A Discussion of Pennsylvania Auto Insurance Law and How it Affects You
Most PA drivers cannot begin to tell you what their auto insurance covers. PA auto insurance policies may be confusing and many insurance company agents do not fully explain the consequences of your choices. More often than not, an individual will go to his company/agent and request the he or she be given a policy that will save the driver the most money. This is absolutely the wrong approach and only after an accident does the driver realize that the choices they made have cost them literally thousands of dollars.
The more information you have before you make your policy decisions, the easier and less ‘painful’ it will be. I am sure you have heard the phrase that ‘A knowledgeable consumer is a smart consumer’. This is especially true regarding auto insurance policies.
IF YOU OWN A REGISTERED VEHICLE IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF
PENNSYLVANIA, THE LAW REQUIRES THAT YOU HAVE AUTO INSURANCE TO COVER YOUR VEHICLE.
In some cities in this state, your vehicle can be towed from the scene of an accident if you cannot produce a valid insurance card. If notice of your uninsured status is given to the Department of Transportation, you can even lose your drivers license until you acquire insurance.
That being said, let’s go over the choices you have so that you may be properly protected.
PA requires that every auto insurance policy includes a minimum of basic liability coverage (in case you are at fault in a accident) and basic 1st party benefits (medical coverage for you and your passengers). Everything else to be included in your policy is an ‘a la carte’ item that can be purchased separately.
The minimum liability coverage in PA would read as 15,000/30,000. This means that your insurance company is obligated to pay a maximum of $15,000 to any one individual for injuries they sustained in an accident which was your fault, or a maximum of $30,000 for the entire accident, no matter how many injured people there were. The minimum medical coverage in PA is $5,000 per individual; including the driver and any other passengers in your car.
These coverages can be increased at your request. If you lease an automobile, most leasing companies require that you have liability coverage for at least $100,000/300,000. Medical coverages can be increased as well (It is always better to have higher medical coverage than to rely on your personal health insurance. In some instances, your personal health insurance carrier may enforce a lien to recover monies that they have paid out. Unfortunately, this would come out of your settlement). There are other options that can be purchased within the medical coverage portion of you and your family, but not to the insurance companies, or even the law. Yes, your car will be repaired (hopefully as good as it was before), your wages compensated for and your medical bills taken care of. But not your injuries. You may become the world’s best weather predictor (pain before the storm), but you will not have a penny for your troubles. Every time you bend over and feel a stab of pain, or turn your neck too quickly and feel the pain in your teeth, the insurance companies are racking up the profits, because you chose limited tort.
Full tort, on the other hand, allows you to bring a claim and be compensated for any injury that occurred because of the accident. Any injury that occurred. There is no threshold to meet. That’s it. No more definition is required. It is that simple.
Limited tort is less expensive than Full tort. The difference is usually about 10% of your liability premium. Is it worth it? Undoubtedly, I would say NO! You have to be the final judge of that, obviously taking into account your financial status. If you can’t possibly afford full tort, then you will have to stay with limited tort. But for the approximately $300 – $400 extra (depending on where you live) please think about the following.
Limited tort not only applies to you, the owner of the vehicle, but to each and every family member residing with you at the time of the accident. Simply stated, every passenger in your car who is a family member and resided with you, will be under the limited tort threshold. Even if you, or a family member is a passenger in another vehicle that has full tort coverage, you will still be saddled with limited tort. Additionally, even if the driver is uninsured and you have UM coverage, that coverage is still subject to limited tort.
While there are several exceptions (overcoming limited tort by law), the basic premise is that unless you are properly covered, your right to compensation will be severely affected.
Be informed. Do not treat your automobile insurance as a necessary evil. Make sure all of your questions are answered. Most importantly, if you are not sure, ask a professional. Call us and we will be more than happy to review your coverage at no charge to you. If you already have insurance, you do not have to wait until the policy renewal. You can make changes at any time during the year, regardless of when your policy renews.