Pennsylvania Automobile Insurance Law

February 11, 2020

Pennsylvania drivers are legally required to maintain financial responsibility of their vehicles by purchasing automobile insurance.

Under Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, car owners can choose to buy either “limited tort” or “full tort” coverage. In plain English, those selections ultimately determine whether—and when—someone can legally recover money damages for pain and suffering after an auto accident. Here are some of the differences between “limited tort” and “full tort”:

Limited Tort

This type of car insurance is the less expensive of the two; but it will limit your right (and those covered by your policy) to obtain money damages for personal injuries you sustain in a car accident caused by someone else. While car accident victims with limited tort coverage may recover medical bills, wage loss, or other out-of-pocket costs associated with an accident, they generally cannot recover damages for pain and suffering unless they can prove they’ve sustained a serious impairment of a bodily function. Absent some exception to that rule, this artificial legal barrier to recovery can sometimes be difficult to overcome. So, it is important for people to consider the risks of choosing “limited tort” when obtaining car insurance. Paying less in premiums now might cost them the right to recover monetary damages later on.

Full Tort

Although it is more expensive, “full tort” coverage give you more rights if you are ever injured in an accident. Essentially, if you select the “full tort” option, you will pay a higher policy premium, but you are guaranteeing yourself the right to recover monetary damages for pain and suffering in addition to medical bills, wage loss, and out-of-pocket costs, regardless of the severity of your injuries. In other words, people who select (or are insured under a policy with) full tort coverage may sue for personal injuries even if they have not sustained a “serious injury.”

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Pennsylvania’s automobile insurance law also allows car owners to purchase optional Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage will provide insurance if you are injured in a car accident that is caused by a driver without insurance, or caused by a hit-and-run driver. Underinsured motorist coverage will give you an extra level of protection if you are ever injured in a collision caused by someone else and that individual doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate you for all of your injuries.

According to the Insurance Research Council, approximately one in seven drivers in the United States are uninsured. Pennsylvania drivers who purchase uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverages (you can buy both) and are injured in an accident caused by someone with little or no insurance may still be able to obtain a monetary recovery for their pain and suffering. It’s another great coverage option that, while increasing premiums in the short-run, can prove invaluable in the future.

Required Levels of Insurance Coverage

Pennsylvania’s automobile insurance law requires that everyone purchase at least the following minimum insurance limits: $5,000 in first-party medical benefits,

$15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident in bodily injury liability coverage, and

$5,000 in property damage liability coverage. Certain insurers may also offer a single limit of $35,000, which covers both the bodily injury and property damage liability minimum coverage requirements.

In addition to the full tort / limited tort and uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage options described above, Pennsylvania’s insurance law also allows car owners to purchase the following optional coverage choices:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Income loss
  • Collision
  • Comprehensive or theft damage coverage
  • Extraordinary medical benefits
  • Rehabilitation expense coverage, in excess of $100,000 up to $1 million dollars
  •  Accidental death benefit
  • Rental reimbursement coverage
  • Towing coverage
  • Gap coverage

If you were injured in an automobile accident, you may be able to obtain monetary damages for your pain and suffering. Our knowledgeable West Chester car accident lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can explain your legal options and help you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-3701 for a free consultation about your case. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.