What Does No Pay, No Play Mean?


No Pay, No Play laws in several states are aimed at punishing uninsured drivers by prohibiting them, with exceptions for DUI or reckless intent, from collecting non-economic damages in car accidents settlements.

“No Pay, No Play” sounds like a leveraged ultimatum from an athlete refusing to show up to training camp.

A more practical application can be found on the nation’s roads and highways.

No Pay, No Play is a law on the books in some U.S. states aimed at prohibiting uninsured drivers from collecting certain kinds of damages from at-fault insured drivers.

In theory, the leverage in No Pay, No Play cases belong to the responsible driver who pays for insurance over those who don’t purchase insurance.

“While No pay, No play is the best solution we have to punish uninsured owners of vehicles, it does not seem to have had much of an impact,” Robert Maider, a partner with Birkhold & Maider, LLC in  New Jersey, said. “Unfortunately, people don’t know that No Pay, No Play exists until after they are in the accident, so it does not (typically) have an impact until it is too late.”

How Do No Pay, No Play Laws Work?

Most states have compulsory laws requiring drivers to carry automobile insurance. That doesn’t mean all drivers do so.

No Pay, No Play laws are an extra incentive to carry insurance because they restrict the type of compensation uninsured drivers can seek when injured in a car accident.

An injured uninsured driver involved in an accident that wasn’t their fault can only recover economic damages (medical and property.) They are typically barred from collecting non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

No Pay, No Play laws vary state-to-state, with some flatly limiting economic damages available to uninsured drivers while others make an exception if the at-fault insured driver was operating a vehicle under the influence or showed reckless intent to injure.

States with No Pay, No Play Laws

Michigan’s latest ad campaign is “Pure Michigan.” In the case of No Pay, No Play laws, Michigan qualifies as having the purest form of the law. It basically states that if you are driving uninsured, you are not eligible for damages in a car accident, regardless of fault.

Eleven states have some form of No Pay, No Play laws. There were 12, but Oklahoma’s No Pay, No Play law was declared unconstitutional in 2014.

  • Alaska – Uninsured drivers cannot recover non-economic damages unless the at-fault driver was under the influence, acted recklessly or fled the scene of the accident.
  • California – No Pay, No Play bars injured drivers from recovering non-economic damages in an accident if they’re convicted of DUI or are uninsured, or if the injured driver cannot establish financial responsibility.
  • Indiana – State laws prohibit uninsured drivers with prior violations (previous five years) from recovering non-economic damages against insured motorists.
  • Iowa – The state doesn’t mandate drivers carry car insurance per se but drivers must show financial responsibility. No Pay, No Play in Iowa, bars uninsured drivers from recovering damages if they were injured while in the process of committing a felony.
  • Kansas – Drivers injured while operating an uninsured vehicle are barred from collecting non-economic damages if they fail to maintain personal injury protection (PIP) benefits required by law. DUIs also prohibit uninsured drivers from collecting non-economic damages.
  • Louisiana – Injured uninsured drivers are barred from recovering bodily injury damages up to the first $15,000 and property damage for the first $25,000, provided the insured driver wasn’t under the influence, acted with reckless intent or fled the scene.
  • Michigan – An injured driver can’t recover damages if he or she failed to carry insurance required by law.
  • Missouri – Injured uninsured drivers cannot recover damages unless the other driver was operating a vehicle while under the influence.
  • New Jersey – State law bars uninsured drivers, drivers operating vehicles under the influence or drivers operating vehicles with reckless intent from recovering economic or non-economic damages.
  • North Dakota – Insured drivers cannot be assessed non-economic damages if the injured uninsured driver has at least one conviction for driving without insurance.
  • Oregon – Uninsured drivers cannot collect non-economic damages unless the insured driver acted with reckless intent or was involved in a felony at the time of the accident.

Why Are States Adopting No Pay, No Play Laws?

There are consequences in every state for operating a vehicle without insurance. No Pay, No Play laws multiply those consequences by barring drivers who aren’t paying for insurance from collecting non-economic damages from drivers who are paying for insurance.

But are No Pay, No Play laws a legitimate deterrent? Are they working as intended? Robert Maider, who practices law in New Jersey, doesn’t think so.

“Because responsible drivers have viable uninsured motorist policies, these uninsured drivers, even when at fault for the accident, generally get away with no judgment being entered against them,” Maider said. “Thereby increasing the likelihood that they will remain uninsured as there was no negative impact for being uninsured when at fault for the accident.”

Maider recommends that insured drivers make sure their policies provide maximum coverage for medical benefits (PIP) as well as maximum uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage so they can seek damages from their own insurance company if the other vehicle was uninsured.

He also has advice for uninsured drivers that speaks to the intent of No Pay, No Play.

“Driving uninsured carries great risk,” Maider said. “First and foremost, if you own a vehicle, and drive it without insurance, you are unable to bring a claim for damages in states with No Pay, No Play.

“This means that if you sustain life-altering injuries, requiring medical treatment for the remainder of your life, there will be no auto insurance to cover either your medical expenses or any available “settlement money” to compensate you for your injuries, even if you were not at fault for the accident.

“Second, if you are at fault for an accident while uninsured, the other party could seek a judgment against you that could have serious financial repercussions, including the garnishment of wages or liens being placed on property.”

If that’s not reason enough to carry car insurance, No Pay, No Play offers another.

Robert Shaw

Robert Shaw is a writer based in Ohio who brings decades of newspaper experience as a reporter, columnist and editor to his freelance work. Shaw has written on topics as diverse as the city of Atlanta's successful bid to secure the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, to the educational challenges faced by an urban Cleveland school during the Covid-19 pandemic, to federal home buying loan programs designed to help teachers, firefighters, police and emergency personnel get a foothold in the housing market. Whatever the topic, Shaw strives to bring a sharp focus and clear understanding to the issues affecting people's everyday lives.


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