You Cannot Afford Cheap Auto Insurance

By: William E. Moore, Esquire

Pennsylvania mandates all vehicle owners insure their vehicles. The purpose is to ensure if an owner's vehicle is involved in an accident, the injured party can recover damages from the policy covering the vehicle at fault. Appropriately, the name of the law is the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law.

Financial Responsibility is defined at a minimum as 15/30; which means a per accident coverage of $30,000 with no one person recovering more than $15,000. Thus, if someone with the minimum coverage runs a stop sign and strikes a vehicle with four occupants, no one occupant can recover more than $15,000, and all four cannot recover more than $30,000 total.

In many accidents, the victim suffers catastrophic or debilitating injuries. If you or a family member sustain such an injury because of the negligence (fault) of a driver with 15/30 insurance coverage, you would only be able to recover $15,000. This is hardly adequate if you sustain a life changing injury.

Pennsylvania mandates all auto insurance coverage provide or offer the purchase of underinsured /uninsured coverage. Each individual is free to purchase or reject this coverage. If one purchases such a policy, after recovering the policy limits from the person who caused the accident (third party), then the injured party can proceed against his own policy.

We have all heard the term "we keep you legal for less". This refers to an insurance company's representation to sell you the mandatory minimum coverage at a cheap rate. Since no one likes paying auto insurance premiums, this sounds like a good deal. It is a great deal until you are involved in an auto accident because of the negligence of another.

In order to illustrate the importance of carrying adequate underinsured/uninsured coverage, I will discuss two cases I have handled.

Jim was injured in auto accident when the truck he was driving was struck by a vehicle operated by a drunk driver who ran a stop sign. As a result of the accident, Jim had sustained serious back injuries which required five surgeries. Jim was forever disabled as a truck driver. The individual who struck Jim only had a 15/30 policy. His insurance company promptly paid their maximum exposure of $15,000. Hardly adequate coverage for five surgeries and the termination of Jim's ability to earn a living. Fortunately for Jim, he was driving his employer's truck which had a $1,000,000 underinsured/uninsured policy. As a result, Jim recovered the $1,000,000. He is still injured and still not able to drive a truck, but at least he is able to provide for his family.

Bob was seriously hurt in an auto accident when the inattentive driver, proceeding in the opposite direction, crossed the double yellow lines striking Bob's vehicle head on. Bob spent sixteen days in ICU. He had two surgeries. He has since returned to work, but at least one more surgery is scheduled. In addition to his internal injuries, he still suffers from the pain and limited activity as a result of the numerous broken bones he sustained. The person who caused the accident had a 50/100 policy. The company promptly paid the $50,000 coverage. Bob had a 15/30 underinsured coverage. His company promptly paid the $15,000. Thus, for his pain and suffering and life changing injuries, Bob only recovered $65,000.

As a home owner, you purchase sufficient insurance coverage to replace your home if it is destroyed by fire. You do this because of the importance of your home. Doesn't your welfare and good health merit the same importance? The chance of you or a family member being seriously injured in an automobile accident is much more likely than the destruction of your home.

More and more people are driving on our highways everyday. Many carry the mandatory minimum coverage. Some are driving with no insurance at all. We hope you are never the victim of an accident. However, the newspapers report and local daily news coverage identify many serious accidents in our community. The purpose of auto insurance is to protect your assets and provide for your needs if you suffer a serious injury. We are happy to discuss auto insurance coverage with you at no cost to help you determine what is best for you and your family.