Buffalo, NY (WBEN) A new state law requires car insurance carriers to automatically enroll their clients into a supplemental spousal insurance coverage package. That package allows a person to sue his spouse for pain and suffering in connection with negligent driving that leads to an injury.
AAA’s Dave Kirst says this has been around since 2003. New York mandated insurance companies to notify everybody of the supplemental spousal liability coverages. He says it usually entails a piece of paper in the policy that many times just got overlooked. Kirst says a lot of people were not aware that if your spouse was negligent in the accident, and you were injured, that you couldn’t necessarily sue that spouse for pain and suffering. “New York State changed the law to say, ‘Okay, now instead of just notifying it, we’re just going to automatically enroll everybody in this.’ And if you don’t want to be in it, you’re gonna have to sign off on it,” says Kirst.
Kirst says it may not necessarily lead to an increase in premiums because some carriers have already provided that as part of the insurance package. “The nice thing, though, is it’s opened up a lot of conversations and something I’ve always tried to counsel my insurance with to make sure that they are aware of this coverage and this gap in case one of the other spouses was the one that was negligent in the accident,” notes Kirst. He does say there is concern among singles who are disabled people, divorced or not married or widowed, and suddenly see an additional coverage added on to their policies.
Assemblymember Stephen Hawley says there are flaws with the new law. “The first is, you often have your own personal choice, isn’t insured to opt in, not have to opt out. And secondly, are you kidding me? Single people, no spouse have to have spousal liability coverage,” says Hawley. He plans on introducing legislation to keep unmarried people off of the requirement, with the opt-out matter to be dealt with separately.
Hawley says New York State has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the nation. “We are telling folks that they have to have a certain coverage, even single folks that they’ll never utilize and companies will never have to pay out a dime,” says Hawley. He notes premiums could go up as much as $45 per year.
Based in New York, Stephen Freeman is a Senior Editor at Trending Insurance News. Previously he has worked for Forbes and The Huffington Post. Steven is a graduate of Risk Management at the University of New York.