by Jon Ostroff, Esquire
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage is often the most important insurance protection for you and your family. In most crashes that cause serious injuries in Pennsylvania, the driver causing the accident does not carry enough insurance to fully compensate the injured victim. Uninsured and Underinsured motorist coverage (also called “UM/UIM”) is relatively inexpensive. Purchase the highest amount of UM/UIM coverage you can afford. This coverage is one of the least expensive benefits on your policy and may well be the most important. You should also choose the “stacking” option, which allows you to multiply the amount of UM/UIM coverage you purchase by the number of vehicles in your household. You are welcome to call our law firm when selecting your insurance coverage and we are happy to help you make the best insurance benefit choices that you can afford.
Recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision impacts UM/UIM
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that insurance companies do not need to use the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law’s (MVFRL) exact UM and UIM coverage rejection forms if the changes the company makes to the forms’ language are “inconsequential.”
The MVFRL provides forms for insurance companies to use when an insured rejects UM/UIM coverage. The new judgment comes with Ford v. American States Insurance, which brought to issue the significance of a single word change in the UIM coverage rejection form given to and signed by the plaintiff.
The UIM coverage rejection form provided by the MVFRL typically reads: “underinsured coverage protects me and my relatives living in my household for losses and damages” caused by the negligence of an underinsured driver. However, the form American States provided the plaintiff had added the word “motorists” between “underinsured” and “coverage.”
In Ford v. American States Insurance, the plaintiff challenged the addition of the word and argued that the insurance company’s form did not specifically comply with the MVFRL. However, the Supreme Court said the rule should not be read so rigidly. When the issue reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the justices ultimately upheld the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas judge’s grant of summary judgment to American States Insurance Co.
These “inconsequential” changes to UM/UIM rejection forms could mean the difference between an injured plaintiff obtaining compensation or receiving nothing. To best protect yourself and your family against the implications of the decision, select UM/UIM coverage and “stacking” on your insurance policy.