The Office of General Counsel issued the following opinion on January 13, 2004, representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.
Re: Uninsured Motorist Coverage - Out-of-State Vehicle
Is a person injured in an automobile accident in New York while operating a motor vehicle registered in another state which is insured by an insurer in accordance with the laws of that state, and which insurer is also licensed to do business in New York, entitled to Uninsured Motorist ("UM") coverage from the out-of-state insurer when the other tortfeasor vehicle involved in the accident is uninsured, but the out-of-state policy does not provide for UM coverage?
Yes. An out-of-state vehicle operating on a New York roadway must provide for the minimum liability requirements to operate a vehicle in New York, which includes mandatory UM coverage.
The inquirer represents a Pennsylvania licensed insurer, who is also licensed in New York, of a Pennsylvania owned motor vehicle which is insured in compliance with the requirements of Pennsylvania law. The inquirer stated that the Pennsylvania policy did not provide for the payment of UM benefits in Pennsylvania. The insured in question was injured during an accident with an uninsured tortfeasor vehicle while operating the Pennsylvania vehicle in New York. The inquirer questioned whether the Pennsylvania liability coverage should cover the insured for the payment of UM benefits required under New York law since the accident occurred in New York.
Pursuant to N.Y. Ins. Law § 3420(f)(1) (McKinney 2000) all motor vehicle liability policies issued for vehicles in New York must provide for a minimum amount of $25,000/50,000 in uninsured motorist coverage in the event that occupants of an insured vehicle suffer bodily injury or death as a result of an accident caused by an uninsured vehicle. As enunciated by the Court of Appeals in Vanguard Ins. Co. v. Polchlopek, 401 N.Y.S. 2d 196 (1966), the provision of uninsured motorist coverage for accidents occurring within New York expresses the public policy that motorists should be protected against damages inflicted by a financially irresponsible party.
In a case directly on point to the situation posed, Midwest Mutual Ins. Co. v. Pisani, 673 N.Y.S. 2d 126 (App. Div. 1st Dept.) (1998), the court relied on N.Y. Ins. Law § 5107 (McKinney 2000), which governs coverage for non-resident motorists and is made applicable to out-of-state insurers who are also licensed to do business in New York, to construe a Pennsylvania motor vehicle liability policy to provide New York insured motorist coverage to a Pennsylvania insured person injured in New York when struck by uninsured vehicles, regardless of whether uninsured motorist coverage was included when the Pennsylvania policy was issued.
Therefore, under the circumstances presented herein, the out-of-state policy should provide for the minimum uninsured motorist coverage required under New York law.
For further information you may contact Supervising Attorney Lawrence M. Fuchsberg at the New York City Office.