Answers for Car, Motorcycle, and Truck Injuries
WHAT IS THE MOTOR VEHICLE FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY INSURANCE LAW?
The Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Insurance Law, effective July 1, 1990, provides basic minimum protection for accident victims. Two types of insurance coverage can be purchased, which are known as limited tort option and full tort option. Those who select the limited tort option or those individuals who are bound by someone else's selection of limited tort, may not bring an action for non-economic damages, or "pain and suffering", unless they have suffered a "serious injury". A serious injury is defined by law as a personal injury resulting in death, permanent and serious disfigurement, or serious impairment of bodily function.
Those who select the full tort option may bring an action for pain and suffering for all types of injuries.
Motorcycle owners are covered by full tort and do not have to make a tort selection.
All motor vehicle owners must prove they have "financial responsibility" to be able to register their vehicles. Financial responsibility means that you, the owner, are able to pay for damages caused by you or another driver of your car. You can show financial responsibility by buying insurance or by certifying to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that you can pay for up to $15,000.00 for injuries to one person in one accident, $30,000.00 for injuries to more than one person in one accident, and for $5,000.00 in damages to someone else's property. Insurance is the only practical way for most vehicle owners to meet these requirements.
WHO IS COVERED BY INSURANCE?
Your insurance policy will cover you, the policyholder, all members of your family residing at home, most passengers riding in your car, anyone driving the car with the owner's permission, pedestrians, bicyclists and others not required to buy insurance. This coverage extends to motor vehicle accidents anywhere in the United States or Canada.
If you own a motor vehicle but do not purchase insurance, you are not allowed by law to bring an action for damages.
If you do not own a car or are not covered by a policy of insurance, but are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you will be covered by one of the vehicles involved or by the Assigned Claims Plan. The Plan is maintained and funded by the insurance industry. It will pay medical benefits of up to $5,000.00, less any payments from workers' compensation or an accident and health insurance policy, but will not pay for income loss or accidental death benefit.
WHAT COVERAGE IS AVAILABLE?
A. FIRST-PARTY BENEFITS
Generally, you may purchase a minimum of $5,000.00 medical coverage. Higher levels of medical coverage are available as an option, as are coverage for income loss, accidental death, and funeral expenses. These are called 'first party' coverage because any benefits due you and/or anyone covered by your policy will be paid by your own insurance company, no matter who caused the accident.
(1) Medical Benefit - You may purchase at least $5,000.00 coverage to pay for any medical and rehabilitation expenses resulting from an auto accident.
(2) Income Loss Benefit - This is an option coverage. Most plans will provide 80 percent of gross income lost after the first five days of work missed.
(3) Funeral Benefit and Accidental Death Benefit - While not required, the law provides that you may purchase up to $25,000.00 in accidental death benefit coverage and up to $2,500.00 in funeral benefits. If you already have adequate life insurance, you probably won't need this coverage.
B. LIABILITY COVERAGE
(1) Bodily Injury Liability Coverage - This coverage will pay for the expenses of a person you kill or injure in an auto accident if you are legally at fault in causing the accident.
Under the law, you must purchase coverage of at least $15,000.00 for injuries you may cause to any one person and $30,000.00 for injuries to more than one person in a single accident. You may purchase more coverage.
(2) Property Damage Liability Insurance - You must purchase at least $5,000.00 coverage for property of others that you damage if you are at fault in causing the accident. Such property could include other motor vehicles, telephone poles, trees or building. You may purchase more coverage.
WHAT COVERAGE IS OPTIONAL?
Collision insurance will pay for damage to your motorcycle caused by a collision with another vehicle or object. Comprehensive by a collision with another vehicle or object. Comprehensive physical damage insurance pays if your car is stolen or damaged by such tings as fire, flood, falling objects, earthquake, explosion, hail, windstorm, water or vandalism.
Collision and comprehensive insurance are usually sold with deductibles. A deductible is the amount of each loss you pay out of your pocket. A high deductible lowers the cost of the coverage.
Two other important optional coverage available for your own protection are uninsured motorist coverage which will pay you in the event that you are hit by an uninsured driver, and underinsured motorist coverage, which can pay you money if the at-fault driver has inadequate insurance coverage.
HOW CAN I SAVE MONEY ON INSURANCE?
Many insurance companies offer discounts for drivers who have passed approved driver education courses, students who do well in school, people who insure for more than one car on the same policy, and drivers who participate in car pools. There are also discounts for passive restrains systems, such as airbags and automatic seat belts, and for anti-theft devices such as car alarms.
Choosing limited tort will cost less than full tort coverage, although you give up many of your rights to make clams. Increasing your deductible on collision and/ or comprehensive coverage will also lower your premium. If you have an older car of relatively low value, you may want to eliminate collision coverage.
Before selecting the limited tort or full tort option be sure you fully understand the difference in both premium and coverage. Your insurance agent or lawyer can explain.
WILL MY PREMIUMS BE INCREASED IF I MAKE A CLAIM?
An insurance company cannot increase your premium rates solely because you or one of the insured under your policy made a claim and was paid unless it is determined that you or the insured was at fault.
CAN I SUE FOR INJURIES?
You may only bring an action for serious injuries. If you have chosen full tort, you may bring an action for any and all injuries.
WHO PAYS FOR DAMAGE TO MY MOTORCYCLE?
If your motorcycle is damaged in an accident, you are entitled to receive money from the person who was responsible for the accident.
If your motorcycle is slightly damaged, you may wish to recover through your own collision insurance. If the damage is less than $8,000.00, you can file suit through a district justice. Do not file for property damage only if you were also injured.
If the damage to your car is more than $8,000.00, you must file suit in Common Pleas Court. You will probably need an attorney to represent you.
If you were responsible for the accident, contact your own insurance agent.
WHEN SHOULD I CONTACT AN ATTORNEY?
- if you were injured in an accident;
- if you wish to file a tort action against the at-fault party;
- if there is a problem in getting money from your insurance company;
- if you were at fault in the accident and there is a possibility that the other party will file suit against your; and/or
- to recover money for property damage.
WHO PAYS ATTORNEY FEES?
No attorney fees for representing a claimant in connection with a claim for first-party benefits can be charged on a contingent fee basis. Attorney fees cannot be deducted from the benefits due to a claimant. An attorney may charge a claimant a reasonable fee based on the actual time expended. If an insurer is found to have acted with no reasonable foundation for refusing to pay the benefits when due, the insurer must pay, in addition to the benefits owed with interest, reasonable attorney fees based on actual time expended.
If an attorney represents you on a third-party claim, he or she may charge you a contingent fee. A contingent fee provides for a percent of the gross recovery to go to attorney fees. Attorneys also charge the claimant costs in addition to the contingent fee