How Do No-Fault Insurance Laws Work in Pennsylvania?

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If you live in Pennsylvania, you may already have a general understanding of the no-fault insurance laws, but a lot of residents don’t. Pennsylvania is one of about a dozen states with no-fault insurance. So what exactly does that mean, how do these claims work, and what does it mean if you’re involved in an accident?

What Is No-Fault Car Insurance?

Along with Pennsylvania, some of the other states with a no-fault insurance system include Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Utah, among others. 

So what does it mean?

Essentially, no-fault insurance means if you’re involved in an accident, your insurance coverage pays some or all of your medical bills. Your insurance will also cover your lost earnings in certain cases, and this is regardless of who’s at fault for the accident. 

No-fault claims are made through the personal injury protection element of your insurance policy.

If you live in a no-fault state, you must have personal injury protection or PIP coverage. If you live in a state that’s not no-fault, you can add PIP coverage on top of your regular liability coverage. 

Even though there are around 12 states with no-fault insurance systems, there are differences between the specifics in each state.

In Pennsylvania, as well as New Jersey and Kentucky, you actually have a choice of whether or not you’ll opt-in or out of the no-fault system when you buy a policy. For this reason, Pennsylvania is a choice no-fault state. 

One thing to remember with no-fault insurance is that you can’t include pain and suffering in your compensation claim. 

Along with medical expenses and loss of income, no-fault insurance may also cover funeral expenses.

No-fault insurance doesn’t cover damage to your vehicle. That’s covered by your own collision insurance or the liability policy of the other driver involved in the accident. 

Outside of Pennsylvania, different guidelines exist for no-fault insurance. For example, in some states if the cost of medical expenses goes beyond a certain amount the injured person has the right to sue. In other states, seriousness isn’t defined by medical injury but instead by the type of injury. 

What are the Minimum Insurance Requirements in Pennsylvania?

If you’re going to own and operate a vehicle in the state of Pennsylvania, you are required to have a certain minimum amount of insurance coverage. This includes:

  • $5,000 of what’s called medical benefits coverage for your medical bills
  • $15,000 in bodily injury liability
  • $30,000 in total bodily injury liability per accident
  • $5,000 per occurrence in property damage protection

Another option is an all-purpose policy, and for that, you need at least $35,000 in coverage under state law. 

Full Tort vs. Limited Tort

In Pennsylvania, you can choose between either full tort or limited tort coverage. That’s why Pennsylvania is technically considered a choice no-fault state. 

Limited tort allows you to pay less on your monthly premiums, but in exchange for that you’re giving up the right to recover some damages, including compensation for pain and suffering. However, if your injuries are severe and meet certain standards set by state law, you may be able to overcome this. 

Full tort means you have no limits to the options available to you if you’re involved in an accident. You can file a personal injury claim against the other driver, regardless of how severe your injuries are. You can also seek compensation for pain and suffering. 

When you buy auto insurance in Pennsylvania, you’ll be given a choice as to whether you want the full tort or limited tort option. 

If you don’t choose, the policy will automatically default to full tort. 

If you’re renewing your Pennsylvania auto insurance, you will get a notice to make a choice as well. If you don’t respond within 20 days to let your insurance company know your choice, you’ll get a notice.

If the insurance company still doesn’t get a response, again you’re assigned the full tort policy. 

Why Do Some States Require No-Fault Insurance?

The idea of no-fault insurance was initially introduced as a way to reduce frivolous litigation. 

Typically states with larger cities and more overall litigation are more likely to have no-fault insurance laws. When there is no-fault insurance since it cuts down on frivolous lawsuits, it can also mean lower insurance premiums. 

However, no-fault insurance states have plenty of opponents. For example, it can actually lead to increased premiums because of administrative entanglements.

If you’re in Pennsylvania and you’re in an accident, the best thing to do is consult a lawyer because it can be complex.