A crash with an uninsured driver is more than an accident in Pennsylvania—it can be a nightmare.
Medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage can all fall on the victim’s shoulders—an enormous financial burden—even if the victim maintained the state’s minimum insurance requirements.
Pennsylvania isn’t known for having many uninsured drivers (we’re actually among ten states with the fewest). But accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers still happen, and when they do you may need an experienced car accident attorney to advocate for your losses.
Below, the car accident lawyers from Hagelgans & Veronis explain what options are available, if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Your Insurance May Not Be Enough
All drivers in Pennsylvania are required to maintain the state’s minimum insurance requirements. However, contrary to what you might see on popular insurance websites, mandatory coverage in Pennsylvania DOES NOT include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
Pennsylvania’s minimum insurance requirements are as follows:
- Medical benefits ($5,000) — This pays medical bills for you and others covered on your policy regardless of fault. This coverage is sometimes referred to as personal injury protection (PIP).
- Bodily Injury Liability ($15,000/$30,000) — If you injure someone in a car accident, this coverage pays their medical and rehabilitation expenses and any damages for which you are found liable. The $15,000 pays for injures to one person, the $30,000 represents the total available for one accident.
- Property Damage Liability ($5,000) — This coverage is available, if you damage someone’s property in an accident and you’re at fault. (Some companies group this coverage together with bodily injury liability for a minimum total of $35,000.)
Pennsylvania is also a no-fault state, which complicates matters a bit more. Our state allows drivers to choose between no-fault insurance and traditional insurance (full tort).
With traditional insurance, you maintain your right to sue the at-fault party, and you can be sued as well. However, no-fault insurance limits a driver’s right to sue, unless the accident meets specific medical thresholds (i.e., serious or permanent impairment of bodily function or disfigurement).
The insurance coverage you have, policy limits, and whether you’ve opted in or out of the no-fault system will ultimately determine how compensation can be pursued.
Can I Sue an Uninsured/Underinsured Driver?
While there are consequences for driving without insurance in Pennsylvania, they do not guarantee equitable compensation for accident victims.
Compared to other state minimums, Pennsylvania’s insurance requirements are low—they haven’t changed since 1974!
In the event of an accident with an underinsured driver, minimum insurance requirements may not cover you or your family’s comprehensive medical costs.
Conversely, if you cause an accident, it’s unlikely minimum bodily injury coverage will cover the other driver’s complete medical expenses.
What if the at-fault driver is uninsured? Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, you may get stuck with the bills.
While it’s possible to sue an uninsured driver, the only way it works out for you is if the driver has personal assets available to reimburse your losses. In many cases, the uninsured driver won’t have the financial means to compensate the victim, so litigation isn’t a viable course of action.
Adding uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to your insurance policy is the best way to protect yourself from harm caused by uninsured and underinsured drivers.
Uninsured & Underinsured Coverage Explained
Auto insurance companies offer a range of elective coverages including uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM).
Here’s the breakdown of these additional coverages:
- Uninsured motorist (UM) — This coverage applies to you, relatives residing in your household, and passengers, if injured by an at-fault uninsured motorist OR hit and run driver. This coverage DOES NOT include property damage.
- Underinsured motorist (UIM) — This coverage applies to you, relatives residing in your household, and passengers, if injured by an at-fault motorist who does not have ENOUGH insurance to pay your claim. This coverage DOES NOT include property damage.
The sad truth is that even with these additional coverages, car accident victims may still face compensation obstacles against greedy insurance companies.
In some cases, the victim may have to fight for compensation from their personal insurer, a process that almost always requires the expertise of a Pennsylvania car accident attorney.
Here are a few important reminders to help prepare you for such an unfortunate event:
- Obtain an official police report. Most UM/UIM policies require this documentation.
- Maintain records of all medical treatments and related expenses. This documentation can be useful if injuries are disputed.
Claims involving an uninsured or underinsured motorist are complex in Pennsylvania. Moreover, there are few protections available to ensure victims receive fair compensation.
It’s up to individual drivers to protect themselves with additional coverages, but even then, it can be an uphill battle to make things right.