New York to Increase Minimum Insurance Limits for For-Hire Vehicles including Limousines
Following the horrific tragedy involving a modified stretched limousine in Schoharie County in 2018, the New York State lawmakers committed to enacting essential safety reforms into law. Our New York City car accident lawyers know all too well how tragic it can be when a careless limousine driver causes an accident with catastrophic injuries and the the limo is owned by a shell company that has minimal insurance limits which under present law is only $25,000. On March 30, 2019, the New York State Legislature released annual budget legislation for the upcoming fiscal year. As part of the final agreement, the insurance laws regarding for-hire vehicles, including limousines, will receive a much-needed update. The legislature will authorize a series of reforms designed to promote greater auto safety on New York’s roads and highways in the wake of recent devastating limo crashes in Schoharie and on Long Island. Our Manhattan car accident lawyers applaud this effort to require for hire vehicles to carry higher minimum insurance limits.
Upon enactment of the budget, for-hire vehicles with a seating capacity 8 or more, including limousines, will now be required to carry a combined single minimum requirement of $1.5 million for bodily injury or death for one or more persons and property damage. Additionally, altered vehicles commonly referred to as “stretch limousines” will be required to carry $1.5 million in supplemental uninsured/under insured motorist coverage (SUM) to protect passengers in the vehicle if an accident occurs with another car that has no coverage (or not enough coverage). These provisions will protect New York passengers in the unfortunate event of an accident involving a limousine. The former insurance limits for these vehicles were woefully inadequate, and our New York lawyers applauds New York policymakers for modernizing these requirements.
Following statutory reforms are proposed to both protect passengers and hold those accountable who seek to defy the law, including:
- An outright ban on the registration of re-manufactured limousines, prohibiting their operation in New York State;
- Require drivers to hold a Commercial driver license with a special passenger endorsement to operate a for hire vehicle with 8 or more passengers;
- Make it a felony to remove an out of service sticker placed by a DOT inspector from a vehicle without having the vehicle re-inspected and cleared by DOT to return to service; Increase the civil penalty to a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation for any person found operating with suspended DOT operating authority or operating a vehicle without such authority and subject such actors to felony prosecution;
- Establish stronger registration suspension and vehicle impoundment powers, including an explicit process for immediate suspension of operating authority by the DOT Commissioner in circumstances that endanger the health, safety, and welfare of the public;
- Explicitly authorize DOT and DMV to seize suspended license plates;
- Make it a felony for any owner/operator to tamper with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard tag or vehicle inspection sticker;
- Ensure vehicle impoundment occurs for purposes of felony violations and subject multiple violators to the potential for civil forfeiture of vehicle;
- Require mandatory reporting by inspection stations to DMV if a vehicle attempts an unauthorized inspection;
- Create new criminal penalties for any DMV-regulated inspection station that illegally issues an inspection sticker;
- Prohibit U-turns for larger vehicles on all roads within the state;
- Eliminate the exception to seatbelt requirements for limousines, buses, taxis, liveries, and school buses; and
- Establish a DOT inspection fee of $120 per inspection for vehicles subject to such inspection.
Our New York and Manhattan personal injury lawyers believe that updating these insurance minimums will encourage safer driving practices, offer stronger protections for auto accident victims and their families, and support the continued growth of New York’s upstate economy.