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No matter how good a driver you are, you risk having an accident every time you get behind the wheel. Insurance can protect you after the fact, but what if you don’t have it?

Say you’re in a car accident without insurance. Not at fault? You may be able to recover under the other driver’s insurance unless your state’s laws prevent it. If you’re driving uninsured, be informed of the possible legal consequences, no-fault vs. at-fault insurance requirements, and what you need to do to file a claim on another driver’s insurance.

Keep in mind that whether you have insurance should not impact what you do at the scene of an accident. If you’re driving without insurance, you may have the urge to run from the incident. Remember that leaving the scene before responders arrive or without speaking to the other driver may result in criminal hit-and-run charges.

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Is Driving Without Insurance Illegal?

You may be surprised to learn that around 12 percent of drivers are uninsured. Is it legal to drive without insurance? It depends on where you live. Some states require proof of insurance to drive and will penalize you if you’re caught driving without it. In states where insurance is not required, you must show you have enough assets to pay for damage in case of an accident. In other words, be insured or be wealthy.

With modern technology, it’s not easy to get away with driving uninsured. Virginia, for example, monitors insurance policies online and can even deactivate your license plate virtually if your coverage lapses.

Driving while uninsured can have consequences, including:

  • Fines
  • License suspension
  • Car impounding
  • Arrest

Sometimes the fine costs more than a policy! If possible, find affordable insurance to protect yourself.

No-Fault Vs. At-Fault Insurance States

States have their own rules when it comes to car insurance. There are two general categories: no-fault and at-fault states.


In a no-fault state, drivers must have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which covers bodily injury. For example, New York requires proof of minimum PIP coverage before you can register your car or get a license plate.

If you’re in an accident in a no-fault state, your insurance is responsible for covering your injuries, even if an official determination is made that it was the other driver’s fault. This does not apply to claims for property damage, however, which can be made against the other driver’s insurance.


In an at-fault state, insurance companies decide who is at fault for an accident, and that driver’s insurance pays out based on the degree of fault. You may still be required to have proof of insurance to drive, but you may be able to recover for injury and property damage under the other driver’s insurance.

No Pay, No Play

There is a caveat: “No Pay, No Play” laws. These laws apply when you’re in a car accident without insurance. Not at fault? Doesn’t matter. If you don’t have insurance, you don’t get to fully recover from the at-fault driver’s insurance. The rationale is that uninsured drivers should not reap benefits from insured drivers, since uninsured drivers could not provide the same benefit if they were at fault in an accident.

A majority of states are at-fault insurance states. Search for your state’s insurance requirements online to see which category applies where you live. Keep in mind your state could have a combination of requirements. For example, California is an at-fault state and Michigan is a no-fault state, but both states have No Pay, No Play laws.

What To Remember If You’re In An Accident Without Insurance

If you are in a car accident without insurance, but not at fault, and are injured or sustain property damage, remember the following general rules:

  • If you live in a no-fault state, you are on the hook for your injuries but may be able to recover from the other driver for the property damage.
  • If you live in an at-fault state, you may be able to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance for both your injuries and property damage.
  • If you live in a state with No Pay, No Play laws, you will be limited in what you can recover from the other driver’s insurance (in some instances, you may be totally barred from recovery).
  • No matter what state you live in, you may be penalized for driving uninsured.

In A Car Accident Without Insurance, But Not At Fault?

Consider seeking legal advice if you’ve been in an accident without insurance, no matter where you live. An experienced car accident attorney can steer you in the right direction, regardless of which party was at fault.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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