Understanding Pennsylvania Car Insurance Coverage
What kind of car insurance should I buy in Pennsylvania?
When choosing your car insurance, choosing the cheapest insurance available (like state minimum coverage) is a dangerous decision that can cost you thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars in the long run. To put it simply, you need to talk to your insurance agent and buy as much coverage as you can afford. When speaking to your agent, there are a few types of coverage you should absolutely buy.
In Pennsylvania, Full Tort coverage is a must-have. Don’t let your insurance agent talk you into buying “limited tort” insurance because it might save you a buck. Choosing “limited tort” will very often prevent you from getting compensated for “pain and suffering,” which tends to be one of the bigger damages in a lawsuit. Insurance agents will often try to tell you “It doesn’t matter, because you can always get pain and suffering if you have a serious injury.” What they don’t tell you is that Pennsylvania courts define what constitutes a “serious injury” very differently than you might imagine. For example, Pennsylvania courts rarely consider neck and back “soft tissue” injuries to be “serious.” Even if you’ve been out of work for six months. Bottom line is you need to pick “full tort.”
Underinsured and Uninsured motorist coverage (frequently abbreviated as UM and UIM) is equally as important as full tort coverage. In Pennsylvania, these coverages give you a source of recovery when the person that caused your injuries was either uninsured or was not carrying enough insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries. You’d be shocked at how many people that cause accidents drive around with state minimum coverage ($15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident) or no insurance at all. You’d also be shocked at how quick $15,000 goes. If you sustain a serious injury and have hundreds of thousands of dollars of damages, and the person that hit you only has minimum coverage or no insurance at all, you’re out of luck—unless you purchased underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage. We recommend buying as much UM/UIM coverage as you can afford. Certainly no less than $100,000 worth.
Pennsylvania Insurance coverage is a complex topic governed by Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL). In addition to speaking with an agent when purchasing insurance, you need to speak with a lawyer about how your insurance coverage affects your case and your legal rights.
Full Tort or Limited Tort?
One of the most important coverages to purchase is “full tort” insurance. This allows you to seek compensation for your pain and suffering without having to worry about whether or not your case falls into one of the narrow exceptions! This is one of the most complicated areas of Pennsylvania insurance law; to learn more, see our article on Full Tort and Limited Tort car insurance! Although we highly recommend purchasing Full Tort insurance, unlike other firms, our lawyers don’t turn people away simply because they have limited tort. We’ll fight for the exceptions.
Pennsylvania’s state minimum for bodily injury liability limits is $15,000.00 per person that one injures with a maximum of $30,000.00 per accident and $5,000.00 available for property damage. This is frequently abbreviated as “15/30.” While relatively cheap to purchase, this amount of insurance is wildly inadequate for any serious injury and affords you very little protection should you badly injure somebody. Not only can the injured person come after your personal assets, the injured person is left under-compensated for their injuries. When choosing the amount of liability coverage you carry, you need to speak with your insurance agent or an attorney to figure out how much protection you need for your assets.
Other First-Party Benefits
Medical Expenses / PIP Coverage
Many people don’t realize that, in Pennsylvania, after an automobile accident (not a motorcycle accident), your car insurance is the first to pay your medical bills—not your health insurance! Even if you don’t have health insurance, you have at least $5,000.00 available to you for medical treatment either from your own policy or the policy of one of the drivers involved in the accident. If you’re hurt in an accident, you should contact a personal injury attorney to help sort out your medical bills and seek compensation for your injuries.
Many people confuse “full coverage” with “full tort and limited tort” insurance. Insurance agents typically say “full coverage” when they’re selling you collision insurance to pay for your vehicle if it gets damaged in an accident. “Full coverage” does not typically mean you have “full tort” and are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering after an accident. If you aren’t sure which you have, you should call your insurance agent and ask if you also have “full tort.” If you want more information on “full coverage” versus “full tort,” our own Attorney Jim Stuczynski wrote an in-depth article for consumers on the matter: Full Coverage vs. Full Tort Insurance.
After an accident, it very common to be put out of work. It’s very cheap to add “wage loss” coverage to your insurance policy, which can provide you 80% of your lost wages as long as you’re missing work after an accident. Unless you’re extremely wealthy and can go months without income, you should strongly consider purchasing wage-loss coverage. Although lost wages can be obtained from the person at-fault for your accident, settlements can take several months to several years depending on the complexity of your case and what insurance company is on the other end. Having wage loss protection will help you make ends meet while you wait.
If you are sustaining lost wages as a result of your injuries, your injury is serious enough to warrant a meeting with a personal injury attorney to ensure you receive adequate compensation for your injuries.
After an accident, your car will need to be repaired or replaced entirely. While the at-fault party’s insurance should reimburse you for your rental expenses (if there’s enough coverage), it’s much easier if you have insurance that covers a rental in the meantime. That way, if there’s a dispute over who’s fault the accident was, someone is paying for your rental car while it all plays out.
I still don’t understand how my insurance affects my accident case!
If you’re confused as to how your car insurance affects your accident case, or want to know who will pay for your medical bills after a crash, don’t hesitate to call our Erie, PA lawyers for a free consultation today at 814-452-6232! We’re always happy to sit down, review your paperwork, and figure things out.