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Like most states, West Virginia requires drivers to purchase car insurance to financially protect themselves and others on the road.
If you're caught driving without coverage, the state considers it a misdemeanor that's punishable by a fine and even jail time.
But learning about West Virginia's car insurance laws and buying basic coverage can help keep you on the right track.
Penalties for driving uninsured in West Virginia
Under West Virginia law, drivers must carry car insurance coverage of at least $25,000 for bodily injuries per person, $50,000 for bodily injuries per accident and $25,000 for property damage per accident. If you don't have enough coverage — or any at all — the state may find out through its electronic verification system or when an officer pulls you over on the road. You'll face a number of penalties, but the amount you might pay and the length of your suspension will vary based on how many times you've violated the law within a five-year period.
Type of penalty
Second and subsequent offenses
|30 days, and then until proof of insurance is submitted
|90 days, and then until proof of insurance is submitted
Alternative penalty fee
|If case proof is submitted before the suspensions' effective date: $200
|$100 registration reinstatement fee; $50 license reinstatement fee
|Possible jail term of 15 days to 1 year or more, in addition to the fine
When do I need to show proof of coverage?
It's not easy to evade financial responsibility in West Virginia. Police officers may ask you to present proof of car insurance when you're at a routine checkpoint, pulled over for a traffic violation or involved in a car accident.
West Virginia has also developed an electronic car insurance verification system with a continually updated database. If the division of motor vehicles (DMV) flags you in this system, you may face the same consequences.
When you're first caught driving without proof of coverage, the state will give you a chance to fix the problem. You'll receive a notice of license suspension and registration revocation that's effective 30 days from the date on the notice. If you send proof of an existing insurance policy to the DMV within that grace period, you can keep your license and registration and will just pay a $200 fine. If you have more than one car registered in your name, the DMV will expect proof of insurance for all of your vehicles.
If you can't provide proof of coverage, you'll be convicted of driving without insurance. The state will take your driver's license and registration for 30 days and fine you $200. To drive legally again, you'll need to purchase car insurance, show proof of coverage to the DMV and pay reinstatement fees.
It will cost $100 for your registration reinstatement and $50 for your license reinstatement. '
Second and subsequent offenses
Violating this law a second time (or more) within five years will result in harsher penalties. The fine increases to as much as $5,000, and the state will suspend your license and registration for 90 days. You won't get the option of showing proof of coverage to waive any of these penalties.
At the end of your suspension period, you can get your documents back after paying $150 in reinstatement fees and showing proof of insurance coverage to the DMV.
Because driving without car insurance is considered a misdemeanor, you may also have to serve jail time ranging from 15 days to one year if you're convicted — whether you're a first-time offender or not. Repeat offenders may receive steeper penalties.
Buying auto insurance in West Virginia
The consequences of violating the financial responsibility law go beyond a fine, fees and jail time. Because car insurance companies will see you as a higher risk following a misdemeanor conviction, you may have a hard time finding cheap auto insurance in West Virginia. Some insurers may be entirely unwilling to insure you.
If you're having trouble finding coverage, consider the West Virginia Automobile Insurance Plan, which provides insurance for drivers labeled high risk.