Question for Attorney Carbone: I Had a Car Accident But No Insurance. Now What?
Question: I’ve been having some financial trouble of late and had let my car insurance lapse. While I was driving to work, I was rear-ended at a stop light. I suffered a slight neck injury that didn’t require medical attention and the other driver was fine. The rear of my car has some damage as does the other car. Since I have no insurance, how can I pay for damage to my car? Can I sue the other driver?
Answer: In the case described above, you should be more worried about criminal charges than your car.
According to NJSA 39:6B-1, If you have a vehicle registered in New Jersey, you must maintain motor vehicle liability insurance coverage. However, not having insurance can quickly become a criminal case. As it states in NJSA 39:6B-2, if you fail to have insurance, you will be facing severe consequences. Not only will you lose your license for a year, but you can face a fine between $300 and $1,000. If you do it more than once, you could face imprisonment.
As we’ve mentioned before, New Jersey is a “no-fault” state. This means that when you get into a car accident, no one will be found at fault and your own insurance company will be paying for the expense. Only certain circumstances will allow you to file a lawsuit against another driver and that would be a case of extreme injury. In the accident you described above, the likelihood of the other driver suing you is slim.
However, if you decide to sue the other driver, you may not be getting as much as you would like. New Jersey is one of a handful of states that have the “No Pay, No Play” rule. This means if you get into a car accident without valid car insurance, you will not be able to recover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering (although if you were injured and received medical treatment, you will get reimbursed). The reason behind the “No Pay, No Play” rule is almost like a punishment — since you are unable to provide full compensation to the other person in the form of insurance, then you shouldn’t be able to recover full benefits from someone else’s insurance.
A piece of advice: Before pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, you should definitely get car insurance. This will help your own legal problems you will soon face with the police.