have an active policy but you’ve misplaced your insurance card, see if you can print a new one out from your provider’s website ASAP or call them for further assistance.

Even if you avoid the road, you’re still being watched: Utah has an electronic monitoring system called the Uninsured Motorist Identification Database Program that detects if your insurance policy has lapsed within the last 3 months. If your policy is inactive, the Department of Public Safety will be notified and they will reach out to you for proof. You must reply within 15 days.

Getting into a Car Accident Without Insurance Could Cost You Dearly

The consequences of driving without insurance can interfere with all aspects of your life. If you get in a car accident while driving without insurance, you could be punished – even if the accident wasn’t your fault.

Here are some of the risks of driving without insurance:

  • You face serious fines: there’s a $400 fine for your first offense and a $1,000 fine for your second and subsequent offenses, according to Utah Code 41-12a-302. If you obtain insurance before your scheduled court appearance, your fines may be reduced.
  • Your license and registration will be suspended for up to a year. The process of reinstating your license is a lengthy, complicated one including exams, reinstatement fees, defensive driving courses, and probation.
  • You will be labeled a “high-risk driver.” This can make getting future insurance coverage difficult and costly. Many providers will deny you coverage. Your only option may be to join an assigned risk pool. Through this system, the state can connect you with insurance agents, but the premiums will cost you a pretty penny.
  • Your vehicle may be impounded. That’s right: you may not even be allowed to drive your car home, even if it’s not totaled. It could be towed from the scene right then and there, and you’ll be stuck paying towing and storage fees.
  • The charge will appear on your record, interfering with background checks indefinitely.
  • Your assets can be taken. If you are determined to be at fault for the accident, victims might be able to pursue compensation by suing you and going after your assets, like your savings account or even your home. 
  • You could go to jail. If it’s your first offense, you can probably avoid jail time, unless you cause a serious accident. However, multiple offenses will result in higher fines and harsher punishments, which may include jail.

Get Covered and Get Peace of Mind 

We all want to avoid high monthly bills. Insurance might not seem like an immediate expense you need to budget for, but it’s a responsibility you cannot afford neglect.

You can’t predict the future, but you can safeguard it. Make sure you have the right insurance coverage and the right insurance agent by your side.

 

About the Author

Stewart J Guss - auto accident attorneyStewart J. Guss is a Texas auto accident attorney who has been practicing for over 20 years. Stewart has been recognized by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel as one of the top one percent of personal injury attorneys in the country in 2015; by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in the nation in 2016; and as one of the “Best Attorneys in America” by the prestigious Rue Ratings since 2015. Stewart has also been designated one of the Top Personal Injury Attorneys by Houstonia Magazine for 2013-2017.