What is a High-Risk Driver?

man looking outside his red car window
Posted: October 30, 2023

The term “high-risk driver” can mean different things to different insurance companies, which have unique underwriting processes and internal protocol, but normally refers to drivers who have previous at-fault accidents, prior convictions for speeding or driving while intoxicated, or lapses in insurance coverage.  

State Minimum Coverage 

All vehicles registered in New York must be insured with bodily injury liability insurance coverage of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.  

That is the state minimum coverage, which effectively means that if the insured hurts someone through the use or operation of the insured vehicle, the insurance company will pay up to $25,000 for injuries person or, if there are multiple injured people, $50,000 to be divided between the injured people.  

Obtaining Car Insurance as a High-Risk Driver 

A “high-risk driver” may find it difficult obtaining car insurance. Some insurance companies may conclude that the driver will have a high probability of future car accidents, thereby increasing the risk. A driver designated as being “high risk” may pay significantly higher insurance premiums to account for this increased risk. This makes sense: insurance companies are looking to maximize profitability by maximizing premium payments and minimizing costs. Those costs necessarily include claims processing, attorney fees, and settlement payouts. Many high-risk drivers end up with state-minimum coverage because that is the only coverage they believe they can afford.  

Someone injured in a New York motor vehicle crash should not generally be concerned with whether the offending driver was “high risk.” This nomenclature, or terminology, is relevant during the insurance underwriting process when the person is looking to purchase car insurance, but not necessarily during the claims process after the crash.  

SUM Insurance 

The focus after a motor vehicle crash should be on returning to pre-accident status and achieving maximum compensation for pain and suffering. This will depend on a review and analysis of the available insurance coverage, including the tortfeasor’s bodily injury liability coverage and any supplementary uninsured motorist (SUM) coverage available to the injured person.  

SUM coverage is critical, but unfortunately not everyone is familiar with this form of insurance coverage, which is a form of first-party coverage through one’s own insurance company. Unlike bodily injury liability insurance coverage which is considered third-party coverage because the insured is generally the person who caused the harm, SUM coverage is first-party coverage because the claimant is the insured.  

In a situation where the liable motorist only has state-minimum coverage of $25,000/$50,000 and the injured person has SUM coverage with a limit of $100,000 per person, SUM coverage can make a world of difference.  

If the damages of the injured person is valued at $70,000, but that person does not carry SUM insurance, the most the injured person would be able to receive is the underlying $25,000 policy. Because the injured person does not carry SUM insurance, they may not be fully compensated.  

If, however, the injured person carried a SUM policy in the amount of $100,000 per person, that person would potentially be able to recover from the SUM carrier the difference between the $25,000 policy and the value of the pain and suffering.  In this scenario, the difference would be $45,000 ($70,000 – $25,000 = $45,000). That is an extra $45,000 that would have gone uncompensated but for SUM coverage.  

Hurt By A High Risk Driver? 

The attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. have extensive experience helping injured New York motorists receive maximum compensation for pain and suffering, regardless of whether the offending motorist was previously deemed “high risk” by an insurance company. If you are looking for an experienced personal injury lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact our office. 


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