In an ideal world, every driver on the road would have perfect driving skills and would pay full time and attention every second behind the wheel. Every motorist would also have the maximum level of insurance available — not that he or she would need it, because our perfect driving would mean no accidents.
Of course, this ideal world doesn’t exist. In reality, about 15.6% of all drivers in Washington, D.C. don’t have insurance coverage. And as anyone who has driven in the District can tell you…our drivers are far from perfect!
Driving without a license or insurance isn’t great — but it happens. If you get into an accident when you don’t have either of these things, you may be scared about what will happen, including whether you will be able to recover for your losses. While you may face consequences for driving uninsured and unlicensed, you may also be able to obtain a settlement or a court verdict for your injuries with the help of an experienced Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer.
D.C. Law on Driving without a License or Insurance
Under Washington D.C. law, if you have lived in the district for 30 or more days and drive a vehicle in public, you must get a driver’s license from D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). There are exceptions to this rule for students, diplomats, active military members, part-time residents, members of Congress, and presidential appointees, who have driving privilege reciprocity with their home state or jurisdiction.
A D.C. driver’s license may be suspended or revoked for certain violations of the law as well as for a failure to pay child support. If you drive with a suspended or revoked the license, you may be charged with a criminal offense. A conviction for driving with a suspended or revoked license can result in a sentence of 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
If you don’t have a license to drive in D.C. (either with a D.C. driver’s license or a non-suspended license from another state), you can also be charged with a crime if you drive in the District. A conviction for a “no permit” offense carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail or a $300 fine.
In the District of Columbia, it is against the law to drive without vehicle insurance. This insurance must be maintained as long as your vehicle is registered within Washington, D.C. (or if you have a reciprocity sticker). If you let your insurance coverage lapse, you will be subject to fines and penalties.
D.C. requires certain minimum coverage for auto insurance, as follows:
- Property damage liability: $10,000
- Third-party liability: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist property damage: $5,000 subject to $200 deductible
Remember that the above represents the minimum coverage that you must have. You are free to purchase additional coverage — and a Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer would recommend that you do just that. Why? Because if you’re in a serious motor vehicle accident and you are found to be at fault, the other persons injured in the accident can hold you personally liable for any of their proven damages that exceed your insurance coverage limits. In a worst-case scenario, that means you can be threatened with losing your life savings, car, house, other big assets, or have a garnishment placed on your wages. And if you only have the legal minimum of $25,000 in coverage, that means that even a garden variety injury to another person could pose a real threat to your personal assets. So get as much liability insurance coverage as you can afford, sufficient to protect your savings and property from a judgment by an adverse party.
If you fail to maintain continuous, valid insurance on a vehicle registered in Washington D.C., then your vehicle registration or reciprocity sticker will be suspended. Insurance companies are required to notify the D.C. DMV of any insurance cancellations or terminations.
Can You Recover Damages If You Were in an Accident without a License or Insurance?
Laws regarding driver’s licenses and auto insurance exist for a reason: to protect everyone on the road. By making sure that all drivers have a minimum level of knowledge and skill, and that each of us has a certain amount of insurance coverage, the city of Washington, D.C. is hoping to avoid situations where an inexperienced or dangerous driver hurts someone — and then lacks the funds to pay for the losses.
Of course, life happens. People lose their licenses for a variety of reasons, and car insurance can be incredibly expensive. We understand that there may be a situation where a person is left with few options other than driving without a license or insurance.
If you’re in a car crash under these circumstances, you may think that you have lost all chances of recovering for your damages. This is not necessarily the case. Depending on who was at fault for the accident, you may still be able to recover.
If you were to blame for the wreck — even a little bit — then you will likely be barred from recovery under D.C.’s pure contributory negligence rule. However, if another party was responsible for the accident, then a skilled attorney may be able to help you get the compensation that you deserve.
While it isn’t advisable to drive without a license, the simple fact of getting behind the wheel with a suspended or revoked license (or no license at all) does not mean that you caused an accident. The same goes for driving without insurance — while you are required to have it, driving without insurance doesn’t mean that you are at fault for an accident. So if you are rear-ended by another driver when you’re driving without a license or insurance, you may still be able to recover for your losses.
These types of cases can be complex, as an insurance company will often try to use your status as an uninsured, unlicensed driver against you. An aggressive Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer can push back against that argument — and help you get compensation for your injuries.
What to Do If You Are in a Collision without a License or Insurance
Being in a car accident is scary in any situation. If you’re driving without a license or car insurance, it can be even more frightening because you may be worried about the possibility of steep fines or even a criminal conviction. Stay calm, and remember that leaving the scene of the crash will only lead to bigger problems.
As an initial matter, if someone has been seriously injured in a wreck, leaving could lead to further criminal charges. It is important to stay so that you can call emergency services and make sure that anyone who needs help can receive it.
Next, avoid the temptation to lie. While you do not necessarily have to tell anyone that you don’t have insurance or a license, do not give false information. This could lead to additional criminal charges if you lie to the police — and it will look bad for you regardless of who you lie to at the scene.
Instead, exchange the information that you do have, such as your vehicle license plate and contact information. Do not apologize or get into a fight about responsibility for the accident. Stick to the facts, and keep it brief.
Finally, contact an attorney. You will need assistance guarding your right to recover, as well as defending yourself against criminal charges. A skilled lawyer can help ensure that your legal rights are protected.
Call a Washington, D.C. Car Accident Lawyer for Help
Being in an accident without a license or insurance doesn’t mean that you can’t recover for your losses. With the assistance of an experienced Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer, you may still be able to get the money that you deserve for your injuries and property damage.
At Patrick Malone & Associates, we understand that life happens. We’re here to help, not to judge. We’ll aggressively pursue your right to compensation, working with you to achieve justice. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at 202-742-1500 contact us online.