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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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A DUI, also known as DWI in some states, is a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. Drunk driving accounts for a large number of car accidents in the country, and is a leading cause of vehicle-related fatalities. Driving while intoxicated leads to delayed reaction time and may also cause drivers to fall asleep, lose focus or drive erratically. Because driving under the influence is so dangerous, car insurance companies are reluctant to provide auto insurance to people convicted of operating a vehicle under such influence.
After a DUI conviction, most drivers will pay a fine and may or may not spend some time in jail. Laws vary from one state to the next, and some areas are much harsher on first-time offenders than others. A DUI conviction can lead to a suspended driver’s license, and the convicted person may need to complete an Alcoholics Anonymous course or complete a certain amount of community service before the license can be reinstated.
DUI and Car Insurance
If an accident is caused by drunk driving, the claim may be paid by the insurance company or it may be partially denied. In some cases, the car insurance company will pay for any damage the drunk driver causes to another person but not to the insured vehicle itself. In other cases, the insurance company will pay the claim in its entirety and then cancel the insurance policy.
DUIs do not always result in policy cancellations, however. Sometimes an increase in the policy premium is the only effect on the insurance. The consequences of a DUI largely depend on the state laws, the specific policy wording and the severity of the offense.
Car Insurance after a DUI
Purchasing auto insurance after a DUI conviction is more difficult than buying insurance before the conviction, but not impossible. If a person’s insurance policy has been canceled or license suspended due to a DUI, he may need to pursue a high-risk insurance company. These companies specialize in providing coverage to people who cannot get insurance through other providers or who cannot get competitive rates. While most high-risk insurers have higher premiums than other companies, some are still very affordable.
If high-risk auto insurance is not available, a driver may be put on an assigned-risk plan. This type of insurance applies to people who cannot obtain a policy from any other type of company. All insurance companies pay into a pool to fund these policies, so the risk is absorbed by several companies. When a person has an assigned-risk plan, he will use the agency and customer service of one company, but the policy itself will be underwritten by another company or several companies.
Assigned-risk policies are usually limited to liability coverage unless the vehicle being insured requires full coverage due to a lien against it. If the vehicle is being financed, it must carry full coverage until the vehicle is paid off. Assigned-risk policies may have other limitations to claims pay-outs and are usually fairly expensive.
How do I reduce my car insurance after a DUI conviction?
After several years of good driving, it’s possible to reduce the effect of the DUI. Most insurance companies operate on a point system; any traffic infraction, DUI conviction or car accident will result in one or more points being assigned to a driver’s record. After enough points accrue, rates will go up or the policy will be canceled. In most cases, points drop off a person’s driving record after seven years. This means that a person with a single DUI conviction can have rate reductions after seven years of safe driving.
Of course, repeat offenders may face more severe legal consequences, including permanent suspension of their driver’s licenses or extensive jail time. The effects of a DUI conviction stretch well past its consequence to insurance.
If you have received a DUI, it’s best to be honest with your insurance company and ask what options are available to you. Depending on the situation, you may be able to work with your existing company to retain a policy with them. Your agent may even be able to help you find ways to reduce the cost of your policy by adjusting coverage in order to counteract the rate increase.
If the policy is canceled due to the conviction, you can begin searching for a new insurance company online. When you fill out the form for a quote, you will be asked about any DUI convictions. This will filter your results to show companies that are able to provide insurance for your level of risk.