An interesting situation arises when a person is driving without insurance (a mistake, and in Rhode Island, illegal) and gets into a car accident, but is not at fault for the accident. For example, you are driving an uninsured vehicle but are rear-ended by another driver while you are waiting at a red light. Who is at fault in this situation?
I receive a lot of questions about this scenario and I can see why it might be confusing. It could be argued that it is negligent to drive a car without insurance. It can also be argued that since driving without insurance is a violation of Rhode Island law, the driver should not have been on the road when the accident occurred. While these are both valid points, they actually have no bearing on determining auto accident liability.
A lack of insurance, or license and registration for that matter, is not enough to impose liability for an auto accident on a person. The rules of the road still apply and are the only factors considered in determining who is at fault for the accident. In the example above of a rear-end accident, you would hold 0% liability for the accident. An uninsured driver is still entitled to damages for the property damage done to their car, and if injured, can make a bodily injury claim for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
While violating State law in such a way will not negatively impact your rights to damages, you are still subject to Rhode Island law. This is a very important distinction that you must understand. You may still be cited for lack of insurance at the scene or in some cases you will receive the citation by mail shortly after the accident. This citation includes a $500 fine. If you are driving without a license or on a suspended license, this is a misdemeanor and you may be arrested for this offense.
In summary, you can not escape the consequences of Rhode Island law if you are driving a vehicle in an accident without insurance, but it will not effect your rights to recover damages while making an insurance claim. You do not need to be afraid to report your damages to the insurance company because you were driving uninsured at the time of the collision.