Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Coverage Beyond U.S. Borders

There is a strong public policy for the provision of uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage in auto accidents. In New Mexico, this policy dictates a liberal reading of both the statute governing uninsured motorist coverage as well as the auto insurance policies themselves.

An auto insurance policy will be held to provide uninsured coverage to the same degree as the liability coverage unless there is a specific signed rejection of the UM/UIM coverage attached to the policy. In addition, the UM/UIM coverage will have the same geographical coverage as the liability coverage under the policy. Because insurance policy limits are almost always an issue in car accident cases, the laws and cases governing uninsured motorists are critical. The issue can even arise on vacation or other travel abroad.

In the 2001 case of State Farm v. Marquez, the New Mexico Court of Appeals held that UM/UIM coverage in the policy extended to coverage for an automobile accident that occurred in Mexico. The court held this despite the fact that the policy had a specific exclusion of uninsured/underinsured coverage in Mexico.

The court ruled that because the policy provided liability coverage in Mexico, there was UM/UIM coverage as well. The court ruled that the policy behind uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage dictated that the uninsured/underinsured coverage be territorially coextensive with the liability coverage despite the language in the policy excluding uninsured motorist coverage in Mexico.

The court recognized that an insurance policy could exclude both liability and uninsured motorist coverage outside the United States. However, the uninsured coverage would follow the liability coverage. The court expressly refused to address whether or not an insured driver could reject uninsured coverage outside the United States. In light of subsequent case-law, it is clear that a policy holder could waive uninsured coverage outside the U.S. when the rejection is signed and properly attached to the policy.

If you have suffered personal injuries as a result of an automobile accident outside the United States, you would be well advised to have an experienced accident and injury attorney review your policy for possible coverage. Chances are that there is no coverage on the other driver and little chance of direct recovery through a lawsuit against the other driver.


Related Reading:
Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage Has Broad Scope in New Mexico
Recovery of Punitive Damages Under Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Coverage
Notice Requirements in New Mexico Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Cases

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