Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Major Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling: Uninsured Motorists Can Sue for Wage Loss and Medical Expenses

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a long-awaited important decision in the case of Corbin v. Khosla, 48 EAP 2010 (Pa. Feb. 21, 2012  McCaffery, J) in which they addressed the issue of whether an uninsured driver injured in a motor vehicle accident may sue the defendant driver for economic damages (medical expenses and wage loss).

The Supreme Court noted that Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Responsibility Law prohibits such uninsured drivers from recovering first party benefits (medical expenses and wage loss) under 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1714.  However, the Court also pointed out that the same uninsured drivers are deemed to be considered to be covered by the limited tort option under 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1705 which statute allows limited tort claimants to recover economic damages (medical expenses and wage loss) from negligent defendant drivers.

This issue came to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by way of a certification of the question presented to the Court from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

After reviewing the history and law applicable to the issue presented, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted the distinct differences between how first party claims and third party claims are viewed such that the Court found that there was no ambiguity in the above stated statutory provisions. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court went on to hold that, while there are some penalties assessed to an uninsured driver for driving without insurance (no first party benefits, limited tort status, criminal penalties), there is no recognized prohibition against an injured uninsured motorist pursuing a claim against another negligent driver to recover the injured party's economic damages such as wage loss and medical expenses in addition to the ordinary claims for pain and suffering.

Concisely, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Section 1714 of the MVFRL does not preclude an injured uninsured motorists from pursuing and recovering medical expenses or wage loss from the other negligent driver.

Justice McCaffery's Majority Opinion can be viewed here.

Justice Saylor's Concurring Opinion can be viewed here.

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