Pennsylvania law requires all drivers to carry “financial responsibility” or auto insurance. If you are caught without auto insurance, you may be fined as much as $300, and your driver’s license, registration, and license plate could be suspended for three months. Additionally, your rights, and anyone else covered on your policy, will be negatively affected. If you failed to purchase auto insurance, or your policy has lapsed due to failure to renew, or missed payments, you should call an auto insurer immediately.
A person without auto insurance can still file a lawsuit if injured, but there are several negative consequences.
The first difficulty an uninsured owner of a vehicle will face is that, unlike an insured driver, they are barred from receiving first party benefits. All auto policies provide for a minimum of $5,000 of “no-fault”, first party or PIP benefits. No fault benefits or PIP benefits are paid out immediately, no matter who was at fault, to cover the medical expenses of the injured party. (For more details see our blog post). Unfortunately, hospitals or care providers are often unwilling to treat your injuries if you do not have another source of health insurance.
For insured drivers, the $5,000 (or more) in no fault benefits does not come out of the total recovery from the at-fault driver’s liability policy. It is simply forgiven. This is a major penalty for those without auto insurance.
For the uninsured driver, the only category of recovery is the “bodily injury” policy limits of the at-fault driver. Bodily injury liability coverage is the money that the insurance company has to cover if the at-fault driver injures someone else. The minimum amount of bodily injury limits required by law is $15,000.00 per individual and a maximum pay-out of $30,000.00 per accident. Many people carry minimum coverage. This can result in a diminished recovery for the uninsured driver.
For example: John is in an accident and his claim is worth $100,000. John is uninsured, so he cannot receive no-fault first party benefits. The at-fault driver has $15,000 in bodily injury coverage. The maximum amount that John can recover for his injuries is $15,000.
If John had carried the minimum amount of auto insurance, he could have recovered a minimum of $5,000 from in no-fault benefits (and possibly more), paid out immediately to cover medical bills. On top of that, John could have received the full $15,000 bodily injury limits from the at fault driver, with no reduction for the no-fault benefits. By carrying his own insurance, John added an additional $5,000 (and possibly more) to his recovery.
Secondly, an uninsured driver cannot collect UM/UIM insurance. See our blog post for details on UM/UIM claims.
If you are injured in an auto accident and you are uninsured, call one or our experienced attorneys to discuss the potential outcomes.