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The Impact of a Drunk-Driving Conviction on Your Auto Insurance

The penalties for drinking and driving have become more severe, particularly for repeat offenders, who often face mandatory jail time. In many states, plea bargaining is restricted or banned in drunk-driving cases. Fines have increased and driver's license suspensions have lengthened. It is also harder to obtain a "hardship" license that allows a person only to drive to and from work. In this climate an experienced drunk-driving defense attorney is essential.

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The Impact of a Drunk-Driving Conviction on Your Auto Insurance

An alcohol-related car accident and subsequent drunk-driving conviction can bring many negative consequences into your life, possibly including jail or prison time, a criminal record, car repair or replacement, restitution, guilt and grief over harm to others, higher insurance premiums, a civil lawsuit, fines, court and administrative fees, community service, alcohol education, substance-abuse treatment, social stigma, restrictions on or revocation of your driver's license, attorneys fees, and restrictive probation. If you are arrested for or charged with drunk driving, a lawyer from Fitzpatrick Hagood Smith & Uhl LLP in Dallas, TX, can advise you about your legal rights and help you fight the charges.

After the nightmare of a drunk-driving trial, conviction and sentence, your driving privileges may still be intact or may be restored. However, the question of automobile insurance becomes more complex and more expensive after a drunk-driving conviction appears on your record.

Your present insurer

Your current automobile insurer can be expected to respond to your drunk-driving mishap. Exactly what your insurance company legally can do varies from state to state and depends on the insurance law of your state, but your insurance company may cancel or decline to renew your policy, restrict coverage provisions or, at a minimum, increase your premiums. Although the amount of increase can vary greatly, your premiums could go up as much as 100 percent or more. How your insurer reacts to your drunk driving may be worse if you have other strikes against you, such as previous drunk-driving convictions, traffic tickets, at-fault accidents, late or unpaid insurance premiums or other negative history with the insurer.

Private insurance for high-risk drivers

If your insurance is cancelled or raised to a prohibitively high price, you can seek coverage from an insurer that specializes in insuring high-risk drivers or from the high-risk division of a large insurance company. This type of auto policy, called a nonstandard policy, is especially geared toward the high-risk market of drivers, such as those with drunk-driving histories or other seriously negative driving records, or those living in neighborhoods with higher rates of vandalism. Unfortunately, a nonstandard policy can be expected to have relatively high premiums.

State-created high-risk insurance mechanisms

State governments have set up various systems for covering high-risk drivers uninsurable in the voluntary insurance market, passing on the costs of such systems to insurance companies. A very common state-created mechanism is the assigned-risk pool, also known as a residual-insurance pool, where auto insurers are assigned a number of otherwise uninsurable drivers in proportion to the insurance companies' presence in the state insurance market. Other publicly sustained insurance systems include joint underwriting associations and reinsurance facilities, among others. Considered the automobile insurance option of last resort, premiums for these state-created insurance programs tend to be markedly higher than for privately procured insurance.

Other issues

Other significant issues include:

  • Your drunk-driving record can also impact your premiums for or coverage by other types of insurance policies, such as life or medical insurance.
  • After your drunk-driving conviction, you will be considered a high-risk driver. Most states require such drivers to obtain from their insurance companies for filing with the state SR-22 forms, which certify that high-risk drivers are insured.
  • These insurance issues are highly regulated by each state and can vary in how they are handled, so it is important to know the law in your state and what variations to these issues that law may bring.
  • If because of your drunk-driving conviction you are paying expensive premiums, there may be other ways to lessen the price, such as driving an older car and/or a non-sports car, moving to a safer neighborhood, maintaining a clean driving record, taking a safe-driving class, adding safety equipment to your car, paying all bills on time to boost your credit rating, staying current on your insurance premiums or moving closer to your workplace to shorten the commute.
  • Not all states require auto insurance as a condition of driving, but those that do not require insurance have financial responsibility laws that assign liability to at-fault drivers in accidents for resulting medical expenses or property damage. Auto insurance is still highly recommended to cover this legal responsibility.

Speak to a drunk-driving defense lawyer

A drunk-driving conviction can wreak havoc on your automobile insurance coverage. If you are feeling the negative effects of a drunk-driving conviction, an attorney at Fitzpatrick Hagood Smith & Uhl LLP in Dallas, TX, can help you to sort out the issues and investigate solutions.

Copyright © 2015 FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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