Can I Sue If My Spouse Was a Negligent Driver? Understanding Supplemental Spousal Liability Insurance in NY

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Distracted driving is emerging as one of the greatest dangers on the road today. People who text, check their cellphones, apply makeup, or even adjust the radio are endangering themselves, their passengers, and other motorists and pedestrians. The best way to avoid a distracted driving accident is to stay focused on the road at all times. However, in the event that an accident caused by a distracted driver does occur, is there any legal recourse if the distracted driver was your spouse? Is there some way to be compensated for the losses incurred?

There is a little known, but extremely valuable, insurance clause that can be very helpful for married couples in NY, in the event of an accident. Supplemental Spousal Liability Insurance (SSLI) is a form of insurance designed to protect spouses in cases wherein a spouse was negligent and caused an accident.  

New York State defines Supplemental Spousal Liability Insurance as:

Coverage against the liability of an insured because of death of, or injury to, his or her spouse up to the liability insurance limits provided under the policy even where the injured spouse, to be entitled to recover, must prove the culpable conduct of the insured spouse.

In other words, under this clause, if the married couple has previously added this provision to their policy and one spouse causes an accident due to his or her negligence while driving, the other spouse is able to collect compensation from his or her own insurance company due to the driving spouse’s responsibility for the car crash. Effectively, the insurance company compensates the passenger for the damages incurred, if his or her spouse has added this provision to his or her insurance policy.

New York State law further stipulates that:

This coverage must be made available upon written request of the insured and payment of a reasonable premium. In addition, the statute requires, for all policies issued or renewed to be effective on or after January 1, 2003, that insurers provide appropriate written notification of the availability of this coverage. The notification must 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 premium for the coverage. Subsequently, this information must be provided in a notification to all insureds at least once a year.

Thus, not only must this insurance provision be made available to drivers, but the insurance carriers have a legal obligation to inform their insured about this coverage. Unfortunately, despite this legal provision, many insurance carriers and insurance brokers do not properly inform their clients about Supplemental Spousal Liability Insurance coverage.  All motorists should be made aware of this important coverage so that they are fully protected in case of an accident involving them and their spouse.

In order to include this coverage, insurance carriers will typically charge a modest increase to the monthly premium, depending on the nature of the broader policy and the number of vehicles covered. This minor increase in one’s monthly premium can be a very worthwhile investment in the event of an unfortunate car accident that may be caused by the negligence of your spouse.

If you do not have this clause written into your policy, you should be aware of the fact that if your spouse is negligent while driving and you are harmed because of his or her actions- you will likely not be able to recover for your injuries.

Topics:  Auto Insurance, Car Accident, Distracted Driving

Published In: Personal Injury Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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