Car Accidents and Why You Need Insurance

Lever & Ecker, PLLC July 10, 2019 Car Accidents

New York requires every motorist to carry an active auto insurance policy at all times. If you get behind the wheel without car insurance in New York, you’re breaking the law.

So what happens if you get into a car accident without insurance?

We need to answer this question from at least three different perspectives:

  • What penalties will you face for driving without insurance in New York?
  • What options will you have for claiming compensation for your injuries?
  • If you were at fault for the accident, how will you pay for the other parties’ injuries?

Driving without insurance is never a good idea. Unfortunately, it is nevertheless a situation that a growing number of New Yorkers find themselves in.

Penalties for Causing an Auto Accident While Uninsured in New York

New York’s Motor Vehicle Safety, Responsibility, and Financial Security Law requires every driver to meet minimum auto insurance requirements.

Fortunately, most New Yorkers comply with that requirement — studies show that only about 5% of the state’s motorists drive without insurance. That number is still too high, but it’s smaller than in some other states. (The national rate hovers around 12%.)

The State of New York takes these insurance requirements extremely seriously, and the penalties can be severe — especially if you end up causing an accident while driving without insurance.

The extent of the penalties will depend on your driving record, how serious the damages are, whether you were at fault in the crash, and how long your insurance policy has been lapsed.

Generally speaking, here’s what happens if you get into a car accident without insurance:

  • Fines of up to $1,500
  • Up to 15 days in jail
  • Your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked for up to three years.
  • Your vehicle registration may be suspended or revoked for up to three years.
  • Your vehicle may be impounded.
  • Your driving record will reflect that you got into a car accident without insurance.
  • You will need to secure new auto insurance before any of your driving privileges are restored (this can be a challenge, as some insurance carriers will not cover someone who has caused an accident while uninsured… or will only offer coverage at very high premiums).

New York’s penalties for causing an auto accident while uninsured are among the strictest in the country.

Injured While Driving Uninsured: Can You Get Compensation?

New York is a no-fault insurance state. This means that, as a general rule, each driver must file any claim for personal injury compensation under their own auto insurance policy.

If you get into a car accident without insurance, this leaves you in an unfortunate position: the law only allows you to recover under your own insurance policy, but you don’t have one.

Consider this: another driver could be speeding and driving recklessly while you are driving safely. They run a red light and sideswipe you. They are at-fault, and they have car insurance. Meanwhile, you are innocent except that you don’t have insurance.

In this scenario, the reckless driver might actually be in a better position than you. They will be able to file a claim for their damages under their own insurance policy, and it won’t matter that they were at fault for the crash (remember: New York has a no-fault rule). But you won’t have insurance to cover your own injuries.

There are, however, exceptions to this general rule. For example:

  • If you are injured by a large truck or commercial vehicle, you will be able to pursue compensation against the defendants even if you didn’t have insurance.
  • If you suffer serious injuries in the accident, you may be able to pursue compensation directly against the at-fault driver and their insurance company, going outside the no-fault insurance system.
  • If there are third parties whose negligence contributes to your crash (for example: the vehicle manufacturer, a negligent local government, or someone who puts a dangerous object in the road), you may be able to bring claims against those parties.

These are only examples of possible exceptions to the no-fault insurance rules in New York. Every case is different. You may or may not have realistic options for pursuing compensation, depending on your circumstances. It’s important to talk with a Manhattan & White Plains car accident lawyer about your rights and options under state law.

One last note: if you were injured while driving a bicycle or motorcycle, and neither you nor the at-fault motorist has insurance, you may (in certain circumstances) be able to file a claim under New York’s Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC). MVAIC claims are extremely complex, so be sure to talk to an experienced attorney about whether you qualify.

If You Were at Fault, How Will You Pay for the Other Parties’ Damages?

For you, the upside to New York’s no-fault insurance rules is that each injured driver will need to look to their own insurance for coverage first (not only their personal injury protection policy but also any Uninsured Motorist Coverage they may have). But if they suffer serious injuries and don’t have enough insurance to cover the damages on their own, they may then be able to pursue a claim against you individually.

You will also be individually liable for the property damage to the other parties’ vehicles.

If you have substantial assets (a house, an expensive car, a significant income or savings account, etc.), the injured parties may very well attempt to pursue you directly. If you do not have any assets to speak of, it is less likely that the other side will choose to invest a significant amount of time and expense in obtaining a judgment against you — though if they decide to, they may very well succeed (in which case a court will likely order you to make payment in full or comply with a monthly payment program).

It may be in your best interest to negotiate a settlement with the injured parties and their insurance companies to the best of your ability. It may also be in your best interest to pay out of pocket to hire a civil lawyer to defend you against any personal injury and/or property damage claims, as well as a criminal lawyer to defend you against any traffic citations or criminal charges. Talk to a lawyer about the best course of action in your situation.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation with our Manhattan & White Plains Auto Accident Lawyers

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident in New York, no matter what the circumstances may be, we encourage you to contact our office to discuss your situation. Please never make assumptions about your rights, duties, or options until you consult an experienced attorney.

Lever & Ecker, PLLC is a Manhattan & White Plains personal injury firm with years of experience in helping auto accident victims and their families claim the financial justice they deserve.

Time limits do apply to New York auto accident claims, so please don’t delay. To get started, call 914-288-9191 in White Plains, or simply contact us online.