An Overview of § 1731 under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL)

Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law Section 1731 imposes a mandatory offering of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages by insurance providers, allowing for the rejection of such coverage under certain conditions, and putting limitations on recovery.
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Statutory Text

§ 1731. Availability, scope and amount of coverage.

(a) Mandatory offering.--No motor vehicle liability insurance policy shall be delivered or issued for delivery in this Commonwealth, with respect to any motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this Commonwealth, unless uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverages are offered therein or supplemental thereto in amounts as provided in section 1734 (relating to request for lower limits of coverage). Purchase of uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverages is optional.

(b) Uninsured motorist coverage.--Uninsured motorist coverage shall provide protection for persons who suffer injury arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle and are legally entitled to recover damages therefor from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles. The named insured shall be informed that he may reject uninsured motorist coverage by signing the following written rejection form:

REJECTION OF UNINSURED MOTORIST PROTECTION

By signing this waiver I am rejecting uninsured motorist coverage under this policy, for myself and all relatives residing in my household. Uninsured coverage protects me and relatives living in my household for losses and damages suffered if injury is caused by the negligence of a driver who does not have any insurance to pay for losses and damages. I knowingly and voluntarily reject this coverage.

Signature of First Named Insured

Date

(b.1) Limitation of rejection.--Uninsured motorist protection may be rejected for the driver and passengers for rental or lease vehicles which are not otherwise common carriers by motor vehicle, but such coverage may only be rejected if the rental or lease agreement is signed by the person renting or leasing the vehicle and contains the following rejection language:

Rejection of Uninsured Motorist Protection

I am rejecting uninsured motorist coverage under this rental or lease agreement, and any policy of insurance or self-insurance issued under this agreement, for myself and all other passengers of this vehicle. Uninsured coverage protects me and other passengers in this vehicle for losses and damages suffered if injury is caused by the negligence of a driver who does not have any insurance to pay for losses and damages.

(b.2) Rejection language change.--The rejection language of subsection (b.1) may only be changed grammatically to reflect a difference in tense in the rental agreement or lease agreement.

(b.3) Vehicle rental services.--The requirements of subsection (b.1) may be met in connection with an expedited vehicle rental service, which service by agreement of the renter does not require the renter's signature for each rental, if a master enrollment or rental agreement contains the rejection language of subsection (b.1) and such agreement is signed by the renter.

(c) Underinsured motorist coverage.--Underinsured motorist coverage shall provide protection for persons who suffer injury arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle and are legally entitled to recover damages therefor from owners or operators of underinsured motor vehicles. The named insured shall be informed that he may reject underinsured motorist coverage by signing the following written rejection form:

REJECTION OF UNDERINSURED MOTORIST PROTECTION

By signing this waiver I am rejecting underinsured motorist coverage under this policy, for myself and all relatives residing in my household. Underinsured coverage protects me and relatives living in my household for losses and damages suffered if injury is caused by the negligence of a driver who does not have enough insurance to pay for all losses and damages. I knowingly and voluntarily reject this coverage.

Signature of First Named Insured

Date

(c.1) Form of waiver.--Insurers shall print the rejection forms required by subsections (b) and (c) on separate sheets in prominent type and location. The forms must be signed by the first named insured and dated to be valid. The signatures on the forms may be witnessed by an insurance agent or broker. Any rejection form that does not specifically comply with this section is void. If the insurer fails to produce a valid rejection form, uninsured or underinsured coverage, or both, as the case may be, under that policy shall be equal to the bodily injury liability limits. On policies in which either uninsured or underinsured coverage has been rejected, the policy renewals must contain notice in prominent type that the policy does not provide protection against damages caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists. Any person who executes a waiver under subsection (b) or (c) shall be precluded from claiming liability of any person based upon inadequate information.

(d) Limitation on recovery.--

(1) A person who recovers damages under uninsured motorist coverage or coverages cannot recover damages under underinsured motorist coverage or coverages for the same accident.

(2) A person precluded from maintaining an action for noneconomic damages under section 1705 (relating to election of tort options) may not recover from uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage for noneconomic damages.

Key Terms Defined:

"Uninsured motorist coverage"

Refers to the insurance protection for drivers who suffer injuries caused by drivers without any insurance coverage.

"Underinsured motorist coverage"

Provides insurance protection for drivers who get injured due to at-fault drivers who possess insurance, but the coverage is insufficient to compensate the losses and damages incurred.

"Stacking"

The practice of combining more than one auto insurance policy to increase the amount of available coverage.

Why this section matters for Pennsylvanian drivers:

Section 1731 matters for Pennsylvanian drivers as it determines their treatment and protection level in incidents involving uninsured and underinsured motorists. It ensures drivers are informed about these policies' purchase and ability to reject them, along with the implications of these choices.

Why this section matters for Pennsylvania Attorneys:

Legal professionals specializing in automobile law should have a thorough understanding of this section to effectively advise their clients on policy decisions, claim coverage, and the legality of rejections. This becomes crucial when representing clients involved in accidents with uninsured or underinsured motorists.

Advanced analysis:

The statute carefully uses terms like "offering" and "optional," maintaining that while insurers must offer these coverages, the insured party has the freedom to choose to purchase. The explicit provision for the rejection forms communicates the importance of informed consent while rejecting the uninsured and underinsured motorist's coverage. The language further extends to clarify conditions for the rejection of coverage, the requirements for valid rejection forms, and the consequences of rejection.

In subsections (b.1), (b.2), (b.3), the MVFRL outlines specific steps and language for rejection within rental or leasing situations.

This language reflects the law’s interest in ensuring clarity and protection even in more complex insurance scenarios.

The law’s attention to detail in mandating, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage must equal bodily injury liability limits if the insurer cannot produce a valid rejection form, illustrates the emphasis placed in law on providing a safety net for those involved in accidents with uninsured or underinsured motorists.

Lastly, this section specifies situations where recovery under uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is limited, thereby ensuring fairness and preventing exploitation of the system. All these language-specific elements collectively highlight the law's comprehensive approach to addressing this issue, safeguarding citizens’ interests while maintaining insurance companies' viable operation.

Overall, § 1731 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law reflects a balanced approach to protect motorists while considering insurance providers' business requirements. Its careful language encapsulates all critical aspects of the uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, from offering to rejection, providing a reliable legal reference to drivers and attorneys navigating this complex area of automobile law.

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Von Wooding

Von Wooding

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