Traffic-ticketA question I am frequently asked is: Can my insurance company raise my premium due to an accident or traffic ticket?

The answer is YES, unfortunately.

I want to share details about this answer from the official N.Y. Insurance Department website. It’s important for drivers to understand just how the insurance companies justify charging you more and the terminology they use.

Such an increase is known as a surcharge. Surcharges are based on the fact that a driver who has previously been at fault in one or more accidents, or has a record of traffic convictions, has an increased likelihood of being involved in future accidents.

Insurers “classify” drivers according to criteria such as:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Vehicle type and mileage

To further refine those classifications, many insurers use “merit rating plans,” a point system in which increases are applied according to an individual driver’s record (traffic convictions and accidents).

Surcharges are applied to liability (bodily injury and property damage), collision and no-fault (PIP) coverages, and are only allowed for:

  • Accidents involving bodily injury, or losses to property in excess of the accident reporting threshold ($1,000), where the insured driver is at fault, or
  • Convictions for certain violations which are chargeable under the Insurance Law.

No-one intends to get a traffic ticket or have a car accident. A surcharge may seem almost like a punishment, but it really a way for the insurance company to balance premiums against risk.

A surcharge is used as a tool to properly price the exposure the insurer is writing, NOT as a means to recoup payment made under a claim.

Another important point: The total dollar amount paid as the result of a claim does not affect the surcharge. For example: An insured person being surcharged for a particular accident will pay the same amount regardless if the damages were $10,ooo or $50,000.

Thanks for reading,


James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529

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NY Car Accidents and NY Car Insurance Secrets YOU Need to Know.