Uninsured motorist coverage and the related coverage, underinsured motorist coverage, are coverages people buy as part of their Pennsylvania car insurance policy. Most people think of these coverages as protection in the event they are ever hurt as a result of a car accident and the responsible party either has no coverage or not enough. Usually, that's the way the coverage is supposed to work. But the recent opinion of Erie Insurance v. Conley demonstrates one of the gaps in the coverage and illustrates the general proposition insurance company's will do anything they can to avoid paying claims.
Mr. Conley was a man injured when a co-worker negligently caused a Pennsylvania car accident. However, he couldn't sue his co-worker because co-workers are immune from lawsuits under the Pennsylvania Worker's Compensation Act. So Mr. Conley turned to his own insurance company, from whom he thought he'd bought uninsured motorist coverage to protect himself from just such an event as this.
Unfortunately, Mr. Conley's case fell into one of those strange loopholes in the law that sometimes prevent people from getting fair compensation. The law (and the contract in this case) that requires UM/UIM coverage provides that the coverage exists to compensate insureds who are "legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of [uninsured or underinsured motor vehicles]." The problem for Mr. Conley? Because his co-worker was immune, the co-worker was not someone from whom Mr. Conley was "legally entitled to recover damages" and therefore Mr. Conley was not entitled to the benefit of the uninsured motorist coverage that he'd bought from Erie Insurance.
Mr. Conley's lawyer argued that there were good policy reasons and case law that supported a different result. Perhaps there will be an appeal and perhaps we'll blog about a different and happier holding in several months. But for now, Mr. Conley and other people injured at work may be out of luck. (It's important to note here that the result would have almost certainly been different if a third party, not a co-worker, had been involved in the accident).
The lesson? Your insurance company is not going to give you a break, not even when you've been a good policyholder, paid your premiums and been seriously injured. Not even when you might reasonably expect to have coverage. If there's a way to avoid paying you, you can bet your insurance company will use it.
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At Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. we are local Erie car accident lawyers who are committed to educating people about Pennsylvania car accident cases and car insurance. In addition to the articles and videos that are available to you here on our site we've also authored a book that we offer for free to people who've been injured in Pennsylvania car crashes. In "The Ultimate Guide to Pennsylvania Car Accident Cases: A Roadmap to Justice " we explain all the ins and outs of Pennsylvania car accidents, from the insurance you buy, to what to do after an accident to how to select the right Erie injury lawyer for you and your case.
Click on the link above to order your free copy. For a free consultation with one of our experienced Erie injury lawyers, call today at 877-505-9548 or locally at 814-580-5017