What To Do If You’re In a Car Accident Without Insurance But Not At Fault In Virginia

You can opt out of Virginia car insurance if you pay a $500 DMV fee, but if you’re uninsured and haven’t paid the fee, you'll face penalties after an accident.
Written by Mary Cahill
Edited by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
You can forgo car insurance in
if you pay an annual $500 uninsured motorist fee to the DMV. If you get into a car accident without insurance and haven’t paid the DMV fee, you’ll face penalties—even if the crash wasn’t your fault. 
Virginia and
New Hampshire
are the only two U.S. states that don’t require drivers to carry car insurance. When you register your car in Virginia for the first time, you can choose to pay $500 to the DMV instead of purchasing auto coverage. Every time you renew your registration, you’ll need to pay the $500 DMV fee to legally remain uninsured.
To help you better understand Virginia car insurance requirements and how they affect car accidents,
is here to help. Here, we’ll talk about what you can expect if you’ve paid your uninsured motorist fee and get into an accident you didn’t cause, and the consequences you could face for driving uninsured illegally.

What to do if you’re in a car accident without insurance in Virginia and not at fault

Being in a car accident is never fun. If you collide with another driver, the first things you need to do are stop and, if possible, pull over your vehicle to the side of the road. If you’re a registered driver in Virginia and chose to pay the $500
uninsured motorist fee
to the DMV, you aren’t in violation of
Virginia’s car insurance law
—as long as your payment is up to date.  
If you renewed your registration but did not pay the $500 fee or purchase at least
liability insurance
, you’ll be facing a whole host of consequences, which may include:
Even if you feel the accident wasn’t serious or wasn’t your fault, you still need to address the situation, which includes speaking to the other driver(s) involved. If your instinct is to hightail it out of there so that you aren’t caught driving illegally—don’t. 
Topping your car accident off with a hit-and-run charge will make things so much worse. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor that could carry a $2,5000 fine, a six-month license suspension,  and possibly 12 months in jail. Instead of fleeing, remain calm and take a moment to assess whether you or anyone else involved needs immediate medical attention. 
If you haven’t been seriously hurt, take the opportunity while you’re still at the scene of the accident to document the aftermath. Take pictures of any bodily injuries and vehicular damage—you could even gather witness statements. You’re going to need solid evidence if you want to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Just remember, if you decide to go ahead and put in a claim, the fact that you were driving illegally will not be forgotten. Since you were violating Virginia traffic law when the accident occurred, this could make it harder for you to receive compensation from the at-fault party. 
MORE: Hit and run insurance claims: everything you need to know
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Who decides fault in a car accident in Virginia?

If police officers arrive at the scene of the car accident, this will play a large part in determining who is at fault for the crash. Ultimately, however, it’s the insurance company’s role to designate fault after a collision.
You must submit the documentation you gathered on the scene of the crash to the other driver’s insurance provider, especially if this evidence works in your favor. Insurance companies are hesitant to reimburse damages to someone who was driving illegally at the time of the accident, but if your documents help prove that the insured driver was to blame for the collision, it could help your case. 

Do you need to report a car accident in Virginia? 

If an accident results in property damage or bodily injury, you must report the accident to law enforcement within 24 hours of its occurrence. State law in Virginia requires law enforcement officers to file a police report if there are injuries reported or there appears to be property damage totaling $1,500 or more.
Even if a police report was created, drivers must still immediately report the accident to the insurance provider. If there isn’t a police report and the accident wasn’t reported to the insurance company, you won’t be able to receive compensation. If there is no record of the accident happening, you’ll be left paying for any damages on your own—regardless of whether you were driving legally or not.
As long as your payments are up to date, if you get into an accident that isn’t your fault while uninsured in Virginia, you won’t face any legal consequences and can file a claim with the other party’s insurance provider.
There’s also a time limit on lawsuits. If the circumstances of the accident have left you feeling that filing a lawsuit for personal injury is your best option, you’ll have two years from the date of the collision to file a personal injury claim. Just remember that if no one involved in the accident ever reported it, you won’t have a substantial case.
MORE: How to file a car accident claim report

What if you’re at fault?

Virginia has what is known as pure contributory negligence to determine fault in a car accident. That means you will be financially responsible for the other driver’s damages if you are found 100% at fault, and the driver can file a personal injury lawsuit to demand the money. If it is proven that the other driver is partially negligent for the accident, both drivers will have to handle their own financial concerns.

What if you’re hit by an uninsured driver in Virginia?

If the driver who is at fault for the collision doesn’t have insurance, they are personally responsible for compensating your damages, regardless of whether they’ve paid the $500 uninsured motorist fee.
If the at-fault driver is financially unable to reimburse you after the crash, you may decide that taking this matter to court is an appropriate course of action. That being said, you may be able to avoid a trip to the courthouse thanks to
uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
This coverage ensures you receive financial compensation from your own insurance company. If you choose to purchase car insurance in Virginia, you are required to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in the amount that matches your liability limits. 

Penalties for driving without insurance in Virginia

By paying an annual $500 fee to the DMV to legally not carry car insurance in Virginia, you are assuming financial responsibility. In other words, that yearly fee to the DMV acknowledges that you agree to pay for the other party’s damages if you cause a collision.
The state of Virginia takes this seriously. If you miss a fee payment and remain uninsured, you’ll be hit with legal consequences. You’ll be fined $600 for violating Virginia traffic law, and you'll have your license and registration suspended and risk being convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Additionally, you’ll need to apply for
SR-22 coverage
and maintain it for the next three years. An SR-22 is a form that high-risk drivers are required to complete which states that you have bought and are maintaining car insurance. Once you have satisfied the SR-22 for three years, your insurance company will issue an SR-26 to cancel the policy.
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Minimum required car insurance in Virginia

Drivers who choose to purchase car insurance in Virginia must carry at minimum, liability coverage. This coverage adheres to a set of legally binding minimum limits, which lawmakers in Virginia have aimed to gradually increase over the next few years. Here’s how those limits break down according to when you purchased your insurance policy.
Minimum limits for policies effective Jan. 1, 2022 - Dec. 31, 2024:
  • $30,000 of
    bodily injury
    per person
  • $60,000 of bodily injury per accident
  • $20,000 of
    property damage
    per accident
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to match your liability limits
Minimum limits for policies effective January 1, 2025
  • $50,000 of bodily injury per person
  • $100,000 of bodily injury per accident
  • $25,000 of property damage per accident
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to match your liability limits
A driver with a liability policy in Virginia will be protected from having to pay out of pocket to cover the other driver’s medical expenses and car repairs if they cause an accident. Instead, their insurer will cover the costs of the other driver.
If you would rather pay the annual $500 fee to the DMV so you don’t have to carry insurance, you won’t have an insurer to rely on to cover those expenses if you cause a crash. You must come up with the money on your own.
While liability is good for covering accident-related costs to the victim of the incident, it won’t help pay for your medical bills or vehicle repairs. To get those covered, you’ll need
personal injury protection (PIP)
collision coverage

Driving illegally can increase premiums

Carrying car insurance in Virginia is a great idea to protect you from incurring financial worries after an accident. Sure, it might cost more than 500 bucks a year, but in the long run, it might be worth it.
As for drivers who choose to drive illegally—they end up paying in the end too. Once a driver whose been convicted of driving uninsured illegally starts shopping for car insurance, they’ll be met with higher rates than drivers who have a
clean record
. High-risk drivers in Virginia pay around $1,691 per year for insurance—that’s 54% higher than the average Virginia driver’s coverage costs. 
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