Almost every state requires drivers to carry some form of automotive insurance, not just to protect their own financial interests but also to ensure that they will be able to cover other people’s medical expenses and pay for property damage should they cause accidents. Coverage requirements vary by state, as do insurance prices. There’s one thing that all states have in common, though, and it’s that they require certain drivers to carry SR-22 endorsements.
What Is an SR-22?
Most people think of SR-22 as a kind of insurance, but that’s not quite right. An SR-22 is actually an endorsement required by a driver’s state of residence or a court order. It can be thought of as a certificate of responsibility that serves as proof that the driver’s insurance policy meets the increased minimum standards for liability coverage required by law following certain driving violations.
How to File an SR-22
Not all insurance policies are eligible for SR-22 endorsements, and not all insurance carriers offer them, at all. Drivers who already have policies that meet their states’ minimum requirements for high-risk drivers can call their insurance companies to request an endorsement. The company will then add coverage as required to the driver’s existing policy and file the SR-22 form with the state.
If a driver’s current auto insurance doesn’t meet state requirements for minimum coverage, they’ll need to purchase a new policy. Because an SR-22 roughly doubles a driver’s minimum coverage requirements compared to the state standards, finding affordable coverage can be challenging. It’s best for drivers to let insurance companies know from the beginning that they will need SR-22 endorsements.
What to Expect in Terms of Policy Premium Changes
Most drivers’ monthly payments will go up when they are required to file SR-22s. On average, they can expect to pay around twice as much for a policy with an SR-22 endorsement as they would for ordinary car insurance. The reason these policies cost so much is that they are reserved for high-risk drivers that are more likely than average to wind up filing insurance claims. As a result, insurance companies must charge more in policy premiums to cover their own costs.
While SR-22 endorsements almost always increase the cost of automotive insurance, it’s still worth shopping around to see if some companies offer lower rates. Drivers who are upset about having to pay extra to regain their right to drive should also consider the fact that SR-22 endorsements are designed to get them back on the road sooner, providing a means of building a better driving history moving forward.
Who Needs to File an SR-22?
Regulations regarding who needs to carry SR-22 insurance vary by state, but this endorsement is always reserved for drivers convicted of serious driving-related offenses. They can include:
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is always illegal and will almost certainly get the person’s license suspended or revoked. SR-22 insurance endorsements are usually required following the reinstatement of a driver’s license following a DUI. In California, a driver convicted of a DUI must maintain SR-22 coverage for three years.
Driving Without Insurance
There is a federal law in place prohibiting driving without insurance, and all states except for New Hampshire and Virginia require coverage. Even in these states, drivers convicted of serious traffic-related crimes must carry additional coverage. New Hampshire follows the normal SR-22 system, while Virginia requires FR-44 forms that have even stricter requirements.
Getting Into an Accident While Uninsured
Drivers who get into accidents without insurance are still fully responsible for paying the cost of damages. Even if the other party has non-insured driver insurance, the insurance company will almost always sue to recover losses. Either way, the uninsured driver will typically lose their license and need to file an SR-22 upon getting it reinstated.
Reckless driving is a serious charge. While first-time offenders may wind up facing only fines, drivers who face a second reckless driving charge often have their licenses suspended and must file SR-22s to get them back.
SR-22s and Hardship Licenses
Hardship licenses are restricted driving permits that may be issued to a driver whose license has been suspended. They are typically issued when drivers need to be able to get to work, attend school, or care for children, and can only be used for day-to-day necessities under specific circumstances. Hardship licenses always require drivers to file SR-22 forms.
How to Find the Right Policy
Drivers who are court- or state-ordered to obtain an SR-22 endorsement shouldn’t be looking for loopholes. Instead, they need to start thinking about how to find affordable policies that actually meet not just state minimum requirements but also their needs.