• Don't Let Your Auto Insurance Company Short-Change You Out Of Coverage to Which You May Be Entitled
  • August 20, 2013
  • Law Firm: Feldstein Grinberg Lang McKee P.C. - Pittsburgh Office
  • When someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident there are certain types of insurance coverage available which are often overlooked unless the injured person is represented by an attorney who is familiar with auto accident litigation.  Specifically, uninsurance and underinsurance coverage are two important components of coverage which will form your potential "pool" of funds to which you may be entitled.  Consequently, it is important that your attorney holds the insurance company's feet to the fire and make them show that they have complied with Pennsylvania law regarding notification and waiver/rejection of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  In Pennsylvania, an insurance company is required to, in writing, make known to its insured, the availability of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  Importantly, you, as the insured must have signed a rejection/waiver of these coverages before your insurer may deny these important coverages to you.  If the insurance company cannot produce a form with your signature, rejecting uninsured and underinsured coverage then you are entitled to uninsured and underinsured coverage in the same amount as the liability coverage on your existing policy.

    Prior to 1984, basic motor vehicle insurance was required for every vehicle in the state under the former No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act.  The No-Fault Act embodied a principle known as "maximum feasible restoration" to accident victims.  This overarching policy was manifested in provisions in the Act such as unlimited medical coverage.  The Act also required that a motor vehicle liability policy issued in Pennsylvania and covering any vehicle registered or principally garaged in the Commonwealth was required to include coverage for the protection of persons insured under the policy who become legally entitled to recover damages from the owners or operators of uninsured vehicles.  In other words, the General Assembly recognized that, although, every vehicle was required to be insured in Pennsylvania, there would be some persons who, inevitably, would drive uninsured vehicles and, also inevitably, get into accidents, and cause injuries to other motorists.

    The No-Fault Act fueled rising insurance costs since insurers were required to provide expensive benefits such as unlimited medical coverage.  In 1984, the General Assembly implemented the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law which replaced the No-Fault Act.

    Changes under the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law include: reduction of unlimited medical coverage to a mandatory $5,000.00 minimum, income lost benefits were reduced, and the stacking of first party benefits was eliminated.  The Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law also required underinsurance motorist coverage to be included in all motor vehicle policies delivered or issued in Pennsylvania. The uninsured motorist and underinsurance motorist coverage limits had to be equal to the bodily injury liability coverage, unless the insured made a written request for a lessor amount.  The mandatory inclusion of uninsured motorist benefits and underinsurance motorist benefits has since been revised.  Under the General Assembly's most recent revisions, a policy holder in Pennsylvania may, in fact, reject uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage as long as the insurer informs the insured, in writing, that he/she is entitled to uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and that they, in exchange for a reduction in premium, may waive or reject these coverages.  The rejection must be an express rejection; the insured must reject the uninsured and underinsured coverage by signing a rejection or waiver as part of the application for insurance.

    In other words, although uninsured motorist benefits and underinsured motorist benefits are no longer required in Pennsylvania, in order for an insurance company to deny such coverage, the burden is on the insurance company to show that the particular coverage was offered and that the insured made a knowing and intelligent rejection or waiver of the underinsurance or uninsured coverage.

    Accordingly, when a person is injured in an auto accident, uninsurance and, more usually, underinsurance coverage become an important issue.  These are critical aspects of auto insurance coverage and often can represent an increase in potential recovery by doubling the amount available or, in the case of stacking, sometimes tripling or even quadrupling the available coverage.

    We view this as an important, and indeed, essential aspect of any motor vehicle litigation, and accordingly it is our policy that the insurance company always provide proof that the uninsured and underinsured coverage have been offered, that the client knew about it, and that the client made a knowing voluntary and written rejection of such coverage.