The Office of General Counsel issued the following opinion on February 7, 2008, representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.
Re: Permissible drivers under personal automobile insurance policy
If a licensed driver has permission from the insured owner to operate the motor vehicle in New York, would the insurance policy for the vehicle provide coverage in the event that its operator is involved in an accident?
Yes. As a general rule, § 60-1.1(c) of 11 NYCRR (Reg. 35-A) provides that an automobile liability insurance policy must insure against loss from liability due to bodily injury and property damage not only the named insured and the spouse who resides in the same household, but also any other person using the motor vehicle with the permission of the named insured or spouse, provided the actual operation or use is within the scope of the permission.
The inquiry is of a general nature, without reference to particular facts.
Pursuant to § 60-1.1(c) of Department Regulation 35-A, a standard automobile liability insurance policy generally provides insurance to the named insured, the spouse residing in the same household, and "any other person using the motor vehicle with the permission of the named insured or such spouse, provided his or her actual operation or (if he or she is not operating) his or her other actual use thereof is within the scope of such permission "
Similarly, N.Y. Ins. Law § 3420(e) (McKinney 2007) provides in pertinent part:
No policy or contract of personal injury liability insurance or of property damage liability insurance, covering liability arising from the ownership, maintenance or operation of any motor vehicle shall be issued or delivered in this state to the owner thereof, or shall be issued or delivered by any authorized insurer upon any such vehicle principally garaged or principally used in this state, unless it contains a
provision insuring the named insured against liability for death or injury sustained, or loss or damage occasioned within the coverage of the policy or contract, as a result of negligence in the operation or use of such vehicle by any person operating or using the same with the permission, express or implied, of the named insured. (Emphasis added.)
N.Y. Vehicle & Traffic Law § 388(1) (McKinney 2005) also attributes to the owner any negligence in the use or operation of a motor vehicle by any person using or operating the motor vehicle with the permission, express or implied, of the owner.
Accordingly, where the driver of an automobile has the permission of the insured owner to use or operate the motor vehicle, that driver would be a covered insured under the insurance policy for the automobile in the event of an accident or loss, even if not named in the policy as an operator. However, please note that an insurer may charge additional premium (including retroactively on a personal lines automobile insurance policy) to cover a licensed driver in the household who should have been, but was not, listed on the policy as a named operator.
For further information you may contact Associate Attorney Jeffrey A. Stonehill at the New York City Office.