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What Are My Options if I Don’t Have Car Insurance After an Accident?

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Posted on September 23, 2023

No driver enjoys watching a sum of money disappear from their bank account every month to provide compensation for an accident that may never occur. However, failing to purchase a car insurance policy in California can end up costing you far more than monthly insurance premiums. Driving without auto insurance is a gamble and one with serious consequences for losing.

What to Do Immediately After the Accident

If the accident was serious and you’ve sustained significant injuries, you may be unable to do anything other than wait in place for help. However, if you’re able to use your cell phone to document the accident scene it may help you to prove the other driver at fault for the accident, which could lessen at least a portion of the consequences you’ll face for driving without insurance. 

First, NEVER leave the scene of the accident, even if you’re worried about being caught without insurance. Leaving the scene could result in up to 3 years in jail and a $10,000 fine if there are injuries, and up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine if there is property damage but no injuries. Instead, use your cell phone—or ask an uninjured person to use it for you to do the following:

  • Take photos of the accident scene, including both vehicles or all involved vehicles if it was a multi-car crash
  • Photograph anything else that’s relevant to the accident such as a faulty signal light, debris in the road, inclement weather conditions, or a traffic sign
  • Photograph any visible injuries
  • Record your statement about how the accident occurred while it’s fresh in your mind
  • Go to the hospital and have a thorough evaluation of all injuries

Never admit guilt or apologize for the accident. Even an innocent, well-intentioned “I’m sorry this happened,” or “I never saw you coming” may be used against you later as an admission of guilt.

Who Pays for Damages if You Don’t Have Insurance But Were Not at Fault?

It’s important to document the scene of the accident to prove that you were not at fault. This is more critical than ever if you don’t have insurance. If the other driver caused the accident, their insurance must cover damages to their vehicle and yours, as well as medical expenses for injuries. While this works in your favor, you aren’t completely off the hook. Because you were driving without insurance, you’ll have to pay a fine and an impound fee to retrieve your vehicle. You must have proof of auto insurance to take your car out of impound. You’ll also be unable to file a claim for anything beyond your economic damages. The “no pay, no play” rule limits those without insurance to economic damages only, so you cannot claim pain and suffering.

What If I Was at Fault for The Accident and Don’t Have Insurance?

You’ll face far more serious consequences for driving without insurance if you were the driver that caused the accident. On top of the same fines and fees as mentioned above, you’re also personally liable for the injury victim’s damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Because you don’t have insurance to pay for their damages, they may choose to sue you in court, potentially putting your assets at risk and racking up legal fees. Even if the personal injury victim had uninsured motorist coverage in place at the time of the accident, this policy may cover the damages, but the insurance company is likely to later file a lawsuit against you to recover the amount they paid on damages.

If you’ve had a car accident while uninsured, you need a skilled San Diego car accident attorney to protect your rights and ensure that you’re aware of your legal obligations.