Do I Need to Tell My Car Insurance Company About a DUI?
It's best to be honest with your carrier
The consequences of drunk driving can be life-altering. Penalties if you are caught are stiff and can stay with you for a long time. A citation for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a misdemeanor for the first offense, but some states will still require jail time, and subsequent offenses bring harsher punishments. Forty-four states will suspend your license, and a conviction could even cost you your job.
Plus, a drunk-driving conviction can result in increased insurance rates—if your carrier even decides to keep you.
You may be wondering if you need to tell your car insurance company about your DUI citation. The answer varies based on your circumstances. If you are ever in doubt, it is best to disclose the violation to your insurance agent or carrier.
When You’re Looking For A New Policy
Being upfront about a DUI conviction will get you the most accurate car insurance quote. Not disclosing it doesn't mean you get to keep the good rate you would otherwise get without it.
A DUI will stay on your record for three to five years in most states, so the insurance company will learn about your driving violations whether you tell them or not, because they'll evaluate your driving record before confirming your policy. If they do find a DUI, some companies might not take you on as a customer.
If you are not honest from the beginning, your policy could be voided, and you might have to start the quote process all over again. It is best to be forthcoming so that your insurance agent can advise you on the best policies for your specific needs—including your record.
When You Have An Existing Car Insurance Policy
Normally, in an existing car insurance policy, your rate is locked in until your renewal date. Therefore your rate may not be affected until the policy period is over and its time for you to renew. Most insurance carriers run a motor vehicle report on each driver at every renewal. At that time, your insurance carrier will take the necessary action required by their guidelines.
Your rates might go up, or you could face non-renewal, which is when your insurance carrier declines to keep you as a customer. Then you'd need to find another insurance company that will take you on with a DUI on your record.
Letting your insurance agent know in advance could still be helpful. Your agent can let you know exactly what the standard procedure is for your current insurance carrier. If you have an independent insurance agent, they can also start looking for other potential carriers that will provide you the high-risk auto insurance you need.
Using an insurance agent rather than dealing directly with your carrier is convenient in situations like this because they can give you advice without affecting your policy.
Your state may also require an SR-22 document, also known as a Certificate of Financial Responsibility, in order to be permitted to drive again. This is a document that proves you have the proper insurance coverage. If that's the case, your insurance company will certainly find out about your DUI, because they'll need to file the form with the state. Generally, you'll need to keep the SR-22 for three years.
What About Other Drivers in Your Household?
Nearly every insurance carrier wants all licensed drivers in the household listed on the policy, whether they're listed as allowed or excluded drivers. Not disclosing drivers, especially known high-risk drivers, can cause a lot of problems.
The insurance company may refuse to pay a claim or even accuse you of insurance fraud if they have enough evidence to prove you knowingly withheld information about high-risk drivers in your household.
If someone else in your home has a DUI, it's best to deal with it head-on. Trying to hide it from your insurance company could cost you later. List the person as an excluded driver if you're committed to not allowing them to drive your car.
How to Lower Your Rates Again
If you work hard to show your insurance company you're taking steps to lower your driving risk, they'll be more likely to bring your rates back down after a period of time. Here are a few ways to lower your rates again:
- Take a defensive driving course
- Avoid getting a ticket for three years
- Avoid getting into an accident for three years
Your car insurance rates will go up after a DUI, but they don't have to stay high forever.