Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • You must have reasonable cause to search the insurance information for a car
  • You have a right to obtain your own driving record so you’ll know what information insurance companies have on you
  • Be sure to follow regulations regarding privacy laws when searching for car insurance information of a previously-owned car

Sometimes it becomes necessary to find out if a car has insurance.

You may be driving a car that belongs to someone else, trying out a new car that you are considering purchasing, or be in some other situation that requires you to know a car’s history.

Your state DMV office is a good place to start if you are trying to determine whether a car is insured.

The DMV has a record of every car registered in your state as well as information on make, model, and whether the car is insured.

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The Freedom of Information Act

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The issue you may sometimes run into is that DMV’s may only be able to disclose information that is of public record.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. Courts have ruled that information that is of public record is available to the public.

This means that, if the car you are looking into was ever involved in any accident that became a matter of public record, you might be able to find out more about it.

However, in the case where the car was not involved in an accident that was a matter of public record, it may take more investigation on your part to find out whether a car is carrying insurance.

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Where to Get Information on a Car’s Insurance

There is a car insurance database called AskMID. In some cases, you may be entitled to information on a car’s insurance information due to one of the following circumstances.

Here is a list of the circumstances that entitles you to a car’s information:

  • If the car is registered or owned by you
  • If it is insured by you or by your employer
  • If you are insurance broker acting on behalf of a client who owns it

If you already have insurance on the car, then you would not need to tap into this database.

However, you might still need other information about a particular car’s history, due to a settlement issue, claim, or the need to change insurance.

By just entering your vehicle registration number on the site, you can get information on a particular vehicle for insurance or legal purposes.

Reasonable Cause

Keep in mind that you must have a reason that fits the reasonable cause standard whenever you get information about a vehicle’s history or insurance records.

Reasonable cause is the standard that is also used by a police officer when they stop you on a routine traffic stop.

It is defined as a reasonable cause or reason that you need the information.

In other words, would a reasonable person understand why you needed the information, given your specific circumstances?

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The Court’s Position on Insurance Information

The courts and other legal bodies value personal privacy, and they tend to discourage people from snooping into the insurance records of others.

HIPAA, the federal legislation, passed in 1999, ensures individuals that their health information will be kept confidential.

While HIPAA deals primarily with health insurance records, it can easily cross over into car insurance records when the reason for the health records was due to an auto accident.

One should step with caution in such cases and respect the rights of others’ privacy while striving to obtain the information you need for insurance purposes.

The courts frown on the act of receiving information for the sake of curiosity only, or in cases when it is clear the information was not necessary to your particular circumstance.

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Other Information that May Be Helpful to You

In addition to obtaining information on a car’s insurance, there may also be times when you need to get your driving record.

If you have had at least one traffic accident or moving traffic violation in the past seven years or so, you will want to find out what information is out there on your driving record.

This is especially true for new drivers, and whose driving history record is so important to protect.

Why do you need your driving record?

This ultimately affects your monthly premiums and car insurance rates, so it is important information to have. Insurance companies often get this information themselves.

It usually goes through your state department, and you will get a notice advising you that the insurance company has looked into your driving record.

After this has been done, you may then get a notice that your insurance premium has increased based on the new information.

The Point System

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Most insurance companies use a point system regarding certain moving traffic violations in determining your premium.

Running a red light might be eight or nine points, and so on.

So it pays to consider this while you are driving and use caution so that you don’t rack up points on your driving record that causes you an increase in premiums.

Make sure you get the state minimums as well as add-ins you wish to put on your policy, weighing the cost of the policy with the risk factor.

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