How to find out if someone has auto insurance coverage

How can you find out if someone has car insurance? There are several methods. Of course, the simplest way is simply to ask another person for that information to prove they have valid insurance coverage. 

However, some situations can be more difficult. Perhaps the other driver refuses to exchange information. Or, a driver hits your car and leaves the scene of the accident.

In such cases, you still might be able to find out the other driver’s auto insurance status even if the person doesn't offer the information. For example, if you fill out an accident report with the police, the police may track down the insurance information.

It's also possible that your state's department of motor vehicles could provide the details, especially if you can provide the DMV with a police report that indicates why you need the information.

"You should also alert your own insurance company about the crash," says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

In fact, your own insurer is a great resource for helping you to track down insurance information about the other driver.

What car insurance information do you need to know?

Regardless of who you think is at fault, it's important to get the other driver's insurance and other details at the scene of an accident,

Auto insurance-related information you should seek from the crash scene includes:

  • The driver's name. Make sure you get the name as it appears on the policy. If the driver isn’t the person listed on the insurance policy, make sure you also get the name of the person on the policy.
  • The driver's insurance company. Your insurance company will need the name of the other driver's insurance provider and policy number.
  • The other party's driver's license number and the vehicle's license plate number.
  • The make, color and model of vehicle.

Completing a few other tasks before you leave the accident scene is also helpful to the claims process, Walker says.

"Take photographs, make notes and even interview any potential witnesses," she says.

What to do if the other driver doesn't have car insurance

In nearly every state, drivers must carry at least a minimum level of liability car insurance coverage. Unfortunately, some drivers ignore these liability insurance laws and drive without insurance.

In fact, nearly 13% of U.S. drivers are, according to the Insurance Information Institute's most recent data.

If an uninsured driver crashes into and damages your car, you still might be able to get your insurer to cover the damages. For example, if you have collision coverage -- which is optional -- it should cover damages to your car, minus your deductible.

Getting reimbursed for injuries is trickier when the at fault driver is uninsured, but it’s possible if you have the right coverage.

"If the other driver is at fault and doesn't have insurance, you can file a claim under uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your own policy," Walker says.

Uninsured and underinsured coverage reimburses you for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It also may reimburse you for property damage, including the damage to your car, if your coverage includes uninsured motorist property damage insurance, which isn’t available in all states.

However, Walker notes that not everybody has uninsured/underinsured coverage, as it is optional in most places across the country. Currently, just 20 states and the District of Columbia require drivers to purchase at least a minimum level of this type of coverage.

So, if you don't have collision or uninsured/underinsured coverage, you might have to pay for damages out of pocket. You could consider suing the other driver, but legal experts say this isn’t always successful.

Even if you win, uninsured drivers frequently don’t have the assets to cover your claims.

What to do to get another driver's insurance information after a hit-and-run

Drivers who hit your car and then flee the scene of the accident -- a hit-and-run accident -- are taking an enormous risk. In many places, they can be charged with a misdemeanor. If someone is injured in the accident, they could face felony charges.

Nonetheless, hit-and-run accidents still occur. That makes it difficult to find the other driver's insurance information.

If you’re involved in a hit-and-run, auto insurance experts generally advise against pursuing the other driver. Instead, stay at the accident scene and look for witnesses. Try to find one who may have noticed and recorded the driver's license plate number, and the make, model and color of the car.

Call police immediately and file a report, which may help in tracking down the driver.

If you have collision or uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company might still reimburse you for damages. However, remember that if you can’t locate the other driver or his or her insurance information, insurance companies may charge you the deductible on your own policy when making a claim.

What information is needed in a crash report?

When you file a crash report, the police will ask for specific details. The exact nature of the information you will need may vary, but, in general, police will want:

  • Details about the crash, including who was involved and a description of the vehicles that crashed
  • Statements from the drivers involved and any passengers or witnesses
  • A diagram that shows where the accident happened and where the vehicles collided

In addition, the police officer might add his or her comments about what happened to the report.

Auto insurance FAQs

Which auto insurance covers hit-and-runs?

Unless you can track down the driver in a hit-and-run, you will need coverage from your own policy to reimburse you for damages incurred in the accident. Typically, collision insurance and uninsured motorist coverage are the best bets for covering these types of crashes.

Can you get someone's insurance information from their license plate?

Yes, you can check car insurance by license plate. In fact, this is one of the most crucial pieces of information you can have when trying to track down a driver's insurance.

"The license plate number should help track down the individual and ultimately establish whether the other driver has insurance," Walker says.

How do you get someone's insurance information after an accident without going through the police?

The easiest way to get someone's insurance information after an accident is simply to request it from the driver involved in the wreck. In most cases, the driver will grant the request.

However, there may be cases where drivers refuse to divulge the information. In such situations, knowing the driver's license plate information is a good way to track down insurance coverage information. For example, inquiring with your state's department of motor vehicles may be one way to access this information.

How do you check if your insurance is active?

Wondering how to check if your insurance is active? Doing so is easy. Pull up your policy online -- or look at a paper copy of your insurance policy or most recent renewal notice. The policy will tell you when the policy expires. 

The card you carry that shows your proof of insurance also should list when the policy expires. Or, if you prefer, simply call your insurer and ask a representative to tell you whether the policy is still active and how long it will remain in effect.

Do you have to provide proof of insurance after an accident?

You must be able to provide proof of insurance at all times when you’re driving. You might get a ticket if a police officer asks to see proof of insurance and you can’t offer it.

In most cases, getting such a ticket won’t impact your car insurance rates. But in other situations, your rates may rise, at least a little.

Of course, if you can’t show proof of insurance because you haven’t purchased insurance, the consequences can be much more serious.

What should I do if the DMV can't provide me with the other driver's auto insurance information?

If your department of motor vehicles can’t help you locate such information, you still have options. For example, the police report associated with the accident should have this information. You can also turn to your insurance company for help in getting these details.

Should I always keep my proof of insurance card with me?

Yes, it is important to carry your card with you whenever you drive your car. Some states also allow you to offer this information to the police via your smartphone.

If you can’t provide proof of insurance to a police officer when the information is requested, you may end up with a ticket and a fine.