The Cost of an Uninsured Driver Accident
Driving uninsured may be riskier and have more of a finacial impact on your wallet than you realize, especially if you are involved in an uninsured driver accident. Today’s blog will review what happens to an uninsured driver if they are a) caught driving without car insurance, b) they cause a car accident, and c) a breakdown of the financial consequences of both. I will also be reviewing importance of having UM/UIM insurance to protect your family from uninsured drivers on the road.
Unfortunately, 9-11% of Oregon drivers fall into this category, which is better than our neighbors to the north, who have 15-26% of their drivers uninsured, and slightly better than our neighbors to the south with 12-15% of their drivers uninsured. Both Washington and California have very modest fines for driving uninsured. Most other states impose serious fines for first time offenders ranging from $500 to $1,500, with the added possibility of jail time from 15 to 90 days. Repeat offenders are dealt with harshly with fines up to $4,000 and 180 days in jail. If you are a repeat offender you might not want to drive in NM, ID, NY, OK, MO, KY, AL, SC, SD, MN, WV, WY, and many more states!
Uninsured drivers who do not have the Oregon mandated minimum insurance coverage are passing on their liability to those of us who do have car insurance. This forces the majority of us to protect our families by purchasing Uninsured Motorist and Under-Insured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.
What Happens If You Are Caught Driving Uninsured in Oregon?
- You will be cited for driving uninsured, a class B violation, and if convicted pay substantial fines;
- Your vehicle maybe impounded and towed/stored until you provide evidence of insurance;
- You are required to provide SR-22 insurance certification on file with the DMV as of the date of the conviction for a period of 3 years;
- Your driver’s license maybe suspended if you fail to provide an SR-22 certification or if you have a driving record as a habitual offender.
What Happens If You’re In An Accident While Driving Uninsured in Oregon?
- You will be cited for driving uninsured and pay substantial fines;
- Your vehicle will be impounded and towed/stored until you provide evidence of insurance;
- You are required to provide SR-22 insurance certification on file with the DMV as of the date of the uninsured accident and you must provide evidence of future insurance coverage for 3 years before you will be able to drive again;
- Your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for 12 months and continue until you provide SR-22 insurance certification;
- You may be personally liable for damages to the other parties if you are deemed the “at-fault driver”, as well as your own medical bills and property damage expenses;
- You may be prevented from collecting non-economic damages even if you were not at-fault.
How will anyone know if you are an uninsured driver?
First, if you think you will not get caught, think again! Oregon has programs that actively seek to verify that drivers have current car insurance. Every month, drivers are selected by the DMV and issued a notice to provide proof-of-insurance. The Oregon DMV then validates your coverage with the insurance company. If you do not respond or provide accurate information your license is suspended. If you do not have the insurance you claim you will be subject to proving your compliance with Oregon’s requirements by obtaining an SR-22 certificate of insurability for three (3) years, otherwise your driver’s license will be suspended.
Another way uninsured drivers are caught comes from an insurance data base of drivers who let their policy lapse, or terminate. The DMV accesses this data base to find potential uninsured drivers and then requests they provide proof-of-insurance.
If you are stopped for any minor infraction (tail light out, failing to signal a lane change, etc.) the police will always ask for your proof-of-insurance.
Lastly, if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision then you will be required to provide proof of insurance to the other driver. If you are uninsured then the other driver or police who respond to the car accident will learn you are uninsured and report you to the Oregon DMV.
What is the financial impact to an at-fault driver?
Fines and Fees
Depending on the circumstances of how you were caught (DMV, traffic stop, or involved in a caraccident) and your driving record within the last 3 years, you could be cited and/or arrested, and your vehicle towed and impounded.
- Fines and reinstatement fees – Driving uninsured is a Class B violation, with fines ranging from $130 to $1,000. The presumptive fine for a Class B violation is $260 unless the violation was committed in a work zone, school zone, or safety corridor, in which case the presumptive fine is doubled to $520.
- Towing and impound fees – You will pay a police fee typically $150, basic tow charges of $168 for the hook-up fee, a $16 Data Services fee, an $11 City Fee, and a $4/mile Tow fee, for a total of $227. In addition, if you vehicle is impounded you will pay a storage fee of $27/day, plus an $85 Lien filing fee if stored more than 5 days, for a total of $274 /week.
- If you are driving uninsured and are involved in a crash, your driving privileges will be automatically suspended for one year. After the suspension ends, you can reinstate your driving privilege by filing proof of future responsibility (SR-22) with the DMV for three years, otherwise your license will remain suspended. The cost to reinstate your driving privilege is $75.
SR-22 insurance is required, for a three-year period, for all drivers who are convicted of driving uninsured, whether you have been involved in an uninsured driving accident or not. This certificate is issued by an insurance company and is your proof that you are now carrying at least the mandated minimum coverage. To an insurance company, the SR-22 requirement indicates that you participate in “high risk” behavior, which places you in the same risk category as if you were convicted of drunk driving, reckless driving, or cited for an at-fault auto accident. Obviously, this means you will pay a higher insurance premium, if your insurance company is willing to take the risk. Premiums for SR-22 certificates vary by insurance company, but average between $20 and $90/month ABOVE the basic cost of an insurance policy without the SR-22 requirement. Failing to file a current SR-22 during the 3 years period will result in an automatic suspension of your license. The total cost you may pay to meet the 3 year requirement is between $720 and $3,240.
If you cause an uninsured driver accident, then you can be held personally liable for damages to any injured person, not to mention the cost of your medical bills and property damages. If they obtain a judgment against you for damages, and you do not pay within 60 days, your license can be suspended until the judgment is paid.
- Average cost of a bodily injury accident — $126,000
- Typical cost to repair vehicle property damage — $8,000 — $25,000.
- Typical cost to repair or replace your damaged car — $8,000 — $25,000
Limited Recovery of Non-economic Damages
If you are involved in an uninsured driver accident that was NOT YOUR FAULT, Oregon law (ORS 31.715) prohibits you from recovering non-economic damages from the at-fault driver unless you have been insured within the previous 180 days. These are damages for “pain and suffering” and include compensation for: physical pain, emotional distress, interference with your daily activities, loss of enjoyment of life, worsening of previous injuries and for new injuries that may be permanent.
This is called Oregon’s “No pay, No play” insurance restrictions on uninsured motorists.
The value of non-economic damages in car accident cases depends on the severity of the impact on the injured driver. They can range from just a few thousand dollars in minor cases to hundreds of thousands of dollars in serious injury car accident cases. People who sustain catastrophic injuries such as paralysis could have non-economic damages in the millions. Losing the right to claim non-economic damages for your injuries because you were driving uninsured could have a dramatic impact on your life.
Driving uninsured in Oregon is a very risky proposition. In the simplest case when you get caught it could cost you $1,700 to $5,000. On the other hand, if you are involved in an uninsured driver accident the cost could climb to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the blink of an eye and impact you, your family, and career for many years to come.
For those victims of an uninsured driver accident I can only impress upon you the importance of having UM/UIM insurance in sufficient amounts that will protect you and your family. You will find the cost to protect your family with $500K of UM/UIM coverage is about the same cost as what you pay for collision coverage on your $25,000 car. Which is more important to you: your car or your family?
As a Portland personal injury attorney, my sole focus is to represent victims and their families who have been wrongfully injured as a result of another’s careless or intentional conduct. I hope this website is a place to learn more about our law firm, as well as, an educational resource for Oregonians who have been victims of accidents. It is not intended to be legal advice, as every case is unique and should be accurately evaluated.
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of an uninsured driver accident, and you are looking for a skilled attorney to lead you through the insurance roadblocks and confusion, please call today for a free and confidential case evaluation. Local (503) 444-2825, Toll free 1-800-949-1481, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information about personal injury cases, insurance, and maximizing your financial recovery, I recommend the following articles on my Blog:
 2014 data from http://www.insurance-research.org/research-publications/4.