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What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage, and Do I Need it?

car accident truck accidentWe drive a lot. It’s a daily act that becomes almost mundane, but being on the busy roads at any time of day brings you into close contact with literally hundreds of other drivers and vehicles.

Many of these hundreds of drivers are distracted by hundreds of things. An accident can happen in a split second. How confident are you that these drivers have sufficient or any car insurance policy?

Uninsured motorist statistics

If you’re the victim of a collision with an uninsured driver, or with a driver who has very little auto insurance coverage, you could be responsible for the entire financial burden of a car crash.

According to a 2021 study by the Malvern, Pennsylvania-based Insurance Research Council (IRC), 13 percent of motorists, or about one in eight drivers nationwide, is uninsured. Although auto insurance is mandatory in Pennsylvania, not all drivers follow the law. According to the same report, there are more than half a million uninsured drivers in Pennsylvania.

Underinsured motorists

What is an “underinsured driver”? Many drivers who are insured do not have enough insurance to cover serious damages in the event of a motor vehicle accident. These are drivers who may carry the state minimum for motorist coverage.

In the event of a car accident that causes any bodily injury to the not-at-fault driver, the underinsured motorist may not have enough insurance to pay medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, physical therapy and other medical costs.

A motorist who decides to carry uninsured motorist coverage will be covered for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering for the driver and passengers in the vehicle when the at-fault driver carries no insurance or does not have enough coverage.

What is uninsured & underinsured motorist coverage?

Adding uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to your auto insurance policy can protect you financially and save you a lot of headaches in the event of an accident. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is usually broken into two categories, uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, and uninsured motorist property damage coverage.

  • Uninsured motorist insurance (UM) protects you if you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver, and that driver does not have liability insurance.It also protects you if the at-fault driver is an unknown motorist who flees the scene of an accident. Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage will pay for the costs of your injuries up to your policy limits in cases of hit and run accidents.
  • Underinsured motorist insurance (UIM) helps to compensate for when the at-fault driver’s liability limit is too low.The insurance coverage is insufficient to meet the cost of all of the damages and medical bills you’ve sustained in the accident. Although many drivers do carry insurance, many fail to carry enough to cover a serious injury claim.

How does car insurance work?

In the simplest terms, automobile, motorcycle and generally vehicle insurance is a contract between the driver and an insurance company that is designed to protect the driver from any financial loss if they are in an accident.

Insurance policies can be difficult to understand and navigate and may have many unfamiliar terms. There are a variety of policies and coverage depending on what the driver needs or wants and what the state minimums are for drivers– coverage can also depend on whether the vehicle is owned, outright or if it is leased or financed.

The driver agrees to pay an agreed-upon premium (a monthly or annual fee paid toward the policy) and in return, the insurance company agrees to pay for certain expenses that can occur when the driver is involved in an accident.

Every state has its own laws, minimum insurance required and penalties for being uninsured.

What are the minimum requirements in Pennsylvania?

According to Pennsylvania States Insurance website:
When you purchase private passenger automobile insurance fpr a car registered in Pennsylvania, there are certain coverages that are required (mandatory minimum coverage) and other coverage  that are optional.

The required minimum coverages are:

Medical Benefits — This pays medical bills for you and others who are covered by your policy, regardless of fault.

Bodily Injury Liability — 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.

Vehicle accidents in Pennsylvania, by the numbers

  • According to PennDOT’s data, in 2020, Pennsylvania had a total of 104,475  traffic accidents.
    Pennsylvania has over 120,000 miles of roads and highways
  • Motor-vehicle traffic crashes that occur on Pennsylvania roads and highways are investigated and reported by both the Pennsylvania State Police and the approximately 1,300 local municipal police departments.
  • In 2020, there were 104,475 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania. These crashes claimed the lives of 1,129 people and injured another 61,248 people.
  • In 2019,  there were approximately 102.8 billion vehicle-miles of travel on Pennsylvania’s roads and highways.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What should I do immediately after an accident with an uninsured driver?

If you are involved in an accident with a driver who was uninsured, take the following steps:

Car AccidentAs soon as possible, seek medical attention for yourself and any passengers in the vehicle. Even minor injuries can become more serious as the adrenaline from the stress of the accident wears off.

  • If your car is drivable at all, move it to the side of the road and out of the way of the flow of traffic.
  • Contact the police from the scene of the crash and make sure a police report is made. When speaking with the police, report the events as you saw them as calmly as possible. Do not admit to being even partially at fault for the crash.
  • Note the names and badge numbers of any officers who reported to the scene
  • Exchange contact information with the other driver.
  • If possible, take photos of the scene and of the damage to your vehicle.

    Q: What are common injuries caused by uninsured drivers?

  • Broken bones
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Back, neck (including whiplash) and shoulder injuries
  • Concussions
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Broken ribs
  • Internal bleeding/organ damage
  • Paralysis

If you have been involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver or underinsured driver, but you carry underinsured motorist coverage or uninsured motorist coverage, you are entitled to file a claim with your insurance company for medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages.

Q: Will your your uninsured motorist coverage pay medical bills and other “non economic losses”?

Yes. If you do not have this optional coverage, your only resort would be to hire a personal injury attorney and sue the at-fault driver for your losses.

Q: Does uninsured motorist coverage provide protection in the event of a hit and run driver?

If you were involved in a hit and run accident, and the striking vehicle is never found, you are entitled to make a claim under your uninsured motorist coverage.

Q: What is uninsured motorist coverage and when is it applicable?

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is just this: If a negligent Pennsylvania driver causes a car accident but does not have any auto insurance coverage in place you are entitled to file a claim under your uninsured motorist insurance policy. Here are a few instances of UM incidents:

  • You are involved in an automobile accident with someone who doesn’t have car insurance
  • You are involved in an automobile accident, and the at-fault party offers you fake or out-of-date auto insurance coverage.
  • You are involved in a car accident but don’t know the other party’s name or contact information.
  • You are a victim of a hit-and-run accident in which the other driver leaves the scene.

In these circumstances, you can file a claim with your insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage policy.

Q: When is underinsured motorist coverage applicable?

When the at-fault motorist has less insurance than the amount needed to pay for your losses, your underinsured motorist (UIM) policy may take over to make up the shortfall.

If the at-fault driver has minimum coverage but your injuries are greater than their coverage, you can look to your own UIM coverage to make up the difference.

Minimum coverage in Pennsylvania mandates that drivers carry $15K/$30K in liability coverage in order to operate a vehicle legally (up to the limits you selected).

Q: Is UM and UIM legally required in Pennsylvania?

Unfortunately, no, these coverages are not mandated in Pennsylvania, but all carriers must provide their policyholders with options for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Your auto insurance provider should require you to sign and date a waiver of these coverages if you decide not to have UM and UIM coverage.

In Pennsylvania, insurance brokers frequently attempt to “save” you money on your auto policy by reducing your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

The difference between receiving a fair settlement for your car accident and injuries and receiving nothing depends on whether you have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Q: Should I opt for the underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage?

In Pennsylvania, you can choose this protection for yourself, members of your household, family members, other drivers listed on your insurance policy, and any passengers in the car at the time of an accident.

Hoping an at-fault PA motorist has adequate insurance to pay all of your expenses and provide you with reimbursement is a bad bet.

The value of your claim as a whole and your capacity to recover monetary damages after an automobile accident in Pennsylvania will be affected by the uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

You owe it to yourself, friends and family to add this coverage to your existing policy or to discuss this option with your insurance carrier when purchasing new insurance. It is a small monthly fee added to your bill and it will give you priceless piece of mind.

Protect yourself. Add uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage

Upset driver After car AccidentBy adding this coverage, your own insurance will pay for all recoverable damages up to your policy’s limits. If you don’t have this coverage, you would need to sue the at-fault driver to recover your damages. In most cases, if they are uninsured, they do not have the assets for you to recover.

Pennsylvania Uninsured Motorist Penalties

Pennsylvania law requires all Pennsylvania motorists to maintain vehicle liability insurance on currently registered vehicles.

A lapse in insurance coverage can result in the suspension of your vehicle registration and various fines. If you are unable to show proof of insurance when asked by a police officer, you can face one of the following penalties:

  • Minimum $300 fine
  • 3-month suspension of your vehicle registration
  • 3-month suspension of your license
  • $50 restoration fee to restore your vehicle registration
  • $50 restoration fee to restore your license
  • Your vehicle will not be allowed to be driven by anyone while the registration is suspended

All insurance companies are required to notify PennDOT when an insurance policy is canceled or terminated by an insured or by the insurer. PennDOT then mails the vehicle owner a letter requesting new insurance information.

If the owner fails to provide that information, the PennDOT suspends the owner’s vehicle registration for three months.

Don’t be left with the full burden of responsibility if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist

You can protect yourself easily by purchasing uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage.

The injury lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys have been protecting the rights of victims of car and truck accidents for decades.

When you’ve been injured in an accident due to the negligence of another driver, you want to know that your medical and other expenses will be covered.

We encourage you to call your auto insurance agent to learn more about uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Being a victim of any type of auto accident is stressful and anxiety-inducing. But when you discover your car accident was caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you may be angry, confused and left with seemingly insurmountable medical bills.

If you have uninsured motorist coverage, a big part of that burden will be managed by your insurance policy.

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