Car insurance is probably not your first concern when you receive a DWI, but it is important to consider since it can create problems during and after your case is resolved. Insurance companies scrutinize DWIs harshly because the automatic assumption is that you are a risky driver because you allegedly drove drunk.
Esurance.com explains how insurance companies arrive at deeming you a risky driver from being charged and or convicted of a DWI, “The amount you pay for car insurance depends, in part, on what your insurer deems your risk of being in an accident. And drunk driving is incredibly risky and dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us that in 2013 alone, drunk driving cost more than 10,000 people their lives.”
Insurance companies assume the worst because of how costly a DWI accident can be, especially when there is an accident or fatality involved. You are unfortunately grouped together with the worst DWI offenders. Insurance companies seek to minimize risk in any way possible, which could be bad news for your insurance premium or policy altogether. So what can happen to your insurance after you receive a DWI?
It is important to make a distinction between your DWI arrest and a DWI conviction. The initial arrest for DWI could result in your insurance company canceling your policy altogether. Most insurance contracts allow your insurance company to terminate a policy for specific reasons. There is a laundry list of terms and conditions you agree to, but may not be aware of until specific provisions affect you.
For example, automobile insurance policies can be canceled by an insurance company when your license is forcibly suspended or revoked; in New York, your driver’s license is forcibly suspended pending prosecution whenever you are charged with DWI. Your insurance policy is automatically at risk when you are simply charged with DWI.
Your insurance policy could still be in jeopardy even if it wasn’t canceled when you were initially arrested for DWI. Your insurance company could decide to cancel your policy due to the misdemeanor conviction or the revocation that comes with a DWI conviction. Alternatively, your insurance company could decide to raise your premiums substantially.
Insurance.com conducted a study in 2012 and found that insurance premiums are raised by an average of 19% following a DWI conviction. In addition, insurance companies tend to factor in a DWI conviction to insurance premiums or renewals for a period of 5-10 years on average. This means that you could be facing considerable insurance hikes for a decade. There are further details you should be aware of if your insurance policy is canceled during or after your DWI case is resolved.
Having automobile insurance for any vehicle you drive is mandatory, and you could face penalties if you don’t have insurance. New York requires that you have auto insurance before you can register a car in New York State. You are also required to maintain auto insurance, and if you don’t, the DMV reserves the right to cancel your registration and suspend your license. Driving without valid registration, insurance, and or a license are crimes that could result in serious penalties.
Insurance companies and lawmakers do not want uninsured drivers on the road because it drastically decreases the likelihood that damages caused during an automobile accident will be reimbursed, either publicly or privately. You as a driver also have an interest in making sure people don’t drive uninsured. If you are in an accident, for example, and the other driver does not have insurance, then you may not have your injuries or other damages covered should your damages be over the limits of your policy.
If your insurance is canceled in New York, and you are unable to secure new coverage through a private company, then you have to acquire insurance through the New York Automobile Insurance Plan. The NYAIP is a state program that guarantees insurance coverage, but charges exorbitant rates for coverage. The NYAIP should be a last resort since you will be paying a large amount in premiums, “The coverage offered by the NYAIP is sub-par and is more expensive than the average rates. In 2012, the average NYAIP premium was listed at $2,283. It is basically a program to make sure that high risk drivers are given the option of having insurance so that they do not create an even bigger legal mess if they are forced to drive without it.” While the NYAIP is an alternative, the high premiums and level of coverage is not favorable unless you have no other options.
Your case can become more complicated if an accident was associated with your DWI. There is a possibility that if your accident causes property damage that exceeds your insurance limits, then you can be responsible for whatever your insurance company does not cover. Also, through a process known as subrogation, an insurance company can pursue you for damages caused to their insured that it had to cover.
Investopedia provides an excellent definition for subrogation, which “is the right for an insurer to pursue a third party that caused an insurance loss to the insured. This is done as a means of recovering the amount of the claim paid to the insured for the loss.” There is also the potential for a civil lawsuit from a victim, for example, who was injured as a result of your accident. These processes would be separate from your criminal proceeding. Your insurance company may indemnify i.e. defend you in these claims by providing you with an attorney, but this would only be the case if your insurance policy covers it. It may be helpful to consult an experienced insurance attorney if your accident resulted in major damages not covered by your policy, if you are being subrogated against, or are being sued civilly.
The cancellation of your insurance policy may not be instantaneous, but could become an issue when you are up for renewal. Your insurance company will find out about your DWI arrest and or conviction eventually, so it’s better to prepare for the potential consequences beforehand. If you have been charged with DWI, and are worried about your auto insurance, you should consult with an experienced DWI attorney who can guide you through the process.
The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.