So, your car hits a guardrail … who pays for it?

December 8, 2023

A few months ago, an accident occurred right outside of the PIA Northeast office. A car traveling northbound on I-87 appeared to lose control and hit the guardrail. It careened across the southbound lane and stopped in the shoulder. The car suffered heavy damages and even lost a wheel.

Emergency services and highway maintenance arrived shortly thereafter to help the driver, to clean up the scene, and to keep traffic flowing. Some of the staff members at PIA Northeast, including myself, saw firsthand the aftermath of the crash and the damage that was caused.

This incident led to a broader conversation about damages in incidents like these. Who covers damages in this scenario? Does the state pay for the guardrail out of a specific fund, or does the person who caused the damage have to foot the bill? Does New York state’s “no-fault insurance” policy factor into this scenario?

As stated on the New York State Department of Financial Services’ website, “No-Fault is a personal injury coverage and does not pay for auto body repair of your car or damage to any other party’s motor vehicle or other personal property.” So, there wouldn’t be coverage in a driver’s no-fault insurance.

Rather, any property damage would fall under a driver’s property damage liability coverage. In New York state, the minimum coverage starts at $10,000 per accident. Additionally, the driver also would be responsible for the labor it takes to replace what has been damaged.

Collision and comprehensive coverage, which covers damages from collision and all other damages, respectively, are first-party coverages. As such it would not cover the damage to repair the guardrail, which is owed by a third-party, the state.

In the case of the crash that occurred outside our offices, the victim will have to cover the costs of the guardrail and its installation through his or her auto insurance policy, and depending on the cost, out of pocket. The reason behind the accident could have been anything, but the driver is at fault for the damage to the property.

To avoid accidents like these that raise insurance premiums, drivers should make sure that they’re driving safely. That includes driving the speed limit, making sure they aren’t impaired in any way and staying focused on the road.

Driving is something that most of us do every day, but it can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. Safe driving keeps your premiums low, you out of an ambulance and you from being responsible for damage to public property on the highways.

Matt McDonough is PIA Northeast's writer, editor and content curator. Matt joined PIA Northeast in September 2023. Before that, he had been an editor for the online entertainment magazine Collider from 2021-23 as a copy editor for its lists section. Matt entered the world of journalism at his alma mater, SUNY New Paltz, writing and reporting for the college's student run newspaper, The New Paltz Oracle. He graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Creative Writing in 2020.

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