The purpose of a personal injury claim is to make the injured person “whole”: To put them back where they would have been but for the wreck. Of course, nobody can go back in time and undo something that has already happened. To be made “whole” after a New York car wreck is, by nature, substitutional: exchanging, or compensating, human experience with a dollar figure.
This process is not always perfect, but the concept exists to transfer the costs of harm to the person who caused it.
One of the first things an experienced New York car accident lawyer does after a wreck is to identify all insurance coverage. Few people have the assets necessary to pay for the harm caused after a New York car wreck. For this reason, New York law requires all vehicles registered in the state to have some form of car insurance.
That car insurance has a form of coverage called Bodily Injury Liability coverage, which, in exchange for premium payments, will “indemnify” the person who caused the crash. Just because a car insurance policy was issued, however, does not mean that coverage will extend to every situation.
What if one spouse, because of the dangerous driving behaviors, caused harm to the other? For example, what if one spouse runs a red light with the other in the passenger seat, resulting in a serious T-bone collision?
For years New York’s Insurance Law generally prevented claims brought by one spouse against the other, the only exception being if there was an “express provision relating specifically thereto” in the insurance policy.
This “supplemental spousal liability” coverage was optional and required the insured to specifically request the additional coverage. It was not automatically included in policies.
At first glance, it might seem hard to believe that one spouse would ever want to assert a personal injury claim against the other. After all, they might live under the same roof, and share the same mortgage. Wouldn’t a claim against your own spouse hurt you as well? Would such a claim ever make sense?
That brings us back to the concept of “indemnification,” which occurs when an insurance company, in effect, stands in the shoes of the insured and pays for harm caused by the insured based on an insurance contract. “Supplemental spousal liability” coverage makes perfect sense under this lens. After all, spouses, by nature, tend to spend a lot of time together. Some of that time is spent in the car. And spouses, just like people in general, are not perfect. They can make mistakes.
If one spouse makes a mistake while behind the wheel, that can seriously harm the other. Under those circumstances, the injured spouse would probably want to be made “whole,” which might involve a claim against the other. Starting August 1, 2023, a newly enacted law requires supplemental spousal liability coverage to be automatically included in motor vehicle liability insurance policies unless the insured specifically declines the coverage in writing.
If you were injured in a New York motor vehicle crash, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced lawyers at William Mattar, P.C. Our lawyers are adept at identifying all insurance coverage to make sure that clients receive maximum compensation under the circumstances. If you have any questions regarding New York’s new law which automatically includes supplemental spousal liability coverage, we would be happy to address them.