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Lost income coverage has a monthly and total limit as
well as waiting periods, but it can help replace income
lost from a car accident. Accidental death benefits can
provide life insurance type payments to benefit survivors
and pay for funeral and burial expenses.
Unless you have short- and long-term disability
coverage and life insurance, I believe it's important
to have substantial lost income and accidental death
benefits on your car insurance.
UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED COVERAGE
In my opinion, the most important choice that you
make when purchasing car insurance in Pennsylvania is
whether or not to buy significant amounts of uninsured/
underinsured coverage (UM/UIM).
UM/UIM coverage protects you and any relatives
who live with you if you are injured in a vehicle
accident caused by someone else who does not have
valid car insurance, who flees the scene of the accident
or who does not carry enough insurance to pay fair
compensation to you for your injuries and damages.
It's unfortunate, but true, that a lot of drivers let their
car insurance lapse and are not covered by car insurance
when they cause an accident. In addition, many drivers
cannot afford to buy substantial liability coverage to
fully protect themselves if they cause an accident. In
Pennsylvania, the minimum liability coverage that
is required is only $15,000 per person injured in an
accident. Accordingly, if you are seriously injured in an
accident, the responsible driver may have no coverage or
as little as $15,000 of bodily injury coverage.
UM/UIM coverage is coverage that you pay for on your
own car insurance to protect yourself and your family if
you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
You pay premiums for a specific amount of UM/UIM
coverage and then if you are injured and the responsible
driver is uninsured or underinsured, you can make a
claim against your own coverage to be fully compensated
for your injuries and damages (medical bills, lost wages,
pain and suffering and other non-economic damages).
Like first party benefits, your UM/UIM benefits follow
you around and apply to any motor vehicle accident. So,
if you are injured in another car or as a pedestrian or
bicycle rider, your UM/UIM coverage can still protect
you and provide full compensation for your injuries.
Making a UM/UIM claim will not increase your
insurance premiums or affect your insurability. You paid
premiums for this coverage and the accident was not
your fault, so making a claim will not lead to you being
penalized by your insurance company.
Because injuries from vehicle accidents can be
catastrophic, causing death or serious and disabling
injuries, I recommend that everyone carry at least $1
million UM/UIM coverage. I've seen it countless times
in my career that someone is killed or horribly injured,
the responsible driver does not have enough insurance
to make up for the damages and the family of the injured
person does not have enough car UM/UIM coverage.
Don't let your family get caught in that position.
STACKING
If you have a multi-vehicle car insurance policy, you
should also consider " Stacking " your UM/UIM coverage.
It costs more to choose stacking but results in your UM/
UIM coverage being multiplied by the number of your
vehicles. So, $500,000 of UM/UIM coverage stacked for
three vehicles results in $1.5 million of coverage.
FULL TORT/LIMITED TORT
Pennsylvania car insurance is unique in that
policyholders make a choice regarding their ability
to recover certain damages if they are injured in a car
accident. Every policyholder must elect Full Tort or
Limited Tort. Full Tort costs more money in premiums
but preserves full legal rights to compensation after a car
accident. Limited Tort is cheaper but jeopardizes legal
rights.
Specifically, with Full Tort, an injured person can
recover economic and non-economic damages. However,
with Limited Tort, although people covered by the policy
can recover economic damages like medical bills, lost
wages and out-of-pocket costs, they are barred from
recovering non-economic damages, like money for pain
and suffering and disability, unless they suffer a " serious
injury " which is defined as death, serious and permanent
disfigurement or serious impairment of a body function.
With important legal rights being sacrificed by a Limited
Tort election, I recommend that everyone select Full
Tort.
As a lawyer, you should be aware that there are certain
exceptions that allow Limited Tort policyholders to be
considered to be Full Tort and allow them to recover
non-economic damages even if they do not suffer a
serious injury. Common exceptions which make the
Limited Tort election irrelevant include: if you are
injured as a pedestrian, bicycle rider or passenger in
a vehicle other than a private passenger vehicle (bus,
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