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Scott Cooper
Scott Cooper
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Pennsylvania Court Holds Prejudice To Insurance Carrier Defeats Uninsured Motorist Claim

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What are the requirements in your jurisdiction in order to preserve an uninsured motorist claim?

In a limited, but important, opinion the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a ruling in an uninsured motorist case on February 6, 2012. Limited to the specific facts of the case, attached is the link to the Pennsylvania Superior Court opinion in Vanderhoff v. Harleysville.

This case has been reported about for several years and was initially the subject of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion in 2010 where the Supreme Court held that an insured need not report a phantom vehicle to his or her insurance company within 30 days BUT the company can deny coverage if it can show prejudice was suffered by the late reporting. Vanderhoff v. Harleysville, 997 A.2d. 328 (Pa. 2010). The case was then remanded back to the trial court for a hearing on the issue of prejudice.

At the trial court level, on remand, the insurance company presented testimony of an insurance adjuster to explain how the uninsured claim is investigated, a local attorney who testified what actions he may have taken if the claim was reported earlier than the 8 months in this case, an investigator who testified that the investigation would have been much different if reported sooner, and an accident reconstructionist to testify on the importance of timeliness in reporting. The trial court found that the evidence was insufficient to establish prejudice but as noted by the Superior Court the trial court did not provide a “explicit, distinct rationale for its finding”. The Court then finds that “[u]nder the specific facts of this case, we conclude that this argument constitutes a clear abuse of discretion…”

The trial court is reversed.