What Is SR22 Insurance And Why Do I Need It?

SR22 is a form of insurance that proves or guarantees financial responsibility and this comes about by having had a license suspension or revocation imposed by the DoL. The most common method of a license suspension that triggers SR22 is a DUI arrest and the DoL action that follows.

It is a common misconception of many that once arrest arrested for DUI you immediately suffer a license suspension or revocation. There can be no immediate suspension/revocation by the DoL. A driver's license is your property; it is yours, given to you by the DoL as a privilege, and if they ever want to deprive you, or any driver of the property interest in the form of a drivers' license suspension they must provide notice and then opportunity to be heard; usually in the form of a hearing. It is only after a license has been suspended, by an order of the DoL for a period of 30 days or more, that SR22 financial responsibility it required. 

After a suspension/revocation the DoL has deemed the driver to be a "high risk" driver because of the suspension. This is a unique status because the DoL is the agency that "pulls the strings" to create the order in the first place, but that is another chapter. Once deemed a high risk driver, DoL requires proof of extra insurance, or sometimes called proof of Financial Responsibility because of this high risk status of the driver. This proof can come in 2 forms, but regardless of the form, its been deemed SR22.  As a result, the need for SR22 or Financial Responsibility are one and the same. 

Once filed, the agency who provides the insurance files the certificate directly with the DoL and the financial restriction is placed on a driver's abstract. This requirement last for 3 years. During this time, even if the driver is validly licensed, and has paid for the SR22, if there is ever a missed payment or sometimes just a glitch where the renewal not filed by the company, the DoL will suspend the persons license until the certificate is re-purchased or the glitch is fixed. There is rarely notice to the driver in this instance.  

Despite the need for the DoL to provide notice and opportunity to be heard, they do not always do so when this scenario happens. Also, when the DoL does provide notice it only has to be the last known address of the driver and thus the responsibility to make sure the DoL has current and correct information is the drivers.

So the bottom line is that SR22 is simply proof you have a way to pay for any damages you may cause while driving. This regardless of the fact you pay for regualr insurance. While a DUI arrest is the most common method for triggering the need, here is a full list of all the ways a license can be suspended/revoked and the corresponding SR22 need.

How does a driver get the proof of Financial Responsibility? There are two methods of acceptable proof.

1. You can apply to the DoL for a certificate of deposit.

A Certificate of deposit is for at least $60,000 and this is issued by the State Treasurer. This is done by:

  • Submitting an application (Financial Responsibility Application) and Affidavit form found on the DoL website to the DoL after filling it out.
  • Once received, the DoL will determine if you qualify.
  • Once qualified, the DoL will mail or email a request that either you, or your financial institution, or your securities firm submit more information within 30 days:
    1. Assignment of Monies or Securities for Financial Responsibility; and;
    2. Financial statements.
  • If the DoL fails to receive the documents within 30 days, you will be sent a denial letter.
  • Once documents are received next is proof of payment.  The certificate of deposit must be for at least $60,000. A deposit of collateral with DoL or in a bank account set up for the State of Washington.

2. A Liability bond for at least $60,000.

This can be obtained from any surety/bonding company authorized to do business in Washington.

This is the most common method to obtain the Financial responsibility.  It must also be carried with you any time you operate a vehicle in Washington, you must also be prepared to show, when asked, proof of liability bond to law enforcement. Typically the proof is on a smaller wallet size card but the information may be printed on any size document and must include all of the following:

  • Name of the company that issued the bond.
  • Name of the covered driver.

In almost every SR22 requirement case, that originates due to a single suspension/revocation, the length of time that SR22 is required is 3 years from the date a driver is eligible to reinstate his/her license.

SR22 can be longer if a new event/suspension happens during the time of the 3 years. The new event will trigger a new time period that commences with a new eligibility date. 

The need and cost of Financial Responsibility is what I call a "collateral" consequence of a DUI arrest but if you review the 4 page document that spells out all the suspensions you can see that convictions for Minor In Possession (MIP), Hit and Run, Minor Operating After Consuming (Minor DUI), and violation of Court probation to name a few of many.