Driving without car insurance in New York state is a serious offense. Because New York is a “no-fault” state, you’ll likely end up paying for any damages to your vehicle (or yourself) out of pocket if you end up in a car accident while driving without insurance. However, you may choose to file a lawsuit against the other driver.
Like most U.S. states, New York requires that all drivers hold a minimum level of liability insurance before hitting the road. If you risk it and end up in an accident, however, you could face both legal trouble and difficulties getting your damages paid for—regardless of who is at fault.
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What to do if you’re in a car accident without insurance in New York and not at fault
We must begin by reminding you that driving without car insurance in the state of New York is a serious crime. If you end up in a car accident while uninsured, it could compound your expenses and put you in a sticky legal situation. Here’s what to do if that happens:
First off, never leave the scene of the crash. It might be tempting to drive off so that you don’t get caught without insurance, but this, too, is a punishable offense. Here are the penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident in New York:
A fine of up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail if the accident involved property damage. This offense is considered a traffic infraction and will not give you a criminal record.
A fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail if the accident involved minor injuries. This is considered a misdemeanor.
A fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and up to four years in state prison if the accident involves serious injuries. This would be considered a Class E felony.
A fine of $2,000 to $5,000 and up to seven years in state prison if the accident involves death. This is considered a Class D felony.
Thus, you must stay at the scene and stay calm. Start by pulling over if and where it is safe to do so. Then, check yourself, your passengers, and all others involved in the accident for injuries. If anyone is injured, state property is damaged, or traffic is impeded, call 9-1-1.
Then, exchange information with the other driver(s), including your name and driver’s license number. Finally, thoroughly document the accident by taking photos and videos and/or collecting all other relevant evidence.
New York is a “no-fault” state, which means that each driver’s insurance covers them in the event of an accident. Without insurance, you’ll likely have to cover vehicle repairs and medical bills yourself—though you could file a personal injury lawsuit for any economic damages such as repairs, medical expenses, and lost wages.
Who decides fault in a car accident in New York?
New York uses a no-fault car insurance system. This means, if you’re involved in a car accident, you typically need to file a claim under your own coverage to get compensation for damages, regardless of who caused the crash.
Only if your injuries reach a certain threshold of seriousness can you step outside of no-fault and bring the claim directly against the at-fault driver.
Determining fault is generally up to the car insurance companies of the drivers involved in the accident. When a claim is made, they’ll contact the involved parties to interview them and determine fault based on their accounts. This is why it is important to collect evidence, such as photographs, to provide to the insurance companies.
If police were at the scene, their accident reports will also be used to help determine fault.
Do you need to report a car accident in New York?
Sometimes. You are required by law to file an accident report if you are involved in any accident where there is damage to the property of one individual (including yourself) that is more than $1,000. However, it is not always necessary to contact law enforcement to come to the scene of the crash—the report must simply be filed within 10 days.
If someone was injured or killed in the accident, you must call law enforcement and remain on the scene until they arrive. You must also notify the police if a domestic animal (i.e., a pet) was wounded or killed in the crash.
Finally, if a parked car is damaged and the owner cannot be located, you must notify the police if the collision caused damage to the parked vehicle.
What if you’re at fault?
Because New York is a pure comparative negligence state, you’ll be financially responsible for your portion of the other driver’s damages, and that driver can file a lawsuit against you to recover these damages if you are without insurance.
If you’re found to be driving without insurance after a collision, you’ll also face serious legal penalties, including fines, jail time, and license suspension.
What if you’re hit by an uninsured driver in New York?
If the other driver lacks car insurance, but you have a policy that meets New York State’s minimum requirements, we have good news!
New York requires drivers to carry
uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage, commonly referred to as UMC/UIM. These coverages will pay for your medical expenses if you are hit by an uninsured driver or a driver who isn’t carrying enough
bodily injury liability to cover your medical cost.
But what about damage to your vehicle? Uninsured motorist property damage coverage (UMPD) is an optional form of coverage that pays up to $3,500 toward the repairs of your vehicle as long as the at-fault driver is identified as being uninsured. You may also choose to purchase
collision coverage, so you’ll be able to file a claim with your insurance company for vehicle repairs.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), about 4% of New York drivers were uninsured in 2019—an important statistic to take into account when customizing your car insurance policy.
Penalties for driving without insurance in New York
Whether you’re in an accident or not, the penalties for driving without insurance in New York can be quite severe. Plus, since New York requires you to display a decal on your vehicle that indicates that you’re adequately insured, it’s quite likely that law enforcement will notice, even if you’re just driving around.
You’ll face a penalty fee of $150 to $1,500 each time you're found driving without insurance or if you let someone else drive your uninsured vehicle. A judge can also impound your car, imprison you for up to 15 days, or revoke your driver's license and registration. To reinstate your license, you may also have to pay the DMV a $750 civil penalty fee.
Things get more severe if your insurance lapses for more than 90 days or if you’ve already paid the $750 civil penalty fee within the last three years. In those cases, you'll need to serve the suspension period before reinstating your New York license instead of paying the $750 fee. Typically, the suspension period will last for as long as you were without insurance—although, you may be able to apply for a restricted license during this period.
Minimum required car insurance in New York
So, exactly what kinds of insurance do you need to carry in order to satisfy New York’s minimum requirements? Here’s what your policy must include:
$25,000 in bodily injury liability per person
$50,000 in bodily injury liability per accident
$25,000 in uninsured motorist bodily injury liability per person
$50,000 in uninsured motorist bodily injury liability per accident
$10,000 in property damage liability per accident
$50,000 in personal injury protection, otherwise known as “no-fault insurance”
New York’s insurance laws are some of the most comprehensive in the entire country—however, it is important to remember that damages after an accident can add up quickly. Purchasing additional coverage may be a good idea.
Most experts recommend going beyond those minimum limits and purchasing higher limits of $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident for bodily injury liability, and $100,000 for property damage liability. These limits will protect you financially in most situations and are still quite affordable.
Comprehensive coverage and collision coverage (which are often lumped together as “full coverage car insurance”) are also great add-ons for protecting your vehicle. In fact, they may be required by your lender if you use a loan to finance your vehicle.
Driving without insurance can increase premiums
If you’re caught driving without car insurance, you won’t just face a host of fines and penalties—you’ll also suffer from even higher car insurance rates than before.
Why? Well, car insurance providers take your driving history into account when pricing out your policy, and license suspensions and other violations go onto your record.
How to find cheap car insurance in New York
Fortunately, securing New York State’s required insurance coverage doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
At least, not if you shop with
Jerry! A licensed broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding cheap quotes from name-brand insurance companies and helping you finalize your new car insurance.
And to ensure you always have the lowest rate, Jerry will send you new quotes every time your policy comes up for renewal, so you’re always getting the coverage you want at the best price. This level of service is why Jerry earned a 4.7/5 rating on the App Store and made it the top insurance app in the country.
“I’ve gotten pulled over a few times in the past. With
Jerry, the police never had an issue verifying my insurance. The app is convenient, easy, and cheap!” —Dalton T.
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