Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s “Regular Use” Uninsured Motorist Exception
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is one of the most important types of automobile insurance you can carry. If you are injured by a negligent driver who does not carry any insurance, does not carry enough insurance to pay for your damages or cannot be located by police after fleeing from the scene of an accident, your uninsured and underinsured motorist policy should kick in to help ensure that you get the compensation you need.
Yet, even with the help of an experienced uninsured motorist accident attorney, filing a successful uninsured/underinsured motorist claim against your own insurer is no simple matter. A recent decision from the highest court in Pennsylvania makes it even harder for some claimants, most notably first responders, to pursue uninsured/underinsured motorist claims.
Accident Victims from Police Officers to EMTs Excluded from Coverage if Injured in Work Vehicles
When officer Robert Williams of the Pennsylvania State Police suffered extensive injury in a car accident while operating a department-owned Crown Victoria, he filed an underinsured motorist claim against his insurance carrier. While the Pennsylvania State Police did not carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on its vehicles, Williams did have such coverage under his personal insurance policy.
His insurer denied the claim, citing an exclusion under its policies for vehicles that customers "regularly use" but that are not specifically insured in a given coverage plan. Williams and his legal team fought the denial all the way to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
However, the Supreme Court agreed with the insurance company, ruling in Williams v. GEICO that for first responders as much as anyone else, the regular use exclusion commonly found in uninsured/underinsured motorist policies is valid. Since the premiums Williams was paying did not contemplate inclusion of his police cruiser on his personal policy, the Court reasoned, the regular use exclusion passed muster.
What Does the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision Mean For Motorists?
The reasoning of the Supreme Court will guide Pennsylvania cases similar to the Williams case in the future. Yet, even without underinsured motorist protection through a personal insurer, there may be other viable avenues for compensation available to those injured in a vehicle they regularly use (like a work vehicle), but is not included in their personal policy. For instance, workers' compensation, disability insurance or a lawsuit against the manufacturer of a defective vehicle component that contributed to the accident may come into play.
There are efforts underway by some groups to spur lawmakers into carving out exceptions to the regular use exclusions in uninsured and underinsured motorist policies, at least for police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other first responders. Yet, unless new legislation takes hold, accident victims will have to do all they can working under current law to get the compensation they need. If you have been injured in an auto accident, getting in touch with a skilled attorney is especially important considering the added barriers you may face in light of the Williams v. GEICO decision.