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What Happens When a Auto Accident Involves Out-of-State Policies or Drivers?

Pennsylvania frequently encounters out-of-state motorists, and Pennsylvania residents regularly travel to and from nearby states. If an auto accident occurs between two residents of different states, questions quickly arise as to who is entitled to what coverage, and which state’s laws apply. In Pennsylvania, Uninsured and Underinsured Motor Vehicle coverage is not a mandatory purchase by the consumer, but it must be offered by Pennsylvania insurance carriers and specifically rejected by the policy holder. If an injured party from a different state seeks Pennsylvania Underinsured Motorist Coverage and comes from a state where UM/UIM is required, what happens?

A Superior Court of Pennsylvania case, Peters v. Nat’l Interstate Ins. Co., provides a idea of what is considered in the scenario above. In this case, the car accident occurred in Ohio in a work vehicle from a Pennsylvania company that was registered in Ohio, but not principally garaged in Pennsylvania. The injured parties were hit head-on by a driver and incurred medical bills in excess of $760,000. The at-fault party’s insurance limits were reached at $200,000, so the injured parties sought Underinsurance benefits from the employer’s auto insurance policy.

The injured parties filed a claim pursuant to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), but the insurance company refused coverage, since the employer policy holder had rejected UM/UIM coverage. The injured parties claimed that the rejection of the UM/UIM coverage was invalid and void and sought a declaratory judgment of coverage. The trial judge agreed with the injured parties that the UM/UIM rejection was void and granted their request. The insurance company appealed, arguing that the policy provision was not ambiguous and that UIM would not have been available, even if it had been selected by the policy holder.

The Superior Court agreed with the insurance company, pointing to the plain language of the MVFRL, which applies to vehicles “registered or principally garaged in this Commonwealth.” Both parties agreed that the vehicle was registered in Ohio and not principally garaged in Pennsylvania. The court felt that was the first block to claiming coverage. The court then felt that even if the car was garaged in Pennsylvania, the employer rejected the UIM coverage, and the employee and his daughter did not have any reasonable expectation to be covered by this policy.

At Needle Law Firm, P.C., our lawyers have the experience necessary to maximize the damages that you need and deserve. We work tirelessly to seek all avenues of relief and utilize our understanding of the complexities of auto insurance policies, state laws, and the insurance industry to help you with your claim. Whether you are an out-of-state driver who had an accident in Pennsylvania, or a Pennsylvania resident who needs to file a claim for your own uninsured/underinsured benefits, our Pennsylvania auto accident attorneys are here to help. For a free, confidential consultation, contact our office today at 570-344-1266.

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