If you use a motor vehicle, or cause or permit a motor vehicle to be used, in a public place without requisite motor insurance, you will be guilty of a serious motoring offence. The potential penalties reflect the gravity of the offence.
Minimum insurance required
At a minimum, you are required to maintain third party liability insurance for your vehicle. That means that if you have an accident involving an injury to another person or damage to someone else’s vehicle or other property, your insurance will cover any liability that you have for the injury or damage.
Beyond the minimum, you can take out fire and theft insurance (which covers your vehicle against those risks) and comprehensive cover, which usually will include cover for injury and damages you sustain in an accident.
A motor insurance broker can advise you as to the variety of motor insurance products available, and the way that the cost of insurance for your vehicle can vary depending on factors such as your driving record, the amount of any excess and the limit on cover.
Penalties for driving without insurance
If you are found to be driving without insurance, you may receive a Fixed Penalty Notice, which will offer a fine of £300 and 6 penalty points endorsed on your driving licence. The maximum penalties, however, are a £5,000 fine and 8 penalty points. You can also be disqualified from driving for a period set by the court.
If you do not accept the penalties offered in a Fixed Penalty Notice, you could potentially be liable to greater penalties (if in fact you have committed the offence and if there are no mitigating factors).
In addition, the police have the power to impound an uninsured vehicle. If they do so, they will release it to you only after you have paid any fine levied on you and obtained insurance. The police can have your vehicle destroyed if you do not reclaim it within a specified time.
What if it’s your vehicle, but you were not driving?
The owner of a vehicle can be liable for permitting it to be used without insurance. So if, for example, you allow a friend to borrow your car, you need to be absolutely certain that he is insured. Many insurers will issue short-term policies for circumstances where, say, a visiting friend or relative is going to use your car for a few days.
You should note that permitting a vehicle to be used without insurance is a strict liability offence. The fact that you thought a friend had valid insurance when he borrowed your car will not be a defence if it turns out that he was not insured.
You are stopped, but do not have your insurance certificate with you
Although it is good practice to keep your insurance certificate (together with your vehicle registration) in your car at all times, you have 7 days to produce a certificate of insurance if you are stopped and do not have it with you. The insurance must, however, have been valid at the time you were stopped.