If you earn too many driver's license points for moving violations or you're convicted of a major driving infraction, your license could be suspended temporarily or revoked. While states have processes for reinstating a driver's license following a suspension or revocation, getting car insurance can prove difficult. You may be required to obtain an SR-22 certificate as proof of insurance coverage before you can get back on the road. 

Key Takeaways

  • Though sometimes referred to as "insurance," an SR-22 is simply a certificate showing that you have an adequate amount of liability coverage on your auto insurance policy. 
  • Some, but not all, states require you to obtain an SR-22 if your driver's license has been revoked or suspended and you want to drive again.
  • You may need to have an SR-22 on file for one to five years, depending on the state. 

What Is SR-22 'Insurance'?

An SR-22 is a document that shows proof of financial responsibility in case you're involved in a car accident. It's technically not a form of insurance, though it is sometimes referred to as such. Instead, it simply indicates that you have purchased liability insurance coverage that meets the minimum requirements in your state. In Florida and Virginia, a similar form is called an FR-44.

Every state, except for New Hampshire, requires drivers to have liability coverage. That includes bodily injury liability coverage, which pays for injuries you cause to someone else if you're at fault in an accident. It also includes property damage liability coverage, which pays for repairs to someone else's vehicle or other property if you're at fault in an accident. The minimum coverage limits for bodily injury liability and property damage liability vary by state. 

An SR-22 certificate is posted to your driving record once you obtain it. It will stay on your record for as long as you're required to have the certificate in place. You may be required to submit an SR-22 certificate to your state's insurance or motor vehicle department as a condition of having a suspended or revoked driver's license reinstated. You'll also have to pay any applicable fees to your state. 

Who Needs an SR-22 Certificate?

The rules for when an SR-22 is needed vary by state, and not all states require drivers to have one. 

In Texas, for example, drivers are required to file an SR-22 with the state department of insurance if their license was suspended because of a car crash, they've received a second or subsequent conviction for not having liability insurance, or a civil judgment has been filed against them. The state of Washington requires SR-22s for people who have been convicted of or forfeited bail for certain offenses, failed to pay judgments, or have driven or owned a vehicle involved in an accident.

Again, not everyone needs an SR-22. But generally, you may be required to have one if you:

  • Are caught driving without a license or insurance
  • Have a driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction
  • Have a license suspended due to excessive accidents or moving violations
  • Owe outstanding court-ordered child support payments
  • Incur multiple repeat driving offenses in a short time frame
  • Are applying for a hardship or probationary driving permit

Keep in mind that you may be required to have an SR-22 on file in the state you're licensed in even if you live and drive in another state. You may not be able to get a license issued by another state that you live in temporarily without showing proof of SR-22 coverage from your home state.

Important

If you allow your SR-22 certificate to lapse, your driver's license could be suspended. Some states require insurance companies to notify them when an SR-22 lapses or is canceled.

How Long Do You Need an SR-22 Certificate?

The length of time you need to maintain an SR-22 certificate will also depend on your state's requirements. In some states, for example, you may be able to cancel it in as little as one year after your license is reinstated. Or you may need to keep it for up to five years. Washington state splits the difference and sets its requirement at three years.

If you need an SR-22, it's important to know when the clock starts ticking. For example, the window of time you're required to have the certificate may begin on the date your license was initially suspended. Or it may not begin until the date you're eligible to reinstate your license, as is the case in Washington.

How and Where to Get an SR-22 Certificate

You can't get an SR-22 certificate without first having a regular car insurance policy. That policy has to include the at least minimum amount of liability coverage required in your state. For example, you may need to have at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident, and $25,000 in property damage liability coverage.

Other types of coverage, such as collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, or underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, may be optional, again depending on your state. But purchasing additional coverage can offer more financial protection if you're involved in an accident.

Many insurers offer SR-22 certificates. The cost of the certificate itself is nominal, possibly no more than a filing fee of $25 or so. However, your car insurance policy is likely to be considerably more expensive than you were paying before you were required to get the SR-22. That's because the insurance company considers you a higher risk.

If you're buying a new car insurance policy, you may be able to save money by shopping around. Tell the insurer upfront that you need an SR-22, just to be sure the company offers them.

Once you have an SR-22 certificate, the insurance company will file it with the state on your behalf. At this point, you should be able to get a suspended or revoked license reinstated, assuming you've met any other conditions set by your state.