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  • Advice from a Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorney: Saving Money On Car Insurance The Smart Way

    By Mike Malvey, Esq.

    Every time you turn on the television or listen to the radio you see and hear commercials for car insurance companies that will help you get the “state minimum” coverage for your car.  In today’s economic climate saving money is on the minds of nearly everybody and it is always a good thing to shop around when looking for car insurance.  However, it is important that when you are selecting your auto insurance that you don’t be penny wise and pound foolish with the coverages that you select.  Sometimes the difference between a few dollars a month in coverage can change the value of a personal injury claim by thousands of dollars.

    There are a few types of automobile insurance coverages that you can purchase or your insurance agent may recommend that you may opt for a cheaper alternative.  In many cases your financial situation may require you to go with a most cost effective option which may be understandable.  But, it is important to weigh your options when  determining what is right for you and your family and whether it is worth risking the extra couple of dollars you save in a monthly premium should you ever be involved in an auto accident.

    Limited tort vs. Full tort:  One of the most common questions people have when buying auto insurance is whether they should purchase limited tort or full tort coverage for their vehicle.  What most people don’t understand when making this decision is that this type of coverage determines what type of claims for personal injuries you can make if you are injured in an auto accident, regardless of who was at fault.  If you elect full tort on your coverage you have an unlimited right to make a claim for pain and suffering if you are in a car accident caused by someone else regardless of how serious your injuries are.  However, if you elect limited tort on your coverage, you may only make a claim for pain and suffering if a medical doctor can prove that your injuries resulted in a serious impairment of a bodily function.

    When making this decision, your insurance agent may encourage you to elect limited tort because “You probably aren’t going to be suing anybody unless you have a serious injury anyway, right?”  While this logic may make sense when you are deciding whether to spend the extra money for full tort, unfortunately things don’t quite work out this way when you actually are injured in a car accident.  Over the past decade, Galfand Berger auto accident attorneys have represented countless clients who have elected limited tort on their auto policy and suffered serious injuries in auto accidents, some of which required surgery, only to have the insurance adjuster for the other vehicle deny their claim because they felt that they could prove to a jury that the injuries were not actually serious.  Even if you believe your personal injuries are serious and your doctor’s agree, insurance companies representing other parties can always hire doctors of their own to come in and state that your injuries are not in fact serious.  For this reason, we recommend to all of our clients that they elect full tort on their auto insurance coverage to take away this potential defense to a personal injury claim.

    Stacking of UM/UIM Coverage: Another area that your auto insurance agent may recommend that you save money on is to waive stacking on uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage on your policy.  This is somewhat confusing and requires that you understand what uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is.  Uninsured motorist coverage is coverage that you purchase for your auto policy that will cover your injuries and damages in the event that you are involved in a car accident with a vehicle that does not have automobile insurance of its own.  This coverage also covers you in the event that you are involved in a hit and run accident where the other vehicle leaves the scene and you are unable to determine whether it has automobile insurance to cover your personal injuries.

    Underinsured motorist coverage is coverage that you purchase that will protect you in the event that the driver that struck you has automobile insurance but it is insufficient to fully compensate you for your personal injuries.  Under Pennsylvania law the minimum insurance coverage is $15,000.00, and many drivers carry these minimal policies, it is likely that if you are in an auto accident the person who struck you may not have enough insurance to cover the full extent of your injuries.  When this happens, your underinsured motorist benefits kick in and you can then collect against this policy to cover any damages not covered by the other policy.

    Under Pennsylvania law if you own more than one vehicle that is covered by the same insurance policy the amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage that you have purchased multiplies by the number of vehicles that you have. This is called stacking coverages.  You can potentially save money on your policy in the event that you waive the right to stack your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverages over the number of vehicles that you own so that your claims for either of these policies would be limited to the amount that you purchase.  At Galfand Berger we recommend that our clients do not waive the stacking of coverages for uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits because the savings that you receive for waiving stacking are often very minimal compared to the value of having your coverages multiplied by the number of vehicles that you own.  For example, if you elect $250,000.00 in coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits and there are four cars in your household, if you are in an accident caused by another party you can collect up to $1,000,000.00 in uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits on top of whatever insurance the other vehicle has.  We recommend that at a minimum you look closely at the savings you will receive by waiving stacking before deciding to do so.

    The Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys Can Answer Your Questions about Auto Insurance Coverage

    There may be many other ways that you can make thoughtful decisions about what insurance policies to purchase for your car insurance.  Galfand Berger has authored an excellent book on auto insurance titled “Auto Insurance Understanding Your Policy & Rights.” If you would like a copy of this book or to speak to a Pennsylvania car accident attorney about insurance coverage, please call us toll free at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. With offices in Philadelphia, Reading and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout the Southeast Pennsylvania/South Jersey region, including Harrisburg and Allentown and their surrounding areas, and our personal injury attorneys are available to meet with you at a location convenient to you.