Do You Understand the Critical Aspects of Your Auto Insurance Policy?
September 4, 2022
Auto insurance policies are typically lengthy, and it is natural to want to get through the paperwork quickly. It can be easy to skip over or fail to review forms carefully, especially if you are unaware of the value of certain coverages. Pennsylvania offers you many options when you are selecting your auto insurance policy.
If you choose full tort coverage, it means that if you are injured in a car accident, you can sue the other driver who was at fault for non-monetary damages, such as pain and suffering. Auto insurance pays for medical bills and damages, but without full tort coverage, you cannot seek compensation for a loss of quality of life from the accident. If you choose limited tort, you forfeit the right to compensation for pain and suffering.
Limited tort can seem appealing at first because it immediately saves you money on your monthly statement. However, when you are injured in an accident and want to recover for your pain and suffering, you will likely realize that the savings you received when you signed your policy was not worth it. Saving a few dollars a month cannot outweigh the ongoing emotional suffering and life-changing effects of a car accident. It is more expensive to have full tort coverage, but the value of the added rights and protection is immeasurable.
Insurance companies are delighted when they see that a person injured in a motor vehicle accident has selected the limited tort option because they can argue that the injuries are not serious to avoid making payments on a claim. Additionally, insurance companies know that only economic damages, such as hospital bills and any wage loss, will need to be paid. This relieves the insurance companies of the striking driver from negotiating for pain and suffering damages and reduces the values of the injured person’s claim significantly.
Uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance coverages are not required to be on your auto insurance policy. Though they can be waived or not purchased, they are two essential coverages on your policy that shield you in the event of a car accident.
Equally valuable is your ability to “stack” coverages if you own more than one vehicle. The ultimate goal is to ensure the maximum amount of protection and coverage for you should a car accident occur.
The injuries, damages, and losses that result from a car accident can be life-changing. Motorists often believe they are fully covered under their auto insurance policy. Unfortunately, many do not realize that they are not completely protected until it is too late. Pennsylvania laws change regularly, and the type of insurance coverage you choose can drastically affect the way you are protected in the event of a car accident.
Considering the consistent increase of car accidents during the summer months, now is a good time to review and ensure that you understand exactly what you are purchasing, what you need, and the process to take if you are involved in a car accident. Galfand Berger LLP can help you understand your auto insurance policy and rights.
What Type of Coverage Do You Have?
Every auto insurance policy comes with a declaration page. This is normally one or two pages with individually typed information that lists your coverage. This page tells you the following information:
- The specific types of coverage you have with your policy.
- The amount of each type of coverage.
- The premium of each type of coverage for every vehicle on the policy.
There is a separate cost for each kind of coverage. These are all added up at the bottom of the list for a total annual, or sometimes a six-month, premium.
It is important that you understand the declaration page and all the coverage options. Keep in mind that while an insurance agent may be able to offer some helpful information, you are the person in charge of making the decisions about the coverages that are necessary and important for you.
What Is UM Insurance Coverage?
UM insurance coverage is one of the most important types of coverage to have on your auto insurance policy. This type of coverage protects you and your family if you are injured by a negligent driver who has no automobile insurance at all.
Many motorists may not realize the number of drivers who do not have automobile insurance. If you get injured by an uninsured driver, the only form of protection is through UM coverage. This coverage pays for uncompensated medical expenses, lost wages, potential for permanent decrease in your ability to work, pain and suffering, and other damages. It also covers you if the car accident is caused by an unidentified driver who flees the scene of the accident, something else that happens more often than some motorists may realize.
UM insurance is so essential that it is advisable to have it in an equal amount to your liability coverage, also known as bodily injury coverage. Although you cannot purchase UM insurance coverage in an amount higher than your liability coverage, insurance companies are required to offer it in ranges of $15,000 to $30,000 and $100,000 and $300,000. Coverage in the highest range possible, particularly when coverages are stacked, is always recommended.
What Is UIM Insurance Coverage?
UIM insurance coverage is also crucial. This type of coverage safeguards you if you are injured by a reckless or careless driver who has low insurance coverage.
The underinsured driver’s insurance would likely not come close to cover and compensate all of your various losses and damages. UIM coverage gives you an additional source of protection.
Insurance companies are required to offer UIM coverage in ranges of $15,000 to $30,000 and $100,000 to $300,000. It is always recommended to have $100,000 to $300,000 or higher of stacked coverage. UIM coverage cannot be at a higher amount than your liability or bodily injury coverage, just as with your UM coverage.
What Is Stacked Insurance Coverage?
Whenever you stack insurance, it normally applies to UM and UIM coverages. Stacking refers to the ability to combine automobile insurance coverage limits for multiple vehicles. UM and UIM coverages are the only types that can be stacked.
A coverage limit is the maximum amount an insurance company will pay towards a covered claim. Combining separate coverage limits into a total higher amount can afford greater protection. If you are involved in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver and you have multiple vehicles insured, stacking increases your protection against accident-related expenses.
Your automobile insurance policy may be stacked the following ways:
- On a single vehicle insurance policy insuring two or more vehicles.
- Across two or more separate vehicle insurance policies in your name.
Pennsylvania allows stacking of insurance coverage. However, note that stacking only applies to the bodily injury portion of the coverage. You may not stack property damage coverage limits.
How Should You Handle Waiver Forms?
It is imperative that you take the time to carefully read over every waiver form in an insurance policy before signing anything.
You should never sign a waiver for UM motorist coverage; this is called a “Rejection of Uninsured Motorist Protection.” Additionally, you should never sign a waiver for coverage in an amount lower than your liability or bodily injury coverage; this waiver is known as “Uninsured Coverage Limits.”
If you own more than one vehicle, it is recommended to stack these coverages to give you and your family more protection. Therefore, you should also never sign a waiver of stacking. This waiver is usually entitled “Uninsured Coverage Limits” as well.
What Should You Do After a Car Accident?
If you are involved in a car accident, there are some important steps you should take, including the following:
- Contact the police, and be sure they come to the scene.
- Exchange information with the other driver, including proof of insurance.
- If you or one of your passengers is injured, seek immediate medical attention.
- If possible, take pictures of the accident scene and any damage to the vehicles in order to preserve evidence. Also, find any eyewitnesses to the accident and get their contact information.
- Notify your insurance company of the car accident.
- Consult an experienced car accident lawyer.
Going through the ordeal of a car accident can be overwhelming. Your primary concern should be getting healthy again, both physically and mentally. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP understand that should be your top priority, and we can help you while you recover from your injuries.
Medical bills can pile up, especially if your injury requires surgery, a hospital stay, long-term therapy, and other costly treatments. If your injury has made you unable to work, we can assist in navigating what can be a complex legal process to help alleviate any unnecessary stress.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Seek Justice for Clients Injured in Accidents
If you have been injured in a car accident, do not hesitate to contact one of our dedicated Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. We will determine who is responsible for causing the accident and ensure that you receive the legal assistance you need and deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.