As a Central New York auto accident lawyer, I know first hand what kind of automobile insurance people should buy, but don’t. Yesterday I blogged about the BIGGEST MISTAKE people make when choosing auto insurance. Today I am addressing the SECOND BIGGEST mistake they make. What is it? They don’t buy “spousal liability coverage”. What’s that? Let me explain.
Let’s say you are taking a road trip with your wife (or husband), your child and a friend. That makes you and three passengers. You make a mistake and cause a car crash (for example, you failed to see a stop sign, or you dosed off at the wheel). Everyone in your car is seriously injured. Of course, everyone is entitled to basic “no-fault” coverage for basic medical costs and lost wages, but that is very limited and can run out quickly when serious injuries occur. But your “liability” auto insurance should pay to compensate everyone in your car for their losses beyond no-fault, including pain and suffering (at least to the policy limit), right? Wrong! Everyone gets compensated EXCEPT YOUR SPOUSE.
Holy mackerel! How come? Because you didn’t buy SPOUSAL LIABILITY COVERAGE. You see, traditionally New York barred spouse-against-spouse liability claims. The idea was that a marriage makes one person out of two, so a spouse-on-spouse claim was like suing yourself, which was not acceptable. When that notion fell by the wayside, and New York began allowing spouse-against-spouse personal injury lawsuits, including car accident lawsuits, the auto insurance industry in New York did not keep pace. Automobile insurance policies universally continued to provide an exclusion of coverage for claims brought by one spouse against the other.
Then, a few years ago, New York State passed a law that REQUIRES automobile insurance companies to offer their policyholders the opportunity to purchase spousal liability coverage. But you must REQUEST this additional coverage — it is not automatically offered. That is because insurance companies don’t make a profit off of this coverage. They don’t really want you to buy it, which is why you should buy it. It’s a great deal: Important protection for the person you love most at low cost. How can you beat that?
Why would anyone want to own car insurance that provides full liability coverage for complete strangers they accidentally injure in a car crash, but zero coverage to one’s spouse? Not buying spousal liability insurance is therefore, in my book, the second biggest mistake you can make when you buy motor vehicle insurance.
My advice? Call your insurance agent or broker today and ask about spousal liability insurance.