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Spousal Liability Coverage in New York State

Matthew Mosher Jan. 30, 2020

Is your wife/husband an awful driver? You know the situation. You’re in the passenger seat with your spouse driving. You’re not paying attention because as the passenger, you don’t have to. So, you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed or adding photos and captions to your Instagram story while your spouse is supposed to be paying attention to the road. Instead, you hear the rumble strips, notice the car is slowly veering off the road, and you look over to see your spouse taking a selfie using the doggy Snapchat filter.

If this happens, and you’re injured as a result, you will not be permitted to recover compensation for your injuries unless you have purchased supplemental spousal liability coverage. Your traditional automobile liability insurance policy in New York State will not permit you to recover if you are injured by your spouse’s negligence. Your insurance carrier is required to notify you of this coverage in writing.

New York State Insurance Law § 3420(g)(2) states, in relevant part:

(2) Upon issuance of a motor vehicle liability policy that satisfies the requirements of article six of the vehicle and traffic law and that becomes effective on or after January first, two thousand three, pursuant to regulations promulgated by the superintendent, the insurer shall notify the insured, in writing, of the availability of supplemental spousal liability insurance. Such notification shall be contained on the front of the premium notice in boldface type and include a concise statement that supplementary spousal coverage is available, an explanation of such coverage, and the insurer’s premium for such coverage. Subsequently, a notification of the availability of supplementary spousal liability coverage shall be provided at least once a year in motor vehicle liability policies issued pursuant to article six of the vehicle and traffic law, including those originally issued prior to January first, two thousand three. Such notice must include a concise statement that supplementary spousal coverage is available, an explanation of such coverage, and the insurer’s premium for such coverage.

Insurance Carrier Responsibility in New York

When you renew your policy, your insurance carrier must provide you with written notice that this coverage is available. The cost of this coverage is minimal and becomes subject to the limits of your bodily injury liability coverage.

Obviously, in order to recover under this coverage, you must prove the same elements of a cause of action you would if your injury was caused by another driver. You must prove that your spouse was negligent, and you must prove that, as a result of that negligence, you sustained a Serious Injury as that phrase is defined by New York State Insurance Law 5102(d).

Contact Your Agent About Spousal Liability Coverage

In summary, if one spouse is the cause of an accident that causes injury to the other spouse, and the couple had already purchased the additional supplemental spousal liability insurance, the injured spouse may be able to collect compensation from the insurance company to compensate them for pain and suffering incurred. Call your insurance agent today and ask if you have this coverage. And tell your spouse to stop tweeting and driving.