Everyone who owns a motor vehicle in the state of Pennsylvania it is a legal requirement to buy and keep up to date auto insurance. The laws that are specific to auto insurance are commonly referred to as the Act 6 Amendments with reference to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, (MVFRL).

Being involved and injured in an auto accident is a significant event in a person’s life so whether an owner, a driver or a passenger, it is vital to have an understanding of the way automobile insurance has an effect on an individual when an accident takes place. Our lawyers here in Pennsylvania know only too well the hardships encountered by victims of motor vehicle accidents who were not aware or did not understand the true value of their policies.

As with all insurance, the kind of coverage an individual chooses will be dependant upon the needs of that particular individual.

Types of Insurance Liability Coverage

This type of insurance cover is compulsory. It basically provides you with protection from any claims that could be filed against you. That is when an accident happens to be your own fault and injury or damage has been caused to other individuals. The liability insurance provides compensation for the party who has been injured.

There is a minimum amount set by the law that you have to purchase and that is $15,000.00 for each person and $30,000.00 for each accident. It is sometimes referred to as “15/30″. If you think that you need to protect yourself with a higher coverage level, for example, if you drive frequently in areas where there is a high accident rate then you should get more coverage.  If you have an accident and injure someone and a claim is made for injuries suffered by the victim that is more than your coverage then you may have to draw on your assets such as your house to pay out the claim. Protecting your other assets is almost as important as your accident cover.

Liability coverage relates only to bodily injury claims. You may, if you wish, purchase liability coverage which covers claims related to damage to your vehicle and any other property. This type of coverage is related to damage you may have caused in an accident to the other vehicle. Auto costs are always on the rise so it is vital to take out enough coverage that will cover the cost of replacing or repairing the vehicle in question.

An important point to note here is that if you do cause an auto accident and you injure a person and your insurer pays out money to settle any claim that has been made against you, the insurance carrier may well increase your premiums as a penalty for costing them money. Your attorney can explain this side of insurance to you and what powers an agent has in relation to the cost of your premiums.

First Party Benefits Coverage

First Party Benefits is also compulsory coverage. This is a sort of medical insurance that helps in paying your individual medical bills. There is a minimum coverage that is required, which is $5,000.00. It does not matter who is at fault for the auto accident as your medical costs will be financed using your First Party Benefits cover. This protection is a legal entitlement and if you have to draw on it, your premium rates will not be affected in any way. If you go over the limit of your cover, then you will need to submit your extra medical costs through your health insurance. In most cases the minimum $5,000.00 coverage should be quite sufficient.

Crash Coverage

Collision coverage is not mandatory, and is a payment to you for your own vehicle damage. It is normally purchased along with a deductible. This actually means that you make a payment that reaches your deductible ceiling and your insurance will cover the rest. A greater deductible will provide you with a lower premium. Any accident that takes place and you were not at fault, your insurer will get your deductible returned from the party who has been found to be responsible and it will then be returned to you.

When purchasing collision coverage and the amount you should pay on your deductible will depend on your automobile’s age, its “blue book” valuation, and how much it would cost to replace. If you lose your car completely in an accident, the insurance provider normally will just offer a blue book valuation which may not be the same amount that you would pay for a new auto.

Coverage that is comprehensive

Comprehensive coverage is not mandatory. It offers protection when a vehicle happens to be stolen or sustains damage in a number of different ways but not when it is in an accident along with another motorized vehicle. It operates also with a deductible amount paid by you.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage 

This is optional coverage but is actually very important as it offers protection in a situation when you are hurt by an driver who is uninsured. Surprisingly, despite rules, there are many drivers who are not insured on the roads and we never know who they are.

If you have the misfortune to have sustained an injury from an uninsured driver, there won’t be any other payment available for you to access. The additional coverage offers you much more protection and it’s worth it.

Under-insured Driver Coverage

This is not mandatory coverage and only applies when you sustain an injury and it was not your fault. It protects when the other party didn’t have adequate insurance to sufficiently provide compensation for injuries you have sustained. If your injuries are serious and will require a long recovery period then this sort of insurance is extremely useful. If you have been injured then you should contact a personal injury lawyer who will explain your current insurance and that of the person who caused your accident. If the accident was not your fault then a lawyer will contact the insurer of the person at fault to find out what you may have to deal with.

Tort Thresholds 

Auto insurance was it seems far too high nationwide so Pennsylvania tried to remedy the problem. There are now two classes of auto insurance, which are “Limited Tort” and “Full Tort.”

 

“Tort” as a legal term is defined as a civil or private injury or wrong. If you have chosen ‘full” tort cover, the legal entitlements of you and your family are guaranteed when you are injured in an accident. If you chose ‘limited” tort cover, you could save a bit of money, but if you have an auto accident you and your family lose some of their rights to be fully compensated if they have an accident and are injured. Our team of lawyers does not recommend you take out Limited Tort cover as its relative cheapness disadvantages you if you are involved in an accident and it was not your fault. You can’t depend on the negligent driver paying for your personal injuries if you have chosen Limited Tort.

Of course, with Full Tort, the motorist pays a costlier premium that could be up to 20% higher than paying for the Limited Tort option. Full Tort coverage allows an accident victim to file a claim, which can end up as a law suit, for any type of injury suffered in an auto accident. The Limited Tort choice means recovery is limited for any injuries that have been sustained in an auto accident. In practice, this means that unless the injuries are very serious, no money can be collected at all. This holds unless the injuries are considered to be serious. The definition for “serious” is unclear.

Under Limited Tort claims, what is a serious injury?

Generally, the definition of a serious injury is one that ends up in death, where bodily functions have been seriously damaged or where disfigurement can be seen to be permanent. Over time many cases have been through the courts and our lawyers are still left with a nebulous definition of serious injury. Of the cases that have been through litigation trying to further define just what the law means by seriously impaired bodily functions has never been confirmed.

Courts have tried to address these uncertainties by viewing most injuries to “soft tissues” such as in the neck and back as not sufficient enough to meet the severely impaired condition. Frequently, head injuries and broken bones have not met the law’s “serious” definition even though the impact on the individuals concerned was quite serious.

As a result of the Limited Tort category and the term “serious”, courts are acting unfavorably when it comes to handling personal injury cases when the victim was only covered by Limited Tort.

When it comes to appearing in court, if the injuries of the personal injury victim have healed and no pain is being experienced then the injury no longer falls in the serious category. There is no thought put into the fact that the person might have been off work for several weeks or months recovering.

It is not impossible to win a claim under Limited Tort but it is undoubtedly far more difficult. The insurers are now able to gather money on policies which they have less risk of loss. Overall, the insurers’ chance of paying out on claims is now reduced at a far greater rate than the very small rate reduction that has been transferred to the consumer who chooses limited tort. Currently, there is just one method for a person to fully protect themselves and that is to pay out for the higher rates and get Full Tort cover. Our law offices here in Pennsylvania fully support Full Tort as the only effective form of coverage.

Whatever your insurance situation, if you have been injured in an auto accident that was not your fault, you shouldn’t just ponder over your situation, you should contact one of our lawyers in Pennsylvania to discuss the options available to you.

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