The Household Exclusion in PA Car Insurance Policies

In Pennsylvania, the “household exclusion” is a clause that insurance companies began using in the 1990’s in auto insurance policies to limit the amount of uninsured motorists (UM) and underinsured motorists (UIM) coverage they had to provide after claims made by their insureds after a car accident.  Under the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), any relatives who live in the same residence could seek benefits from policies issued to other “resident relatives” in the household.  While the MVFRL clearly stated this, insurers used these clauses to deny claims against the policies of the other household members that would have been permissible under the MVFRL.

While the language of the exclusion could vary, it essentially prevented injured household members from seeking underinsured motorists benefits from other policies applicable in the household, unless they were insured under the same policy.  As an example, suppose mom and dad each have a vehicle and they are insured under a policy with Erie, which includes stacked UIM benefits.  Their daughter, a college student still has a permanent residence in the household, and she has her own car which is insured with Progressive. 

By applying the household exclusion, Erie could deny any claim against the parents’ UIM coverage if daughter was involved in an accident while driving her own vehicle because their vehicles were insured under a different policy from their daughter.  In fact, if a parent was in daughter’s vehicle at the time of the accident, they would most likely have not been able to file a claim against their own UIM coverage.

In January 2019, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an opinion in Gallagher v. Geico Indemnity Co., which held that household exclusion clauses were no longer enforceable in Pennsylvania as they were contrary to the express provisions of the MVFRL.  Hence, a person seriously injured in an auto accident has a right to seek benefits from the policies of any resident relatives at the time of their accident.  This can involve complicated legal questions regarding “residency” and damages and you should seek legal advice in attempting to pursue such a claim.

In fact, if you were in an accident within the last 4 years, and you were advised that you could not pursue a claim against UM (uninsured motorists) or UIM benefits because of the applicability of a household exclusion, you should contact our car accident lawyers immediately, as you may still be able to pursue claims for additional UM or UIM benefits. Our office offers free consultations and doesn’t take a fee unless we make you a recovery.

Why did I receive a letter from The Rawlings Company?

I received a letter from The Rawlings Company. What do I do?

Letter from The Rawlings Company

After you get medical treatment for an injury, it’s not uncommon to get a letter from a third-party subrogation company, like The Rawlings Company (or Equian, Optum, First Recovery Group, etc.), on behalf of your health insurance company. The Rawlings Company is most likely reaching out to you to discover out how you got hurt. If your injury possibly gives rise to a personal injury claim or a potential lawsuit (for example, a car accident, a work injury, a slip-and-fall accident, etc.), The Rawlings Company’s job is to find out, because your health insurance company might be legally entitled to reimbursement out of your personal injury settlement or verdict. If you received a letter from The Rawlings Company after an accident, you should call our law firm immediately at 1-800-999-0750.

Should I respond to The Rawlings Company’s letter or call them back?

Whether or not you’re legally required to respond to The Rawlings Company after getting their letter is going to be written in your insurance policy with your health insurance company. In all likelihood, this is a document you probably never read. With that in mind, if you weren’t hurt in manner as to give rise to a compensable legal claim, you’re probably safe to call and let them know, at which point they should leave you alone.

If you were hurt in an accident that gives rise to any type of legal claim, you should immediately give The Rawlings Company’s letter to your attorney! If you already retained a lawyer, you should never contact The Rawlings Company directly. Additionally, you want your personal injury attorney to know about The Rawlings Company’s letter, because any failure to consider your health insurance’s lien against your settlement might have catastrophic consequences to both your case and your finances!

If you were hurt in an accident (at work, in a slip-and-fall, in a car, et cetera) but don’t have a lawyer, you should hire a personal injury attorney to contact The Rawlings Company on your behalf immediately. Our personal injury lawyers work on contingency and only get paid if we get you a financial recovery. We represent injury victims throughout Western Pennsylvania, from Pittsburgh, to Erie, and all the way to Bradford and Smethport! If you’re not from Pennsylvania, we might be able to help you find a local lawyer who can helo.

What if I don’t want to file a lawsuit against the person who caused my injury?

The Rawlings Company cannot force you to sue somebody that you don’t want to sue. However, it’s always a good idea to at least speak with a personal injury attorney before you talk to The Rawlings Company. You need to know your rights and responsibilities regarding this incident, your medical treatment, and your medical bills. Our law firm offers a free consultation that can be either over the phone or in person—you decide! Give us a call today at 814-452-6232.

Do I have to sign a Medical Authorization for the Insurance Company?

Signing a Medical Authorization for the Insurance Company after an Accident

health authorization for insurance company

As Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers, our new clients frequently ask us if they must sign a medical authorization for the insurance company after a car accident, after a work injury, or after a slip-and-fall accident. Given the numerous types of insurance claims out there, there is no universal answer, which is why it is always best to call an attorney to discuss your rights before giving the insurance company what they want. Sometimes the insurance company is entitled to a medical release or authorization, and sometimes they’re just trying to pressure you to give them more than they’re permitted by law. If an insurance company is requesting that you sign an authorization for your private medical records, you should call our law firm at 1-800-999-0750 to speak with an attorney for free.

Medical Authorizations and Insurance Claims for Negligence (Car Accidents, Slip-and-falls, etc.)

In Pennsylvania, if you’re making an insurance claim for compensation, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, et cetera, against someone else’s insurance company, you do not normally need to sign an authorization for the other insurance company to fish through your medical records to look for reasons not to pay your claim. That said, the insurance company does need relevant medical records to determine the extent of your injuries and fairly evaluate your claim. With this, there is a delicate balance that must be struck, which is why you should always hire a personal injury law firm to represent you in your case. Our lawyers front expenses for medical records (which can cost hundreds of dollars), review your records, and provide the insurance company with reasonable, relevant medical records to support your claim. When the insurance company fights for more and starts issuing subpoenas, we fight to protect your privacy. If an insurance company is requesting that you sign an authorization, you should call our law firm at 1-800-999-0750 to speak with an attorney for free. Not only will we protect your privacy, we’ll help you fight for a fair outcome.

Medical Authorizations and First-Party Insurance Claims (PIP, MedPay, UM/UIM Benefits)

In Pennsylvania, when you’re making a claim for your own insurance coverage, completely different rules might apply. In many insurance policies, individuals seeking their own first-party coverage (like Personal Injury Protection / PIP, Med Pay, Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Benefits) contractually agree to provide their insurance company with executed authorizations such that their own insurer can gather whatever records they deem “reasonable” and “necessary.” While this discretion isn’t infinite, it is extremely broad. Failure to comply, in some instances, can result in a denied claim or worse. If your own insurance company is requesting that you sign an authorization, you should call our law firm at 1-800-999-0750 to speak with an attorney for free. We’ll review your policy and make sure your rights are protected.

Medical Authorizations and Workers’ Compensation Claims

In Pennsylvania, after a work injury, it seems like everybody wants to comb through your medical records to blame your injury on something (or someone) else. Even without you signing an authorization, treatment paid by workers’ compensation is normally exempted from HIPAA, which permits your medical providers to give your work-accident-related medical records to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier along with your accident-related bills. This exemption, however, isn’t unlimited. You do NOT need to sign authorizations for Nurse Case Managers (and, if you have been contacted a nurse case manager, you should read this article and call us immediately) and workers’ compensation insurance carriers are not permitted to embark on fishing expeditions throughout your entire medical history. Such behavior is especially important to avoid, given the close relationship between the workers’ compensation carrier and your employer. Why should your boss get to know about your medical history? If a workers’ compensation insurance company is demanding that you sign an authorization, you should call our law firm at 1-800-999-0750 to speak with an attorney for free. We’ll help protect both your privacy and your claim.

What should you do?

Regardless of what’s going on, if you’ve been injured and are dealing with an insurance adjuster who is pressuring you to sign an authorization for the insurance company to gather your personal medical records, you need a lawyer now. Call our personal injury law firm at 1-800-999-0750 for a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.

Motorcycle Accidents during Erie’s Roar on the Shore

With the 2019 Roar on the Shore event being moved from downtown Erie, PA to North East, PA at the Lake Erie Speedway, our Pennsylvania motorcycle accident attorneys anticipate an increase in the number of motorcycle accidents and injuries during this year’s event. Although we hope this projection proves to be untrue, it is an inescapable concern.

Motorcycle Accident, Roar on the Shore, Erie PA

Although the Lake Erie Speedway appears to host a number of vendors to keep guests occupied, a large number of bikers will be traveling from North East to downtown Erie, PA to visit Erie’s many attractions, bars, and hotels. Given the nature of the event, we similarly expect a number of people to be traveling between the two locations after drinking, which always creates an increased risk of accident, injury, and wrongful death.

Regardless of the move, with 160,000 bikers and motorcycles brought to one location, there are bound to be accidents. If you’ve been hurt in a motorcycle accident, be sure to do the following:

Additionally, be aware that, in Pennsylvania, injured bikers (and their passengers) aren’t bound by “limited tort” and can always pursue a claim for pain and suffering. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident in Erie, PA, call our experienced motorcycle accident lawyers for a free consultation.

Why did I receive a letter from Equian?

I received a letter from Equian, Rawlings, Optum, First Recovery Group, etc. What do I do?

Medical Bills and Letter from Equian

After receiving medical treatment for an injury, it’s normal to receive a letter from a third-party subrogation company, such as Equian (or The Rawlings Company, Optum, First Recovery Group, etc.), on behalf of your health insurance company. Equian (or one of these other companies) is contacting you to find out how you got hurt. If you were hurt in such a manner as to create a personal injury claim or a potential lawsuit (for example, a car accident, a work injury, a slip-and-fall accident, etc.), Equian wants to know, because your health insurance company might have a right to be reimbursed out of your settlement. If you received a letter from Equian after an accident, you should call our law firm immediately at 1-800-999-0750.

Should I respond to Equian’s letter or call them back?

Whether you have a duty to respond to Equian after receiving such a letter is going to be spelled out in your insurance policy with your health insurance company—a document you probably never read. If you weren’t hurt in any sort of accident, you’re probably safe to call and let them know, at which point they should stop sending you letters.

If you were hurt in an accident that might be someone else’s fault, you should immediately give Equian’s letter to your attorney. If you have a lawyer, you should not be contacting Equian directly. Additionally, you want your personal injury attorney to be aware of Equian’s letter, because failure to properly consider your health insurance’s lien against your settlement can have devastating consequences to both your case and your finances.

If you were hurt in an accident but don’t have an attorney, you should hire a personal injury attorney to contact Equian on your behalf. Our personal injury lawyers work on contingency and only get paid if we get you a financial recovery. We represent injured victims throughout Western Pennsylvania, from Pittsburgh, to Erie, and all the way to Bradford and Smethport.

What if I don’t want to sue the person who hurt me?

Equian can’t make you sue somebody if you don’t want to sue them. That said, it is still a good idea to talk to a personal injury attorney before talking to Equian. You need to be aware of your rights and responsibilities regarding this accident, your treatment, and your medical bills. Our law firm offers a free consultation that can be either over the phone or in person—you decide! Give us a call today at 814-452-6232.

Should I call the police after a minor car accident?

You should always call the police after a car accident

As Erie, PA car accident lawyers, we frequently get asked, “should I call the police after a minor car accident?” Without knowing anything else about the crash, we can confidently state that you should always call the police after a car accident, even if the damage to the vehicles was minimal and if even if you think nobody was hurt. As you sit there in the moment, you simply aren’t equipped to properly assess the situation. Police are. Let the experts do their work. Sometimes you don’t know you’re hurt until later that day, after your adrenaline wears off. Sometimes, people that admit fault on the scene later lie to their insurance companies. You need a witness.

Why should I call the police after a car accident?

Police after a car accident

The most important thing the police do after responding to a car accident, after making sure everybody is okay, is protecting evidence. The police will gather insurance information, get statements, and attempt to piece everything together while the accident scene is fresh and before things have been tampered with or moved. This helps keep all the parties honest: too frequently, at-fault parties will admit fault on the scene of the accident, only to later deny fault to their insurance companies after they’ve went home. You simply cannot rely on people to be honest. Moreover, it’s good to have an independent witness (the police officer) on the scene to remember what everyone told them.

Sometimes your insurance requires you to call the police after an accident

Although you’ve probably never read your entire car insurance policy, as personal injury lawyers, we have! If the person that hit you turns out to be uninsured, and you pay for uninsured motorist coverage, your Pennsylvania auto insurance policy almost certainly requires you to report the accident to the police as soon as you reasonably are able, else you risk your claim being denied. Making a police report immediately after the accident is the number one way to protect your rights under your insurance policy. The longer you wait, the easier it is to forget to make the report and the more likely your insurer is to deny your claim.

Police keep everybody safe

After an accident, it’s not uncommon for the at-fault party to become hostile and, sometimes, dangerous. Calling the police is a good way to keep everyone on their best behavior. When everybody knows the police are on their way, they’re less likely to do anything they might later regret.

What if the police refuse to respond to the scene of the accident?

If the police refuse to respond to the scene of the accident after you’ve called 9-1-1, it might simply be out of your control. Regardless, there will still be a record of your call and a brief report prepared at the station to satisfy your insurance company if the other driver turns out to be uninsured, as described above. This is normal—when they’re busy, police frequently won’t respond to the accident if nobody was injured. Just keep your cool, exchange insurance information, take pictures of the damage (and the license plates), and gather phone numbers of all the witnesses.

Do I need a lawyer after a car accident?

After a car accident, if you’ve been injured, you should call a Pennsylvania car accident attorney to protect your rights. Our personal injury lawyers have been representing injured victims in Pennsylvania since 1985 and can help recover your lost wages and medical bills. If you would like a free consultation, or just to talk to lawyer on the phone, call us at 814-452-6232.

What is a Frivolous Lawsuit?

For years, the insurance lobby has been spending millions of dollars to convince Americans that civil lawsuits are largely frivolous. This lobbying has been so successful, that most of our clients say things like, “I know most lawsuits are frivolous, but not mine—I’m really hurt.” The truth of the matter is, while there exist some silly lawsuits, most are legitimate and serve the greater purpose of protecting the public and compensating innocent victims.

Recently, the Trial Lawyers Association in DC released a simple video that helps dispel the myth of the “frivolous” lawsuit

Our Erie, PA personal injury attorneys have been helping innocent injury victims put their lives back together since 1985. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s nothing frivolous about asking insurance companies to pay fair value for your lost wages, lost loved ones, and disabling injuries. Don’t be fooled.

If you’ve been hurt by someone’s negligence, call our Erie law firm today for a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.

Car Accident Law Firm in Erie, PA

Great Firm with Very Caring Attorneys
See what our clients are saying on Google!

After being injured, it’s important to stay local and hire an attorney that understands Erie County Pennsylvania. Despite how difficult of a task it may seem, finding a car accident law firm in Erie, PA doesn’t have to be hard! If you’ve done your research, you’ll notice that Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager (also known as ErieInjury.com) consistently has five-star reviews across the board! We’re small enough that we’re able to give each of our clients extremely personalized attention, yet big enough that we spare no expense when it comes to handling your case. Need a top-dollar expert witness? We’ll pay for that. Need an expensive accident Reconstructionist to prove your case? We’ll front that expense, too. Is your case complex? Not a problem.

If you do your research and read our reviews, you’ll notice that our car accident law office is known for our personalized service: if you want to speak to your attorney, you’ll speak to your attorney—unlike some of the Pittsburgh firms that dabble in the Erie area, we do not simply have paralegals “work up” your case and act as your main points of contact! When you hire us, you’re hiring a personal injury lawyer to do 100% of your legal work. Excellent results require excellent representation.

Best Law Firm in Erie, PA

If you’re looking for the best law firm in Erie, PA, don’t take my word for it. Read our reviews and draw your own conclusions. If you speak to any of your prior clients, they’ll tell you to stop looking around and to give us a call.

Review of Matthew J. Lager: In summary, I would highly recommend Attorney Lager and His Firm

What do I do next?

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, stop stressing about how to handle the bills and the insurance companies. We’ll take care of that so you can take care of yourself and your loved one. We make it simple. Worries about how you’ll have time to meet with us? We’ll come to you whenever it’s convenient, even if it’s after hours or on a weekend. We want to help. Call us at 814-452-6232 for a free consultation.

PennDOT Reports Safest Year for Car Accidents since 1928

According to PennDOT Secretary, Leslie RichardsSafest year for car accident deaths, 2017 was the safest year for traffic-accident deaths in recorded Pennsylvania history, when PennDOT began record-keeping in 1928. Although fatalities from car accidents are on the rise nationwide, Pennsylvania has managed to reverse this trend.

Safer. But not safe.

Unfortunately, even though the road is generally safer, the Secretary’s report indicates that fatalities related to distracted driving are on the rise in Pennsylvania, up to 69 from 66 in 2015 and 55 in 2014. Even more troubling, PennDOT fears that this number actually under-represents cases of distracted driving, as people often fail to report that they were texting while driving.

People that drive distracted, e.g. texting while driving, can needlessly end lives and ruin families. This tragedy is entirely preventable and simply requires that we, as a society, make a conscious effort to put the phone away when getting behind the wheel. While we have long rejected the societal acceptance that used to accompany drunk driving, we still have a long way to go before we all reject and condemn those that text behind the wheel. If you have a friend or loved one that texts while driving, let him or her know that it’s not okay.

Have you been injured by a distracted driver?

If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver in Pennsylvania, you might be entitled to punitive damages in addition to compensation. Our law firm represents car accident victims of distracted drivers and people who text while driving. We can help you recover your lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and get back to worrying about what’s important—your family. Call our Pennsylvania Car Accident Law Firm for a free consultation at 814-452-6232.

Can my Car Insurance be Cancelled for a Late Payment?

Can they cancel my car insurance for a late payment?

Cancelled auto insurance for late paymentMost insurance companies typically offer options regarding the payment of premiums.  Almost all companies issue policies with a 6 month term.  The premium can be paid in one payment or multiple payments depending upon the selected payment plan.  Generally, the longer the payment period, the greater the premium actually paid.

Some of the insurance companies even offer monthly payments.  These carriers typically are an option for minimal coverage low cost options for coverage.  Unfortunately, people who select these options for coverage are the ones who typically run into problems with late premium payments because of tight budgets which forced the selection of a monthly payment option in the first place.

The Law

Pennsylvania law provides the consumer with some protection here.  Under Pennsylvania law, the insured is entitled to advance notice that his/her policy will be cancelled unless the premium payment is received by the carrier.  Typically, the insurer will send out this “notice of cancellation” a day or two after the premium’s due date.  Under regulations in PA Code, the cancellation date must be no earlier than 17 days after the date of the cancellation notice.  The actual form for this notice is included in the regulations.  The failure to provide a timely and adequate notice of cancellation can invalidate the purported cancellation of the policy.

The problem is especially complicated when the insured is on a monthly billing cycle.  In order to comply with the regulations, these carriers will actually try to combine the bill with a notice of cancellation.  There are many ways to challenge the cancellation notices under these circumstances and one of our car accident lawyers can help.

Jim Stuczynski, Pennsylvania Insurance Cancellation LawyerI recently had a case where a company sent out its bill/notice indicating the policy payment was due by June 29.  This was one day earlier than the previous month because of the fact there were 31 days in May.  On June 30, the insured’s payment was received, however, the insured was in an accident early on June 30.  The carrier denied coverage, indicating the policy was cancelled June 30 and reinstated on July 1.

There was no valid cancellation notice provided under the law and when threatened with bad faith, the carrier provided coverage and even paid reasonable attorney’s fees for forcing the insured to retain counsel to contest the denial of coverage.  If you should find yourself in such a situation, gather the last couple of months bills/notices and your policy and immediately schedule a free consultation with one of our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers.  You may still be entitled to coverage.

As a final word of advice, do not select the convenient monthly premium payment plan.  This option is not only the most expensive, but it is also the one which can most easily lead to an unwanted cancellation of your policy.

Not only is the cancellation of coverage extremely serious in itself, it means you will have limited tort status despite any full tort selection in your policy.  Also, if you are uninsured for 30 days or longer, your carrier can charge you “high risk premium rate,” which is the highest premium rate permissible by law.

Our lawyers can help.

If your car insurance company is saying your policy was cancelled after an auto accident, our personal injury attorneys can help. Call one of our Pennsylvania lawyers today for a free consultation: 814-452-6232.