Liability Exposure While Driving on SUNY Business

Policy Information
Policy TitleLiability Exposure While Driving on SUNY Business
Responsible OfficeDirector of Procurement
Policy TypeBusiness Affairs
Policy Number212
Last Revision Date10/9/2023


To provide guidance concerning liability exposure for State employees and SUNY Students while driving vehicles on SUNY business or for other campus-authorized purposes.  

Rental Vehicles

Employees or state volunteers who drive rental vehicles on state business must first receive authorization to travel by filling out the “Request & Authorization” form provided by the Travel Office.  Employees must also look to the mandated liability insurance coverage provided by the rental car company (if the vehicle is rented in NYS), then to their personal auto liability policy (unless business use is excluded) and finally to the State’s self-insurance coverage. This means that most likely a private auto insurance company will be providing legal representation for the employee or volunteer who is sued for damages arising out of a rental car accident.

The State of New York has state contracts with Enterprise and Hertz rental companies for car rentals. SUNY makes use of this state contract, although employees may have to use other rental companies if the business is out-of-state or in a location not served by Enterprise or Hertz. The State contracts with Enterprise and Hertz requires that the company provide the State-mandated liability coverage of $25,000 per person $50,000 per occurrence to authorized renters. If renting a commercial vehicle (e.g., 12-passenger van, pick-up truck), collision and liability insurance must be purchased.

Certain additional best practices are recommended when renting a vehicle on state business:

  1. All rentals are to be made in the name of New York State or the name of the SUNY to ensure liability coverage. Since state employees on official business are representing New York State, the state employee’s name should be included as an agent of NYS or as an authorized user. The names of all drivers should be included on the rental form with Enterprise.  State law places a limit of three authorized drivers per rented vehicle. 
  2. Under NYS policy, the employee receives automatic coverage at no extra cost through Enterprise or Hertz (effective 6/11). This coverage shields both the employee and the State of New York from any liability for theft or damage to the rental car
    1. Damage to Rental Vehicle Only
      •  If there is an accident involving damage to the rental car or the car is stolen, the employee should immediately notify the rental agency for its carrier to cover the loss.
      • Notify supervisor
      • Notify rental agency
      • Notify Matt Schofield — Director of Procurement
        email:; phone: 607-777-2184
    2. Personal Injury — Notify immediately:
      • Notify the car rental agency
      • Notify own car insurance (even if employee believes business use is excluded)
      • Notify supervisor
      • Notify Business Office (which will notify counsel’s office)

State Owned Vehicles

NYS no longer carries automobile liability insurance on State-owned vehicles. Instead, the State self-insures for risks associated with the driving of state-owned (also referred to as “fleet” vehicles). It is important to be aware that part of the self-insurance program is administered through the NYS Office of General Services (OGS). OGS must be notified in the event of an accident involving a state-owned vehicle (Claims Administrator, Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management — 518-474-4729).
The campus will be responsible for repairs or damage to the fleet vehicle itself where the driver was at fault; otherwise, litigation may be initiated by the Attorney General to recover for damages.  Personal injuries to third parties caused by the state driver are handled as follows: OGS, Motor Vehicles Claims Administrator must be notified as described above. OGS has authority to settle damage claims up to $25,000. Beyond that amount, the injured party must file a lawsuit to recover damages, either in the Court of Claims if SUNY is being sued or in the State Supreme Court if the driver is being sued individually.
The State Attorney General will defend the employee or student sued upon a determination that the accident occurred in the scope of their SUNY employment or SUNY volunteer status. Given this requirement, it is essential that the student drivers of fleet vehicles have advance written authorization to use the vehicle, that it is for an authorized purpose, and that due diligence is taken to ensure the safety of passengers and others (i.e., check driving record). Accidents should cause the review of the drivers’ authorization.

Personal Vehicles

In addition to the information provided above, a best practice when authorizing use of personal vehicles for SUNY business is to ensure that employees are put on a written notice that their own personal automobile liability insurance may provide the first layer of insurance coverage in an accident. Employees should be advised to confirm with their insurance carrier whether business uses of their personal vehicles are excluded from coverage.  In the event of an express exclusion, the State’s self-insurance will provide the primary coverage. Once again, the authorization to travel (R&A form) is necessary when using your personal vehicle.

Student Drivers

Before students are authorized to drive passenger vans, they must have their drivers’ licenses verified by the Department of Motor Vehicles under the NYS License Event Notification Services (LENS) program and, for 15-passenger vans, receive appropriate training.  Furthermore, students may be authorized as van drivers only:

  1. if it is not feasible to use another driver who is an employee;
  2. a designated campus staff person appoints each student driver; and
  3. a staff member must accompany the transport of students for the approved purposes.

Student-owned vehicles cannot be used for official University business. We recommend that when students are involved with University business travel they be added to the University volunteer list. Students are to be authorized to drive state vehicles under the same conditions as the above van use. 

Where students are authorized to use state-owned vehicles for student activities such as club sports or club programs or residence hall outings, the University as the registered owner of the vehicle will be liable for the operation of the vehicle by anyone who is driving that vehicle with the consent or permission of the owner. This dictates that the University take reasonable steps to avoid liability by applying the practices outlined above. It is also recommended that a staff member accompany any trip where students are transported for a University-sponsored program or field trip (required for trips using 15-passenger vans).

Student drivers should be notified in advance that use of rental vehicles paid for by the campus will place their own automobile liability policy at risk in case of an accident.

Attachment 1

Event Driver's Medical Damage to Vehicle Damage to Other Vehicle Other Bodily Injury
Student drives his/her own vehicle

—No-fault up to $50K
—Student health insurance

—Collision on student auto insurance
—Third party auto insurance if at fault

—Student auto insurance

—No-fault of injured party for medical bills
—Student auto insurance
—Owner of vehicle's insurance (if different)

Faculty/Staff drive their own vehicle —Worker's Compensation (primary); WC will take a lien on no-fault insurance coverage (second); Personal health insurance (third) —Faculty/Staff auto insurance —Faculty/Staff auto insurance

—No-fault for medical bills; for liability Faculty/Staff auto insurance is primary;
—§17 POL secondary (excess)

Student drives State owned vehicle —Worker's Compensation (if employee)

—State no-fault coverage to $50K
—Student's health insurance

—SUNY campus (or System) pays for repairs, if the student driver is at fault. —State self insurance;

—OGS notified and generally pays property damage

—State Self Insurance;

—OGS handles program with up to 25K in settlement authority - above this, suit filed in Court of Claims or NYS Supreme Court with §17 coverage

Faculty/Staff driving State owned vehicle

—Workers Compensation (primary)
—State no-fault up to $50K
—Personal health insurance

—SUNY campus (or System) pays for repairs, if the SUNY driver is at fault —State self insurance

—OGS notified and generally pays for property damage

—State self insurance — see above
Student driving RF owned vehicle on RF business —Worker's Compensation

—No-fault coverage on vehicle
—Personal insurance

—RF insurance —RF insurance —RF insurance
Faculty/Staff driving RF owned vehicle on RF business —Workers Compensation

—No-fault on vehicle
—Personal insurance

—RF insurance —RF insurance —RF insurance
Student driving rental car paid for with personal credit card —No-fault under rental car insurance up to $25K

—No-fault under personal auto insurance
—Personal health insurance

—Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is necessary and part of the NYS Contract

—State agency (campus)

—Rental car insurance
—Personal auto insurance
—§17 excess or Court of Claims if State sued

—Rental car insurance to $25/50K limit*

—Personal insurance
—§17 excess

Faculty/Staff driving rental car paid for with personal credit card

—Worker's Compensation
—Rental car no-fault insurance
—No-fault under personal auto insurance
—Personal health insurance

—Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is necessary and part of the NYS Contract
—State agency (for campus)

—Rental car insurance
—Personal auto insurance
—§17excess or Court of Claims if State sued

—Rental car insurance to $25/50K limit* is primary;
—Personal insurance and
—§17 excess/or Court of Claims

Student driving rental car paid for directly with state funds via corporate credit card*** or purchase order

—Worker's Compensation (if employee)
—Rental car no-fault
—Corporate card provides accident insurance
—Personal Health Insurance

—Rental car insurance
—JPMC Visa Card insurance covers Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and is necessart and part of the NYS Contract
—Personal auto insurance

Rental car insurance
—Personal insurance
—§17 excess or Court of Claims if State sued

—Rental car insurance to $25/50K limit*, then personal insurance, then §17 excess/or Court of Claims
 Faculty/staff driving rental car paid for directly with state funds via corporate card or purchase order

—Worker's Compensation
—Rental car no- fault coverage
—Personal health insurance

Rental Contract:  Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is necessary and part of the NYS Contract or JPMC Visa if used provides Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is necessarty and part of the NYS Contract
Other credit cards - purchase damage waiver protection (see above for order)

—Rental car insurance
—Personal auto insurance
—§17 excess or Court of Claims

—Rental car insurance to $25/50K limit*

—Personal insurance,
—§17 excess

 Hired bus/coach

—Bus Co. insurance or file suit ag. transport company;
—Personal health insurance

 Bus company's insurance Bus company's insurance  Bus company's insurance

Note: In all instances (unless noted otherwise), it is assumed that that activity (while driving) is for the purpose of official state business

* In New York State
** In any instances where a student is driving, it is assumed that student is an employee or a volunteer for SUNY
*** NYS has a contract with JPMC Visa for corporate travel credit cards. The State contract provides the insurance coverage which accompanies the use of credit card on official travel and includes CDW, baggage insurance and travel accident insurance up to $350,000 per incident which covers injuries to the driver and rental car passengers.