Understanding uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance coverage

For Pennsylvania drivers or their passengers involved in automobile accidents, taking care of injured persons is always the first priority. Once the immediate safety of all persons involved is secured, it is important to promptly attend to other critical matters. This includes the need to obtain appropriate data from other drivers involved in the motor vehicle accident.

At a minimum, you should get the name, contact information, automobile information, driver's license number and all insurance data. In the ideal world, if your accident was caused by another driver, he or she will be at fault and will also carry valid and sufficient insurance to provide you with the necessary protection. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and many personal injury victims are left wondering what to do next.

Uninsured versus underinsured

The terms uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist may be difficult to distinguish at times but can be best explained as follows:

  • An uninsured motorist is one who carries no automobile insurance at all.
  • An underinsured motorist is one who carries at least the legally required minimum amount of insurance but whose coverage may not be sufficient to provide for all of your damages.
  • Lack of any auto insurance coverage is against the law.
  • Pennsylvania is a no-fault state and requires that all drivers carry medical, or no-fault, insurance which can help when hit by either an uninsured or underinsured driver.

In addition, drivers in Pennsylvania can carry specific uninsured and underinsured insurance options on their own policies for even greater protection.

Pennsylvania insurance laws

Every licensed driver in the state is expected to have at least $5,000 worth of no-fault auto insurance and liability to cover up to $5,000 worth of property damage and up to $15,000 for injury to or death of one person and $30,000 for injuries or deaths of multiple people.

If a driver is found to be uninsured, he or she can be subject to a minimum $300 fine. Additionally, his or her driver's license and vehicle registration will be suspended for three months and require the payment of fees before being reinstated.

How common is the problem?

According to the Insurance Research Council, close to 14 percent of drivers nationally get behind the wheel without valid insurance. State data from 2011 shows that 1,310 people died in motor vehicle accidents in Pennsylvania that year and close to five percent of those deaths occurred in Bucks County.

The risk of being hit exists every time you take to the roads and the resulting challenges can be great. If an accident involves a driver without insurance or without sufficient insurance, the need to work with an attorney is clear. Depending on the circumstances, there may be other ways to obtain compensation and protection that you need.