Many insurance policies include something called a duty to defend. That’s a promise from the insurance company to defend the insured party if a case involves coverage from the policy. Whether it’s because of a car accident or another personal injury case, understanding the duty to defend is important. Our personal injury attorney team explains the insurance company duty to defend in Pennsylvania.
What does the duty to defend cover in Pennsylvania?
The insurance company duty to defend in Pennsylvania covers any claim that is within or is even potentially within the scope of the policy. For example, say someone is in a car accident. They have liability insurance. The other party believes they are at fault, and they want to make a claim against the insurance policy.
If the insurance contract contains a duty to defend, this situation triggers it. The facts of the situation are that the insurance company may have to pay a claim. Therefore, they must fulfill the part of the contract that requires them to defend the insured party in the claim. A duty to defend exists in a range of different types of insurance. It is common in car insurance policies in Pennsylvania.
How does Pennsylvania law determine if a claim triggers the duty to defend?
The State of Pennsylvania says that the parties must look at the four corners of the insurance contract and the four corners of the legal complaint in order to determine if the duty to defend is triggered. It’s important to look at the language of the insurance contract and what exactly it says about the insurance company’s obligations. Then, it’s important to look at the language of the complaint.
When looking at the complaint, it’s important to look at the facts alleged in the document itself. The labels of the causes of action are not necessarily controlling. However, the court does not accept extraneous information when determining whether the insurance company has a duty to defend.
Notice for the duty to defend in Pennsylvania
One important issue that our personal injury law firm frequently encounters is notice for the duty to defend. In order to defend the insured party, the insurance company has to know about the case. The insured party has a duty to tell the insurance company about the claim.
Pennsylvania law is quite broad when it comes to what notice is sufficient for the duty to defend. Any reliable source is sufficient. For example, notice from a co-insured about the claim is sufficient. If notice is late, the insurer must show how the delay prejudices their ability to defend the insured.
Determining Pennsylvania rights under the duty to defend
If there’s any question about rights and obligations under the duty to defend, the parties may seek declaratory relief. If you’ve been in a car accident, a personal injury attorney can help you protect your rights. Our personal injury law firm can help you address any issues present in your case including the duty to defend.