An Impaired Driving conviction is a serious matter, both criminally and financially. You may need what some people call DUI Insurance, an SR 22 or FR 44 filing.Your insurance rates will definitely go up — that is if your insurance company doesn’t drop you altogether. And that’s on top of fines, a suspended license, and possible jail time. But the good news is, once you’re allowed to drive again, there are insurers who can help you to make it happen. Here’s what you need to know to get yourself back on the road. Legally.
Why a DUI can Mean You Need ‘DUI Insurance’
A drunk driving conviction tells an insurance company that a driver is a poor risk. That is, that the driver has a greater chance of causing an accident that will force the insurance company to pay out. As a result, the insurance company will want more money to insure that driver. And they will want it for many years into the future. Some insurance companies don’t even work with high-risk drivers. As a result, you may lose your insurance and have to find a new provider. But many companies do work with high-risk drivers, just at a higher rate.
States also have an interest in making sure high-risk drivers carry adequate insurance. As a result, after certain offenses, many states will require a high-risk driver to have an SR22 or FR44 certificate.
What is DUI Insurance
Some people refer to the SR22 or FR44 certificate as “DUI Insurance.” This isn’t exactly correct. These certificates are not insurance policies. Rather, they are certificates of financial responsibility (CFR). That is, proof that a driver has active insurance coverage. A driver with a DUI conviction is now a high-risk driver. As a result, the state may require an SR 22 or FR 44 from that driver’s insurance company, to prove that the driver’s insurance will pay for any future accidents. The SR22 and FR44 are basically the same things — proof that the driver has active auto insurance. Most states call this certificate an SR 22. Virginia and Florida, however, call it an FR 44.
States are very serious about insurance coverage, especially for high-risk drivers. Many states have real-time insurance verification. This means that if you buy insurance, then cancel it, the state will know immediately. And all states require that insurance companies notify them if a driver with an SR22 or FR44 certificate cancels their policy.
The SR 22
An SR-22 is a special filing attached to an auto policy. It notifies the state that a driver has insurance that covers both Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) and Property Damage Liability (PDL). If you ask your insurer to file an SR22, the insurer will notify the state’s motor vehicle department that your insurance meets those requirements. In addition, the insurer agrees to notify the state if you — or they — cancel the policy for any reason. People who must have an SR-22 certificate can expect to pay higher premiums. The state, or the insurer, may also require the driver to pay for the entire policy up front.
FR 44 Insurance Florida and Virginia
People in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Florida sometimes refer to the FR-44 as DUI insurance. The FR-44 is similar to an SR-22, in that it is also a certificate of financial responsibility. However, an FR 44 also requires that the driver carry a minimum of $100,000 liability on their auto policy. In addition, Florida and Virginia each have minimum coverage requirements for bodily injury or death of one person, bodily injury or death of two or more people, and property damage.
Florida and Virginia also use an SR-22 filing, but they use it for different offenses. The coverage minimums for an FR-44 can be twice the minimums required for an SR-22 filing. A DUI requires an FR-44 filing in these states. The penalties for making the wrong filing are steep. So if you have a DUI in Florida or Virginia, make sure to follow the judge’s order to the letter.
How Do I get DUI Insurance?
You cannot file an SR22 or FR44 certificate on your own. It needs to come directly from the insurance company. Here’s how to make that happen.
- First, contact your auto insurance company. Tell them you need an SR22 or FR44 certificate.
- This request will change your insurance risk factor to “high risk.” Some insurance companies do not insure high-risk drivers. As a result, you may lose coverage with this company. If this is the case, you will need to find a new insurance provider that does cover high-risk drivers. Geico and Progressive are two well-known companies that do cover high-risk drivers. You can read more about Progressive SR22 filings at their website. Geico’s website has information about a Geico SR22 filing.
- Your insurance company will then need to file the SR22 or FR44 certificate with the government.
- You may also have to pay a filing fee. It’s usually around $25.
- In addition, some states may require you to pay your insurance policy in full, rather than by making monthly payments. This is because the SR22 or FR44 certificate is proof that you are carrying active insurance. If you cancel your policy, your provider will inform the state, and your certificate will no longer be valid.
For How Long Will I Have to Maintain an SR22 or FR44?
Most states will require you to maintain your SR22 or FR44 certificate for a minimum of three years. Some states, however, may require you to file for as little as one year. Others, on the other hand, may require you to file for up to five years. Remember that it may take up to 30 days for your certificate to become active. When you receive it, keep it in your car at all times. If an officer pulls you over, you will need to produce it. Do not let your insurance lapse, as, in many states, this will result in a suspended license. To be safe, renew your certificate, and your insurance at least 15 days in advance.
If you file your SR22 in one state, then move to another, you must contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in your new state, to inform them of your status. Then, one of two things may happen.
First, your new state may waive the requirement for proof of financial responsibility, as long as you have met the requirements in your previous state. They will, however, require an affidavit in order to get the waiver.
Other states may require you to file a new SR-22. This is especially true if the coverage requirements were lower in your previous state.
Once you have received a judge’s order to file an SR22 or FR44, the most important thing is to familiarize yourself with your state’s laws. Each state will handle the filing differently. The penalty and filing fees will also differ from state to state. And all states have different financial responsibility laws. You must know your state’s laws and follow them, to avoid having your license suspended. A $25 filing fee is really and truly nothing, compared to the financial and legal risks of not filing. In addition to fines, penalties, and license suspension, not filing runs the risk of resetting the clock for the SR22 period — with a new set of fines and fees. It’s really not worth the risk.
Not all insurance companies work with high-risk drivers. But many do. Nerdwallet has an excellent roundup of insurance companies that will work with you, regardless of your risk status. In addition, they’ve chosen the best ones, based on the company’s financial strength, and closed complaints data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
You may have made a mistake, but it’s not the end of the world. Getting your insurance back on track is a giant step toward getting back on the road.
Featured Image is CC BY 2.0, by Alan Cleaver, via Flickr