§ 1721. Statute of limitations.
(a) General rule.--If benefits have not been paid, an action for first party benefits shall be commenced within four years from the date of the accident giving rise to the claim. If first party benefits have been paid, an action for further benefits shall be commenced within four years from the date of the last payment.
(b) Minors.--For minors entitled to benefits described in section 1711 (relating to required benefits) or 1712 (relating to availability of benefits), an action for benefits shall be commenced within four years from the date on which the injured minor attains 18 years of age.
(c) Definition.--As used in this section the term "further benefits" means expenses incurred not earlier than four years preceding the date an action is commenced.
'First Party Benefits'
These are benefits that a policyholder is entitled to recover from their own insurance company, without regard to fault, after a motor vehicle accident.
According to the specific definition of the term under '§ 1721 (c)', these refer to expenses incurred within the four years preceding the initiation of a legal action.
Importance to Pennsylvanian Drivers:
This section of MVFRL provides a directive for drivers and passengers in Pennsylvania. It establishes the time frame for seeking compensation, therefore, providing clarity and guidance to claimants on when they should initiate legal proceedings to secure their rightful benefits. For minors, this section is particularly important as it allows them an extended time period to claim benefits, until they reach the age of 22.
Importance to Pennsylvania Attorneys:
Understanding the statute of limitations outlined in this section is crucial for attorneys representing clients in car insurance claims. Pennsylvania attorneys must know these constraints to provide effective counsel and prevent any potential dismissal of claims due to missed deadlines. Additionally, this section provides them with a clear definition of 'further benefits', which are essential while calculating the exact amount of claim.
Evaluation of Language:
The language used in this section is specific and clear, leaving no ambiguity around the limitations defined and the parties involved. The term 'first party benefits' indicates self-obtained insurance benefits and 'further benefits' refers to additional costs incurred, specified as not earlier than four years preceding the lawsuit. The term 'minors' has a standard legal interpretation in Pennsylvania law, referring to individuals under the age of 18. This deliberate choice of language ensures the statute's applicability to those at or above the legal age of majority.
The phrases 'have not been paid' and 'have been paid' are pivotal in this section, differentiating between scenarios where benefits were received and those where benefits have been withheld.
The dual scenarios defined in subsection (a), along with the specific conditions stated for minors in subsection (b) and the definitions in subsection (c), together provide a comprehensive explanation about the time frames in which an action for benefits must be commenced. The effective date provided serves to reinforce the applicable law at the time of accident or claim.
In conclusion, § 1721 plays a significant role in shaping the insurance claims process by dictating the statute of limitations for first party or further benefits in Pennsylvania. Understanding and adhering to the deadlines outlined is crucial for drivers seeking compensation and attorneys providing legal counsel.