Time Limit to Seek Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Benefits

Time Limit to Seek Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Benefits

Posted By Law Offices of Thomas J. Murphy || 15-May-2013

If you were injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver who does not have sufficient automobile liability insurance (underinsured motorist) or has no insurance (uninsured motorist) to pay your claims for bodily injury (pain and suffering), excess medical bills and excess lost wages, you may have several automobile insurance policies available to you to seek payment of your Benefits. Underinsured Motorist Benefits and Uninsured Motorist Benefits consist of your additional, unpaid claims for bodily injury (pain and suffering), excess medical bills and excess lost wages that the negligent driver was unable to pay due to insufficient automobile insurance liability limits on his or her policy.

Because Underinsured Motorist Benefits are contractual in nature, the Statute of Limitations for Underinsured Motorist Claims is the same as for contracts; four years. However, unlike most contracts, the four year Statute of Limitations does not begin to run (start) on the date of signed contract and also does not begin to run on the date of the motor vehicle collision. In Pennsylvania, the four year Statute of Limitations for Underinsured Motorist claims starts on the date on which the injured person settles with or obtains an award from the negligent driver for less than the value of his or her damages. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co. v. Rosenthal,484 F.3d 251 (3d Cir. 2007). The Statute of Limitations for Uninsured Motorist Claims is four years, which starts when 3 events occur: (1) The insured is involved in a motor vehicle accident; (2) The insured sustained bodily injury as a result of that accident; and (3) The insured knew or reasonably should have known of the uninsured status of the negligent driver. Clark v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Co., 599 A.2d 1001, 1005 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1991).

Filing a Claim for Underinsured Motorist Benefits

How to timely bring a claim for Underinsured Motorist Benefits within the four year period, i.e., to toll the statute of limitations, is less clear if the automobile insurance policy requires that the disputed claim for Underinsured Motorist Benefits be arbitrated. To the surprise of some, the four year statute of limitations is not tolled in Pennsylvania by notifying the automobile insurance carrier of your intent to seek Underinsured Motorist Benefits or by you selecting an arbitrator and demanding that the automobile insurance carrier select an arbitrator. Walker v. Providence Ins. Co., Civ. A. No. 97-7455, 1998 WL 195652, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 1998). To the contrary, to toll the 4 year statute of limitations, you must file a Petition to Compel Appointment of Arbitrators with the court. Boyle v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 456 A.2d 156, 162-63 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1983). If the Underinsured Motorist benefits provision in the insurance policy requires a lawsuit be filed, then the filing of the lawsuit tolls the statute of limitations.

Filing a Claim for Uninsured Motorist Benefits

The four year statute of limitations is not tolled in Pennsylvania by notifying the automobile insurance carrier of your intent to seek Uninsured Motorist Benefits. Walters v. Am. Home Assurance, Civ. A. No. 09-4637, 2011 WL 4409170, at *14-16 (D.N.J. Sept. 21, 2011). The four year statute of limitations is also not tolled by you selecting an arbitrator and demanding that the automobile insurance carrier select an arbitrator. Walker v. Providence Ins. Co., Civ. A. No. 97-7455, 1998 WL 195652, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 1998). To the contrary, to toll the 4 year statute of limitations, you must file a Petition to Compel Appointment of Arbitrators with the court. Boyle v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 456 A.2d 156, 162-63 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1983); Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Weisbaum, PICS Case No. 11-4284 (E.D.Pa. Oct. 5, 2011). If the Uninsured Motorist Benefits provision in the automobile insurance policy requires a lawsuit be filed, then the filing of the lawsuit tolls the statute of limitations.

A knowledgeable Philadelphia personal injury attorney can seek to make sure that you are fully compensated by the negligent driver's automobile insurance liability policy and if that policy is insufficient, also by the Underinsured Motorist benefits that you are entitled to receive to make sure that you are fully compensated for your bodily injuries, excess medical bills and lost wages.