Auto insurance coverage may be one of the more important items you purchase, but do you really know what you are getting? Are you and your loved ones truly covered? Are your decisions on your auto insurance based only on the price? If so, you may want to take a closer look at what you are getting when you make your insurance selections. Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of injury and death in the United States (source: CDC). It is important that you are educated on what your insurance covers and that you have adequate protection, before an injury happens.
In Pennsylvania, a motorist is only required to purchase insurance for first party medical benefits, bodily injury liability and property damage liability. The minimum coverage that must be purchased is $5,000 in medical benefits, $15,000/$30,000 bodily injury and $5,000 in property damage coverage. These coverage amounts are simply not enough to protect you, if you are involved in an injury auto accident.
You also select to have either full tort or limited tort coverage. We recommend that you ALWAYS SELECT FULL TORT, so your rights to be compensated for your expenses and pain and suffering are not limited.
First party medical coverage: We recommend that you purchase more than the minimum coverage. If you are injured in an accident, your auto insurance is the first source of payment for those medical bills, not your traditional medical plan. The good news is that there are no deductibles or co-pays. This coverage pays 100% of your medical costs, up to the limit. All carriers must offer up to $100,000 coverage. For an average of $3/month more, you can double this coverage.
Bodily Injury Liability coverage: This is what your insurance company will pay to another person who is injured by your negligence. If you are injured by the negligence of another person, it is their liability coverage that will be your primary source of your recovery. Many drivers are carrying the minimum $15,000 coverage on their policy. This is simply not enough coverage to protect you. Since you do not have the choice of who may be responsible for your injuries, or what kind of insurance coverage they have, it is vital that you are protected by underinsured / uninsured (UM/UIM) coverage (see below). We recommended at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident in bodily injury liability coverage.
UM/UIM: Most policies will carry the same amount of UM/UIM as the amount you select for liability coverage. In fact, you must complete a form and "sign-down" a lesser amount of coverage or "waive" this coverage altogether, if you do not wish to carry it. UM/UIM is very important, because you never get to select who will cause the accident that injures you or your family. If they are uninsured or underinsured, you can collect from your own policy. We recommend the same level of coverage as you carry for liability, which is $100,000/$300,000 at a minimum.
Stacking: When you select "stacking" or "stacked coverage", your UM/UIM coverage is multiplied by the number of vehicles on your policy. You should always choose stacking to maximize the coverage available to you.
There are many more components to your auto coverage which will be covered in future posts, along with more details about each of these areas. It is our goal to educate you, so you can best make decisions to protect you and your family.
Jason Schiffer is an attorney with the law firm of Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo located in Bethlehem, PA. We are dedicated to helping victims of serious personal injury. We are injury professionals. Contact us if you have any questions regarding insurance coverage, or for a no charge consultation. Our firm does not charge an attorney fee until and unless a recovery is made for you.