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2016-11-16 Auto Accidents

As it appeared in the November issue of the Hempfield Suburban News

What a beautiful time of year, Hempfield. The air is crisp and cool, and the leaves are turning all of those wonderful autumnal colors. And, believe it or not, the holidays are just around the corner.  With so much to do and look forward to, the last thing anyone wants to think about is car insurance. But…wait for it…that is exactly what I am going to talk about today.

For any of you who have read my past articles, you know that I am a major proponent of purchasing “full” tort coverage over “limited” tort coverage. The former allows an injured person to seek compensation for economic and non-economic losses, while the latter only permits a recovery for economic losses. This is incredibly important when purchasing car insurance.

If someone suffers catastrophic injuries in a motor vehicle accident, the tort election under their policy will most likely be inconsequential, since Pennsylvania law says that suffering “serious bodily injury” moves someone beyond the limited tort threshold into full tort coverage. However, just because a person is classified as full tort, for purposes of a recovery, does not mean that there will be adequate coverage to compensate them for their injuries.

Most times, there will be two pools of insurance coverage available to an accident victim: first, the liability coverage under the policy of the person who caused the accident; and second, any underinsurance purchased by the injured person under their own policy. The limits of both of these coverages are determined by the respective policyholders. The person who causes the accident could have anywhere from $15,000.00 (very common) in coverage, the state minimum allowed, up to $1,000,000.00 (very rare) and beyond (even more rare). The same principle goes for the injured person’s underinsured motorist coverage. The policyholder can waive this coverage entirely—meaning, not have it all—or purchase as much of it as they want.

The point of all this is two-fold: while a car accident victim is at the mercy of the driver who caused the accident, with respect to liability coverage, the injured person can be in complete control of the amount of their underinsured motorist coverage. So, the moral of the story is that you should purchase at least $100,000.00 in underinsured motorist insurance per vehicle. And, if there is more than one vehicle on your policy, you should select the “stacking” option.

A common, yet unfortunate, scenario is for an auto accident victim to have very serious injuries but either no or minimal underinsured motorist coverage. Then, if the driver at fault has only minimal coverage, the victim will not come close to being fairly compensated for their injuries. In other words, insurance coverage does not fall from the sky—you have to buy it. Be sensible and be safe, Hempfield.

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