Change To No-Fault Insurance Protects Drunk Drivers.

by Friedman & Ranzenhofer, PC on March 23, 2011

in NY Insurance Issues

New York State Law requires all Buffalo drivers to carry No-Fault automobile insurance.  This insurance usually pays for the driver’s initial $50,000 in medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of who was at fault for the injury accident.  Previously, No-Fault insurance coverage could be denied to an injured drunk driver who had caused an accident as a result of his or her intoxication. 

On January 26, 2011, however, a change in this law went into effect that modified this right of insurance companies to deny coverage to a drunk driver who caused an accident.  This new law prohibits no-fault insurers from excluding coverage to drunk drivers for necessary emergency services rendered in a hospital.  This includes ambulance service and any needed medical screening.  

This change was deemed necessary because hospitals and ambulance services that were required to render emergency services to stabilize a drunk driver immediately after an accident often had no means of being paid for these services.  The insurance coverage could be denied, and the driver often would not have the funds to pay for their treatment.  The bill’s Sponsor’s Memorandum also noted that under the old system, emergency health care providers were discouraged from testing for impairment by alcohol or drugs because it may lead to a denial of payment.

While it remains to be seen exactly how the term “necessary emergency health services” will be interpreted under this law, the New York State Insurance Department has issued a letter indicating that it is their position that once the condition of the drunk driver has been stabilized, no-fault coverage may cease.  No-fault is not required to pay for long term treatment or lost wages of a drunk driver who caused a car accident.

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