Is The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Decision In Corbin V. Khosla A Game Changer?

In February, 2012 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a long awaited decision in the case of  Corbin v. Khosla, 42 A.2d 254 (Supreme Court of Pa. 2012).  For uninsured Pennsylvania car accident victims, the Corbin case appears to be a great victory.  Prior to Corbin many Courts refused to allow uninsured motorists to seek recovery for unpaid medical bills.  In Corbin the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed this practice by holding that drivers of uninsured motor vehicles who are required to have car insurance are not precluded from recovering unpaid medical bills despite the apparent prohibition contained in 75 Pa. C.S. §1714 (“Ineligible Claimants”).  That section seemingly prohibits uninsured drivers from recovering first-party benefits including medical and income loss benefits because a driver was uninsured under the MVFRL.  In deciding Corbin, the Court relied instead upon language in 75 Pa. C.S. §1705 (“Election of Tort Options”) which deems uninsured drivers to have chosen the limited tort option and which permits recovery of damages for economic loss including unpaid medical bills.

The Corbin decision held that the 75 Pa. C.S. §1714 prohibition only means that uninsured owners of vehicles in a car accident cannot recover first party benefits, but “does not precludes such [uninsured] owners from recovering damages for injuries sustained as a result of automobile accidents which include economic damages such as unpaid medical bills under 75 Pa. C.S. §1705.

Moreover the Supreme Court did not find 75 Pa. C.S. §1722 (“Preclusion of Recovering Required Benefits” to be a bar as it merely eliminates duplicative recovery by an injured insured for losses arising from a automobile accident.  To the contrary, the Court concluded that 75 Pa. C.S. §1714 merely does the following:

First, such motorists are limited in the recovery of non-economic damages by virtue of defaulting to limited tort.  Second, such motorists are precluded from making claims for first-party benefits against any policies under which they might    have otherwise been eligible for benefits as an insured, a named insured, or the occupant of an insured vehicle.  Clearly, Section 1714 precluded uninsured drivers from participating in the first-party benefit system as a sanction or penalty   for driving without insurance. This preclusion deprives the uninsured driver of speedy payment of medical and wage loss benefits from any first party carrier through a direct claim against a policy for no fault benefits.  It does not, however, preclude an uninsured motorist for making a claim for economic damages in tort.  . . . Thus, the relevant provisions of the MVFRL remove uninsured drivers from any potential participation in the first-party no-fault system, and thrust the    uninsured driver into the uncertainty, time and expense required to sue the   tortfeasor, establish fault, and recover payment limited to economic damages (and non-economic damage in the event of serious injury) from the tortfeasor’s insurance company under the third party liability provisions of the insured’s  policy.

                        In sum, … Section 1714 of the MVFRL does not preclude an uninsured motorist from recovering tort damages for economic loss from an alleged third party tortfeasor under the tortfeasor’s liability coverage. We now expressly abrogate any decisions of the lower courts that have ruled to the contrary.”

If you or a loved one is injured in a motor vehicleaccident and do not have automobile coverage, you should contact an accident attorney to review your rights.  The Philadelphia auto accident lawyers at Geoffrey B. Gompers & Associates have nearly a century of legal experience in protecting the rights of accident victims. We answer calls 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week and all accident consultations are free. Call us today at 215-567-6600 or contact us online.