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Auto Accidents In Pennsylvania – UM/UIM Litigation

January 27th, 2016 1:16 am

Traditionally in Pennsylvania, uninsured and underinsured motorist cases were privately arbitrated. Automobile insurance policies had provisions stating that these types of claims would be arbitrated rather than litigated through the Court system. Typically, the plaintiff would select one arbitrator. The insurance company would select one arbitrator. Those two arbitrators would then select a third or “neutral” arbitrator. The case would be tried in a far less formal fashion than a full blown jury trial. For example, medical records, police reports, expert reports, etc. would be submitted to the arbitrators, without the need to call the doctors, experts, witnesses, etc. to testify live. The decision of the arbitration panel would be binding — i.e., not appealable (except in very rare circumstances). A case that would take several days to try in a courtroom in front of a jury, and which would cost each party several thousand dollars to litigate, could be arbitrated in an afternoon for a fraction of the cost. This procedure was so beneficial to consumers, that the Pennsylvania Insurance Department made the arbitration provisions mandatory in Pennsylvania automobile insurance policies.

Then, in 2005, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Insurance Department did not have the authority to mandate arbitration in UM/UIM cases. The Court held that it was no longer mandatory under Pennsylvania law that UM/UIM cases be submitted for binding arbitration.

Therefore, insurance companies now had the option of now resolving UIM/UIM cases in arbitration. Insurance companies began writing their insurance policies in several ways: (1) mandating arbitration just like previously; (2) allowing arbitration if either party requested it; (3) allowing arbitration if both sides agree to it; or (4) allowing arbitration if it, the carrier, requested.

It has since become increasingly routine for UM/UIM cases to be filed in the Courts of Pennsylvania. Under the Rules of Civil Procedure, civil cases arising out of motor vehicle accidents can be brought in the county: (1) where the accident occurred, (2) in the county where any defendant can be served, or (3) in the county where any corporate defendant regularly conducts business. Venue which is proper as to any one defendant is proper as to all defendants.

In the context of a UM or UIM case, the addition of the insurance company as a potential defendant in the lawsuit arising out of a motor vehicle accident has increased the venue options for plaintiffs in many cases. Most insurance companies that write automobile insurance coverage in Pennsylvania regularly do business in many counties throughout the Commonwealth. Under the Rules of Civil Procedure, those insurance companies can be sued in any county in which they regularly conduct business.

The insurance companies have responded to this seemingly unanticipated aspect of their unilateral elimination of mandatory binding arbitration by including “forum selection clauses” in their insurance policies. A forum selection clause is a policy provision which states that if a dispute arises between the insured and the carrier in respect to a UM or UIM case, the case can be litigated only in a particular county. These clauses often reduce the number of viable venues provided under the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.

The validity and enforceability of these forum selection clauses in the context of UM/UIM cases was recently addressed by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in the case of O’Hara v. First Liberty Insurance Corporation. In that case, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled that a form selection clause in the insurance policy which required all UM/UIM cases to be brought in the county and state of the “legal domicile” — where the insured lives — of the insured at the time of the accident was valid and enforceable.

This latest opinion is yet another example of the Courts in Pennsylvania making decisions which make it more difficult and more expensive for the innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents to litigate their cases.

Pennsylvania Truths

January 27th, 2016 1:14 am

Pennsylvania is a state in the United States of America that is situated towards the northeast of the US near the Atlantic Ocean. Pennsylvania has a booming economy and is considered to be one of the important manufacturing hubs of the US. Philadelphia, one of the prime cities of the state of Pennsylvania boasts of some six companies that belong to the Fortune 500 category. Pittsburgh, another city of Pennsylvania, vaunts eight companies that belong to the Fortune 500 category. Heinz, the producer of tomato ketchup and other tinned and canned foods, and Wal-Mart, the famous retail chain store, are present in Pennsylvania too.

Nightlife

Pennsylvania is a pretty happening state. It is visited by students, youngsters and people who look for racy lives as it is famous for its casino culture. Games such as dice, poker, black jack, roulette and horse-racing are popular in the state. Pennsylvania is full of bars and nightclubs that offer slot machine facilities. The clever thing that the state authorities have thought of is to link these machines to Pennsylvania’s main computer network. They have embarked on this strategy so that whenever a player wins, the state is able to take half the earnings while the player is able to take the other half. The nightclubs of Pennsylvania are very lively places with people dancing, jiving and drinking through the night up to the wee hours of the morning. Nightlife is very crucial for teenagers and adults. The discotheques of Pennsylvania assure all their guests of a very entertaining nightlife and never disappoint anyone who visits them.

Academics

Pennsylvania is home to several renowned universities such as the Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh. These universities, like most American universities, observe strict procedures when admitting students and when awarding degrees to students. They scan entrance test scores, letters of intent, and letters of reference thoroughly before accepting anyone as a student. Students have to fulfill various criteria while securing admission. The assessments do not end after admission. In fact, they multiply once the students are enrolled in the semesters and students have to really slog hard to obtain their graduation degrees. For postgraduate studies, students have to sit for fresh entrance tests in order to secure their places in the universities. The strict and rigorous systems of examinations ensure that students really know their subjects thoroughly.

Sport

Pennsylvania is also home to several spots of recreation and tourist hot-spots. Among them are the many zoos, museums and parks of the state. Pennsylvania is, however, a strange state on some accounts. The state allows about a million people to hunt birds and beasts in its precincts. This is odd, especially in an era when everyone is screaming about conservation and the preservation of biodiversity. These one million licensed marksmen are allowed to hunt down and kill turkey, deer, rabbits and other species of animals and Aves. Shockingly, Pennsylvania prides itself on being the best state in the entire US for hunting wild turkey. People hunt in Pennsylvania for sport! Even worse is that Pennsylvania allows people to kill furry animals and fur-trapping so that furs may be pried from the animals and be used for making scarves, hats, overcoats, and other apparel. This sport helps to generate several billions of dollars for the state. Pennsylvania is extremely proud of shooting to death a number of black bears. It holds a record for being a state that has killed the largest number of black bears in the entire country! It is difficult to distinguish between poachers and licensed hunters in Pennsylvania. The various hunting clubs of Pennsylvania vie with each other for killing the maximum number of black bears and other animals. Pennsylvania also competes with other US states in the area of hunting and killing and tries to be numero uno among all the states in killing helpless animals. Facts such as these are not only appalling but also deplorable. It is weird that Pennsylvania and its people should be so vainglorious about their gruesome slaughter of animals and should consider their dreadful killings as mere sport and frolic.

Sports

Pennsylvania hosts a number of sporting activities throughout the year. There is no dearth of games, sports, sportswomen and sportsmen in the state. So, there is no reason why the state should encourage its citizens to kill animals for sport. The various sporting events and games that the state is witness to, all round the year, are football, baseball, basketball, hockey, ice hockey, car racing, horse-racing, golf, and skateboarding tournaments. Sportswomen and sportsmen play in teams in different championships and matches against each other. The various universities of the state have their own teams who compete against one another. Inter university, Intra university and college sporting events are very common in the state. Colleges and universities in Pennsylvania egg their students on to participate in sporting activities as sports is considered to be very good for the health and mind. The spectators, which include students and sportswomen and sportsmen, involve themselves in the games almost to the same extent as the players by rooting for and cheering their own teams wholeheartedly.

Eating Out

Pennsylvania is the ideal place for gastronomes. Pennsylvania is famous for its pretzels, chocolates and potato chips. It is also celebrated for its doughnuts, dumplings, pastries, chicken pies, apples, sausages, beer, pickled vegetables, sandwiches, candies, broiled and grilled oxen, pork products, pepperoni chops and sauerkraut. As globalization has spread all across the US, a large number of restaurants offering foreign dishes have cropped up in Pennsylvania. Thus, gourmands can eat Indian, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Polish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, Arabian, and other dishes in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Motto

The Ruffed Grouse is designated as the ‘state bird’ of Pennsylvania though the Grouse is the target of many licensed hunters of Pennsylvania. The White Tailed deer is the state animal. The White-Tailed deer too is killed in large numbers in the state for the sake of sport. While most people would put their state birds and state animals on a pedestal and show them off to members of other states as their ‘prized possessions’, Pennsylvanians obviously think otherwise. For Pennsylvanians, state birds and state animals signify those members of the animal kingdom that are present in surfeit in the state and that are consequently chased by bullets for the sake of fun and amusement. The motto of the state of Pennsylvania is ‘virtue, liberty and independence’, excellent words that amply make up for all killings and shortcomings.