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Can I change insurers after a DUI?


A

Question: After I got a DUI, I had to get auto insurance with higher limits and file an FR-44. I recently found out that by changing insurers I could pay only $750 a year compared with the $800 every six months that I’m paying now. If I switched companies, would this be considered failure to maintain continuous filing of a FR-44 because I didn’t stay with my current insurance provider for the whole three-year period?  Basically, can you switch car insurance companies without being penalized for doing so?

Answer: Yes, you certainly can change auto insurance companies during the period you’re required to maintain a financial responsibility filing such as an SR-22  or FR-44.

The point of a financial responsibility filing is to ensure that a driver with a major violation on his or her record has continuous insurance coverage in place, not to allow insurance companies to hold you hostage for three years.

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As you have discovered, one insurer may charge hundreds or thousands more a year than others do. Switching may be the only way you can save money until your driving record improves. (See "3 ways to save big money on car insurance")

But you must make certain that you keep continuous coverage on your vehicle to comply with the FR-44 mandate; this means no lapse in coverage, not even for one day, or else you could be penalized by the state.

You must make sure that your new car insurance policy is in effect and that your new insurer has filed your new FR-44 with the state BEFORE canceling out your coverage with your current auto insurance company.

Having a couple of days of overlap where the old policy is still in force and the new policy has started is always a good idea.

Changing insurance carries in this manner will allow you to be certain that the new insurer has started up your policy and sent in all the proper paperwork to the state. Ideally, when when you cancel with your old insurer, the state will see in its system both the cancellation of the one policy and FR-44 and the start of another policy with a new FR-44 -- without there being any type of gap in coverage.

You don’t want to cancel your old policy only to find out the new policy wasn’t really in effect yet. A lapse of coverage could possibly cost you your driving privileges and/or restart your three-year clock on the financial responsibility certificate.

Insurance companies don’t pass moral judgment on you because of your DUI conviction and its consequent FR-44 requirement; they simply look at risk and charge you accordingly. While a DUI can cause your rates to go up substantially, as time goes by and you show yourself to be less of a risk (by keeping a clean record) your auto rates should come back down.

As you found by doing some comparison shopping already, some insurers lower their rates sooner than others after you’ve been convicted of a serious driving offense. And some just don’t rate as high as others for driving under the influence.

Whether you have a DUI, never had a license before or are a great drive with a clean record, it’s worth the time it takes to shop around each renewal period to make sure you are getting the cheapest auto rates.

Finding an auto insurance provider that has competitive pricing for your specific set of risk factors is what will save you money. Don’t be afraid to change out insurance providers -- just do it the right way, so that you have continual coverage and the state won’t have a reason to penalize you.

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