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INSURANCE

What Is SR-22 Car Insurance?


Photo Courtesy: Bill Oxford/iStock

Finding car insurance is a process that takes quite a bit of careful consideration. You’ll be researching everything from deductibles to coverage types to monthly premiums — and that’s just as you’re getting started with a straightforward policy. The process can become a bit more complicated when you’ve received a court order to file an insurance form called an SR-22. This is a form drivers need to file when the state they live in requires its motor vehicle office to make sure a driver has adequate insurance coverage.

This is an extra step in the insurance process, and it can change your access to insurance policies and coverage. If you’ve been asked to file for an SR-22, learn more about what this requirement is and how it can impact the ways you search for car insurance to get started. 

Although people commonly use it, the term “SR-22 car insurance” is a bit misleading. The SR-22 form isn’t a type of insurance policy; instead, it’s a document that certain drivers — typically those the state has deemed “higher risk” — must file with their state of residence. The document details the minimum coverage limits that the state deems necessary for higher-risk drivers, which may be higher than the minimum coverage limit laws of the state. In many states, these remain the same coverage limits that are required by law; the SR-22 form is a way of monitoring drivers who present a high risk to others on the road based on their driving history. 

If your state notifies you, in court or otherwise, that you need to submit an SR-22, you’re required to notify your insurance company. The insurance company is then required to report any changes in your coverage to the state. The term “SR-22 car insurance” arose because it can be more difficult for people who are required to file an SR-22 to find affordable car insurance. Since the driver is a higher risk, premiums are often more expensive than what the average driver without marks on their driving record would pay. And, some insurance companies offer special policies designed to meet the needs of these drivers. So, many people refer to insurance that accepts drivers who file SR-22 forms as SR-22 insurance. 

Who Needs SR-22 Car Insurance?

When a car accident happens, the innocent party hopes that the at-fault driver has enough car insurance to cover any damages or injuries that result from the collision. If the at-fault driver has adequate insurance, their policy can cover the costs of the damages to the innocent party. And, the innocent driver won’t face many out-of-pocket costs or potential increases in their next insurance premium.

If you’re the innocent party and the at-risk driver doesn’t have adequate insurance coverage, you may need to file a claim with your own insurance company. Depending on your coverage limits and deductible amount, this may include some out-of-pocket costs, and the claim could result in your next premium being higher.

It’s important for drivers whose driving habits present a higher risk to others on the road to have adequate car insurance coverage. Based on past behavior, courts have determined that they’re more likely to cause damage to other drivers and pedestrians. So, they need to have adequate insurance to cover the costs of this damage. States use SR-22 forms to monitor the coverage of the highest-risk drivers on the road. 

SR-22 car insurance is often associated with DUIs and DWIs, but people who have been prosecuted for driving while intoxicated or under the influence are just one group of high-risk drivers. A person who had no insurance coverage and previously caused damages in an accident as an at-fault driver may land under the legal requirement of filing an SR-22, depending on where they live. The same thing applies to people who drive with revoked or suspended licenses. In some situations, a driver will be required to file the SR-22 form because of frequent traffic violations. 

These types of violations involve lapses in judgment that can result in serious injury to others. Sometimes, the frequency of less severe violations can have the same effect. 

What Kind of Coverage Is SR-22 Car Insurance?

Like any other insurance policy, SR-22 car insurance has plenty of options when it comes to coverage limits and deductible amounts. The SR-22 form determines the minimum amount of coverage you’ll need, so you can still purchase more coverage than that amount. 

At a minimum, most SR-22 forms require a driver to include liability coverage and bodily injury coverage on the policy. Liability coverage can protect other drivers and pedestrians when you’re liable for their injuries. If you’ve been at fault in serious car accidents, bodily injury coverage is especially important to compensate victims for the injuries they could face. 

How to Get SR-22 Car Insurance

Although SR-22 forms may sound complicated, most of the process is the insurance company’s responsibility. The driver’s responsibility is to pay for any fees associated with the form and their insurance premium cost. Usually, drivers who are required to buy this type of insurance follow the same steps that any other driver would do to obtain coverage.

You start by obtaining an insurance quote, which most companies make available in person, online or by phone. Getting a quote involves answering several questions about yourself, your car and how you use your vehicle. Be prepared to supply the VIN of your car, which is usually on the bottom of the windshield underneath a barcode. The insurance company should also ask if you’re required to file SR-22; if the agent doesn’t ask, you’ll need to inform them.

Keep in mind that insurance companies factor driving history into the cost of an insurance policy. If you’re required to file form SR-22, you likely have at least one serious accident or traffic violation on your record, which can increase your insurance premium cost. 

Once you choose a policy, the insurance company files form SR-22 with your state on your behalf. Some states have filing fees that you’ll be required to pay each time you file a new form. It’s also common for the insurance company to charge a fee for processing the form and sending it to the state. Insurance for drivers who file form SR-22 is available, although it’s often more expensive. The requirement to file SR-22 is usually a temporary one that lasts for a few years. Drivers who work hard to establish a record of good driving history are on the path to dropping the SR-22 designation and enjoying more affordable insurance in the years to come.

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