Driving without insurance in Washington State can result in serious penalties, depending on the circumstances. If you're not carrying the appropriate levels of liability insurance and choose to drive anyway, you are subject to a $550 fine. You may be convicted of a misdemeanor, and in certain cases, your driver's license and driving privileges may be suspended.
According to Washington’s financial responsibility law, you must purchase liability auto insurance that at least meets the minimum coverage requirements of 25/50/10. That means $25,000 per person for injuries, $50,000 for injuries to all people total per accident and $10,000 for damages to someone's property per accident.
Penalties for driving without insurance
If you fail to present valid proof of insurance when requested by law enforcement, regardless of whether it’s during a traffic stop or after an accident, police officers may assume that you are driving uninsured. Law enforcement can issue you a ticket for a traffic infraction, which could result in penalties: community restitution, such as community service, state fines, and more. You’ll face a minimum fine of $550 if you do not have car insurance at the time.
If you knowingly provide false insurance information and are found to be without coverage, you're guilty of a misdemeanor.
If you fail to pay the $550 fine in full or do not make arrangements for a payment plan to break up the total amount (this is up to the court), you're at risk for having your driver's license taken and driving privileges suspended. .
Appealing your fine
If you did have the appropriate insurance coverage 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
If you're driving without insurance in Washington and you're in an accident, you'll be responsible for paying for the collision damage. More important, your driver’s license will be suspended if you fail to provide proof of insurance at the scene and a) the accident resulted in more than $1,000 worth of property damage or personal injuries on either side and b) there's a reasonable possibility that you — the uninsured driver — will be found responsible for the accident. The suspension could last up to three years from the date of the collision, and it costs $75 to reinstate it.
Avoiding license suspension after an accident
If you are insured at the time of the accident but cannot provide proof, there is a way to prevent your license from being suspended. Provide the Washington State Department of Licensing with one of the following in 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 the damages from the collision has been deposited ( which requires proof of financial responsibility or an SR-22 insurance certificate)
- A certified copy of a civil court decision saying you weren't liable for claims
If you can't prevent your license from being suspended, you may be eligible for a restricted driver's license. If you qualify, this would allow you to drive to school or work while your license is suspended.