9 Car Insurance Coverages You Need to Protect Yourself (And Your Family)

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Pennsylvania’s a beautiful state.  There’s so much to do here – winding drives through the mountains and historic Valley Forge Nation Park, kayaking the Susquehanna and Allegheny rivers, skiing in the Poconos, and so much more.  But if you own a car in Pennsylvania, you better have it insured – it’s required by law.  In an effort to help you protect yourself (and your family), I want to give you a quick primer on the Pennsylvania car insurance coverages I’m most often asked about so you have a better understanding of the insurance you have, and, more importantly, the insurance you should have.

TORT OPTION:  You have to pick full tort or limited tort coverage.  Both have a significant effect on your right to get paid for your pain and suffering.  CHOOSE FULL TORT!  Why?  You keep your unrestricted right to get paid for your pain and suffering with full tort, and you seriously limit your right to get paid for your pain and suffering with limited tort.  With limited tort, you have to die in a car accident, or suffer serious, permanent scarring, or suffer a serious injury (which the law only vaguely defines).  Don’t risk it.  CHOOSE FULL TORT!

LIABILITY:  Liability coverage is mandatory.  It protects you from having to pay out of pocket if you cause an accident.  There are two main types of liability coverage – bodily injury and property damage.  Bodily injury coverage pays for the personal injuries you cause, and property damage coverage pays for the property damage you cause.  The more coverage you have, the less risk you face.

FIRST-PARTY MEDICAL:  No health insurance?  No problem.  First-party medical coverage is mandatory.  It’s basically health insurance for your accident-related injuries.  Hurt your back in a car accident?  Your insurance company will pay for the treatment and medication you need regardless of who caused the accident.

COLLISION:  Who pays to repair or replace your car if you cause an accident or are hit by an uninsured driver?  You do, unless you have the optional collision coverage, with which your insurance company will pay.

COMPREHENSIVE:  Who pays to replace your car if it’s stolen, or to repair or replace it if it’s damaged by fire, flood, vandalism, falling trees, hail, lightening, etc.?  You do, unless you have the optional comprehensive coverage, with which your insurance company will pay.

GAP:  Your car is totaled in an accident.  You still owe $10,000 to the bank on the loan, but the insurance company will only pay $6,000 because that’s the Actual Cash Value (ACV).  What happens now?  Well, your insurance company will send $6,000 to the bank (the lienholder), and you have to pay the other $4,000.  With the optional gap coverage, your insurance company will pay the ACV plus the balance on your car loan, leaving you debt free.

UNINSURED MOTORIST:  The knucklehead who hit you doesn’t have car insurance.  No worries.  With the optional uninsured motorist coverage, your own insurance company will pay you the value of your claim (up to your coverage limit, of course).

UNDERINSURED MOTORIST:  The knucklehead who hit you does have insurance, but it’s not enough. Not a problem.  With the optional underinsured motorist coverage, your own insurance company will pay you difference between the value of your claim and the knucklehead’s coverage limit.

STACKING:  Stacking only applies to uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages.  It, too, is optional.  You can’t buy more uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage than your liability coverage, but you can “stack it.”  This means you multiply your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage limit by the number of insured vehicles to get your total uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  So, if you have three (3) cars with $100,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist limits, your stacked coverage is $300,000 (meaning you can collect up to $300,000 from your own insurance company if your accident was caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver).

And there you have it, folks.  You now know the (totally boring) basics of Pennsylvania car insurance.  I know it can be really confusing and totally overwhelming, so don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions.  I’m a Philadelphia car accident lawyer with an intimate knowledge of car insurance, and I’m always happy to help.

Tom Gibbons

Tom Gibbons
1845 Walnut Street, 25th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-274-0173
Facsimile: (215) 525-1199

Masters Degree in Trial Advocacy (with Honors)
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