Pennsylvania law requires that all drivers maintain at least a minimum amount of liability insurance, in case they cause an accident. However, studies have shown that approximately 7% of Pennsylvania drivers do NOT have car insurance. Many more have only the state minimum coverage, which is $15,000 per injured person and $30,000 total per accident. This means that if you have been injured in a car accident, and the person who hit you either does not have car insurance, or they have an inadequate amount of car insurance, you may be responsible for some or most of your medical bills, lost wages and any of the other costs of your injuries. However, if you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage as part of your own auto insurance policy, you will be able to recover these costs up to the limits of your policy’s coverage.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage does not cover property damage, but it does cover medical bills and other losses, including pain and suffering, caused by your injuries. If your auto insurance policy has this coverage, it covers the policy holder, other drivers on the policy, passengers in the car when the accident occurred, and relatives of the insured person who are part of the same household.
Pennsylvania auto insurance companies are required by law to offer customers. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage as part of their auto insurance policy. If you have been in an accident and it does not appear that you have this coverage as part of your policy, your lawyer should demand that your insurance company produce a signed “Rejection of Uninsured Motorist Protection” waiver form. If the insurance company cannot produce this waiver, including your signature, then the law states that you do in fact have this coverage as part of your liability policy.
In addition to Underinsured coverage allowing you to recover for losses beyond the limits of the at-fault-driver’s policy, and Uninsured coverage allowing you to recover if the at-fault-driver has no insurance, Uninsured coverage applies if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver. If you and the police are unable to ascertain the identity of the person who hit you, your Uninsured Motorist coverage can compensate you for your injuries.
Pennsylvania law requires your insurance company to handle your Uninsured/ Underinsured claim in “good faith,” meaning that they cannot refuse to handle or entertain the claim and they must not put any unreasonable obstacles in the way of resolving your claim. If they do either of these things, you have the right to sue the insurance company for “bad faith,” which could entitle you to both the value of your original claim and punitive damages.
Finally, it is important to understand that UM/UIM claims are considered contract claims and, therefore, have a four-year statute of limitations. The “clock” for the statute begins at the time when the claimant becomes aware that she needs to make a UM/UIM claim. For a hit-and-run, this would be at the time of the accident. For an uninsured driver, it would be when the claimant finds out that the at-fault-driver is uninsured. For a UIM claim, under recent appellate court decisions, the clock starts when the insurance company sends a denial letter of the claimant’s UIM claim. You should always contact an attorney to make sure that you understand your rights and what the law requires, in order for you to recover for your losses in any situation. The lawyers at McMonagle, Perri, McHugh, Mischak & Davis, P.C. have over 25 years of experience handling cases for car accident victims. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, call us today.