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Can You Seek Damages If You Don’t Have Car Insurance?

insurance adjuster inspecting car

If you operate a vehicle in Georgia, you are legally required to carry a certain amount of auto insurance. Failure to do so can incur you fines and other penalties. Whether or not you carry auto insurance can also have an impact on your ability to recover compensatory damages after an accident. An Augusta car crash lawyer can guide you on what types of damages you can seek as an uninsured driver.

Some states partially bar uninsured accident victims from recovering compensatory damages after a crash. This is done under the “No Pay, No Play” rule. The rule follows that if a driver is uninsured, the driver is not eligible to seek damages.

However even in the states that follow the “No Pay, No Play” rule, crash victims are entitled to recover economic damages. It is only when it comes to non-economic losses that these states prevent uninsured drivers from seeking compensation.

Does Georgia Follow the “No Pay, No Play” Rule?

Georgia does not follow this rule. This means that if you suffer an accident as an uninsured driver in Augusta, GA, you are entitled to seek the full amount of compensation. This includes both economic and non-economic damages. Georgia laws do not impose any limitation based on the status of the crash victim’s policy.

However, if you don’t carry auto insurance and become involved in a crash, the defendant may try to use this against you. The insurer of the at-fault driver may argue, for instance, that your lack of insurance is a kind of misconduct. You may be portrayed as an irresponsible driver who contributed to the accident.

Georgia Auto Insurance Requirements

As per Georgia laws, you are required to carry auto insurance when operating a vehicle within the state. The specific Georgia laws that apply are found in the O.C.G.A. Section 40-6-10. As per these laws, you must carry a minimum of:

  • $25,000 per accident in property damage liability insurance
  • $25,000 per person and $25,000 per accident in bodily injury liability insurance

The uninsured motorist bodily injury and property damage liability are optional in Georgia. However, if you choose to purchase these coverage options, the minimum uninsured motorist bodily injury insurance is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Similarly, for uninsured motorist property damage liability, the state-stipulated minimum is $25,000.

Georgia’s Modified Comparative Negligence Law

As noted above, lacking auto insurance is not enough to deprive you of damages in an Augusta car accident. However, Georgia uses a comparative negligence law. As per the Georgia Code Section 51-11-7, you can recover damages only if your percentage of fault is 49% or lower. If you are found to be 50% or more at fault, you are legally barred from receiving any damages.

Insurance companies may use your lack of insurance as proof that you are not a responsible person. This can bias the judge and the jury against you. Even minor pieces of evidence may be used to show that you were negligent.

This may cause a court to ascribe a higher percentage of fault to you. Even when your percentage of fault is below 49%, you may end up losing a significant portion of your damages. In the worst case scenario, a fault percentage of 50% or more may make you altogether ineligible for damages.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

Even though you can recover damages as a car crash victim without valid auto insurance, you will face penalties. This is simply because driving without insurance is a criminal offense in Georgia. The penalties for the offense include fine, license suspension, and possible jail time.

For a first offense, you can expect to pay a fine of between $200 and $1,000. You may also be sentenced to up to 12 months in prison, although jail time is rare in such cases. Finally, you also face a license suspension of 60 to 90 days for the offense.

How Can an Augusta Car Accident Lawyer Help?

If you have suffered a car accident in Augusta, your lack of auto insurance can complicate matters. This is why it is important that you seek legal help at the earliest. Here at Ted Greve & Associates, we work with Augusta crash victims to help them recover the maximum amount of compensation for their losses. Even if you don’t have insurance, our lawyers will work with you to negotiate effectively with the insurer. Reach out to us today to discuss your Augusta crash claim with our lawyers.