Between the complicated highways, non-sensical turnpikes, and pothole-cratered residential streets, New Jersey is a challenging place to drive for veteran motorists and newcomers alike. Despite these hazards, some drivers still take on the added gamble of driving without insurance, risking extreme financial loss in the event of accident (not to mention steep fines for getting caught).
In New Jersey, all motorists are required to carry insurance meeting the state’s mandated minimum liability limits. Simply put: A driver must purchase coverage including certain features up to specific amounts stipulated by the state.
Unlike most other states, New Jersey is a so-called “no-fault” state. As a result, injuries you sustain in an accident will be covered by your own insurance policy regardless of whether you caused the accident or not. Drivers must carry auto insurance that includes the following minimum limits:
- Property damage liability ($5,000 per accident)
- Personal Injury Protection ($15,000 per person, per accident)
While a basic policy is necessary to fulfill the state’s mandatory minimum insurance laws, it will almost always fall short when covering the full costs of treating injuries and repairing your vehicle after a serious crash. Many drivers choose to purchase additional components for added protection to ensure that a wide variety of damages are covered. For example, a driver looking to protect his/her property against damage caused by a natural disaster would elect to invest in comprehensive coverage. Keep in mind, these additions will increase your premiums.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- Penalties for driving without car insurance in New Jersey
- How to reinstate your license after being caught driving without auto insurance
- What if I’m involved in an accident with a person driving without car insurance?
- Will I be considered a high-risk driver if I’m caught without car insurance?
If you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer or are involved in accident, authorities will request to see proof that your vehicle is insured up to the state’s minimum liability limits. In NJ, officers will accept either electronic or printed evidence such as an insurance card issued by your provider. If you cannot present this proof and officers discover that your vehicle’s insurance has lapsed or your car is uninsured, you could face the penalties we’ve listed below.
Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance in New Jersey
New Jersey lawmakers have little patience for drivers caught without auto insurance. The state enforces some of the strictest penalties in the country for errant motorists caught violating its mandatory insurance laws.
Based on the nature of your violation – for example, if you were driving while intoxicated or were involved in an accident – you could face steep fines, additional surcharge assessment fees, a community service sentence, suspension of your license, vehicle impoundment, and even jail time. Keep in mind, if this is your second, third, or subsequent offense, you may be strapped with added penalties.
As a first-time offender, you could be fined $300 to $1,000 and may be ordered to pay a $250 surcharge for three years (that’s a total payment of $750.). Additionally, your license could be suspended for a year and you may be forced to comply with a prolonged community service sentence. If your vehicle is impounded by authorities, you will have to pay $100 to reclaim it.
As a serial offender, your fine could scale as high as $5,000. Fortunately, the surcharge total remains the same, but your license may be suspended for an extra year. Additionally, you may be ordered to complete 180 hours of community service and could spend up to two weeks behind bars.
How to Reinstate Your License After Being Caught Driving Without Auto Insurance
Unlike many other states, New Jersey does not offer motorists opportunities to fast track their license suspensions. Not only will you have to wait out your suspension period, but you will also have to fulfill all obligations set out by the courts and the Department of Motor Vehicles before your driving privileges are restored. These requirements can include completing your community service sentence and paying off your outstanding fines.
You will need to show the Department proof of an insurance policy meeting the state’s mandated minimum liability limits.
What If I’m Involved in an Accident with a Person Driving Without Insurance?
Uninsured drivers are a highway hazard for anyone driving in the country. In New Jersey, it’s estimated that more than 14% of all motorists are not carrying adequate coverage. But what does this mean for you?
If you’re involved in an accident with one of these errant motorists, it’s unlikely they will have the financial means to compensate you for your loss. You do have the option to file a lawsuit against the driver, but in most cases this is a dead-end, amounting to little more than a protracted legal battle with a tiny payoff worth half as much as the cost of reaching the verdict. Your best bet: Invest in uninsured motorist coverage.
While New Jersey does not require motorists to carry this added feature, our Geeks recommend purchasing this relatively inexpensive addon to bolster your existing coverage. This policy addon will reimburse you for property damage and/or medical costs related to an accident involving an uninsured, at-fault driver.
Will I Be Considered a High-Risk Driver If I’m Caught Without Car Insurance?
Probably. Insurance companies use the term “high-risk driver” to describe motorists who have a higher than average chance of causing or being involved in an accident. As a result, high-risk drivers pay more for insurance than the average motorist.
If you were caught violating insurance laws, nabbed driving while intoxicated, caused a serious accident, or violating many of the state’s traffic laws, it’s possible you are now considered a high-risk driver. Any traffic violations you commit and accidents you are involved in (or caused) are recorded on your permanent driving record. Insurers use this document to help calculate your premiums.
However, you can still reduce your premiums as a high-risk driver by taking time to pick up safer driving habits, completing a driving safety course, avoiding accidents for a few years, and not committing traffic violations in that same time period. Additional discounts are available to motorists who drive less and invest in cars equipped with advanced safety features. Contact your provider to learn more about their premium discounts.