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Third Circuit Case Assesses Pennsylvania UIM Coverage Laws

As a motorist in Pennsylvania, it’s important to fully understand your insurance policy limits in the event an accident occurs. Under Pennsylvania law, you are required to purchase liability coverage that  provides payment for bodily injury and property damage, with minimum limits of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.  Additional coverage may also be offered by the insurance company in the form of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage (UM/UIM), which provides additional money if the at-fault party does not have insurance or cannot be found, or if the at-fault party has a policy, but the damages cost far more than the at-fault party’s coverage limits.  In the event of a catastrophic injury, this additional coverage can provide much needed financial relief.

The Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a decision based on the two precedential cases with the same two parties, Sackett v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. (Case cites: 919 A.2d 194 and 940 A.2d 329.)  The injured person in the present case, Seiple v. Progressive Northern Insurance Co., was involved in an accident while he was driving his motorcycle.  The injured person purchased his initial motorcycle policy in 2009 under Progressive Northern Insurance Company, which covered one motorcycle and a limited amount of UIM coverage.  To satisfy the enacted Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), the injured person signed a Waiver of Stacking UIM coverage.  The policy was renewed each year, with additional motorcycles added in November 2010 and September 2011.  Waivers of stacking were not signed with these additions, but there was an Amended Declarations Page, which explained the coverage.

After the injured person received payment from the at-fault party’s insurance company, he filed a claim with his own insurance company for coverage under the UIM portion of his policy.  While there was evidence in the policy that he rejected additional UIM coverage, the insurance company could not produce his signed waiver and agreed to pay up to the $50,000 limit.  The injured person then argued that the $50,000 was not enough, and that he should receive additional UIM monies from the additional motorcycle policies.  The injured person argued that since the insurance company failed to get additional waivers, the coverage had to be “stacked” by law.  The insurance company objected, stating that it was not required to obtain additional waivers.  The lower court agreed, and dismissed the injured person’s claim.

The prevailing case law under the Sackett decisions states that an insurer is not required to obtain additional waivers when a vehicle is added to a pre-existing multi-vehicle policy unless the policy expressly makes the terms finite in the initial policy.  The appellate court agreed with the lower court’s refusal to accept the distinction posed by the injured person that the addition of the cars was an endorsement, rather than an addition under the after-acquired-vehicle clause.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order, ruling against the injured person’s pursuit of stacked coverage.

The Pennsylvania motorcycle accident attorneys at Needle Law Firm have the experience you need to understand the coverage available under your insurance policy.  We will aggressively pursue all avenues of legal and monetary relief so that you can return to a full health as quickly as possible.  For a free, confidential consultation, contact our office at 570-344-1266.

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