Recently clients of mine were in a car accident. The other vehicle was insured for minimal policy limits and did not provide more than $25,000 in coverage to pay for my clients’ injuries and damages. This amount was not sufficient to reimburse them. When this happens, I look to my own clients’ auto insurance to see if they have underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) provides additional money through your own auto policy if another driver doesn’t have enough coverage to adequately cover your injuries or damages.
My clients’ insurance company claimed they had rejected UIM coverage. If that was true, then my clients were out of luck and could only recover the other driver’s minimal policy of $25,000. However, I asked my clients’ insurance company to provide the waivers my clients signed refusing UIM coverage so I could see if the waivers were valid under the law.
As it turns out, the waivers created by the insurance company were invalid. 75 Pa. C.S. § 1731 requires exact language that must be included on a waiver for it to be considered a valid waiver of underinsured motorist coverage. The insurance company did not use the exact language required. Case law in Pennsylvania has held that the addition or subtraction of even one word from the statutory language invalidates the waiver or may be used as evidence of bad faith in a denial of UIM benefits in such a situation.
Now, my clients’ insurance company has agreed to open a UIM claim for them even though the insurance company claimed my clients had waived such coverage. This is a perfect example of why having an attorney that is thorough, knowledgeable and aggressive is important when dealing with your own insurance company.