Pennsylvania requires everyone operating a motor vehicle to be financially responsible for injuries and damage that occur as the result of at at-fault accident. Drivers must carry a minimum amount of liability insurance in order to meet the requirements and be on the road legally; anyone who fails to meet these requirements will face stiff penalties.
Required Insurance Coverage
Under Pennsylvania law, everyone who drives must carry a combination of bodily injury, property damage, and medical payments coverage in a certain minimum amount. Most drivers choose to increase these limits to further protect themselves, but the mandated amounts are as follows.
- Bodily Injury Liability – The required coverage is $15,000 per person and $30,000 total for all injuries per incident to cover costs as a result of injuries in an at-fault accident.
- Property Damage Liability – Drivers must carry at least $5000 in coverage to pay for damage to vehicles or other personal or public property.
- Medical Payments – This coverage is a no-fault benefit that covers medical costs for you or anyone covered by your policy. The minimum required coverage is $5000.
It is also acceptable to carry a combined single limit of $35,000 to cover both bodily injury and property damage in order to meet the legal minimum requirements. Not all insurance companies offer a combined limit option.
Optional Insurance Coverage
The first option that most drivers will add to an insurance policy is increased liability limits. While you can drive with the legal minimum, a serious accident can exceed those limits quickly, so most drivers carry higher limits. In addition to this there are a wide selection of coverage options to choose from.
Collision and Comprehensive
Although these are sold separately, they are most often purchased together. Both require that you pay a deductible to receive benefits in most cases.
- Collision covers you for damage to your own vehicle in the event of an at-fault accident
- Comprehensive covers you for damage caused by anything other than a collision: theft, vandalism, fire, weather damage, and glass repair
This coverage provides payments for damages caused by another driver who is either uninsured or does not have sufficient coverage to pay for the total of the damage or injuries. Pennsylvania allows drivers to stack their UM/UIM coverage across multiple policies for an additional fee.
This provides coverage for funeral expenses for an accident involving a fatality. It covers you or a family member.
This pays for a portion of lost income as a result of an accident.
Extraordinary Medical Benefits
This option increases medical benefits when they are in excess of $100,000 for coverage up to $1 million.
Other Coverage Options
Pennsylvania drivers have access to several more coverage options, including roadside assistance, rental reimbursement, accidental death benefits, and gap coverage. Drivers can select the options that meet their needs best.
Proof of Insurance and the Law
Drivers in Pennsylvania must carry proof of financial responsibility while driving and present it upon request to law enforcement. Anyone who is caught driving without the proper insurance will be subject to several penalties:
- Fines of $300 and up
- Suspension of driver’s license for three months
- Suspension of vehicle registration for three months
- Impounding of the vehicle
- Fees to reinstate both license and registration
Drivers who have not had a previous offense in the preceding 12 months may opt to pay a $500 civil penalty instead of serving the suspension time, but this option will not be available for a second offense in a 12-month period.
Drivers who are involved in an accident while uninsured may face more severe penalties, especially if the accident is serious. Anyone who is uninsured can be held financially responsible in court for damages and injuries, and will also face higher insurance rates when they resume driving due to a higher risk status.
Pennsylvania’s No-Fault Choice Option
Pennsylvania car insurance is unusual in that drivers can choose between no-fault and traditional tort coverage. Also referred to as limited tort, the no-fault option limits the situation in which a driver can sue. With limited tort coverage, lawsuits for bodily injury are only permitted when there is serious injury, as defined by the law. Benefits are paid out at a set amount regardless of who is at fault in the accident. As a result of the lower risk of payout on the insurance company’s part, premiums are lower on this type of policy.
Drivers who choose traditional tort coverage will pay higher premiums, but have more freedom to sue in the event of an accident. This also means that another driver can sue you without restriction if you are at fault. Insurance companies will defend you in court and pay out on settlements up to your policy limits; you may still be responsible for amounts that exceed the limits. It’s best to discuss the risks and benefits of each option with an insurance agent to help determine which is the best choice.
Teen Drivers in Pennsylvania
Teen drivers in Pennsylvania go through a graduated licensing process that is designed to ease them into the full responsibilities of driving. During each stage there are a few restrictions that must be obeyed at all times.
Learner’s Permit – The first stage is the learner’s permit. This permit can be obtained by passing a written test as well as a vision-screening test. This permit allows a teen driver to begin practicing behind the wheel. While holding a permit a teen driver can only drive when supervised by an approved fully licensed driver – a parent, guardian, or driving instructor. This license must be held for 6 months and all requirements met before attempting the road test.
Junior License – After completing 65 hours of supervised driving practice, ten of which must be at night and 5 of which must be during inclement weather, teens can take the road test to obtain a junior license. The restrictions for a junior license are:
- Driving is not permitted between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless for employment or volunteer services
- For the first six months, only one passenger under the age of 18 is permitted, with the exception of family members or when driving with a parent or guardian in the car
- After the first six months, up to three passengers under the age of 18 are permitted, with the exception of family members or when a parent or guardian is in the car
Full License – At the age of 18, teen drivers can graduate to a full, unrestricted license as long as they have maintained a clean driving record and have completed a driver education course at an approved driving school.
Teen drivers are required by law to meet the financial responsibility minimums once they have obtained a junior license. Teens away at school can remain on their parent’s or guardian’s insurance policy until the establish residency on their own.
Buying Car Insurance in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania insurance rates fall right in the middle when compared to averages in other states. Insure.com’s 2014 rate comparison shows Pennsylvania at number 25 with an average annual rate of $1440. Rates differ based on whether you choose a traditional tort policy or the option of no-fault, limited tort insurance, with the latter being generally less costly.
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department helps drivers to choose an insurance company by offering information on how to buy insurance as well as assistance with finding an insurance agent or company. Currently, there is no low-cost auto insurance program through the state.
Insurers in Pennsylvania can use a number of different factors to determine rates. The law allows for an insurance company to use credit information when first writing a policy, but they are prohibited from using it when the policy is up for renewal. They are also prohibited from discriminating on the grounds of any factor such as race, religion, or gender, as well as age and marital status.
High-Risk Drivers and Insurance
High-risk drivers may find it difficult to obtain affordable auto insurance. Anyone who has a complex driving history, including multiple tickets, accidents, or serious violations such as a DUI, may be considered a high-risk driver. Every insurance company determines their own standards for policies and what they consider to be high-risk.
The state mandates an assigned risk program in which all insurance companies must participate. The Pennsylvania Assigned Risk Program assigns high-risk drivers who have been unable to find insurance to an insurance company, spreading the risk among multiple companies. To qualify the driver must have tried and failed to obtain insurance for at least 60 days prior to applying.
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