SR-22 Car Insurance Guide
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UPDATED: Mar 17, 2021
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Purchasing auto insurance comes with a variety of unique factors and requirements based on who is buying the coverage, the state where the policy is being issued and the company selling the policy.
Sometimes, state authorities demand that individuals take out a minimum amount of coverage and file documentation to affirm they have a policy. This is based on past incidents in drivers’ histories, and the process is commonly referred to by the name of the form used in most states: SR-22.
Table of Contents:
What Is SR-22 Insurance?
Technically speaking, SR-22 insurance is a slight misnomer. Instead of being a form of insurance, SR-22 is the documented proof of insurance provided by drivers to show they are complying with in-state requirements that they purchase coverage. The document is also called a Certificate of Fiscal Responsibility.
Instead of filing SR-22 forms directly, car owners work with their insurance agents to handle this task. The insurance agency plays a pivotal role in the SR-22 process because, in the case of noncompliance, it is the insurer that alerts the state that the driver’s coverage has lapsed.
How Does SR-22 Insurance Work?
SR-22 requirements vary on a state-by-state basis. Furthermore, each insurance provider will have its own stance on the type of high-risk policy that comes with an SR-22 form. Drivers will find that some companies do not work with high-risk clients, a group that includes individuals who have the types of issues on their records requiring them to file an SR-22 form.
Dealing with SR-22 insurance, and high-risk coverage in general, adds some complexity to the insurance purchasing process.
How Long Do You Need SR-22 Insurance?
Fortunately, for drivers who keep a clean driving record after the incident that forced them into these circumstances, the requirements are not permanent.
The length of time for which drivers must file a Certificate of Fiscal Responsibility will differ from state to state, and the minimum duration tends to be three years.
While the insurer is the entity that sends the SR-22 to the state, the driver is the person responsible for ensuring he or she has adequate coverage to meet requirements. If you are such a motorist, you should speak to your insurance agent often about SR-22 requirements to ensure all relevant rules are being obeyed.
Falling out of compliance with state laws could result in a license suspension, which means you’ll need to continuously have coverage for the whole required duration.
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Who Needs To Have SR-22 Insurance?
The violations that force drivers to file a Certificate of Fiscal Responsibility differ from state to state, meaning it is always relevant to check with insurance agents when seeking out coverage following a serious incident. With that said, there are types of violations that generally do require an SR-22 form.
These break down into a few categories:
Drivers With DUI Penalties
DUI arrests are some of the most serious moving violations drivers can commit. In addition to license suspensions and consequences such as fines or imprisonment, DUI convictions can trigger SR-22 requirements.
While DUI penalties tend to escalate severely based on whether the offense was a first or repeat incident, SR-22 filing may be required no matter how many times an individual has been found to be operating under the influence.
For example, New Hampshire’s SR-22 requirements specify that Certificates of Fiscal Responsibility are required for first, second, and subsequent (or any aggravated) instances of driving while intoxicated. Underage intoxicated driving in the state is treated as a separate legal area, and also requires SR-22 filing in all cases.
Repeat Traffic Violators
While one moving violation such as a missed red light or incidence of speeding may not be enough of an offense to trigger SR-22 requirements, these incidents can add up.
A driver who commits several smaller infractions in a short period of time may be treated as a more serious offender when it comes to enforcement, and this can include Certificate of Fiscal Responsibility requirements.
Driving Without Insurance
If law enforcement personnel investigate a crash and find out that one of the involved drivers did not have any auto insurance at all, that individual may be instructed to file SR-22 forms in the future.
As the Insurance Information Institute explained, nearly all states and territories require at least some auto insurance for every driver. Driving with no coverage makes it harder to cover repair, medical, and liability costs when the driver is found to be at fault in an accident.
SR-22 filing will, therefore, make sure these drivers do not lapse back into noncompliance by keeping a much closer watch on their insurance status in the future.
Applying for License Reinstatement
Some states employ point systems around driver’s licenses in which a certain number of violations – potentially including the previously listed issues – may lead to cancellation or suspension of a person’s license.
When reapplying to have the license reinstated, or attending a hearing to request that the license not be suspended, a driver could be ordered by the court to file form SR-22 for the next few years to demonstrate good behavior and retain the license.
What Are The Fees Associated With SR-22 Insurance?
The costs and expenses associated with SR-22 filing are not typically very high – but that does not mean drivers are off the hook financially. This dichotomy is due to the fact that the direct fee to file SR-22 is low, yet there are other monetary burdens that come from the circumstances in which such coverage is needed. The fallout from a serious traffic violation can be long-lasting and include serious financial burdens.
Each time a policy that requires an SR-22 is renewed, the insurance provider files the form with the state government. That’s when the state charges a small document processing fee. This is typically under $50 and can be as low as $15. Drivers who keep up with their renewals and don’t re-offend won’t have to pay more than this in processing.
How Much Does SR-22 Insurance Cost?
The true cost of SR-22 insurance comes from the fact that the only policies available to individuals who have been convicted of serious vehicular offenses are high-risk offerings, and the costs associated with this insurance is typically more expensive than policies for drivers with clean records.
Some insurers, through combinations of discounts, can still offer manageable rates to drivers who have been rated as high-risk.
Factors aside from previous history and risk status determine insurance costs. Drivers who end up facing additional costs after they are required to file Certificate of Fiscal Responsibility can shop around for different providers to find a combination of pricing and coverage that will keep them on the road.
Years of good driving, with no future violations, can help costs come down again as insurers may offer discounts for individuals who spend years with no claims or other incidents. These accident-free years may also bring drivers to the end of their SR-22 requirements.
What About FR-44?
In some states, the practices around filing a Certificate of Fiscal Responsibility differ from the widely held standard involving form SR-22.
In these states, Florida and Virginia, there is a level above SR-22 for drivers who have been found guilty of more severe offenses on the roads.
For these individuals, the document in question is FR-44.
Difference Between SR-22 & FR-44
The main difference between SR-22 and FR-44 is that the requirements attached to the FR-44 are more stringent.
Despite its status as an extra document to file, SR-22 does not fundamentally alter the minimum required insurance coverage in a particular state. The document simply attests that a person has indeed acquired insurance and sets up a system to detect and punish incidences of lapsed policies or noncompliance.
FR-44 goes further in its requirements for drivers. The FR-44 numbers are higher for various types of coverage to ensure that high-risk drivers are not just insured against various types of liability, but also that they can make sizable payments if an accident occurs.
In other ways, FR-44 is the same type of document as SR-22, with the insurance agent filing the paperwork with the state and the driver being responsible for ensuring all requirements are being met for the whole required term.
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How To Find The Best SR-22 Insurance Provider
There are several important tricks associated with finding the right auto insurance provider, and those general ideas still hold true if a driver has been found guilty of a serious violation and is required to submit a Certificate of Fiscal Responsibility.
After all, these certificates typically attest to the fact that the motorist is meeting insurance minimums – which they would be obliged to meet in all cases.
Dan Olson, a licensed agent, and owner of the website Insurance Dodo says, ‘If you had a DUI and it is over 3 years old, save money on your SR22 by checking out Progressive Insurance, they only look back 3 years, whereas everyone else goes back 10 years on your driver record.’
The following are a few valuable tips about picking a suitable insurer, with added considerations for drivers who have to file SR-22.
Determine If The Insurer Covers High-Risk Drivers
Some insurers don’t handle the kinds of cases in which drivers have been convicted of serious traffic offenses, while others may have prices that are prohibitively high for these drivers.
The fundamental rule of intelligent insurance shopping is that buyers shouldn’t only inspect one company, and this applies doubly when the driver in question has to meet Certificate of Fiscal Responsibility requirements. The differences between providers can be large when factors such as driver risk and legal obligations enter the picture.
Ask About Potential Discount Programs
While the costs associated with SR-22 insurance can stack up, as discussed above, there is still the potential to save money through discounts.
Some large auto insurers may bundle their products, offering significant savings to individuals who buy both their home coverage and auto plan through the same company, while others may include life policies in their bundles.
Shoppers should also inquire about discounts that come into effect over time, due to long periods without claims, a good driving record or simply loyalty to the insurer over the course of years. Asking potential insurers for the full list of savings opportunities may reveal unexpected ways to offset the costs of high-risk policies.
Seek Out Good Customer Service
Insurers that have positive reputations with industry bodies such as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and their local Better Business Bureaus may be drivers’ best bet as reliable providers of auto coverage. These are typically longstanding industry stalwarts, companies that have proven their reliability and ability to answer customer questions.
The customer feedback filed with the NAIC and BBB may be just as important as the official ratings, if not more so, because the reviews reflect actual recent experiences.
Finding a company that provides excellent, responsive service may prove especially critical in the case of SR-22 insurance due to the fact that the insurer has extra responsibilities. While it’s the consumer that has to keep track of SR-22 compliance, the company is actually in charge of filing the documents and providing essential information.
A reliable insurance provider can help a driver get through the years-long legal requirements relatively painlessly.
Focus On Financial Strength & Reliability
One of the main priorities any insurance buyer should have when selecting a provider is finding a company that will hold up financially, staying solvent for years to come and reliably paying claims.
The safest way to measure this capability is to study an insurer’s financial ratings from various industry observers, such as AM Best, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. Companies that offer good rates to drivers with high risk profiles may seem appealing at first, but if they don’t have financial stability, they may still fall short when it counts and a driver has to make a claim.
What Should You Do If You Need SR-22 Insurance?
Having to file SR-22 in the wake of an incident on the road can seem like just another headache, but the whole process can be relatively simple.
Ideally, motorists won’t have to familiarize themselves with SR-22, FR-44 and the related legal frameworks.
If they do, however, keeping calm and focusing on the aforementioned factors can guide them to an ideal auto insurance match.