In Pennsylvania, the law requires a certain minimum amount of auto insurance coverage.  This amount is informally called a 15/30/5 Policy.  These numbers are shorthand, for $15,000 of coverage for injuries you cause to one person; $30,000 of coverage for injuries you cause to two or more people; and $5,000 of coverage for damage you cause to others property.  That’s it.

Perhaps you noticed, the required state minimum does not cover injuries to YOU or damages to YOUR VEHICLE.  The state minimum is not good coverage and is outdated, being in place since 1976.

“Good” coverage protects OTHERS and protects YOU.

You should purchase increased liability coverage greater than the minimum required $15,000/$30,000 (i.e. 15/30).  There are all different increments of coverage available above 15/30, the most common starting at $25,000/$50,000 (i.e. 25/50) all the way up to $500,000/$1,000,000 (500/1000) and beyond.  This coverage compensates OTHERS for injury you cause them due to your negligence (i.e. mistakes, bad driving, etc.).  It also protects YOU because your increased coverage will be adequate to compensate others, and therefore others are extremely unlikely to pursue your personal assets in a lawsuit.  Win – Win!

You should purchase UM/UIM coverage.  UM/UIM is shorthand for Uninsured/Underinsured.  This covers YOU for injuries you suffer by a driver that doesn’t have liability coverage (uninsured) or doesn’t have adequate liability coverage (underinsured).  For example, if you are injured by a driver that is uninsured and you don’t have UM coverage in place, you are out of luck to be financially compensated for your injury.   Similarly, if you are injured by a driver that is undeinsured (i.e. the other driver only has 15/30 liability coverage) and you don’t have UIM coverage in place, you are limited to $15,000 of financial compensation for your injury.

You should purchase the Full Tort option. Full Tort allows you to financially recover for any degree of injury no matter how minor.  The alternative is the Limited Tort option, which only allows recover for an injury that is a “serious impairment of a bodily function” or a “serious permanent disfigurement”.   What does this really mean – it means that if you don’t purchase Full Tort coverage and suffer whiplash resulting in neck and back pain resulting 6 months of physical therapy, you might not be able to financially recover for your injures.   Most attorneys would agree that a “serious impairment of a bodily function” or a “serious permanent disfigurement” would include a broken bone, a herniated disc, a permanent and noticeable scar and/or an injury requiring surgery.  There are many lesser injuries one could suffer that are painful, lasting and inconvenient – choosing the Full Tort option leaves nothing to chance.

You should purchase Full Coverage (which is not the same thing as Full Tort).   Full Coverage refers to Collision (when others crash into your vehicle) and Comprehensive (damage caused other ways, such as hail stones, theft, vandalism, etc.) Coverage.  This is a good idea if your vehicle is valuable and is required if your vehicle is financed.  It’s also great protection if your vehicle is struck by an uninsured driver.  Lastly, it’s great coverage to have if liability is unclear.  If you think an accident is the other guys fault, but he thinks it’s yours, this coverage will require your insurance carrier to fix your vehicle promptly and your carrier will duke out liability with the other guy on your behalf.

Lastly, purchase Property Damage Liability coverage greater than the $5,000 required state minimum.  This type of coverage not only covers damage you cause to the other guys vehicle, but also to personal and real property.  If you rear end someone sending their car crashing into a store front window while breaking their Iphone and designer sunglasses, this is the coverage that protects you.  Maybe $5k would cover the tab in 1976, but not today.  Nowadays most any accident, no matter how minor, will result in more than $5,000 in damage.

“Good” Coverage obviously costs more than the state minimum coverage.  I’ve litigated thousands of auto injury cases, take it from me, if you’re ever in an accident you will never regret having paid a bit extra.   Before an accident it will give you peace of mind.  After an accident it will compensate you and your family and protect your assets.  Don’t skimp here.

In sum, my recommendation for my own family and my clients is:

  1. Buy increased amounts of Personal Injury Liability coverage;
  2. Buy the optional UM/UIM coverage;
  3. Always pay more for the optional Full Tort coverage (not to be confused with Full Coverage);
  4. Buy the optional Full Coverage to protect your vehicle against damage caused by Uninsured / Underinsured drivers;
  5. Buy increased amounts of Property Damage Liability

Call my office anytime if you’d like to discuss this sometimes confusing topic in more detail!

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