In 1930, the UK government introduced a law that required every person who used a vehicle on the road to have at least third party personal injury insurance. Today UK law is defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988, which was last modified in 1991. The Act requires that motorists either be insured, have a security, or have made a specified deposit (£500,000 as of 1991) with the Accountant General of the Supreme Court, against their liability for injuries to others (including passengers) and for damage to other persons' property resulting from use of a vehicle on a public road or in other public places.
The minimum level of insurance cover commonly available and which satisfies the requirement of the Act is called third party only insurance. The level of cover provided by Third party only insurance is basic but does exceed the requirements of the act.
Road Traffic Act Only Insurance is not the same as Third Party Only Insurance and is not often sold. It provides the very minimum cover to satisfy the requirements of the Act. For example Road Traffic Act Only Insurance has a limit of £1,000,000 for damage to third party property - third party only insurance typically has a greater limit for third party property damage.
It is an offence to drive a car, or allow others to drive it, without at least third party insurance whilst on the public highway (or public place Section 143(1)(a) RTA 1988 as amended 1991); however, no such legislation applies on private land.
Vehicles which are exempted by the act, from the requirement to be covered, include those owned by certain councils and local authorities, national park authorities, education authorities, police authorities, fire authorities, health service bodies and security services.
The insurance certificate or cover note issued by the insurance company constitutes legal evidence that the vehicle specified on the document is insured. The law says that an authorised person, such as the police, may require a driver to produce an insurance certificate for inspection. If the driver cannot show the document immediately on request, and proof of insurance cannot be found by other means such as the Police National Computer, drivers are no longer issued a HORT/1. This was an order with seven days, as of midnight of the date of issue, to take a valid insurance certificate (and usually other driving documents as well) to a police station of the driver's choice. Failure to produce an insurance certificate is an offence. The HORT/1 was commonly known - even by the issuing authorities when dealing with the public - as a "Producer".
Insurance is more expensive in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK.[vague]
Most motorists in the UK are required to prominently display a vehicle licence (tax disc) on their vehicle when it is kept or driven on public roads. This helps to ensure that most people have adequate insurance on their vehicles because an insurance certificate must be produced when a disc is purchased.
The Motor Insurers' Bureau compensates the victims of road accidents caused by uninsured and untraced motorists. It also operates the Motor Insurance Database, which contains details of every insured vehicle in the country.
In the United States, auto insurance covering liability for injuries and property damage done to others is compulsory in most states, though different states enforce the requirement differently. The state of New Hampshire, for example, does not require motorists to carry liability insurance (the ballpark model), while in Virginia residents must pay the state a $500 annual fee per vehicle if they choose not to buy liability insurance. Penalties for not purchasing auto insurance vary by state, but often involve a substantial fine, license and/or registration suspension or revocation, as well as possible jail time. Usually, the minimum required by law is third party insurance to protect third parties against the financial consequences of loss, damage or injury caused by a vehicle.
One common misconception in the United States is that vehicles that are financed on credit through a bank or credit union are required to have "full" coverage in order for the financial institution to cover their losses in the case of an accident. While most states do require additional coverage to be purchased, some such as Pennsylvania only require Comprehensive and Collision to be purchased in addition to liability and not "full" coverage. Vehicles bought on cash or have been paid off by the owner are generally required to only carry liability. In some cases, vehicles financed through a "buy-here-pay-here" car dealership--in which the consumer (generally those with poor credit) finances a car and pays the dealer directly without a bank--also only require liability coverage.
Several states, like California and New Jersey, have enacted "Personal Responsibility Acts" which put further pressure on all drivers to carry liability insurance by preventing uninsured drivers from recovering noneconomic damages (e.g. compensation for "pain and suffering") if they are injured in any way while operating a motor vehicle.
Some states, such as North Carolina, require that a driver hold liability insurance before a license can be issued.
Some states require that insurance be carried in the car at all times, while others do not enforce this law. For example, North Carolina does not specify that you must carry proof of insurance in the vehicle; however, NC does state that you must have that information to trade with another driver in the event of an accident. Whether a state specifies you must have proof of insurance in the car or not, it's always advisable to have the information on hand in case an officer should request it.
Arizona Department of Transportation Research Project Manager John Semmens has recommended that car insurers issue license plates, and that they be held responsible for the full cost of injuries and property damages caused by their licensees under the Disneyland model. Plates would expire at the end of the insurance coverage period, and licensees would need to return their plates to their insurance office to receive a refund on their premiums. Vehicles driving without insurance would thus be easy to spot because they would not have license plates, or the plates would be past the marked expiration date.