§ 1786. Required financial responsibility.
(a) General rule.--Every motor vehicle of the type required to be registered under this title which is operated or currently registered shall be covered by financial responsibility.
(b) Self-certification.--The Department of Transportation shall require that each motor vehicle registrant certify that the registrant is financially responsible at the time of registration or renewal thereof. The department shall refuse to register or renew the registration of a vehicle for failure to comply with this requirement or falsification of self-certification.
(c) Consent to produce proof of financial responsibility.--Upon registering a motor vehicle or renewing a motor vehicle registration, the owner of the motor vehicle shall be deemed to have given consent to produce proof, upon request, to the Department of Transportation or a police officer that the vehicle registrant has the financial responsibility required by this chapter. Proof of financial responsibility may be satisfied under this chapter by production of a financial responsibility identification card in paper or electronic form. If an owner of a motor vehicle is providing electronic proof of financial responsibility to a police officer, the police officer shall only view content that is reasonably necessary to demonstrate proof of financial responsibility. The owner of the electronic device assumes liability for any damage to the electronic device containing the financial responsibility identification card while in possession of the police officer or agents of the department.
(d) Suspension of registration and operating privilege.--
(1) The Department of Transportation shall suspend the registration of a vehicle for a period of three months if it determines the required financial responsibility was not secured as required by this chapter and shall suspend the operating privilege of the owner or registrant for a period of three months if the department determines that the owner or registrant has operated or permitted the operation of the vehicle without the required financial responsibility. The operating privilege shall not be restored until the restoration fee for operating privilege provided by section 1960 (relating to reinstatement of operating privilege or vehicle registration) is paid.
(1.1) In lieu of serving a registration suspension imposed under this section, an owner or registrant may pay to the department a civil penalty of $500, the restoration fee prescribed under section 1960 and furnish proof of financial responsibility in a manner determined by the department. An owner or registrant may exercise this option no more than once in a 12-month period.
(2) Whenever the department revokes or suspends the registration of any vehicle under this chapter, the department shall not restore or transfer the registration until the suspension has been served or the civil penalty has been paid to the department and the vehicle owner furnishes proof of financial responsibility in a manner determined by the department and submits an application for registration to the department, accompanied by the fee for restoration of registration provided by section 1960. This subsection shall not apply in the following circumstances:
(i) The owner or registrant proves to the satisfaction of the department that the lapse in financial responsibility coverage was for a period of less than 31 days and that the owner or registrant did not operate or permit the operation of the vehicle during the period of lapse in financial responsibility.
(ii) The owner or registrant is a member of the armed services of the United States, the owner or registrant has previously had the financial responsibility required by this chapter, financial responsibility had lapsed while the owner or registrant was on temporary, emergency duty and the vehicle was not operated during the period of lapse in financial responsibility. The exemption granted by this paragraph shall continue for 30 days after the owner or registrant returns from duty as long as the vehicle is not operated until the required financial responsibility has been established.
(iii) The insurance coverage has terminated or financial responsibility has lapsed simultaneously with or subsequent to expiration of a seasonal registration, as provided in section 1307(a.1) (relating to period of registration).
(3) An owner whose vehicle registration has been suspended under this subsection shall have the same right of appeal under section 1377 (relating to judicial review) as provided for in cases of the suspension of vehicle registration for other purposes. The filing of the appeal shall act as a supersedeas, and the suspension shall not be imposed until determination of the matter as provided in section 1377. The court's scope of review in an appeal from a vehicle registration suspension shall be limited to determining whether:
(i) the vehicle is registered or of a type that is required to be registered under this title; and
(ii) there has been either notice to the department of a lapse, termination or cancellation in the financial responsibility coverage as required by law for that vehicle or that the owner, registrant or driver was requested to provide proof of financial responsibility to the department, a police officer or another driver and failed to do so. Notice to the department of the lapse, termination or cancellation or the failure to provide the requested proof of financial responsibility shall create a presumption that the vehicle lacked the requisite financial responsibility. This presumption may be overcome by producing clear and convincing evidence that the vehicle was insured at all relevant times.
(4) Where an owner or registrant's operating privilege has been suspended under this subsection, the owner or registrant shall have the same right of appeal under section 1550 (relating to judicial review) as provided for in cases of suspension for other reason. The court's scope of review in an appeal from an operating privilege suspension shall be limited to determining whether:
(i) the vehicle was registered or of a type required to be registered under this title; and
(ii) the owner or registrant operated or permitted the operation of the same vehicle when it was not covered by financial responsibility. The fact that an owner, registrant or operator of the motor vehicle failed to provide competent evidence of insurance or the fact that the department received notice of a lapse, termination or cancellation of insurance for the vehicle shall create a presumption that the vehicle lacked the requisite financial responsibility. This presumption may be overcome by producing clear and convincing evidence that the vehicle was insured at the time that it was driven.
(5) An alleged lapse, cancellation or termination of a policy of insurance by an insurer may only be challenged by requesting review by the Insurance Commissioner pursuant to Article XX of the act of May 17, 1921 (P.L.682, No.284), known as The Insurance Company Law of 1921. Proof that a timely request has been made to the Insurance Commissioner for such a review shall act as a supersedeas, staying the suspension of registration or operating privilege under this section pending a determination pursuant to section 2009(a) of The Insurance Company Law of 1921 or, in the event that further review at a hearing is requested by either party, a final order pursuant to section 2009(i) of The Insurance Company Law of 1921.
(6) The civil penalty collected under paragraph (1.1) shall be deposited into the Public Transportation Trust Fund.
(e) Obligations upon lapse, termination or cancellation of financial responsibility.--
(1) An owner of a motor vehicle who ceases to maintain financial responsibility on a registered vehicle shall not operate or permit operation of the vehicle in this Commonwealth until proof of the required financial responsibility has been provided to the Department of Transportation.
(2) An insurer who has issued a contract of motor vehicle liability insurance, or any approved self-insurance entity, shall notify the department in a timely manner and in a method prescribed by the department's regulations. Upon request of an owner or registrant in the case of an appeal brought by an owner or registrant for suspension under this section, an insurer shall provide a copy of the notice of cancellation or a copy of the insurer's filing procedures with proof that the notice was written in the normal course of business and placed in the normal course of mailing. The department shall not be required to produce such copy or any other proof that notice of termination, lapse or cancellation was provided to the owner or registrant in order to satisfy the burden of proof in a proceeding under this section.
(3) An insurer who has issued a contract of motor vehicle liability insurance and knows or has reason to believe that the contract is only for the purpose of providing proof of financial responsibility shall notify the department if the insurance has been canceled or terminated by the insured or by the insurer. The insurer shall notify the department not later than ten days following the effective date of the cancellation or termination.
(4) A person who, after maintaining financial responsibility on the vehicle of another person, ceases to maintain such financial responsibility shall immediately notify the vehicle's owner who shall not operate, or permit operation of, the vehicle in this Commonwealth.
(5) In the case of a person who leases any motor vehicle from a person engaged in the business of leasing motor vehicles, the lessee shall sign a statement indicating that the required financial responsibility has been provided through the lessor or through the lessee's motor vehicle liability insurance policy coverage. The lessee shall submit the statement to the lessor.
(f) Operation of a motor vehicle without required financial responsibility.--Any owner of a motor vehicle for which the existence of financial responsibility is a requirement for its legal operation shall not operate the motor vehicle or permit it to be operated upon a highway of this Commonwealth without the financial responsibility required by this chapter. In addition to the penalties provided by subsection (d), any person who fails to comply with this subsection commits a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $300.
(1) No person shall be convicted of failing to produce proof of financial responsibility under this subchapter or section 3743 (relating to accidents involving damage to attended vehicle or property) or 6308 (relating to investigation by police officers) if the person produces, at the office of the issuing authority within five days of the date of the violation, proof that he possessed the required financial responsibility at the time of the violation.
(2) No person shall be penalized for maintaining a registered motor vehicle without financial responsibility under subsection (d) if, at the time insurance coverage terminated or financial responsibility lapsed, the registration plate and card were voluntarily surrendered to the department, a full agent designated by the department to accept voluntarily surrendered registration plates and cards pursuant to regulations promulgated by the department or a decentralized service agent appointed by the department. If a seasonal registration, as provided in section 1307(a.1), has been issued for the vehicle, return of the registration plate and card shall be required only if the insurance coverage terminates or financial responsibility lapses prior to the expiration of the seasonal registration. The department, a full agent or the decentralized service agent, as the case may be, shall issue a receipt showing the date that the registration plate and card were received. The designated full agent or the decentralized service agent shall return the registration plate and card to the department accompanied by a copy of the receipt.
(h) Reinstatement of voluntarily surrendered registration plate and card.--
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the original registration plate and card shall be canceled by the department and destroyed. Any person who voluntarily surrendered a registration plate and card pursuant to the provisions of subsection (g)(2) may obtain a substitute registration plate and card bearing a registration number other than that originally issued from the department, a designated full agent or a decentralized service agent, as the case may be. Proof of financial responsibility in a form approved by the department shall be submitted together with the receipt showing the registration plate and card were voluntarily surrendered.
(2) Any registration plate issued under sections 1340 (relating to antique and classic plates) and 1341 (relating to special registration plates) shall be returned by the department to the owner of the motor vehicle upon receipt of proof of financial responsibility.
(3) A full agent designated by the department to issue substitute temporary registration cards and plates following a voluntary surrender of registration cards and plates pursuant to regulations promulgated by the department or a decentralized service agent appointed by the department may be authorized to issue substitute temporary registration plates provided proof of financial responsibility and a copy of the receipt showing the original registration plate and card were voluntarily surrendered are furnished. The fees provided pursuant to sections 1929 (relating to replacement registration plates) and 1932 (relating to duplicate registration cards) shall not be charged if the original registration plate and card were canceled pursuant to paragraph (1).
Refers to the ability of a motor vehicle owner to provide proof of capability, usually via insurance, to cover any damages that may occur during the operation of the vehicle.
This is a mandatory declaration by the vehicle owner at the point of registration or renewal confirming that they have the required financial responsibility as stipulated by law.
Importance of MVFRL's Section for Pennsylvanian Drivers:
Pennsylvanian drivers must understand these requirements to ensure they comply with the law and avoid penalties, including suspension of registration and operating privileges, fines, and potential civil penalties. The law's emphasis on electronic proof of financial responsibility reflects the contemporary digital landscape, with potential implications for drivers' choice of insurance carriers.
Significance for Pennsylvania Attorneys:
Pennsylvania attorneys need this understanding when advising clients involved in vehicle registration, insurance disputes, or traffic infraction cases. The multiple stipulations and potential exceptions necessitate in-depth familiarity with the section. Moreover, attorneys must be conversant with the appeals process highlighted in this section and the likely defenses their clients might adopt.
Considering the allowance for electronic proof of responsibility, it could be argued that this section reflects an ongoing trend of digitalization. Furthermore, the introduction of civil penalties as an alternative to registration suspension demonstrates an element of flexibility in enforcement. Lastly, the MVFRL uses 'shall' throughout the section, emphasizing the mandatory nature of the impositions.
The multiple scenarios addressed—voluntary surrender of registration, military service members, seasonal registrations, insurance termination by insurers, and lessors—exhibit legal foresight in anticipating and providing guidance for a multiplicity of real-world situations.
The use of burdens and standards of proof in the section—'presumption that the vehicle lacked the requisite financial responsibility'—points towards an intended balance between ease of enforcement and fairness in proceedings, which attorneys must take into account.
The provision on appeal rights articulates the intersection of administrative and judicial review processes in the enforcement of MVFRL, thus providing a broad framework for potential legal challenges that attorneys must be prepared to navigate.