Automobile Insurance "Do's" & Don'ts"
By Roger J. Ecker
Trying to understand Pennsylvania’s automobile insurance laws is like Alice’s comment in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass:” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
To help you understand what the many words mean that were enacted into the “Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law,” we have suggested some guidelines for you: “Do’s” and “Don’ts,” if you will. We hope these will help you make better insurance decisions to protect your family and business.
Rule No. 1: DO NOT elect the “limited tort option.” DO NOT be misled by a small premium savings; rather, select and continue to keep in force and effect each year the “FULL TORT” coverage.
Rule No. 2: DO NOT reject uninsured motorist coverage (UM) or underinsured motorist coverage (UIM).
Rule No. 3: DO NOT sign a waiver form to accept UM or UIM benefits that are less than your liability coverage under your automobile policy.
Rule No. 4: DO NOT reject “stacking” of policies.
Rule No. 5: DO consider increasing your liability and UM and UIM coverage to at least $500,000, and possibly $1,000,000.
Rule No. 6: DO consider electing a higher deductible for your comprehensive/collision coverage, if you want to try to save a few dollars on your insurance premiums.
Rule No. 7: DO shop around and obtain competitive quotes from several reputable insurance carriers when your policy is due for renewal.
Rule No. 8: DO NOT allow insurance coverage to lapse for a registered vehicle which you own, even if you intend to garage it for a period of time. If you do, you may lose all of your first-party insurance benefits, even if you drive only an insured vehicle.
Peacock Keller & Ecker represents many seriously injured clients in automobile, truck and motorcycle crashes. Unfortunately, we have seen grievous and life changing injuries go uncompensated, or undercompensated, because our client selected low UM/UIM coverage in order to save a few dollars on premium costs. One Insurance Council reports that about 15%.....or nearly one in seven drivers in Pennsylvania, is completely “uninsured” and literally thousands more drivers are “underinsured.”
By electing the “FULL TORT” option on your automobile insurance policy, you and your family will be afforded an unrestricted right to sue for financial compensation for injuries caused by other drivers. You and your family may sue for and recover all medical and out-of-pocket expenses, lost earnings, and you may sue and recover financial compensation for non-economic damages, such as pain, suffering, inconvenience and loss of the pleasures of life.
On the other hand, by electing the “LIMITED TORT” option, you and your family may seek recovery for only medical and other out-of-pocket expenses and economic damages; but not for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the loss of pleasures of life, unless the injuries suffered meet the definition of “serious injury,” as determined by a judge or jury. Under the law, “serious injury” is defined as an injury resulting in “death, serious impairment of a body function or serious permanent disfigurement.”
You must ask yourself this question: Do you want to take the risk, for yourself and your family, of allowing some judge or jury to decide that your pain, your suffering and your inconvenience and your loss of life’s pleasure does not rise to the level of a “serious injury”.....or do you want to protect yourself and your family by selecting “FULL TORT” coverage?
For any other questions you may have on this subject or any aspect of personal injury cases, feel free to call Roger Ecker or Doug Nolin and Peacock Keller’s litigation department at any time.
Peacock Keller, LLP • 70 East Beau Street • Washington PA 15301 • 724-222-4520