Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Hears Argument In Two Important UIM Cases

In two separate matters — one on April 13th and one on April 14th — the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding two important issues in underinsured motorist (UIM) cases: (1) whether those eligible for workers' compensation benefits may also collect underinsured motorist benefits and (2) whether underinsured motorist coverage on a police officer's personal vehicle can be extended to a police vehicle when the cop's law enforcement agency does not provide such insurance.

In Heller v. Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, a 2-1 Superior Court panel previously ruled that a person receiving workers' compensation benefits may be subject to an insurance exclusion and thereby from also recovering underinsured motorist benefits.

Superior Court Judge James Gardner Colins wrote for majority in Heller and held that the legal precedent relied upon by the injured party did not squarely address the issue at hand. The Superior Court further stated that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has never considered whether its previous ruling on the issue still applies, given amendments have been made to the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law.

Now, with the Heller case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is presented with another opportunity to clarify the workers' compensation issue.

In the separate matter of Williams v. GEICO, the injured party police officer was injured in a car accident on the job and presented a UIM claim to his own personal insurance carrier, GEICO because the Pennsylvania State Police did not carry UM/UIM coverage on its vehicles. GEICO applied the "regular use" exclusion under its policy to deny coverage. In this case, the injured party is challenging that exclusion and GEICO's denial.

The decision by the Supreme Court could have a major impact on all first responders, from police officers, EMTs, and firefighters, who may all be driving out there without any UIM coverage under the current status of the law.

Source: "Beer Sales, UIM Issues Highlight Arguments Session in Pittsburgh" by Leo Strupczewski in the April 13, 2010 edition of The Legal Intelligencer.

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