The state of Colorado does not take driving without car insurance lightly. State law requires all drivers to buy car insurance, and the penalties for driving without proper coverage are meant to deter drivers from doing it. While the penalties can be steep, getting into an accident without the proper insurance can be far costlier.
Here's what you need to know to stay in compliance with the law, and to protect yourself against the financial fallout that could happen if you drive without car insurance.
- The minimum coverage levels set by the state are often too low to cover the costs of more serious accidents.
- Penalties for driving without insurance can include steep fines, community service, and suspension of your license.
- Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime and could result in jail time.
- An SR22 may be required as an add-on to your car insurance to assure that you will keep your policy active in the future.
Colorado's State Minimum Coverage for Car Insurance
It may be confusing trying to understand the limits of liability if it is new to you. The coverage is there to protect you in case you hurt someone or cause damage to someone else's property. Colorado's minimum coverage requires liability insurance at the following levels:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury in one accident
- $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $15,000 for property damage per accident
You may also see this minimum coverage expressed as 25/50/15. The limits refer to the amount your insurance company will pay out per accident.
Car accidents can cause severe and very expensive damage, and the state minimum coverage is often not enough to cover all costs. Some financial experts recommend levels of 100/300/100 instead.
Fines and Penalties for Not Having Car Insurance
Driving without insurance in Colorado will incur steep penalties:
- Four points on your driver's license
- Minimum $500 fine for the first offense, with your driver's license suspended until you can show proof you purchased the proper coverage
- Minimum $1,000 fine the second time you get caught, with a four-month driver's license suspension
- Minimum $1,000 fine for the third and subsequent offenses, with an eight-month driver's license suspension
- At least 40 hours of community service
In Colorado, if you are over 21 and receive 12 points in 12 months or 18 points in 24 months, your driver's license will be suspended.
If you are pulled over and do not have your proof of insurance in your car, but have active coverage, a police officer may be able to look it up in the insurance database. If you receive a ticket and are scheduled to appear in court for not having the required proof of insurance stored in the vehicle, you won't be charged and the court may reduce or forgive the ticket completely if you can prove you had insurance at the time of the traffic stop.
Colorado does allow you to show electronic proof of insurance on your smartphone.
If your car insurance has not yet been reported to the Division of Motor Vehicles by your insurance company, you will still need to provide proof you had coverage on the date you were charged with no proof of insurance. Your driver's license will be suspended until you can provide proof.
Driving a Friend's Car Doesn't Release You From Responsibility
You are required to show proof of car insurance any time you are driving—even if it is not your car. Since you are the driver, it is your driver's license which can be suspended.
Even if the car your driving belongs to a friend and they're uninsured, ultimately it's your responsibility as the driver to be carrying insurance.
If you can't show proof of insurance, you're still subject to a license suspension and a summons for a court appearance.
What Happens If You Have a Car Accident Without Insurance
If you are at fault in an accident in Colorado you may be liable for actual damages, economic damages (if someone involved loses their ability to work, for example), and pain and suffering. If you are not at fault and do not have car insurance, you might not be compensated for the damage to your vehicle. Plus, there are the legal penalties you face for driving uninsured. All in all, it could be a very expensive event.
However, even if you're worried about the financial ramifications, you must never leave the site of an accident. Such a hit-and-run could result in jail time. Instead, make sure everyone involved is safe and call the police immediately.
Suspended License Penalty
A suspended license is common if you are caught driving without car insurance. Expect to pay a fee of $95 to reinstate your license once your waiting period is over. You will also need to purchase car insurance with an SR 22 filing, which provides future proof of liability insurance. SR 22s are only available through your insurance company. An SR 22 is not an insurance policy.
The SR 22 filing is usually required to be maintained for three years.
People may think they can save money by driving without car insurance, but that's not the case. If the state's penalties are not enough to deter uninsured drivers, the risk (and potential cost) of an accident should be. Accidents can happen at any time; the only way to be sure you're protected in one is by purchasing car insurance.