Car crashes are one of the scariest events a person can go through. You’re shocked, disoriented, and find yourself just going through the motions. You round up your insurance card and go to exchange information with the other driver. That’s when you find out the other driver doesn’t even have insurance or just has the barest minimum required in the state of Pennsylvania.
Your mind is spinning as you try to figure out how you’ll pay out-of-pocket for all the damage done to your vehicle. Not to mention, you need to seek medical attention, too. What about those pricey doctor’s office charges and the other medical bills you might run up if you’ve been hurt pretty badly?
Well, hold up because we’ve got some good news for yinz.
Uninsured motorist claims are actually made through your own personal insurance plan. So all is not lost if you get hit by an uninsured driver. You can use your own policy to make up the difference in coverage. That sounds simple, right?
It’s actually a little more complicated than that. So let’s take a step back and start with the basics.
Can you drive without car insurance in Pennsylvania?
Is it possible to even drive a vehicle without insurance under Pennsylvania law? The short answer is “no,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). In Pennsylvania, you must carry vehicle liability insurance, at the very least. This is considered taking “financial responsibility” for your vehicle, and you can lose your registration, have to pay a $300 fine, and sacrifice your license if you don’t do it.
What exactly is vehicle liability insurance?
Liability insurance covers property damage and personal injury of other drivers after an accident that the insured individual has caused. Full-coverage policies carry a deductible set by the insurance company. With full coverage, insurance payouts will kick in after you’ve met your deductible with out-of-pocket payments. But drivers don’t have to meet a deductible with liability insurance, meaning you can dip right into your payout. Having full-coverage insurance is optional in Pennsylvania.
What’s covered by liability insurance
Private liability insurance covers three types of expenses in Pennsylvania.
- Bodily injury liability. Liability insurance is required by PA law to cover medical expenses related to bodily injuries if you’re hit by an uninsured driver. Pennsylvania requires that a driver carry at least $15,000 worth of medical benefits coverage (for the injury or death of one person). The minimum is $30,000 for the injury or death of more than one person in an accident.
- Medical benefits. Liability insurance includes coverage of medical expenses such as doctor visits, emergency transportation, and hospital stays. The minimum amount of medical benefits coverage in Pennsylvania is $5,000.
- Property damage liability. Liability coverage also extends to property damage. Liability covers harm to the vehicle as well as other personal or commercial property like houses, buildings, fences, or mailboxes. The minimum is $5,000.
Now you know that you have some options. But what happens when vehicle liability insurance just isn’t enough?
You can dip into PIP
The liability insurance has run out, but you still have medical bills and other expenses piling up. So now what?
Pennsylvania mandates that drivers carry a type of insurance called personal injury protection, or PIP, so you can tap into that, too. PIP is a no-fault insurance. In other words, it doesn’t matter which driver is technically responsible for causing the accident. Your PIP plan will still cover you. This is especially good news if the other driver doesn’t have insurance.
PIP covers your medical care and treatment. It also protects any other people who were injured in your vehicle at the time of the accident. You may require ongoing treatment from doctors and physical therapists, depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries you sustained. PIP can help when these types of bills start stacking up.
PIP may also cover certain non-economic damages you have suffered because of the accident. Personal and non-financial losses include things like emotional anguish and trauma, reputational damage, or an inability to participate in activities you previously enjoyed. Traumatic brain injury and spinal cord damage are among the most common car accident injuries. Both injuries could leave you unable to play your favorite games and sports or to be intimate with your spouse.
PIP insurance may also extend to cover any lost wages if your injuries render you unable to work. It may also cover the cost of hiring people to do necessary chores and tasks you are no longer able to perform. These “substitute services” can include lawn care, housekeeping, and other essential household tasks.
Opt to keep your UM/UIM coverage
Yes, it’s a law in Pittsburgh that drivers have insurance, but that doesn’t mean they always do – or that they will have enough. But you may be able to receive money right from your own insurance company, provided you didn’t waive your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM):
- Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) covers the driver and any passengers in cases where the driver of the other vehicle has no insurance. This can be very helpful if your injuries are serious or long-term. Note that UM coverage applies to bodily injury only. It does not cover any damage to property.
- Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is a type of supplemental insurance that kicks in when the other driver’s policy doesn’t cover your bodily injury expenses. UIM also protects all occupants of your vehicle. Like UM, it doesn’t cover the destruction of property.
Have you been in a car accident in Pittsburgh?
According to the most recent data from PennDOT, more than 115,000 people are involved in car crashes annually on Pennsylvania’s highways and byways. You’re probably one of them if you’re reading this right now — but you don’t have to go it alone.
Carmody and Ging, Attorneys at Law are here to support you through these challenging times. Our car accident lawyers have years of experience helping clients in Pittsburgh get the justice and compensation they deserve, and we’ll do the same for you.
Don’t delay: call or contact us today for a free consultation on your case.