A recent case decided in Lackawanna County, PA discussed appropriate points for charge to the jury in an underinsured motorist (UIM) case following an auto accident. The court, per Judge Terrence R. Nealon issued an opinion noting the absence of Pennsylvania suggested jury instructions and applicable appellate case law giving guidance, and referred to standard civil jury instructions from other jurisdictions. He then opined that the following points for charge will be allowed:
(1) Plaintiffs brought this action against their own insurance company under coverage known as underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, which serves to provide compensation to a Plaintiff for damages that would have been recoverable if the under insured motorist had maintained an insurance policy which adequately covered the Plaintiff’s damages from an accident;
(2) To recover against the Defendant, the Plaintiffs must be prove that the other driver was negligent, that the negligence caused harm to Plaintiffs, and that the other driver did not have adequate liability insurance;
(3) The Defendant has stipulated that the Plaintiffs’ insurance policy provides underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage and that the policy was in effect at the time of the accident, and the Jurors need not concern themselves with the specifics of the policy;
(4) The Defendant has also agreed that the other driver was negligent and caused the accident, such that the Jury need only determine whether the Plaintiffs suffered harm as a result of the accident and, if so, what amount of money damages will fairly and adequately compensate the Plaintiffs;
(5) The fact that the Plaintiffs are suing the Defendant for under insured motorist benefits suggests that the other driver had some insurance which was recovered by Plaintiffs;
(6) The Plaintiffs will not receive compensation twice for the same damages since any Jury award of damages in this case will be reduced by any amount that the Plaintiffs have already received from the other driver and her insurer; and
(7) The Jury should determine an amount of money damages that will fairly and adequately compensate the Plaintiffs for all the physical and financial injuries they have sustained as a result of the accident, without consideration of any amount that the Plaintiffs may have received from the other driver or her insurer, since any such amount will be deducted by the Court from the total sum awarded by the Jury.
Mortiz v. Horace Mann Property and Casualty Insurance Co., No. 13-CV-544, Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County (November 10, 2104).