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Scranton, Pennsylvania, Personal Injury Law Blog

The anatomy of an auto insurance policy

Have you ever sat down and actually read your auto insurance policy? If not, you aren't alone. Odds are good that most Pennsylvania vehicle owners haven't read their policies either. Most people focus on their policy limits, their deductible and their monthly premiums.

These amounts, along with your personal and vehicle information appear on the declaration page, which is usually as far as most people get when they receive a copy of their auto insurance policy. Those are important pieces of information to know, but as they say, "the devil's in the details." Even though you probably don't want or need to become an expert on insurance coverage, it may be a good idea to at least peruse your policy to know what you are getting into.

Not all drivers adhere to Pennsylvania auto insurance laws

Consider the following scenario. You are driving along, minding your own business, when another vehicle seems to come out of nowhere and slams into yours. Whether you attempt to exchange information at the scene or find out later, you discover that the other driver doesn't have auto insurance, or only has the minimum amount of liability coverage allowed under Pennsylvania law.

If you failed to opt for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage when you purchased your policy, you may only receive personal injury protection from your own policy, which probably isn't enough to cover your injuries. Perhaps this example prompts you to ask more questions about these other coverage options, but you have more questions before committing to the additional coverage.

What kind of Pennsylvania auto insurance do you need?

Driving can be expensive these days. First, you need a license and a car. Then you need auto insurance. You may already know that Pennsylvania law requires you to carry a certain minimum amount of insurance, but you may not know that you have an option that could make a big difference if you suffer injuries in an accident.

In addition to all of the other options you make when you choose your plan, you must choose between full tort and limited tort coverage. Most people make their choices based on how much it will cost per month without considering what it could cost them after an accident. Before making any decisions, it might help to understand the difference between these two types of coverage.

Don't forget the fine print re statutes of limitations

If you were injured in a Pennsylvania car accident, life as you knew it may have changed forever, especially if your injuries left you with a permanent disability. If you were able to obtain appropriate medical care and ongoing assistance as needed, then perhaps your recovery time was not too lengthy or arduous. Even minor injuries and short recovery periods can be very stressful beyond any emotional trauma you may have experienced in a collision.

Emotional damage often intensifies following a car accident if another driver's negligence was a causal factor. If you were hit by a drunk driver for instance, or were suddenly struck by a car that veered over the centerline of traffic when someone was texting behind the wheel, you'll likely replay the events over and over again in your mind as you struggle to achieve as full a recovery as possible.

Know your insurance and these safety practices in case of an accident

You purchase insurance for your vehicle because you have to. You also do it to protect yourself. You never imagine that you will get in an accident. Unfortunately, accidents happen. In 2016 nearly 40,000 people died in car accidents. It was one of the deadliest years for drivers in almost a decade. Pennsylvania has specific car insurance requirements that are unique to the state.

You should know these terms if you are an insured driver in Pennsylvania.

Have you been asked to participate in an IME?

After suffering serious injuries in an accident, you need time to focus on your recovery and learn to live with any permanent damage. The last thing you need is someone questioning the severity, nature and truth of your injuries. However, when you file a personal injury claim, the other side may ask these questions.

In some cases, you may be asked to submit to an independent medical examination, or IME. A medical professional other than your doctor performs the examination and reports to the insurance adjusters and attorneys for the person or persons you claim caused your injuries.

What does your declarations page say?

If you've ever had a conversation with one of your Pennsylvania friends about automobile insurance, you're likely familiar with a common misconception regarding this topic. Either you or someone you know might be among many who mistakenly believe car insurance follows drivers, when, in fact, this is not exactly so. It's more correct to say that an insurance policy follows a particular vehicle, not the people covered under the policy, per se. Sound confusing? That's okay, because it is rather complicated.

An insurance "policy" is a compilation of documents pertaining to general aspects of an insurance plan. One page, in particular, lists what is known as "declarations," which, essentially are specific details regarding your individual policy. This is a very important part of the collection of documents because it's where you find an itemization of exactly what is covered, for how much and for how long.

Be proactive after a car accident

You may have seen the lights in your rearview mirror. You thought that they were a little close to your bumper and may have tapped a warning with your brakes. Unfortunately, your flashing lights did nothing to increase the distance between your car and the tailgater's vehicle, and traffic may have prevented you from removing yourself from the driver's path. As you had been observing the car's proximity, you may not have been surprised by the resulting collision.

If you want the accident to be covered by insurance, you will need to be as diligent after the accident as you were before. Whether it resulted in a scratch, ding or major damage to your car, a car accident should trigger the same series of preventative measures to ensure that you will not have to go out of pocket to pay for the injuries suffered. 

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