A DUI conviction in California carries various severe legal penalties aside from other consequences. One of the major concerns for individuals holding DUI convictions is the consequences for their insurance coverage. Many convicted drivers worry if, after a conviction, they still are able to get auto coverage for their vehicles. You do not have to despair. Although your insurance provider may opt against issuing you coverage, many other companies are willing to offer you insurance coverage. However, your conviction can affect your premiums, among other things. This makes it crucial to fight against DUI allegations to continue having favor with your insurance company. In case you face DUI allegations, an excellent defense can help you overcome the claims and keep your insurance privileges. At Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer, we are experienced in offering DUI defenses and ensuring favorable outcomes.
Reporting a DUI Offense to your Vehicle Insurance Provider
The law does not require a driver to inform their vehicle insurance provider if they have a DUI conviction. This also applies to DUI arrests or suspensions of your driver’s license by the DMV.
However, an insurance provider requires a driver to inform them when or if they get involved in a crash. The law in California only provides for the DMV to be notified by the insurer or the driver in ten days in case the crash resulted in:
- Injuries to any person regardless of how insignificant their injuries are
- A fatality of any person, whether the driver or a third party
- Damage to property that is approximated at $1,000 or more
How Insurance Company Finds Out You have a DUI
An insurer can know of a DUI offense or conviction through five standard ways in California. These may are:
- When a driver is due to renew a policy, the company can decide to run a check. This is to establish if there are any criminal convictions on DUI offenses or other traffic offenses
- If a driver wants to get a new cover, a background check against the driver can also be carried out
- If the driver had their driver’s license suspended by the DMV to reinstate it, an SR-22 certificate is required. This is usually generated by the driver’s insurer who submits it to the DMV
- The driver can decide to report prior convictions to their insurer
- When an accident happens, the driver can be arrested, and either them or the other party can report to the insurer or the DMV about it.
When a Driver Needs to Renew their Policy or Apply for Another One
An insurance provider is prohibited from canceling or reviewing their premiums upwards in the middle of the policy. Unless an insurance claim was made, the company would only check the applicant’s record when:
- They need another plan
- Or when their current policy is due for renewal
When faced by either of the above, an insurance company can look for the DMV records regarding the applicant. Additionally, they will also check their criminal records, if any. Typically, the records indicate any DUI offenses in the last ten years for the driver. The records will also contain any other traffic violations like wet reckless ones under VEH 23103.5 over the previous seven years.
Fortunately, there is some good news. Many insurers do not run background checks on the driver when they need to renew their policy or in need of a new one. There are various reasons why they opt not to. Some of them are:
The cost of running a check can be highly significant for the insurance company and would eat their profits. Although the cost of running one background check is $1.50, large companies have millions of policies. Running a check on each policyholder would be expensive for the company.
Because of this, companies don’t always perform background checks unless they feel the client is a high risk. Insurance companies avoid running background checks, primarily when the individual has held a policy with them for long without claims. Additionally, some drivers profiled as low-risk. If a driver falls into this category, the insurance company will hardly think of running a background check on them.
A renewal for the policy may also arise when a DUI trial is ongoing, and a conviction has not yet arrived. This means the driver’s record would not show it. Should the insurer not find the record, the driver cannot be blamed for it because it is not legally required for one to report it.
The Responsibility of Discovering a DUI Conviction Rests with the Insurer
As earlier mentioned, there is no legal requirement for one to report to their insurer if they have a DUI conviction or a pending one. In most cases, insurance companies discover a DUI when an accident has occurred, and a claim is instituted. Because of this, insurance companies have come up with formulas that help them know when to perform background checks.
It is, however, impossible to estimate when a company does this and for which driver. Sometimes, a driver can enjoy two or one renewal before their record is pulled. Regardless of the method used, an insurance company can always discover a previous DUI conviction.
As a driver, you can operate on the hope that your record will not be discovered, or you can opt to buy a standalone SR22 policy.
When a Driver Requests for an SR-22 Certificate
One of the easiest and most popular ways insurers learn about a DUI conviction of a driver is when they are requested to provide an SR22 certificate. This certificate acts as proof of financial capability and responsibility of the driver and is typically issued by the driver’s insurer.
When a driver is convicted of a DUI, one of the standard penalties by the DMV is the suspension of their driver’s license. After serving the suspension period, a driver will require to have their license reinstated. For the DMV to accept this request, they will need the driver’s insurer to supply them with an SR22 certificate.
Understanding SR22 Certificate
California law requires every vehicle owner or driver to have insurance coverage in case they are faced with certain liabilities. To ensure this, an insurer generates an SR22 certificate that is used to show the driver has met the minimum legal requirements of 15/30/5 in auto insurance.
The minimum legal requirement means that when a driver is involved in any one crash, the policy covers:
- Not more than $15,000 in case of significant injuries or fatality of a person
- Not more than $30,000 cumulatively for injuries or wrongful deaths of all the people involved in the accident
- Not more than $5,000 in any property damage.
For most drivers, maintaining policies that provide higher limits is more ideal. However, if one is unable to afford it, sticking to the minimum legal limit is ideal.
Requesting for an SR22 Certificate
Only the driver’s insurer can issue this certificate when needed. The policyholder makes a formal request for the certificate from their insurer who completes it and electronically submits to the California DMV.
To get the certificate, however, the driver will have to pay a fee of about $25. Before the SR22 certificate is issued, the insurer will demand to be informed about why it is needed. This is when they get to know if it is because of a DUI related offense.
Because of this, when a driver needs to have their suspended driver’s license reinstated, they may prefer to buy a standalone SR22 policy as earlier mentioned. This policy carries the minimum coverage limits and is issued by another company that is DUI friendly instead of the current insurer. Although one may argue the need to buy another policy as a waste of money, it can be advantageous in multiple ways.
Understanding an SR22 Insurance Coverage
This kind of insurance coverage is not unique but a regular cover where the insurer has accompanied it with an SR22 certificate. The policy need not be similar to the previous one held by the driver before a DUI conviction. The most crucial element the DMV wants to establish is whether the insured is adequately covered by valid auto insurance according to the law.
Avoiding the Requirement for an SR22 Insurance
Unfortunately, after a DUI conviction, it is impossible to escape the need of an SR 22 cover, unless one decides never to drive.
Automatically, when a person is arrested for drugged or drunk driving, their license is suspended by the DMV. The only way a license will not be put on suspension is:
- When a driver wins the DMV hearing set to determine whether or not to suspend the license
- The court does not criminally convict the driver of a DUI offense
When a driver loses either the court and DMV hearings, their license is suspended automatically for a specified period. The duration suspended depends on the type of offense, and if one is a repeat offender.
Typically, a first-time offender gets their license suspended for not more than six months, with the period increasing with any subsequent convictions. If the driver was a commercial vehicle license holder, the suspension is usually much longer.
How to Reinstate a Revoked or Suspended License
On completing the suspension period, a driver can apply to have their license reinstated or for a new one if it was revoked. For either of the cases, an SR22 certificate must be issued to the DMV by the driver’s insurer.
Usually, an SR22 certificate must be kept for 3 years. Once the three years lapse, there will be no need to prove financial responsibility to the DMV. The DUI conviction, however, will remain in the driver’s record unless they get an expungement.
Self-Reporting a DUI Conviction to Your Insurer
Although it is not a legal requirement for a driver to disclose their DUI record to the insurer, a driver may prefer to get a head start on it. In most cases, an insurer will learn about the conviction eventually, and they can decide not to renew or issue another policy. Reporting ahead of renewal, however, helps one gauge whether the insurer will agree to renew their policy or not, and the possible new premiums.
This knowledge is essential for the driver because it gives him or her time to search for a more affordable policy before the expiring of their current one. However, this strategy can also be risky, making it better to discuss it with your Orange County DUI attorney.
Cancellation of an Auto Insurance Coverage Following a DUI Conviction
You may be concerned that an insurer can cancel your auto cover if you get a DUI conviction. Fortunately, the law prohibits the cancellation of a policy before its expiry. This means, even with a DUI conviction, the company cannot cancel your policy either increase your premiums midterm.
However, when a driver seeking a renewal of their policy, the insurer is within their legal right to:
- Refuse to renew the policy
- Agree to renew the policy but under different terms in most cases increased premiums
- Remove any discount on good driver
Auto Insurance Premiums in Relation to a DUI Conviction
In most cases, a conviction on a DUI offense in California raises the premium a person pays for their car. The increase in most cases applies to:
- Policies a driver would apply for with another insurance company
- Renewing the existing policy.
Insurance companies charge higher premiums to drivers with a DUI conviction because it categorizes them as high risk. This is a serious issue that has made some companies refuse to issue or renew insurance policies for individuals with a DUI conviction.
For the companies that are DUI friendly, they will issue a cover, but the premiums are significantly higher than for a standard policy.
Factors Insurance Companies Consider While Setting Insurance Rates Following a DUI
Many factors are taken into consideration in deciding the rate for car insurance. The driver’s record, although a significant contributor, is not the only factor. These factors include:
- The age of the driver
- The driver’s gender
- The marital status of the applicant
- History and driving experience of the driver
- How long the previous cover lasted for without claims
- Where a driver resides
- How long the applicant has lived at that residence
- Whether the applicant is a homeowner or a tenant
- Whether the applicant is affiliated to any professional organization
How a Lawsuit Affects Your Auto Insurance Rates
When a driver is facing a lawsuit from another driver, this will always affect their auto insurance premiums. If you were intoxicated and caused an accident, the victim may sue you as well as your insurance provider for damages. A win on the plaintiff’s case will require the insurance to compensate them for the injuries and damages sustained.
This kind of lawsuit will always cause an increase in the premiums one needs to pay, and in some cases, the insurance company might decline to renew the policy.
What is the Likely Increase in Cost for a Policy Following a DUI Conviction?
After one has been convicted of a DUI, it is not easy to predict the cost of their policy. Every company has its own risk tolerance, with some being higher than for others. Although many factors contribute to the rates charged, a DUI conviction would undoubtedly increase the premiums. On average, an increase in the premiums after a conviction on DUI charges can go as high as $2,000 or more.
Losing a Good Driver Discount
In California, some drivers enjoy a good driver discount with various insurance companies. After a DUI conviction, however, the impact of increased premiums is more felt by the drivers that had this privilege. According to the law of California, insurance companies should not offer these discounts to any person that has been convicted of a DUI offense for ten years. The period starts from the arrest date and not the date of conviction.
Drivers that did not enjoy the privilege of good driver discounts may not feel the impact; neither does the law affect them. However, drivers that lose this privilege may have their premiums increase with between 20 and 30%.
Regardless of your driving background, you can still get reasonable rates for your auto insurance. Shopping and asking others is the ideal way to find the best premium that suits you. Even when you have a DUI conviction, it is possible to get favorable rates. Before settling on a particular insurer, carrying out extensive research is recommended.
When a DUI Conviction Makes it Difficult to Get a Cover
After getting a DUI conviction, it might be challenging to find an insurance company willing to give you a cover. The law in California makes it mandatory for each driver to have auto insurance. Because of this, the state has to ensure each driver can get coverage.
In California, individual brokers specialize in helping drivers with DUI convictions find suitable covers. If one does not find cover, they can look for one from the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP).
The CAARP program is designed to match the needs of high-risk individuals with potential insurers. These insurers provide drivers unable to get coverage or an SR 22 by themselves following a DUI conviction. Speaking to an insurance broker can help you obtain coverage through the CAARP program and be within the legal requirement.
Obtaining an SR 22 without Informing your Insurer
Unfortunately, it is impossible to get this certificate without going through your auto insurer. However, the law does not prohibit a person from having multiple policies. Because of this, many drivers opt to buy another cover from a different insurer that is DUI friendly as opposed to their current one.
This is more common with individuals that hold policies with greater limits than those set by the law. However, their other policy usually requires one to be within the legal limit, which is the requirement by the DMV.
When one does this, the second insurer will automatically provide an SR22 certificate against the new policy. The advantage is that the first insurer will not know about the DUI conviction if you did not request them for an SR22 certificate.
What is the Average Cost of SR22 Auto Insurance Coverage?
Obtaining an SR22 cover will cost between $300 and $600 in the initial year. In the subsequent years, the price will reduce, especially when no claims will be made against the cover. It is important to remember that when your original cover becomes due for renewal, your insurer can find out about your DUI. If this happens, they may decline to renew your coverage or increase the premiums too high.
When this happens, you can go back to your second cover and increase the coverage while canceling the previous cover. In most cases, the cost of beefing up your other policy is usually lower than the quotation from your original insurer.
Expungement of your DUI Record
After completing your sentence on a DUI conviction, a driver can apply to have their records expunged. Although the court may grant the application, your driving record will remain at the DMV.
Fortunately, after ten years, your record at the DMV is also sealed. If you were convicted of wet reckless or dry reckless, the DMV holds your record for a shorter period of seven years. The DMV automatically deletes your record, and the driver will not be required to do anything else.
Once your record has been sealed at the DMV, an insurance company cannot use it in determining the premium you should pay.
What Happens if your Charges are Reduced to Lesser Charges
Facing a DUI conviction, your lawyer can enter a plea bargain with the prosecution to have the charges against you dropped to lesser ones. The standard lower charges are dry or wet reckless charges. Unfortunately, most insurers understand this and will not treat them any differently as they would standard DUI offenses.
This means that your premiums can be negatively affected even when convicted of lesser DUI offenses.
Find a Lawyer Near Me
The law requires every driver to have auto insurance. A DUI conviction can interfere with the cost of the coverage or even having it entirely. The only sure way is to avoid having a DUI conviction or winning a DMV hearing upon an arrest. For any of these to happen, you will need the services of a DUI lawyer. At Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer, we have an excellent track record in defending DUI suspects. Call our office at 714-820-9592 and let us fight these charges for you.