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Sometimes accidents happen.
If you’ve gotten one too many driving tickets — or even a DUI — you’ll have to get paperwork filled out to keep or reclaim your driver’s license.
An SR-22 form from your auto insurance company will prove to your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) or transportation agency that you have enough car insurance to drive safely.
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is an SR-22?
Contrary to popular belief, an SR-22 is not a type of insurance. It’s actually a form that you’ll be required to fill out for drivers who are considered high risk. An SR-22 is “a filing provided by the insurance company to your state DMV, which ensures you meet minimum liability requirements,” says Leslie Kasperowicz, former insurance agent and current managing editor at 360 Quote, which represents experts in finance and insurance.
All states require a minimum amount of liability insurance, which covers injuries and property damage from any accidents you might cause. Also called a certificate of financial responsibility, an SR-22 assures the DMV that the driver has enough insurance. “For a major violation like a DUI or driving without insurance, you need to file one to reinstate a suspended license” or keep your current one, says Kasperowicz.
Who Needs an SR-22?
If you need an SR-22 form, your state DMV will tell you. Generally, you’ll need an SR-22 form in the following circumstances:
- You’ve been convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI)
- You were in an accident you caused, while driving without insurance
- You drove while your license was suspended or revoked
- You’ve gotten too many driving tickets in a short period of time
- You didn’t pay court-ordered child support
Keep in mind that not all states require an SR-22, and some require an FR-22 (a similar form requiring you to carry more liability coverage than the state minimum) for certain offenses.
Even if you no longer have a car, your state may require you to file an SR-22 and have an auto insurance policy. Some insurance companies offer non-owner insurance policies to those who require an SR-22.
How to Get an SR-22
Most major insurance companies are able to provide an SR-22 form to your state’s DMV office. But it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll give it to you. Offenses that would require you to file an SR-22 are “part of their rating factors, but some may be more hesitant because they don’t want to give you too high of a rate, or you may represent a higher risk than rating policies like,” says Rick Chen, spokesperson for Metromile, a car insurance company. In that case, Kasperowicz says you may need a high-risk insurance company that specializes in insuring drivers who have serious offenses on their record.
Anyone who needs an SR-22 form will be notified by their state DMV. When applying for car insurance, the form will typically ask if you require an SR-22 or a certificate of financial responsibility. There’s no penalty to needing an SR-22; your rate may be higher or your chance of approval may be lower — but that’s because of the driving offense and not because you need the form. “If you check yes [for an SR-22], that helps the insurer,” Chen says.
The certificate typically states your name, your vehicle information, your state’s minimum liability requirements, and your insurer. Because it’s passed from the insurance company to the DMV, it’s not a physical certificate you receive.
The DMV will likely require an SR-22 for three years. “You’ll need to file that every year when it needs to be renewed,” Kasperowicz says. Make sure you have insurance the entire time an SR-22 is needed. Your insurance company is required to report you to the DMV if your policy lapses while under the SR-22 requirement. Your license would then be suspended.
How Much Does an SR-22 Cost?
The cost of an SR-22 will differ by state, but you’d typically be charged $25 by your state DMV. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll likely have to pay higher insurance premiums because you have a major offense on your record.
What to Do When Your SR-22 Ends
So you’ve been driving safely and paying your insurance premiums on time for three years (or whatever the SR-22 period is for your state). “When you fulfill the time requirement, your SR-22 status is lifted,” Chen says. From here, you can let your auto insurer know the SR-22 form isn’t required, because otherwise they’ll continue sending it to the DMV.
After the requirement is lifted, you may want to start shopping around for a cheaper insurance policy. Many insurance companies will cut you a better deal after you’ve demonstrated a good driving history three to five years after the offense.