Driving Without Insurance in Michigan
“License, registration, and proof of insurance please.” Anyone who has ever been pulled over has heard that request. And if you don’t have any or all of those documents, you can be looking at serious criminal and driving-related penalties. And, even worse than not having your proof of insurance, if you actually don’t have automobile insurance, you could be looking at the possibility of jail time or a fine, the potential that your driving privileges might be suspended, and long-term effects on your insurance premiums. Ultimately, if you are caught driving without automobile insurance in Michigan, you have to begin preparing your defense immediately---and should hire a driver’s license lawyer ---to avoid or at least minimize these serious potential penalties.
What Michigan Law Requires
Under Michigan’s no-fault act, drivers are required to maintain automobile insurance that includes Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits, also known as first-party benefits, which cover economic losses such as medical bills, wage loss, rehabilitation costs, home-care expenses, and mileage reimbursement in the event you’re injured in a car accident. Your insurance must also include Property Insurance Protection (PPI) benefits, which cover losses for property damaged during a car accident. Finally, your insurance must include coverage for residual bodily injury and property damage that would apply if you are sued and found liable in a civil lawsuit arising out of a car accident. Although not required under Michigan law, it’s also very common for Michigan policies to include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in the event that you’re involved in a car accident that involves other drivers who fail to maintain the requisite insurance.
Consequences (Other Than Criminal and Driving-Related Penalties) For Driving Without Insurance
In addition to the significant criminal and driving-related penalties discussed below, there are many other consequences for driving a car in Michigan without the required automobile insurance that can have a devastating impact on your life.
For example, if you’re involved in an accident but don’t have the requisite insurance, you are individually responsible for all of your medical bills and are prohibited from suing for pain and suffering. This means that, even if another driver is determined to be at fault and causes you to suffer significant injuries, you are unable as a matter of law to sue them. Considering the costs of medical treatment in this day and age, being 100% responsible for those expenses on your own can be crushing to you and your family. And, to make matters worse, you will also be on the hook for any damage to your car and won’t be entitled to any wage reimbursement for the time you’re off work.
In addition, anyone else who suffers a loss as a result of the accident can sue you for any pain and suffering as well as for any property damage including to their vehicle. This means that—even if the other driver or drivers were at fault—they could still sue you and recover. Being responsible for your own medical costs can be devastating; being responsible for someone else’s can be devastating, too.
On top of all of this, as well as the significant penalties discussed below, you’ll likely see the premiums for your automobile insurance go up and you could be considered a “high risk” driver for several months. In the event you find yourself looking for new automobile insurance coverage during that time period, it’s possible that some insurers may completely deny coverage.
Criminal and Driving-Related Penalties For Driving Without Insurance
In addition to all of the life-altering consequences discussed above, if you’re caught driving without the required automobile insurance in Michigan, you could face several criminal and driving-related penalties as well. Under MCL 500.3102(2), an owner or registrant of a motor vehicle who operates that vehicle on a pubic highway without the required automobile insurance can be charged with a misdemeanor. If you are convicted, you could face up to a year in prison and a fine between $200 and $500.
You may also find yourself on the hook for all of the losses suffered by the other party if, for example, he or she is deemed eligible for uninsured-motorist coverage under his or her own automobile insurance. Specifically, under MCL 500.3177(1), an “insurer that is obligated to pay personal protection insurance benefits for accidental bodily injury to a person arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of an uninsured motor vehicle as a motor vehicle may recover all benefits paid, incurred loss adjustment costs and expenses, and incurred attorney fees from the owner or registrant of the uninsured motor vehicle or from his or her estate.”
In essence, what this means is that you could be required to reimburse the insurance company who paid benefits to the other party for their losses. This amount can often reach tens of thousands of dollars and could be devastating to you and your family’s lives. And if you fail to pay those significant amounts, your driving privileges may be suspended or revoked, and you could also lose your vehicle registration, which has the practical effect of making it even harder for you to pay.
What If I Have Insurance But Left My Card At Home?
If you get pulled over but can’t produce your proof of insurance, you can still be charged with a misdemeanor as though you didn’t have insurance at all. Specifically, under MCL 500.3102(3), if a person fails to produce evidence of the required automobile insurance when he or she is pulled over, there is “a rebuttable presumption... that the motor vehicle or motorcycle did not have” the necessary insurance at that time.
What this means is that the law assumes that, because you didn’t have proof of insurance with you, you didn’t have insurance at all. Although you are able to produce it after the fact, and avoid the misdemeanor conviction as a result, it’s very important that you’re prepared to act fast to avoid a situation where you’re deemed not to have insurance even though you’ve been paying for it all along.
What If I’m Driving Safely?
Unfortunately, a lot of people buy into the myth that, if you drive safely, you’ll be okay without insurance. In fact, some studies indicate that approximately 21% of Michiganders (more than 1 out of 5) drive without the necessary insurance. But the fact that you drive safely doesn’t automatically mean you won’t be involved in an accident. Moreover, even if you are able to avoid an accident, law-enforcement officials are now able to determine whether a motor vehicle is properly insured by simply running the license plate. This technology, coupled with recent efforts to issue citations to drivers without the proper insurance, make it even more likely that you’ll be caught driving without the required automobile insurance—even if you do so safely.
Rely On Our Experience
We get it: With the costs of insurance always going up, and the trust that you’ll be completely covered if you’re in an accident consistently going down, it’s tough to make the decision to buy automobile insurance in Michigan, especially if you’re a safe driver. But if you’re caught driving without the required automobile insurance in Michigan, and especially if you’re involved in an accident, you can face serious legal and financial exposure.
You could find yourself paying out-of-pocket for all of your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and so on. And you could also find yourself on the hook for the other driver’s and passenger’s (or multiple drivers’ and passengers’) losses as well—even if you weren’t at fault. Furthermore, you can face serious criminal penalties and driving sanctions as well. You could be charged with a misdemeanor, sentenced to up to one year in jail, fined between $200 and $500, and lose your driving privileges.
Driving without insurance might seem like it’s worth the risk, but the consequences and penalties that come with it are steep. If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident while not maintaining the adequate insurance or charged with failing to have that insurance, consider contacting Grabel & Associates at our 24/7 defense hotline at 1-800-342-7896 today. Our experienced attorneys have devoted their careers to defending people like you to make sure that you stay out of jail and on the road.