What happens if you get into an accident and don't have insurance?

Car accident
What happens when you don't have that insurance policy in your glove compartment? See more car safety pictures.
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You know the routine -- another month, another auto insurance payment. Then the thought hits you as you press the stamp to the envelope: ''What would happen if I let my auto insurance policy lapse and got into an accident?''

It's a question that one in every seven drivers in the country should ask themselves. According to a 2011 report by the Insurance Research Council, 13.8 percent of drivers in the country are uninsured [source: Insurance Research Council].


First, let's talk about what it means to not have insurance. A typical auto insurance policy might include six types of coverage that apply in different circumstances:

  1. Bodily injury liability pays for injuries you cause to other drivers and passengers as a result of an accident.
  2. Property damage liability covers repairs to others' vehicles, buildings, fences or other property that you damage during an accident.
  3. Collision reimburses you for damages caused to your vehicle, regardless of whether or not the accident was your fault.
  4. Personal injury protection covers the cost of injuries to you (the driver) and the passengers in your car.
  5. Comprehensive covers damages to your vehicle from accidents other than collisions, such as vandalism or natural disaster.
  6. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage covers injuries and damages to your vehicle if you're hit by a hit-and-run driver, a driver without insurance, or a driver lacking enough insurance to pay the costs of an accident.

When we talk about an ''uninsured driver,'' we're primarily talking about the first two types of insurance. As of February 2012, every state except New Hampshire requires drivers to carry certain amounts of liability insurance to pay for injuries and property damage in accidents that they've caused [source: Insurance Information Institute]. (New Hampshire has financial responsibility laws that compel drivers without insurance to pay for accidents when they're responsible.) Many states require additional types of coverage before you can legally get behind the wheel.

What's going to happen if you don't have the right kinds of insurance coverage? Read on to find out.