Automobile insurance companies (e.g., GEICO, Esurance, Progressive, etc.) advertise to cost-conscious consumers. With all of the money you can save on car insurance, you can buy a new purse, or so the commercials tell us. Given the heavy focus on cost-cutting insurance policies, attorneys are not surprised when an at-fault driver’s car insurance fails to adequately compensate an accident victim for his/her injuries/damages. A personal injury lawyer must be able to understand automobile insurance to maximize the car accident victim’s compensation.
How Car Accident Victims Recover for Medical Expenses (No-Fault)
In Pennsylvania, all drivers/pedestrians (whether at-fault or not) may receive at least $5,000 from their own automobile insurance to cover their medical expenses. Medical Benefits coverage is required by law. This portion of your insurance coverage is called First-Party Medical Benefits, also known as PIP coverage.
A driver who suffers serious injuries, however, will quickly exhaust the $5,000 of medical coverage. This is often the case when an injured victim has surgery and/or has an extended hospital stay. When the available First-Party Medical Benefits are exhausted, your medical bills should be submitted to your private health insurance for payment. If you have no private health insurance, those bills are your personal responsibility.
Recovering for Injuries and Damages – Third Party Liability Claims
In addition to medical expenses, an accident victim will face many emotional and financial challenges in the aftermath of a car accident, including automobile repairs and taking time off from work to deal with physical injuries. To obtain full compensation for these out-of-pocket expenses, physical injuries, and emotional damages, your attorney can file a third-party liability claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
The specific items of recoverable damage may depend on the injured driver’s election of full-tort or limited-tort automobile insurance. In all cases, the third-party claim may recoup an amount up to the limit of the at-fault driver’s liability coverage (colloquially referred to as “policy limits”). In Pennsylvania, the at-fault driver may legally carry as little as $15,000 of liability insurance coverage. This amount is very unlikely to compensate an injured victim for serious injuries. More problematic, however, is the accident victim who suffers an injury at the hands of an uninsured motorist with no liability coverage available at all.
Recovering for Injuries and Damages- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims
Catastrophic injuries from car, truck, or motorcycle accidents entail ongoing and future medical expenses, wage loss, and costly home modifications. Therefore, to get fair compensation, seriously injured victims must explore the possibility of filing an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist claim with their own automobile insurance carrier.
Unfortunately, not all victims may file an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist claim. Underinsurance/Uninsured Motorist coverage is optional. Therefore, if you want to secure the right to fair compensation in the future, you must bear the increased cost of insurance in your own premiums because the Legislature, and the insurance industry, have decided that all drivers must share in the economic risks of a car accident.
Making Sense of the Insurance Policy
Make sure that you know what you are buying when you are “saving money on your car insurance.” An easy place to identify your insurance coverage is on the Declarations Page of your insurance policy. This page will identify available First Party Medical Benefits, Liability coverage, and Underinsurance/Uninsured Motorist coverage for each vehicle on the insurance policy.
An attorney can investigate insurance matters for you and deal with the insurance companies so that you do not have to. If you were injured in a car accident, contact an attorney in our Philadelphia or New Jersey office today for a free and confidential consultation.