If you are convicted of DUI your insurance company will likely raise your premium. Normally the increased rate lasts three years. However, the way DUI affects insurance is complicated, and it won’t always affect your rates. Here is our complete guide and advice on how to keep your rates down.
When Does a DUI Affect Insurance?
It’s illegal for insurance companies to adjust your policy “mid-term,” or before it comes up for renewal. So if you get a DUI and you still have 11 months left on your policy, your rate is fixed for those 11 months. The only exception is if you apply for new coverage. Then they’re free to quote the new price at a higher rate. Thus, if at all possible it’s best not to apply for new coverage until your current policy expires.
Once the policy is up for renewal, they may raise your rates. Besides your DUI, they’ll also consider your age, gender, marital status, driving history and other factors. In most cases, the rates will go up—often 20 to 30%
But that’s only true if your insurance company knows about the DUI charge.
Do You Have to Tell Your Insurance Company about Your DUI?
Depending on the circumstances, you may or may not have to tell your insurance company about your DUI. If you need a form called an SR-22 (covered below), you will have to tell them. Otherwise you don’t. Don’t divulge your DUI to your insurer unless you are required to do so.
If you don’t tell your insurance company, the only way they can find out is by checking your DMV record. They have a right to do this and will usually do it each time your policy is up for renewal. It’s also part of the process for applying for new insurance. Your DUI adds two “points” to your driving record and will show up for 10 years. At any time during this 10 year period, your insurer can find out about the charge and raise your rates for three years. That means your rate hike could come many years after the arrest.
The same window applies to a “wet” reckless driving charge, dry reckless driving, and an “exhibition of speed” charge. Even though these offenses are not DUIs, they carry just as much weight on your DMV record and will affect your insurance the same way.
Besides any actual rate hike, you will not qualify for good driver discounts during the entire 10 years the DUI is on your record.
After the 10 year period the DUI vanishes from your driving record and cannot influence your insurance.
The SR-22 Form
The SR-22 is a special proof of insurance form. You may be required to get one in order to reinstate your driver’s license after it was suspended—but it depends on how it was suspended.
Remember that the DMV normally suspends any driver’s license 30 days after they’re arrested for DUI. This is the administrative or “per se” suspension that happens even before your court trial. If this is how your license was suspended, you will need a form SR-22 to get it back.
However, you can fight the per se suspension if you act fast. You must request a hearing with the DMV within 10 days of your arrest. If you do this, you may be able to avoid administrative suspension and never need an SR-22. To maximize your chances we strongly recommend you have a lawyer represent you at your hearing.
If you do need an SR-22, there’s no way to avoid it: you have to tell your insurance company about your DUI. An SR-22 serves as proof that you meet the minimum insurance requirements for high risk drivers. You can simply call up your insurance company and request it, but they will ask for details as part of the application process.
Being categorized as “high risk” may itself mean an insurance rate hike, up to $800 more per year.
Note that not all insurers offer SR-22 forms or high risk coverage. If that’s the case, your insurer will cancel your policy when you make the request. (If you have a hard time getting insurance you can find it through CAARP.)
How to Prevent Insurance Increases
There are several ways to prevent or minimize insurance increases due to DUI. These include:
- Fight the administrative suspension. Get a lawyer and request a DMV hearing ASAP—within the first 10 days of being arrested. This could help you avoid the need for an SR-22 and keep your rates from changing.
- Do not tell your insurance company about your DUI unless you have to.
- Don’t apply for new coverage with your insurance company until your plan is up for renewal. This decreases the chance they’ll run a background check.
- If your insurer does raise your rates, or you need an SR-22, shop around for the best rates. Some insurers may still offer you a better deal.
Of course, the best way to avoid the insurance increase is to not be convicted of DUI at all. The best way to do that is to get a good DUI lawyer. Let us match you with a Los Angeles DUI attorney who offers a FREE, no obligation consultation. Fill out the form to your right and get your consultation now.