Auto Insurance Basics

Auto Insurance Requirements in Pennsylvania

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To ensure that damages in car accidents are covered, Pennsylvania state law requires all motorists to purchase car insurance. A minimum auto insurance policy here is slightly different from other states; Pennsylvania is one of 12 states that have adopted no-fault auto insurance, which requires insurers to pay for their own insured drivers' medical expenses regardless of who is at fault in an accident.

You are responsible for showing proof of insurance and a driver’s license whenever you operate a vehicle in Pennsylvania. Your insurance company would have mailed you an ID card, but a copy of your policy’s declaration page or a signed official letter from your carrier is acceptable as well. If you have a policy with the Pennsylvania Assigned Risk Plan, a copy of the application will suffice.

Pennsylvania Required Car Insurance CoveragePA Required Min. Limits
Bodily Injury (BI) $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident
Property Damage (PD) $5,000 per accident
Medical Benefits (PIP) $5,000 per accident

Pennsylvania Car Insurance Coverage Requirements & Minimums

Apart from the bodily injury and property damage liability that are mandated in almost all states, Pennsylvania's minimum policy also includes first-party medical benefits. In other words, your insurer will have to pay for your medical care and bills in a car accident, whether or not you caused it. This makes Pennsylvania a "no-fault" state, where both your third-party liabilities (to other people for injuries and wreckage you caused), and your own medical attention are taken care of. Here are the required coverages:

  • Bodily Injury (BI): minimum of $15,000 for medical expenses per person in an accident you caused / $30,000 in total per accident
  • Property Damage (PD): minimum of $5,000 in property damage repair costs per accident you're at fault for
  • Medical Benefits (PIP): minimum of $5,000 first-party (the insured driver) medical expenses per accident. Benefits must be for medical attention that is necessary and reasonable. Increments of higher limits up to $100,000 will be available with every insurer

A minimum policy may get you low-cost car insurance in Pennsylvania, but we recommend that motorists consider higher limits and additional coverages based on the total assets you have to protect, as they will be exposed if someone you injured in an accident decides to sue you. Additional limits and coverages vary by insurer.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists (UM/UIM) is an optional coverage that you must reject in writing if you don't want it. This coverage provides the BI and PD coverage for people in your policy and your passengers in an accident caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists. It has the same split limits like the regular BI and PD, and while higher limits may be available, they must be lower than your policy's BI limits. However, if you choose to stack your UM/UIM coverages, and have multiple cars or policies under your name, you can collect up to the combined individual limits.

Other Optional First-Party Benefits

First-party benefits are what defines no-fault insurance. Typically, these would include medical benefits as well as income loss, accidental death, and funeral benefits. In Pennsylvania, the minimum medical benefits coverage only reimburses policyholders for medical expenses. There are other benefits (listed below) that you can add to your policy for an additional premium.

Note that if you modified your car from its original factory finished without the insurer’s knowledge, you will not be able to receive first-party benefits if you get into an accident while driving it.

  • Income Loss: when a car accident leaves you and the other insured drivers in your policy unable to work, your insurer will compensate you for 80% of your income or at least $25,000 per month, up to a total of $50,000
  • Accidental Death: if anyone under your policy dies from a car accident within 24 months from the accident date, an amount of at least $25,000 is paid to the beneficiary of the policy
  • Funeral Benefit: if a policyholder passes away within 24 months from an accident, this benefits covers at least $2,500 for expenses related to the funeral, burial, cremation, or other form of disposition
  • Combination:  instead of separately purchasing the three optional benefits above, you can combine them and get covered for at least $177,500
  • Extraordinary Medical Benefit: this benefit, available in increments of $100,000, may pay up to at most $1,100,000 for all medical expenses resulting from any accident 

Your Right to Sue

In Pennsylvania, you have the option of choosing between two rights to sue, limited vs. full rights, when purchasing the policy. This restriction was implemented in part to reduce the backlog of cases and administrative burden in court without. The choice is binding until the policy’s renewal. The two tort options are:

Limited Tort Right: this is the lower cost option of the two. When you choose the limited tort right option, you can only sue the other driver for medical or economic losses that they were at fault for and that their insurance didn't cover. You will not be able to sue for pain and suffering (non-economic losses) from an accident, unless:

  • you were a passenger in a non-private passenger vehicle, which may include a bus, train, or taxi, when the accident happened
  • the accident was due to a defect of the car, or negligence on the part of your auto body shop repairman
  • or the negligent driver was uninsured, operating a car registered in another state, driving drunk, or intending to injure himself or another person

If you meet the three exceptions above, you are able to sue the at-fault motorist for medical, economic, and pain and suffering losses, despite having a limited tort right in Pennsylvania on your car insurance policy.

Full Tort Right: this is the higher cost option of the two. However, drivers who elect the full tort right option will have rights to sue for both medical costs and non-economic loss sustained from any given accident.

Acceptable Alternative Proof of Financial Responsibility

There is one alternative to purchasing an auto insurance policy in Pennsylvania, and that is to become a self-insurer. However, drivers have to meet specific qualifications, and essentially prove that they have the financial means to insure themselves. Once they're approved, the Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will issue a certificate as proof. In most cases, Pennsylvanians will find getting a policy through an insurer the easiest and more affordable way to go. 

You will need to provide financial documents, such as a balance sheet or an income statement, from the previous year, and a bond or security to serve as a deposit to pay any future liability claims for an accident you are responsible for. The amount of security or bond will be based on the number of vehicles you own: at least $50,000 for the first vehicle, $10,000 for each subsequent vehicle, and up to a maximum of $1,000,000. Examples of acceptable forms of bond or security include:

  • US Currency: such as cash, or US Treasury bills or notes
  • Escrow Deposit: in a federal or state bank, or credit union, or a savings association if it is federally insured. This is valid as long as the sole purpose of this deposit is for the security as a self-insurer
  • Irrevocable Letter of Credit: a guaranttee letter issued by any Pennylvania banks, or banks approved by the PennDOT
  • Surety Bond: issued by insurers licensed for surety business in the state
  • Corporate Bond: issued by other corporations that are rated A or better by Moody's
  • Other Security: you may petition other securities with the PennDOT for approval

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