Unlike most states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey both use the choice no-fault car insurance system. Under this system, car accident injury victims can be compensated for medical bills through their insurers, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Depending on the type of insurance coverage residents of these states select, the types of damages, or compensation, which victims may recover can be restricted. But what happens if you get into a crash or collision and don’t have any auto insurance coverage at all? And what are the consequences of driving without mandatory insurance in Pennsylvania?
Can Uninsured Drivers Get Compensation After a Car Crash in Pennsylvania?
In a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, Corbin v. Khosla, 2012 Pa. LEXIS 350, the Court held that an uninsured driver who is injured in a motor vehicle accident with an insured driver may sue the insured driver for “economic damages.” Economic damages refer only to damages which are quantifiable (hence the term), such as:
- Past and future medical bills arising and/or projected to arise from the plaintiff’s injuries, which could potentially include costs associated with:
- Medical equipment (e.g. a wheelchair)
- Physical therapy
It is currently unclear as to whether a driver with a serious injury would be able to sue for non-economic damages, or damages which are not quantifiable. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering experienced by the plaintiff.
- Loss of consortium, which is a legal team for loss of marital relations
The decision, while itself fairly recent, arose from an accident which occurred nearly a decade ago. In 2006, Mary Corbin and Suresh Khosla collided on Route 413 in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Corbin, who was traveling south, was uninsured. Khosla, who was traveling north, was insured. The collision occurred due to a left turn made by Khosla, which is indeed a common cause of automotive accidents (and pedestrian accidents).
In light of the Corbin decision, one fact is clear: driving without insurance puts you at serious financial risk. Of course, as we’ll discuss in just a moment, the potential inability to recover certain damages is not the only pitfall of driving without insurance.
Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
Presumably, you’re reading this article because you do not have car insurance. It’s very important to understand that driving without auto insurance is against the law, and therefore, can result in the imposition of penalties. You can be fined, your car can be impounded, and your driver’s license and vehicle registration can both be temporarily suspended. If this occurs, you will also have to pay additional fees to restore your license and registration. If you’ve been driving while uninsured, you should make it a priority to get coverage as soon as possible in order to avoid these consequences.
Pennsylvania drivers must purchase the following coverage minimums to be in compliance with state law:
- Property Damage Liability – $5,000
- Bodily Injury Liability – $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident
- Medical Benefits – $5,000
As we discussed in our article about getting compensation when you’re partly at fault, Pennsylvania drivers can choose between Full Tort and Limited Tort coverage. Full Tort coverage is more expensive, but will allow you to seek a greater breadth of damages if you are ever hurt in a crash. Limited Tort is more affordable, but will prevent you from seeking non-economic (non-quantifiable) damages, like compensation for pain and suffering.
New Jersey drivers have a similar decision to make, though the terminology is a little different: the No Limitation on Lawsuit option is the approximate equivalent of Full Tort, while Verbal Threshold (Limitation on Lawsuit) is roughly equivalent to selecting Limited Tort coverage.
In New Jersey, motorists are required to carry the following auto insurance minimums:
- Property Damage Liability – $5,000
- Bodily Injury Liability – Coverage is not automatically included, but you can opt into $10,000 coverage per accident (not per person)
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – $15,000 per person, per accident
- New Jersey PIP coverage can be as high as $250,000 for specific types of injuries, including disfigurement, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and spinal cord injury (SCI).
Note the above minimums represent the Basic Policy option, which, while cheaper than the Standard Policy option, includes only the Limitation on Lawsuit option. If you want the No Limitation option, you should consider selecting the Standard Policy instead.
If you were injured in a car crash in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To talk about your automotive accident and get answers to your car insurance questions in a free, private, no-obligation legal consultation, call Philadelphia auto accident attorney Brent Wieand at (800) 481-5206 right away.
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.***