Carrier Must Show Prejudice to Deny Untimely UM Notice

Posted on: July 10th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

A July 2010 decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a Superior Court decision and permitted a PA uninsured motorist claim to go forward. There was a motor vehicle crashed in Hanover Township. Luzerne County in October 2001. There was no mention in the police report of a “phantom vehicle”, nor was it discussed in the emergency room records. Likewise the personal injury victim did not discuss the alleged phantom vehicle with his Harleysville workmen’s compensation adjuster.

In February of 2002 he told an insurance company doctor that a phantom vehicle caused the crash. In June of 2002 he requested uninsured motorist compensation thru his own automobile insurance policy with Harleysville. The insurance company denied the PA UM claim since he did not notify them of the exsistence of the uninsured motor vehicle within 30 days of the crash as required by the car insurance policy. The Trial Court denied Harleysville’s request for a declaratory judgment to deny the PA uninsured motorist claim.

The PA Superior Court reversed the Luzerne County decision due to the delayed reporting of the alleged phantom vehicle. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the uninsured motorist benefits could be denied if the insurer proved that it suffered prejudice due to the failure of the PA car accident victim to notify them that a phantom vehicle caused the car wreck. Great importance was placed on the fact that the accident was immediately reported to the police. Vanderoff v. Harleysville Ins. Co., 997 A.2d 328 (Pa. 2010)