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PA Court Remands Insurance Policy Case

Below is the link to the Pennsylvania Superior Court opinion from January 30, 2013 in McWeeney v. Estate of Strickler.  This case involves the unsettled issue of whether a person who is named as a driver on an insurance policy is bound by the owner of the policy’s selection of limited tort.  In this case, the fiancé of the owner of the policy was also a resident of the same household and named as a driver on the policy.  Therefore, the trial court reasoned that she was also a “named insured” or as a permissive driver an “insured” who was bound by the limited tort selection under the terms of Section 1705 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL).

The Superior Court in a memorandum opinion which was withdrawn and then published yesterday reverses the trial court and holds that under the plain and unambiguous terms of the MVFRL the fiancé is NOT a “named insured” nor an “insured” under Section 1705. Therefore, she is not bound by the limited tort selection and the trial court erroneously found that she was deemed bound by limited tort. Under Section 1705, the court writes that “only one who is identified by name as an insured on the face of the policy is a ‘named insured’ for purposes of tort election.” Also, to then hold that the permissive driver is an “insured” bound by limited tort contravenes the intent of Section 1705. The MVFRL in Section 1705(f) limits the people who are considered bound by the limited tort selection and the permissive driver is not one of them. Therefore, the trial court order is vacated and the case remanded.

Thanks to PAJ and Auto Section/Listserve member Steven Stambaugh of York.

PS – This case should also help those cases where the person injured is a named driver on a policy and seeking coverage since the provisions of 1705 are only related to limited tort and not other coverage such as UM/UIM/PIP.

If you, or a loved one, are injured in a Pennsylvania car accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact an experienced car accident lawyer at Schmidt Kramer in Harrisburg and all over the Commonwealth. The toll-free number is (717) 888-8888 and the case evaluation is free.

Alternatively, you may wish to download a free copy of our book Who Pays the Bills When You Are Injured in an Automobile Accident? for additional information