What you Need to Know about the “Company Car” You Drive

Posted By: Tony Baratta | October 31st, 2019

Do you drive a company car for your work?

Does your company carry Under-Insured Motorist insurance on this vehicle?

I have discussed the importance of under-insured motorist coverage in the past.  This coverage protects you and your loved one if injured by someone’s carelessness who does not carry sufficient liability insurance coverage to compensate you for the damages caused.  The minimum coverage necessary to legally drive in Pennsylvania is only $15,000 in liability coverage.  I have seen hundreds of insurance tragedies, instances where people suffered devastating injuries caused by careless drivers who carried minimal insurance liability coverages.  It is in such instances that you look to your Under-Insured Motorist coverage.

 Do you have it?  If yes, good.  Is it equal to your liability limits and stacked? Better!

But for someone who regularly uses a motor vehicle for work, you have to ask another question.  Does my employer carry Under-Insured Motorist coverage for that vehicle?

The language in your personal auto insurance policy usually reads something like “we will not pay for bodily injury to you or a household resident using a non-owned car not insured under this part, regularly used by you or a household resident.”  In plain English – your personal auto insurance company will not cover you if you get in an accident with a company car that you regularly drive.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided in 2002 to allow auto insurance carriers to enforce this provision in Burstein v. Progressive.  Mr. and Mrs. Burstein were driving their vehicle in Lower Southampton, Pennsylvania.  A speeding motorcycle struck their vehicle and injured both Mr. and Mrs. Burstein.  Subsequently, the motorcyclist’s insurance policy surrendered the maximum amount payable under its liability limits.  However, this did not fully compensate the Bursteins for their injuries.  The Bursteins sought Under-Insured Motorist coverage from their own personal policy.  However, at the time of the accident, Mr. Burstein was driving the vehicle that Mrs. Burstein’s employer had provided to her as a benefit of employment.  Mrs. Burstein regularly drove the vehicle both for business and personal use.  Mr. Burstein, on the other hand, did not regularly drive the vehicle and in fact had driven it only twice prior the collision. The employer maintained only liability insurance but not Under-Insured Motorist coverage.  So, to seek remedy for their damages, the Bursteins sought coverage under their own policy of insurance with Prudential with whom they insured their personally owned cars for Under-Insured Motorist coverage. Prudential denied coverage and the Supreme Court agreed that Prudential was right to do so determining that the language of the policy was appropriate and did not violate the law.  Therefore, the Bursteins, despite having paid for Under-Insured motorist coverage, were denied it in that instance for being hurt in a regularly used but non-owned vehicle.

Recent litigation in Pennsylvania Courts have cracked open the door for having this kind of language stricken as void and against public policy. While we trial lawyers continue the fight to have the “regular use-non-owned exclusion” deemed illegal, it is important that if you drive a vehicle for your work which you do not own, that you ask your employer whether it carries Under-Insured Motorist coverage.

 

About the Author

Anthony J. Baratta (Tony) is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 50 cases to Juries in State and Federal Courts and has litigated thousands of personal injury and medical malpractice cases in his 30-year career. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and an active board member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is also on the board for the Philadelphia VIP and performs pro bono work for the Laurel House, a non-profit for victims of domestic abuse. In addition, Tony is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys, voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 13 years, and a 2018 recipient of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Award for the Civil Trial Division.

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