What Happens if You Have a Car Accident Without Insurance?
It’s not something you can predict and certainly not something you expect, but a car accident can happen at any time. And whether you’re at fault or not, there are significant consequences. In the state of New Jersey, auto insurance is mandatory. Period. If you’re in an auto accident while driving uninsured, you can be sued and potentially lose your property. You’d be financially responsible for paying for pain, suffering, lost wages, personal hardship and other monetary losses by the suffering party or parties. Let’s dive a little deeper into the specifics to see your options.
What are the Risks of Driving with No Insurance?
The risk of driving without insurance are plenty and in some cases, life-changing:
- You can be fined anywhere from $300 to $1000 for a first offense.
- You can be sued and risk losing your property.
- You run the risk of having your wages garnished.
- You can lose your driver’s license for one year for a first offense.
- Your future rates of insurance will be quite high.
- Your car can be impounded.
- You may have to serve community service as deemed by the court.
- You’ll have to pay out of pocket for an attorney.
- If you don’t have auto insurance and you’re hit, there are limitations on what you can sue for. For instance, in the State of New Jersey, you wouldn’t be able to sue for pain and suffering, mental distress, or any other intangible damages.
- If you’re uninsured, you’d be responsible for a substantial deductible before you could sue for property damages.
- For a second offense:
- You can be fined up to $5000.
- You can lose your driver’s license for two year.
- You’ll have to serve a mandatory community service of 30 days.
- You’ll have to serve a mandatory jail term of 14 days.
These risks are just the beginning of what you’d be liable for if you caused a crash.
What Kind of Insurance Do You Actually Need in NJ?
At a minimum, you need a Basic Policy that includes liability coverage. The Basic Policy is the best bet for individuals who have very few assets or are student-drivers or those just beginning in his/her career. A Basic Policy is the most affordable. The State of New Jersey provides a list of insurers to guide you in your search for the best rates. For additional information about insurance policies and what they offer, the State of New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance offers a comprehensive guide outline the differences between basic and standard policies.
New Jersey is one of 12 “no-fault” insurance states. “No-fault” simply means the insurance company pays small claims regardless of who caused the auto accident. If injuries are significant enough, you can still be sued for medical expenses, however, generally, there are limitations for amounts recoverable set by each state.
What to Do If You’re in an Accident, You’re Insured and the Other Driver is Uninsured
If you’re in an accident with a driver who you’ve determined is uninsured, there are a few steps you need to take.
- Call the police. Be sure to get a copy of the police report.
- Swap information. Get and give name, address, phone number, email address and any other contact information. Be sure the mobile number is correct. Take notes on the appearance of the driver.
- Write down facts/details of the incident. Write the make, model, color and year of the vehicle. Write the time, location of the accident, and the name and badge number of the responding officer. List all other details, including a quick sketch or map of the vehicles and how they were involved.
- Witnesses. Ask any potential witnesses for contact information.
- Take photos. Take pictures of the damages done to each car, the car license plate, each other’s driver’s licenses (and if applicable, insurance card), surrounding area to give an idea where each vehicle was heading before the accident, and any other photos you think would help your insurance company.
- Call your insurance company. Let your agent know you have all documents and photos necessary to submit a claim and that you’ve been in an accident. The company will likely have you submit a separate report.
- Call an attorney. If the driver is uninsured, you’ll want to be sure to get the maximum benefits from your insurance company, so call an attorney to help you navigate through this process. An attorney will determine how to proceed with your insurer. Prior to your consultation with an attorney, check out our list of what to bring to your first meeting with an accident attorney!
What to Do If You’re in an Accident and You’re Uninsured and the Other Driver is At-Fault
New Jersey is a “no pay, no play” state. If you’re hit by another driver, and you don’t carry insurance, under the “no pay, no play” you cannot claim particular damages. If you didn’t pay for insurance, you can’t claim compensation that cannot be quantified by a dollar amount, such as pain (physical or emotional), distress, or suffering. You can likely sue for quantifiable damages, such as that done to your vehicle, medical bills and lost wages.
If you were involved in an accident while uninsured, you should consult an attorney to determine what options/rights you have. An experienced accident attorney can also help you research any other potential coverages you may have.
What to Do If You’re in an Accident and You’re Uninsured and At-Fault
Vehicle insurance is mandatory in nearly every state in the U.S. The penalties listed above can be a difficult path for you to navigate if you’re uninsured after a crash. Be sure to exchange information as outlined above.
If you’re an at-fault driver, you run the risk of having a judgment against you that runs into the thousands of dollars in damages—potentially significantly more than if you had car insurance. You’d likely have all fines, fees, and damages out-of-pocket. Your best course is to contact an attorney to help you through the process of claims and legal ramifications, attempting to limit your liability as much as possible. Give yourself the best possible outcome by seeking advice and guidance.
**Do not take this as legal advice as it is simply for informative purposes. If you have been involved in a car accident or are being sued for driving without insurance you should ALWAYS consult legal counsel before taking any action. Legal counsel can help you explore your options.
Chris Costello, ESQ.
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