Police Car Is a "Motor Vehicle" for Purposes of an Underinsured Motorist Claim

Case: In Re: State Farm v. Patrick Fitzgerald

Court: Appellate Division, Second Department

Date: November 6, 2013

From: New York attorney Gary E. Rosenberg (personal injury and accident attorney and lawyer; serving Brooklyn and Queens; Queens accident attorney)

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Facts:

A police officer (Fitzgerald) was riding in a police car operated by a fellow officer (Knauss). The police car had an accident with another vehicle, which was underinsured when compared to Knauss' personal car's State Farm insurance policy.

Fitzgerald sought underinsured motorist benefits (money) through arbitration, because Knauss' insurance policy covered any other person in a car operated by Knauss. State Farm opposed.

The issue was whether a police car qualifies as a "motor vehicle" under State Farm's insurance policy. The lower court read New York State's Vehicle and Traffic Law to exclude a police car from the definition of motor vehicle and stayed (prevented) Fitzgerald's claim and requested arbitration.

Held: The appeals court found a different section of the Vehicle and Traffic Law controlling and ruled that the lower court was mistaken. Thus, Fitzgerald's underinsured motorist claim for injuries suffered in the car accident is permitted to go forward against State Farm Insurance Company.

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