Auto Insurance Basics

Penalties for Driving without Insurance in Washington

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Driving without insurance in Washington State can result in serious penalties, depending on the circumstance. If you’re not carrying the appropriate levels of liability insurance and you choose to drive anyway, you are subject to a fine up to $450. You may be convicted of a misdemeanor and in certain cases your driver’s license and driving privileges may be suspended. According to the Washington Financial Responsibility law, you must purchase liability auto insurance that at least meets the minimum coverage requirements: 25/50/10 (you can read more about what the minimums mean here.)

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Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

If you fail to present valid proof of active insurance when requested by law enforcement, regardless of whether you're stopped for traffic or accident reasons, police officers may assume that you are driving uninsured. Law enforcement can issue you a ticket for traffic infraction, which could result in a penalty of community restitution, such as community service, and at least two fees totalling $15, in addition to other penalties. You face a minimum fine of $450. 

Note that, if you knowingly provide false insurance information and are found to be without coverage at all, you’re guilty of a misdemeanor. 

If you fail to pay the $450 fine in full, or do not make arrangements to set up a payment plan, you’re at risk for having your driver’s license and driving privileges suspended. You may be able to set up a payment plan to break up the total amount but this is up to the court. 

Appealing Your Fine

If you did have the appropriate insurance coverage in effect at the time you were issued the ticket, you can appeal to the court to have the charges removed and avoid paying the fine. In order to appeal, you must present the court with proof that you were insured at the time of the violation either in person or in writing, before your court date. A court-processing fee of $25 may still be required even if the fine is removed.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in an Accident

In case you’re caught driving without insurance in Washington and you’re in an accident, you’ll be responsible for paying for the collision damage. More importantly, if you failed to provide proof of insurance at the scene, and the accident resulted in more than $1,000 worth of property damage, or even any kind of personal injuries on either side, your driver’s license would be suspended. The suspension could last up to three years, from the date of the collision, and it takes a $75 fee to reinstate it.

Avoid License Suspension after An Accident

If you were actually insured at the time of the accident, there is a way to prevent your license from being suspended. Provide the Washington Department of Licensing with one of the following within the 60 days before the suspension goes into effect: 

  • Proof of insurance in effect at the time of the collision, 
  • A signed release from everyone involved in the collision indicating they won’t hold you responsible for damages, 
  • A copy of a written agreement with everyone seeking reimbursement for damages, 
  • Proof that security in the amount of damages from the collision has been deposited (this option requires proof of financial responsibility or SR-22 insurance certificate), or 
  • A certified copy of a civil court decision saying you weren’t liable for claims. 

Sources:
Washington State Department of Licensing: Mandatory Insurance
Washington State Legislature: Violations and Penalties for Lack of Proof

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