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Consider This When Driving Without Insurance in West Virginia

Stay safe and legal on WV roads. Learn the risks and penalties of driving without insurance and how to get insured with our comprehensive guide.
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    Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

    Driving without insurance is risky for a few reasons – you can face fines, suspensions of your driver’s license and vehicle registration, and imprisonment, not to mention a potentially massive bill if you cause a serious accident while you aren’t insured. The last thing you need is to deal with an auto accident attorney when all you could have done was get insurance.

    West Virginia drivers pay an average of $887 per year in insurance premiums, which is almost nothing compared to the financial and punitive consequences of driving without insurance.

    You Must Carry Car Insurance in West Virginia

    Under the West Virginia state code, drivers must have car insurance that covers at least $25,000 for bodily injuries for one person, at least $50,000 for bodily injuries per accident, and at least $25,000 for property damage per accident. If you don’t have adequate insurance coverage or you don’t have insurance at all, you are likely to get caught driving without insurance by the state’s electronic verification system or if an officer of the law asks for proof of your insurance. 

    You may have to show proof of insurance at routine checkpoints if you get pulled over for a traffic violation, or if you are involved in a car accident. If that happens and you cannot provide some form of proof of insurance, the consequences vary based on whether it’s your first offense or not and what the scenario is.

    First Offense

    The first time you are caught without proof of insurance, you are given a chance to fix the problem. You will be given notice of a period of license and registration suspension that begins 30 days after the notice date. If you can provide the DMV with proof that you already have an existing insurance policy before the suspensions take effect, you will likely still have to pay a $200 fine, but you will keep your license and registration. 

    If you cannot prove that you have insurance, you will be fined $200 and the 30-day license and registration suspensions will apply. To get your license and registration back, you will have to purchase appropriate car insurance, show proof of this insurance to the DMV, and pay a $100 reinstatement fee for your registration and a $50 reinstatement fee for your driver’s license. 

    Filing the SR-22 Form

    Additionally, your insurer will have to file an SR-22 form on your behalf for the next three years, which is a certificate of financial responsibility that proves you have car insurance that meets the required minimums. There is a one-time filing fee for SR-22s which varies depending on your insurance company but usually costs between $15 and $50. An SR-22 will also raise your annual insurance rates since you are considered a high-risk driver – by an average of 6% in West Virginia.

    Some insurers might drop your coverage if you inform them that you need an SR-22. If that happens, you will need to find a new insurance company for your coverage and SR-22. 

    Additionally, if your auto policy lapses at any point within the three years and you have to purchase new coverage, you will have to pay the SR-22 filing fee again and send proof of your new insurance to the state. If you have multiple vehicles registered in your name, you will need to show proof of insurance for all of them.

    Second and Subsequent Offenses

    If you violate insurance laws more than once within five years, the penalties will be even harsher. The fine can increase to as much as $5,000 and your license and registration will be suspended for 90 days. You will not have the option to show proof of coverage to waive any of the penalties. 

    At the end of the suspension period, you will still need to pay $150 in reinstatement fees, show proof of insurance coverage, and have your insurance company file an SR-22 on your behalf as with a first offense.

    Is There Jail Time?

    Driving without proper car insurance is a misdemeanor, which means you may have to serve jail time regardless of whether it’s your first offense, particularly if you cannot pay the fees. Jail time can range from 15 days to one year, with repeat offenders often receiving more harsh sentences.

    person behind bars

    Buying Auto Insurance in West Virginia

    To avoid risking any of these consequences, it’s best to follow the law and always carry adequate car insurance for all of your vehicles. It’s easier and cheaper to purchase insurance before you have any infractions on your file, but it’s rarely too late to find car insurance even in the following situations:

    If You Are an Uninsured Driver

    Unless you are a newly licensed driver, insurers will be more hesitant to cover you if they see that you have recently been or currently are an uninsured motorist, especially if you have been driving uninsured during that time. This is considered a similar risk as someone who has a bad driving record, so drivers who have let their insurance lapse for more than 60 days pay around 11% more than the average West Virginia premium.

    So, you can likely still find coverage in this situation but it will cost you more money. USAA, State Farm, Nationwide, and Geico have some of the lowest rates for drivers who were previously uninsured but are seeking coverage.

    If You Are Driving Someone Else’s Car

    It’s not illegal to drive someone else’s car if you do not have driver’s insurance, as their car insurance will cover damages in the event of an accident (so long as you have their permission to drive the car, of course). 

    However, it’s wise to purchase non-owner car insurance, especially if you rent or borrow cars regularly, if you need to reinstate your driver’s license, or if you want to maintain continuous coverage while you are between vehicles. If you drive a car owned by someone else in your household, your name should be listed on the car owner’s policy to cover you.

    If You Are High-Risk

    If you have been denied coverage by regular insurance companies as a result of being deemed a high-risk driver, you may still be able to get coverage through West Virginia’s assigned risk program. This will unfortunately cost you more than conventional insurance – West Virginia drivers who have two speeding tickets pay an average of 20% more in annual insurance premiums, and insurance infractions will similarly raise your rates.

    If you have multiple infractions or particularly serious ones, you may end up paying a hefty insurance premium each month, but compared to jail time and $5,000 fees, it’s worth it to pay for insurance, drive legally, and avoid further infractions.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Let’s look at some frequently asked questions regarding car insurance.

    When Do I Need to Show Proof of Driving Insurance?

    You may be asked to show proof of insurance at traffic checkpoints if you get pulled over for a traffic violation, or if you are involved in a car accident in any capacity. However, the state also keeps track of your insurance records with its electronic system, so don’t assume that you will get away with not having insurance even if you never get pulled over.

    What Happens If You Get Into a Car Accident Without Insurance in West Virginia?

    In West Virginia, if you’re in a car accident without insurance, regardless of fault, you’ll face penalties and struggle to get damages compensated. If at fault, you’ll be liable for all damages, potentially facing lawsuits, wage garnishment, and significant financial burdens from vehicle damages, medical bills, and other claims.

    Does WV Accept Electronic Proof of Insurance?

    Yes. As of 2015, you can present a digital copy of your insurance by displaying it on a wireless device (cell phone, tablet, etc.) when asked for proof of insurance. The digital document must include your name and address, the policy number, effective begin and end dates, the name of the insurance company, and the make, model, and VIN of the insured vehicle.

    How Can I Avoid Driving Without Insurance in West Virginia?

    It’s simple – purchase car insurance for any vehicle that you own and drive. If you purchase insurance when you have a clean driving record, it will only cost you about $887 per year on average. It’s a no-brainer when compared to the fines, jail time, license suspension, potential bankruptcy, and/or massive debt that could result from causing an accident while driving without insurance.

    Michael D. Selario reviewing a personal injury case

    Don’t Navigate Legal Waters Alone

    As you navigate the complexities of West Virginia’s driving laws, especially regarding insurance requirements, it’s clear that the risks of driving uninsured far outweigh the cost of maintaining proper coverage. Facing potential fines, license suspensions, and even jail time, not to mention the daunting financial consequences if involved in an accident, the importance of adhering to insurance mandates is evident.

    Understanding and managing these legalities can be challenging. This is where our expertise comes into play. We offer a free case evaluation to help you understand your rights and responsibilities under West Virginia law. Our experienced legal team is here to guide you through the process, whether you’re seeking insurance advice dealing with the aftermath of being injured while driving without insurance, or being injured by an uninsured party. 

    Don’t let the fear of legal complexities deter you. Reach out to us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our goal is to provide you with the clarity and guidance you need to stay safe, legal, and financially protected on West Virginia roads. If you have been injured by an uninsured motorist, contact us today and take the first step toward peace of mind and legal security.

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    About the Editor

    Picture of Kevin Kaufman
    Kevin Kaufman

    A 1977 Bridgeport High School graduate, received multiple scholarships including a National Merit Scholarship. He went on to earn a BS in Business Administration, an MBA, and a law degree from West Virginia University.

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