A recent opinion issued by Judge Ramy I. Djerassi of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas could paves way for injured workers to obtain underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits in the third party context. In Bielac v. American International Group, Inc., 2016 WL 7157620 (C.P. Phila. Dec. 2016), Plaintiff, John Bielac, an employee of Verizon, was driving a Verizon truck and struck by an automobile while sitting at a traffic light. Bielac suffered injuries, recovered against the third party for the state minimum policy limits, and made a claim for UIM benefits against Verizon’s commercial automobile policy with Defendant American International Group, Inc.
Defendant American International denied coverage on the grounds that an authorized representative of Verizon had rejected UIM coverage. Plaintiff commenced a declaratory judgement action and the court considered cross motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff and Defendant. The court found the UIM rejection form void for two reasons.
First, there was an issue as to where the rejection form was signed and dated. The Verizon representative signed and dated the rejection form at the bottom of that document and not immediately below the rejection language. The Court found that was not in compliance with the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL).
Secondly, and I think more importantly, the court found that even if the UIM rejection form was deemed statutorily valid, the UIM rejection was against public policy. Plaintiff argued that waiving UIM coverage without notifying him was against public policy. The court examined, inter alia, the public policies underlying the MVFRL and stated “Verizon’s lack of notice undermines the MVFRL policy to protect people from risk of injury cause by a negligent driver who lacks adequate notice” Id. at 9.
This case provides authority and arguments to reform the UIM coverage when the proper notice is not given to employees.