Accidents can be stressful and upsetting, especially when they involve an uninsured driver. While auto insurance is mandatory for Pennsylvania motor vehicle owners, there are those who don’t have any. If you are in an accident with an uninsured driver it will be important to know what your rights are and what responsibilities they have.
Pennsylvania Uninsured Motorist Laws
In Pennsylvania, the uninsured driver laws are fairly clear. Remember that while the term “auto insurance” is commonly used, the laws apply to any motor vehicle including:
Pennsylvania uninsured motorist laws state that anyone who owns a motor vehicle must carry vehicle liability insurance. This type of insurance would provide coverage for any damages or injuries that occur as the result of an accident. The basic minimum coverage needed includes:
- Bodily injury liability insurance – $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident
- Property damage liability insurance – $5,000
- First-party benefits medical payments – $5,000
What Happens If You Lose Coverage?
If the vehicle owner loses insurance coverage (or it’s discovered that they never had any) their punishment could include:
- A penalty of $500
- Suspension of their vehicle registration (for up to three months)
In addition, the vehicle owner will have to pay certain fees to replace their Pennsylvania vehicle registration after they obtain insurance.
|Approximately 1 in 8 U.S. drivers do NOT have auto insurance.
What If You’re Hit by an Uninsured Driver?
It’s bad enough to be involved in a motor vehicle accident. Making the situation worse is finding out that there is an uninsured driver in the other vehicle. In Pennsylvania, if the owner of the vehicle has insurance, even if the driver doesn’t, that policy will cover the accident. However, if neither has insurance, even if you are not at fault in the accident, you may need to turn to your own insurance company for help.
In situations like this, your insurance company may pay for material damages to your vehicle (after your deductible is met), but not for any health-related needs that are a result of the accident. Plus it is possible that this claim could cause an uptick in your monthly policy payments.
The “Out-Of-Pocket” Payer
In order to avoid entering the Pennsylvania legal system, uninsured motorists may offer to pay for any damages out of their own pocket. This can be an issue because some injuries may not present themselves until weeks after the accident. At that time it may be hard to get the other party to pay for your medical needs. It is good to have experienced Pennsylvania legal advisors on your side to help you get the reimbursement you are due.
What Rights Do I Have?
If you are in an accident in Pennsylvania, it is important to take some specific steps in order to protect your rights for potential future compensation. The first thing you should do is call for medical assistance (if needed), and for the police. Even if the accident is a minor “fender-bender,” having a police report can be important in any potential legal case if you end up suing an uninsured motorist.
You may also want to collect some information on your own as you wait for the police to arrive. This will help document and timestamp the accident. If you can safely do so*, exit your car and:
- Take pictures of the damage to all vehicles involved.
- Photograph the plates on all vehicles involved and the licenses of all the drivers.
- Capture the road conditions at the time of the accident.
- Write down your speed.
- Note the weather conditions and exact time of day.
- Get contact information for any witnesses.
*Safety should be your priority – Only capture information that is comfortable to obtain.
After the accident, save any estimates to repair the damage to your vehicle and property. It will also be important to collect information (health records, referrals, bills) regarding any medical care and other help you receive as a result of the accident.
Do Pennsylvania Drivers Have Any Protections Against Uninsured Motorists?
Some insurance companies in Pennsylvania offer uninsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). You can choose to add this to your “standard” motor vehicle insurance policy. A UM/UIM policy can help pay for damages caused if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. Depending on your insurance company, this type of coverage can help with:
- Medical needs
- Lost wages
- Property damage (not related to your vehicle)
- Funeral costs
UM/UIM payments are only made to you, the policyholder. The uninsured motorist would receive no compensation from your uninsured motorist coverage policy. It is important to note that insurance companies have different time periods for claims to be submitted. Some claims need to be submitted within 30 days after an accident.
Depending on the damages and loss incurred in the accident, you may also decide to take the uninsured owner or driver of the vehicle to court.
Suing an Uninsured Motorist
In some cases, you may need to initiate legal action when you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver in Pennsylvania. This might include suing an uninsured motorist for physical damages and medical bills as well as pain and suffering from the accident.
If you are considering a legal case, it’s important to talk to a lawyer experienced in Pennsylvania law early. In most cases, there is a two-year statute of limitations for filing lawsuits following a motor vehicle accident.
Protect Yourself When the Unexpected Occurs
If you are involved in an uninsured motorist/driver accident in Pennsylvania, Spivak + Sakellariou can help. Their experienced team of legal experts will work with you to evaluate your case and advocate for your rights. Call them today to find out how you might be able to receive compensation after an accident with an uninsured motorist.