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Third Circuit: Pennsylvania auto insurers need not obtain new UIM election forms when a new vehicle is added to an existing policy

October 10, 2022

On September 29, 2022, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held, as a matter of first impression, the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) only requires auto insurers to seek elections of underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage below bodily injury limits when the insurers initially issue policies, and not when a vehicle is added to an existing policy. In Geist v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the Third Circuit observed that “[n]either section 1731 nor section 1734 of the MVFRL” require an insurer to “seek a new written election of UIM-coverage limits” when an insured purchases a new vehicle and adds it to an existing policy.

This case arises from a 2017 motor vehicle accident in which Miranda Geist was injured. Geist’s parents’ insurer, State Farm, offered Geist up to $100,000.00 in UIM benefits. However, Geist believed she was entitled to up to $200,000.00 in UIM benefits, because her father “did not execute an acknowledgment for UIM-coverage limits below the bodily injury-coverage limits” when he added a new vehicle to the insurance policy. The district court dismissed Geist’s complaint, concluding that the MVFRL does not require insurers to seek elections of UIM coverage-limits when policyholders add vehicles to their existing policies.

The Third Circuit affirmed the district court, holding that State Farm “discharged its statutorily imposed duty” when it issued the policy with the UIM coverages requested by Geist’s father. As State Farm never issued a new policy to Geist’s parents, “the MVFRL never required State Farm to seek a new written election for lower UIM-coverage limits under the Policy.”

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