Attorneys: Charles Cooper/Robert Schall//Patricia Buckley
Facts: This case involved a 52-year-old man who was driving a Para transit bus when the bus was rear-ended by a car which was underinsured. Our office filed a workers compensation claim and also presented a claim against the employer’s underinsured motorist insurance carrier.
The employer’s insurance company advised that they had selected reduced limits of $35,000.00 for uninsured motorist coverage. As a result of the accident our client was diagnosed with an injury to his cervical spine that required spinal fusion surgery. After our client was approved for social security disability benefits, our office challenged the employer’s insurance company position regarding its claim that there was only $35,000.00 in uninsured motorist coverage.
The employer’s insurance carrier then filed a declaratory judgment action in the Federal Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Our firm filed an Answer to the Employer’s Petition arguing that the employers’ insurance selection was not made until after our client’s accident and as such, the employer could not apply his insurance selection to our client’s accident. After a trial on this issue, the District Court entered a decision in favor of the insurance company.
However, our office disagreed with the Court and filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, citing that the law required 1 Million dollars of insurance coverage for our client. After extensive briefing and argument, the Court of Appeals agreed with us and vacated the judgment of the lower Court. After further discovery took place, and various additional motions were filed, the insurance carrier agreed to settle the case for $665,000.00.
This case involved two court battles which lasted more than five years. In successfully resolving this case, our office was able to benefit all Pennsylvania citizens by clarifying the law regarding the when an insurance company is responsible for paying underinsured motorist benefits equal to the liability limits of coverage. For more information, you can read about this opinion at: http://vls.law.vill.edu/locator/3d/Jan2004/031283np.pdf .