No one enjoys going through the hassle of getting insured, but the consequences of driving without insurance – which happens to be illegal – might make you think twice. This article will explain Oklahoma’s minimum requirements for automotive insurance and cover the penalties uninsured drivers face. If you’re ever in a car accident, you’ll be glad you’re covered – and hopefully, the other driver will have proper coverage, too. If that’s an issue you’re worried about, you should consider purchasing Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage for added protection.
Oklahoma Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements and UM/UIM Coverage
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re currently an uninsured driver. If so, you should prioritize getting insured as soon as possible. The process can be dull and cumbersome, and auto insurance can be expensive. However, the costs of driving while uninsured can be even more significant. We’ll discuss the penalties for driving while uninsured shortly, but first, let’s go over the minimum auto insurance requirements in Oklahoma – and what happens when the costs of an accident surpass the at-fault driver’s coverage limits (or when the at-fault driver doesn’t have any coverage).
State laws require Oklahoma drivers to be covered by liability insurance, which covers the costs of injuries and/or property damage resulting from a crash or collision. An Oklahoma liability insurance policy must contain, at the very least, the following types and amounts of accident coverage according to 47 O.S. § 7-204:
- $25,000 for property damage.
- $25,000 for personal injury or wrongful death per person – not per accident.
- $50,000 for personal injury or wrongful death per accident. This covers accidents where more than one person is injured or killed.
To reiterate, these are the absolute bare minimum requirements. Depending on your situation, you might also be interested in purchasing one or more optional types of coverage, such as comprehensive coverage. Some people view extra coverage as an unnecessary expense, while others enjoy the peace of mind from the added security. As long as you meet the state’s minimum requirements and feel comfortable with your level of coverage, there’s no “right” or “wrong” policy.
It’s important to realize that most fatal or injury accidents result in expenses that far exceed the coverage limits listed above. As we pointed out in our article on insurance claims versus lawsuits, AAA estimates the average cost of a car accident resulting in injury is around $126,000. Meanwhile, the average cost of an accident resulting in wrongful death is $6 million – 120 times Oklahoma’s minimum per-accident coverage and 240 times the minimum per-person coverage.
If, as often happens, the costs of an accident wind up exceeding the at-fault driver’s policy limits – or if the at-fault driver doesn’t have any coverage at all – he or she will have to pay out of pocket, which sometimes presents a financial problem. The accident victim may need to seek wage garnishment or have a lien placed on the defendant’s property to collect. Still, even this might not be enough if the defendant doesn’t have significant assets or income.
To reduce the risk of encountering this situation, Oklahoma drivers should consider purchasing UM or UIM coverage, which will provide additional coverage if an at-fault driver isn’t insured (UM) or lacks sufficient coverage (UIM) within the policy limits you select, as outlined in 36 O.S. § 3636.
Fines and Penalties for Uninsured Drivers in OK
The Insurance Research Council reports that about 13% of drivers in the United States are uninsured. Here in Oklahoma, those numbers may be even higher. According to some estimates, up to a quarter of Oklahomans don’t have the minimum liability insurance coverage mandated by state law. If you’re among them, you should make every effort to purchase a policy as soon as possible. If you’re forgetful or procrastinate, leave reminder notes for yourself. As we said just a moment ago, there can be costly penalties for driving without insurance in Oklahoma:
- You can be fined up to $250 according to 47 O.S. § 7-606.
- You can be sentenced to jail for up to 30 days, according to 47 O.S. § 7-606.
- According to 47 O.S. § 7-206, your driver’s license can be suspended. Unless you can count on daily rides or live in an urban area with good access to public transportation, this could take away your ability to commute – and, with it, your job.
- According to 47 O.S. § 7-603, your vehicle registration can be suspended.
- If you choose to drive while your license is suspended, you risk facing other penalties, including fines and incarceration, according to 47 O.S. § 6-303.
Can a Bad Driving Record Affect the Outcome of a Car Accident Lawsuit?
A bad prior driving history can impact the outcome of a car accident lawsuit. When determining liability, insurance companies often consider the driver’s record. If the individual has a history of reckless behavior or multiple traffic violations, it may be used against them in court if relevant to the current case.