In a full-fledged opinion by Justice Hall, the Second Department determined that a police car is a “motor vehicle” within the meaning of an uninsured/underinsured motorist endorsement in a [State Farm] policy held by the driver. The plaintiff, a police officer, was injured in an automobile accident with an underinsured driver. The question was whether the State Farm policy held by the driver of the police car, another police officer, could be financially responsible under the uninsured/underinsured endorsement in the driver’s policy. The Second Department held that the driver’s underinsured endorsement covered the injured (police-officer) passenger. The question at issue was whether the exclusion of “police vehicle” from the definition of “motor vehicle” in Vehicle and Traffic Law 388(2) applied. The court ruled it did not and determined the operative definition of “motor vehicle” in this context was in Vehicle and Traffic Law 125:
Contrary to State Farm’s contention, VTL § 125, instead of VTL § 388(2), should be used to define the term “motor vehicle,” as it appears in the uninsured/underinsured motorist endorsement. VTL § 125 is a general provision that defines the relevant terminology for the entire VTL. In fact, VTL § 388(2) acknowledges this by incorporating by reference the VTL § 125 definition of “motor vehicle.” Additionally, it has been recognized that uninsured motorist coverage extends to all “motor vehicles,” as defined by VTL § 125 (…Insurance Law § 5202[a]…).
Police vehicles fall within the definition of a “motor vehicle” under VTL § 125 because they constitute a “vehicle operated or driven upon a public highway which is propelled by any power other than muscular power,” and they do not fall within any of the exclusions provided in the statute. Thus, the police vehicle at issue here falls within the definition of a “motor vehicle” under the uninsured/underinsured motorist endorsement. Matter of State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co v Fitzgerald, 2013 NY Slip Op 07186, 2nd Dept 11-6-13