Mistakes happen in life, and there are many mistakes that can drastically change the way you handle your auto insurance. A conviction for driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI) or any other serious driving offense could land you with the need for SR-22 auto insurance.
The following is an explanation of how SR-22 works, what to expect while you have it and how it'll affect your auto insurance policy.
How Does It Work?
To be clear, "SR-22 auto insurance" is a bit of a misnomer. A common misconception among drivers is that an SR-22 is an alternative form of insurance in its own right. In reality, "SR-22" is the name used for a form otherwise known as a Certificate of Financial Responsibility (CFR) or Certificate of Insurance. This certificate is commonly used in dozens of states to help verify that a driver has the proper auto insurance liability coverage.
If your auto insurance policy lapses, expires or is canceled for any reason and you have an SR-22 on record, your insurer must notify the authorities in your state. Afterwards, the authorities could choose to suspend or revoke your driver's license or enact other penalties as they see fit.
If you've been convicted of a DUI or DWI, or if you were found to be driving without insurance, the courts may require you to file a SR-22 through your insurance company. To prevent fraud, your insurance company has to file the paperwork on your behalf. This particular detail may have some unintended consequences, depending on your insurer.
How Will Your Insurance Company Treat You?
Insurance companies are naturally risk-averse, and having an SR-22 certificate on record may be a glaring red flag to many. Other insurers might not raise your premiums just for having an SR-22, but they definitely will ding you for the reckless behavior that led to it.
This could have a tremendous impact on your insurance premiums going forward. At the very least, you could be bumped into a "high-risk pool" of insured drivers, resulting in higher premiums for as long as you have your SR-22, or even longer.
Some auto insurance providers won't even deal with SR-22s. In some cases, the moment you ask for a SR-22 may be the moment your insurer suddenly cancels your coverage. Fortunately, most providers are willing to work with customers who have this and other unique needs.
How Long Does It Last?
How long you're required to have an SR-22 auto insurance coverage typically depends on state statutes. For instance, most states require you to maintain your coverage with an SR-22 certificate on file for three consecutive years. Some states, such as Alaska, require an SR-22 for five years after a DWI conviction and 10 years after a second offense. It's even possible to be stuck with an SR-22 for life under certain circumstances, such as habitual offense.
Fortunately, you'll be able to have the SR-22 canceled after fulfilling all of its requirements throughout the stipulated term. This usually requires the filing of another document, the SR-26.
What If You Don't Have a Car?
Even if you don't have a car at the moment, you may still be required to carry SR-22 auto insurance if you want your driver's license to remain active during the probationary period. This is where non-owners car insurance comes in. Signing up for this type of policy gives you the ability to properly handle accident claims and fulfill those SR-22 requirements, even if you're without wheels.
Liability coverages and other aspects of a typical on-owners car insurance policy could potentially differ from ordinary insurance coverages. For this reason, it's a good idea to speak to your insurer before the need for an SR-22 arises.
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