Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Pennsylvania
Most states in the U.S. require vehicle owners to carry auto insurance on their cars as a way to cover any financial liabilities that may be incurred in the event of an auto accident. In most cases, there is a requirement for a minimum liability insurance level that must be maintained. Nationwide, approximately 13% of drivers do not have auto insurance. This includes the states that do not require it and those that allow drivers to pay an uninsured motor vehicle fee.
In Pennsylvania, all motor vehicle owners are required to carry a minimum level of liability insurance. However, approximately 7% of Pennsylvania motorists are uninsured. If an uninsured motorist causes an accident, it could leave the driver of the other vehicle with the burden of paying for damages, medical bills, and property loss out of their own pocket. Uninsured motorist policies help allay those costs and cover the insured vehicle as well as the driver, and any passengers.
Pennsylvania Auto Insurance Requirements
The state of Pennsylvania requires that every vehicle on the road has, at a minimum, medical benefits, bodily injury liability, and property damage liability. These are the minimum insurance requirements and motorists caught driving without insurance can face stiff penalties, including fines and suspension of vehicle registration.
Auto insurance is available in different coverages. The minimum coverages that Pennsylvania motorists must have, by law, are:
Medical Benefits – $5,000 is the minimum limit although there are higher limits available. This coverage pays the medical bills for the insured as well as others covered on the policy if there are injuries from an accident. It doesn’t matter who is at fault.
Bodily Injury Liability – $15,000/$30,000 is the minimum limit although there are higher limits available. This pays for expenses like medical and rehabilitation if someone is injured in an auto accident and the insured is at fault. The $15,000 is what is paid for one injured person, and the $30,000 is the total amount available for a single accident.
Property Damage Liability – $5,000 is the minimum limit although there are higher limits available. This pays for any property that is damaged in an accident (including the other driver’s car) when the insured is at fault.
There are also numerous optional coverages available that cover a multitude of situations and expenses. One of the optional coverages protects drivers who are involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist, where that driver was at fault.
Uninsured Motorists Protection
Uninsured motorist coverage provides protection against drivers who shirk their legal responsibility to carry insurance on their vehicle. Insurance companies in Pennsylvania are required by law to offer uninsured motorist coverage to everyone who purchases insurance for their vehicle. However, those people are allowed to opt out by signing a “Rejection of Uninsured Motorist Protection” waiver which states that the coverage was offered, but the insured rejected it. If the waiver is not signed, then the uninsured motorist protection is automatically included in the liability insurance policy.
This coverage does not apply to property damage. It is to address medical expenses for the insured, passengers who are injured, and relatives residing in the insured’s household when they have been in an auto accident with an at-fault uninsured driver and were injured. When purchasing uninsured motorist coverage, experts recommend that the amount of coverage should be the same as the liability coverage. For instance, if liability coverage is $50,000, then the uninsured motorist coverage should be $50,000 as well.
At Fault Driver Typically Pays
Typically, when there is an auto accident, the insurance of the at-fault driver pays the medical expenses of the other driver. However, in the case of an uninsured motorist who is at fault in an accident, there is no insurance company. This means there is no entity that can pay so the related expenses are the responsibility of the driver who was not at fault. Uninsured motorist coverage eliminates that expensive burden.
The insurance company then must handle the claim in good faith, meaning that they cannot or will not place unreasonable obstacles or refuse to handle it. Doing so would mean they are acting in bad faith. Bad faith claims can be costly for an insurance company. In such cases they must pay medical, property damage, lost wages, and other expenses as well as punitive damages.