In nearly every state, insurance is a prerequisite to drive legally on the road. If you get behind the wheel before acquiring insurance or let your policy lapse, you’re at risk of fines and suspensions should you get pulled over or involved in a car accident. In this article, we’ll review the consequences of driving without insurance so you know exactly what could happen if you get caught.

Is It Illegal To Drive Without Insurance?

A person driving a car with their hands on the wheel in Illinois.

It’s illegal to drive without car insurance in 48 of the 50 U.S. states, including Illinois. Most states require you to carry insurance because the cost of vehicle and property repairs as well as medical bills is often more than you can afford to pay upfront. An insurance policy safeguards against this scenario and ensures you can cover the costs of damages in an at-fault car accident when you’re insured. 

In Illinois, all drivers are required by law to purchase at least liability insurance, which must cover:

  • $25,000 property damage per accident.
  • $25,000 bodily injury per person.
  • $50,000 bodily injury per accident.

Illinois drivers must also purchase the same minimum limits of uninsured motorist coverage. You must carry proof of insurance as either a physical or digital insurance card (which you can carry on your smartphone or tablet) in your vehicle any time you drive. The state can discover you’re driving without insurance:

  • If you get pulled over or are involved in a car accident: In either situation, the police officer involved will ask for your proof of insurance coverage.
    Through Illinois’s Electronic Liability Insurance Verification program: At least twice annually, the state uses a third party to verify the liability policy of each vehicle registered in Illinois. This state program began in 2021 and aims to identify and reduce the number of uninsured motorists on Illinois roads.

You’ll face penalties in either of these scenarios: 

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

If you’re caught driving without car insurance in Illinois, you’ll receive a fine. You won’t get jail time because failing to carry the minimum required car insurance is a petty offense. These are the penalties you’ll face the first time you get caught driving uninsured:

  • A $500 to $1,000 fine plus court costs.
  • A three-month suspension of your license and vehicle registration, which means you cannot drive legally. 
  • A $100 fee to get your license reinstated after submitting proof of insurance.

If you’re caught driving uninsured several times, these penalties get more severe. For your second offense, you must pay a minimum fine of $1,000, court costs, and the $100 reinstatement fee after your additional four-month suspension period is complete. If you attempt to get behind the wheel without insurance while serving a suspension, you’ll receive an additional six-month suspension of your license and pay another $1,000 fine. 

Penalties for Getting in an Accident Without Insurance

If you’re involved in a car accident and you don’t have insurance, the severity of the penalty depends on whether you’re at fault for the crash. This is because Illinois is an at-fault state, meaning the person at fault must pay for both parties’ associated damages and expenses.

Illinois also requires you to file crash reports for any collision that causes injury, death, or at least $1,500 in damage if you’re involved in an accident. It’s unlikely you’ll drive away from an accident without a police officer arriving on the scene and asking for proof of insurance. If you’ve been caught driving without insurance twice (or more) and get in a car accident, you must pay $2,500 in fines on top of your four-month suspension and $100 reinstatement cost.

Things get even more serious if you’re found driving without insurance and cause another person harm. In addition to a $2,500 fine and suspension of your license plate, you’ll be charged with a Class A misdemeanor — similar to driving under the influence or being convicted of a drug possession.

Will Late Compliance Insurance Reduce Your Penalties?

Getting an insurance policy after you’ve received a ticket for driving uninsured won’t erase your violation. However, if you show up on your court date with proof you’ve acquired the minimum insurance since getting ticketed, you might be able to avoid having your driver’s license or plates suspended through a court supervision. You must still pay the $100 fine to reinstate your license plus court costs.

How To Get Car Insurance After a Lapse in Coverage

The consequences of driving without insurance often continue even after you’ve renewed your policy. For instance, if you’ve let your car insurance lapse, you might have to pay higher rates to get new coverage. You’ll want to get quotes from several insurance companies to find the best rates before choosing a policy.

If you’ve been caught driving uninsured three or more times, you must file proof of financial responsibility in addition to proof of insurance. This is called an SR-22, which you can file through your insurer and must maintain for at least three years. Proof of SR-22 insurance gets reported to the Illinois Secretary of State every month. So, if you don’t maintain the SR-22 for the required three-year period, the state will find out and suspend your license. 

Can You Drive a Car You Don’t Own Without Insurance?

Car insurance is tied to the vehicle, not the person driving the car. Therefore, as long as the car you’re driving is covered under a valid insurance policy, you won’t face penalties if you get pulled over or are involved in an accident. If you’re driving someone else’s car, review their coverage and make sure you have a copy of their proof of insurance (and, ideally, their policy details) should the unexpected happen.

Do You Need Car Insurance?

Avoid the costs, penalties, and hassle of getting caught driving without car insurance by staying up to date on your coverage. If you’re searching for affordable rates after a lapse in coverage, you’ll need to do your research to find the best policy for your situation. Contact our team at American Auto Insurance to get a free quote and instant verification, so you can get back on the road legally and with peace of mind.

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