Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance In Massachusetts
Penalties depend on whether it is your first offense
In most states, you need car insurance to be able to legally drive on public roads, and Massachusetts is no exception. If you don’t have the proper insurance or let your insurance lapse, there could be serious consequences.
The penalties for driving without proper insurance coverage in Massachusetts are set out in Chapter 90, Section 34J of the General Laws of the Commonwealth. You'll have to wade through a lot of legalese to get there, however, and all that can be confusing and difficult to decipher. Here's a quick summary.
Auto Insurance Is Mandatory
There are mandatory auto insurance laws in Massachusetts—you must carry at least the minimum insurance coverage or you're breaking the law. Drivers who are caught operating a motor vehicle in Massachusetts without the mandated minimum coverage face a number of fines and penalties depending on whether it's happened before.
Insurance companies must notify the DMV if your policy lapses, so don’t think that you will be getting away with not having insurance and no one finding out.
A first offense results in a license suspension of 60 days and a fine of not more than $500. You must also make an additional payment of either $500 or pay upfront for one year's insurance coverage for the highest rated territory and class, whichever is greater. The insurance must be comparable to policies offered and in effect at the time of the commission of the offense.
Proceeds from the additional payment are used to defray the costs of collection and expenses for preventing car insurance fraud and arson.
Second and Subsequent Convictions
Second and subsequent convictions within six years of a prior offense will result in a license suspension of one year, a fine of $500 to $5,000, possible imprisonment for up to one year in a Massachusetts house of correction, or all of the above. There's also the additional $500 payment-to-risk plan that also applies to a first offense.
The penalties described here are those mandated by law if you're caught driving without insurance. If you end up in an accident, found to be at fault, and the accident causes serious injuries and property damage, the penalties you'll likely pay in the form of civil damages will make the legal ones pale in comparison.
You Could Be Held Personally Liable
Being pulled over and ticketed for driving without proof of car insurance is bad enough but consider being caught without car insurance at the scene of an accident. You could be held personally liable. This means you'll have to pay out of pocket for physical damage not only to your own vehicle but for the other driver's physical damage and injury as well.
These are things your insurance would have paid for if you had carried it. Their cost can be considerable and would overwhelm almost anyone.
Massachusetts Minimum Coverage
Massachusetts law requires that you have coverage for your own personal injuries, for injuries to others, for injuries caused by another driver who had no insurance at the time, and coverage for damage to property belonging to others.
Massachusetts requires minimum coverage of $20,000/$40,000/$5,000 liability limits, but it's recommended by both insurance agents and insurance carriers that you carry limits of at least $100,000/$300,000/$100,000. It's important to have enough coverage to protect yourself in the event of a severe accident.
It's also recommended that you list on your policy all other drivers who reside in your household. They can be listed as "deferred operators" at no cost to you if they also have their own policies.
Purchasing only the state minimum coverage without taking these extra steps might not be enough to prevent you from being held personally liable.
Before you decide what type of coverage is best for you, consider speaking to a qualified insurance agent who knows Massachusetts law and can speak to your driving history and financial situation.
"Common Wealth of Massachusettes," Sept. 26, 2019.