Does auto insurance cover DUI accidents?

Auto insurance covers DUI accidents in a couple of important ways. Liability auto insurance will pay for damages you cause while driving under the influence, and your collision coverage might pay for damages to your car. Your insurer may try to deny collision coverage under an intentional act exclusion, but an auto accident attorney can help overcome this.

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Written by Stewart J. Guss
Personal Injury Lawyer Stewart J. Guss

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2021

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  • Liability insurance covers the damages caused by the driver responsible for an accident
  • One driver being under the influence can help determine who is at fault
  • If you are driving under the influence and cause an accident, damage to your car may be covered by your collision insurance

Even if no one gets hurt, drunk driving brings serious consequences. Driving under the influence can lead to license suspension, increased car insurance rates, injuries, fatalities, and criminal charges.

If you make the mistake of driving under the influence and cause damages of any kind, where can you turn? Does auto insurance cover DUI accidents? Let’s find out.

Insurance policies are contracts made between an insurance company (the insurer) and a driver (the insured.) The contract agreement outlines what kinds of losses, expenses, and damages the insurer will cover. Drivers can add different coverage options depending on their unique needs, but all states require you to carry the state minimum liability insurance coverage to drive.

If you need to find liability or any other auto insurance, you can save by comparing multiple quotes with our free insurance rate comparison tool.

What kinds of auto insurance apply in a DUI accident?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 28% of all traffic accident fatalities from one recent year were linked to drunk drivers. With so many deaths and so much damage arising from drunk drivers, it’s important to understand how your car insurance applies to accidents caused by drunk drivers

When it comes to DUIs, two types of insurance come into play:

Liability Auto Insurance Coverage and DUIs

Liability insurance covers damages other individuals suffer due to your negligence. This includes damages you cause when driving under the influence, like property damage and bodily harm to others. (Some policies may cover punitive damages as well, but others specifically exclude them.)

Collision Auto Insurance Coverage and DUIs

The collision coverage portion of your insurance policy should pay for any damage done to your own car while you were driving under the influence. Collision coverage will not help with medical bills.

Note: Liability insurance and collision coverage both have limits. If the damages exceed the monetary limits in your insurance policy, you will be personally responsible for paying the remainder.

Additionally, certain states allow insurance providers to exclude DUI accidents from anything beyond liability coverage, meaning you would be responsible for all of your own losses.

If you’re pulled over under suspicion of DUI, you’ll be subjected to a sobriety test of your blood, breath, or urine to determine your BAC as well as a field sobriety test to assess your coordination. Your license may be suspended, your vehicle may be impounded, and you could spend the night in custody.

Don’t risk it — and don’t risk the lives of those around you.

A drunk driving accident can result in an arrest and a criminal case, but your car accident insurance claim will proceed as a separate civil case.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Auto Insurance and DUI Accidents

Looking for more details? Below are answers to common questions related to driving under the influence — and the car accidents it can cause.

#1 – What are punitive damages?

In addition to economic and non-economic damages, a car accident settlement may also include punitive damages.

Punitive damages exist to punish wrongdoers and discourage others from egregious negligence or reckless actions. Think of them as a fine added on to a victim’s settlement award.

Punitive damages can be included in a claim that involves DUI, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, and other bad behavior.

#2 – Is my auto insurance valid if I’m drunk?

If you were involved in an accident whilst driving under the influence, your car insurance’s liability coverage will help pay for the other accident victims’ expenses up to your policy’s limits, and your collision coverage may help pay for damages to your vehicle.

Occasionally, however, an insurance company will try to argue that your drunk driving was an intentional choice, not an accident. This “intentional act exclusion” would void your contract, leaving you paying for everything.

A lawyer can help you push back against these claims.

#3 – How do insurance companies find out about DUI accidents?

An insurance company will learn about a DUI if your license is suspended or revoked, or if you are convicted of a crime.

If there was a drunk driving accident, your insurer will find out about it when a claim is made by the other people involved in the accident.

If you were pulled over by the police and received a DUI charge but there was no accident, the insurer may still find out about it when renewing your policy because they will run a motor vehicle report at that time.

If you’re signing up as a brand new customer, different insurance companies have different “look-back” periods. Typically, they check the last five years of your driving record.

#4 – Will my car insurance rates go up after a DUI?

Yes. Drivers with DUI records are considered high-risk. Therefore, insurance companies will charge them higher premiums. You could even be dropped as a customer the next time you try to renew.

However, car insurance rates don’t automatically raise after a DUI, and if they do, it isn’t immediate. Most insurers will reevaluate you, check your DMV records, and raise rates at the next policy renewal date.

Talk to a car insurance agent from your insurance company before you enter a plea for your DUI case. You can discuss ways to prevent your rates from rising, but in short, expect that your car insurance rates will increase after a DUI.

High-risk drivers may also have to file an SR-22 insurance form. This form guarantees the driver is financially capable of paying future claims up to a certain limit. If the SR-22 form expires, the insurance company will notify the state and you may end up with a DUI driver’s license suspension.

#5 – How long does a DUI stay on my record?

The answer to this question varies depending on what state you’re in.

  • In Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, and Rhode Island, a DUI will stay on your record for 5 years.
  • In Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and North Dakota, a DUI will stay on your record for 7 years.
  • In California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, a DUI will stay on your record for 10 years.
  • In Virginia, a DUI will stay on your record for 11 years.
  • In Iowa and Nebraska, a DUI will stay on your record for 12 years.
  • In New York and Washington, a DUI will stay on your record for 15 years.
  • In New Mexico, a DUI will stay on your record for 55 years.
  • In Florida, a DUI will stay on your record for 75 years.
  • In Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont, a DUI will stay on your record for life!

#6 – Can I Get A DUI Removed from My Record?

Yes, in some states, it is possible to get a DUI expungement to clear your DUI record through a process known as expungement. Requirements vary by state – and you’ll want to consult a lawyer – but there are three main things to consider before proceeding:

  • Your DUI sentence involved probation, not prison.
  • You complied with all probation requirements.
  • You are not part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

#7 – What if I was a sober passenger in a drunk driving accident?

If you were a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver who caused an accident, you have rights. Don’t hesitate to file a claim against their insurance and pursue compensation for your losses. Be completely honest about what happened; if you fumble or attempt to make any excuses for the drunk driver, the insurance company might deny your claim.

The Last Word on Auto Insurance and DUIs

So, does auto insurance cover DUIs?

In summary:

  • will cover any damages you’ve caused to someone else and their property in a drunk driving accident, but only up to your policy’s specified limits. You will be responsible for paying for the remaining damages.
  • Collision coverage might help pay for damages to your own vehicle, up to the policy limits.
  • To avoid paying for damages, insurance companies may sometimes try to apply an intentional acts exclusion and accuse you of making a conscious decision to drive drunk.
  • You may be responsible for paying some or all of the punitive damages, if applicable.
  • A DUI will stay on your record for years and will cause your insurance rates to rise. You might even be dropped.

Play it safe, never drink and drive, and always review your policy carefully.

For more help understanding your car insurance coverage, consult a drunk driving accident attorney.

And if you need to find insurance whether you have a DUI or a clean driving record, enter your ZIP code to compare auto insurance rates near you and find the cheapest rates right now.

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