Some kinds of insurance are optional, like insurance on a valuable possession or life insurance. But car insurance is not an option if you are driving your registered motor vehicle on state or federal roads. If you’re just driving around your yard, that’s one thing, but when you use public roads, you’re putting at risk the lives and property of yourself and others, and so you need insurance to protect that. If for some reason, you have no car insurance or your coverage has lapsed at the time of an accident, what happens?

If you get stopped at a routine traffic stop and the police officer discovers that you have no insurance, you will be subject to a fine, up to $1,000 in Illinois. Your registration and license could also be suspended for up to three months until you pay the reinstatement fee and provide proof of insurance. If this is a second or other repeat offense, the penalties become even steeper, and if you let your insurance lapse, you could face higher insurance costs.

In the case of a car accident, there are even further penalties for being without insurance. In Illinois, a crash report must be filed if a car accident caused deaths, bodily injuries, or greater than $1,500 in property damage; these are the cases where police will have to be involved, and where you’ll likely face penalties for failing to have insurance coverage. For accidents not requiring a crash report, it may be possible, if both involved parties agree, to settle the matter without creating a report or involving an insurance company. In a small, fender bender type incident, this is the best outcome for a driver without insurance.

In cases where a crash report must be filed, however, you’ll face the uninsured motorist fine (up to $1.000 for first or second offenses) and license and registration suspension, in addition to any other fees you may be required to pay as a result of the accident, including the repairs your own vehicle may require. If this is your third offense of driving uninsured or you have caused bodily harm to another person involved in the accident, you’ll be fined $2,500 and be subject to a four-month license and registration suspension and $100 reinstatement fee.

When facing penalties for driving without insurance, whether you were in an accident or not, with the help of an attorney, you may be able to reduce the fines if you can provide current proof of insurance (as of the court date) and if you’ve never been charged with this offense before. Whether you’re able to reduce the fines or not, it is crucial that you obtain appropriate car insurance coverage: minimum $20,000 property damage, $25,000 bodily injury per person, and $50,000 bodily injury per accident.

If you’re facing penalties for driving without car insurance after an accident, contact the Epstein Law Firm to discuss your options.

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