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PA Car Insurance Laws

Each state has established certain minimum car insurance requirements.  For the sake of this article, we will look at PA car insurance specifically.  While this is blog is specific to Pennsylvania, the principals and explanations apply in most states.  So, if you are buying insurance in another state, there is still plenty of great information here.  Just be sure to check with your insurance commissioner for requirements in your area.

PA Car Insurance Requirements

As in most states, Pennsylvania requires all drivers to have auto insurance.  Driving without insurance can result in fines and license suspension.  Pennsylvania, like most states, requires drivers to carry bodily injury liability and property damage liability.  But because PA is a no-fault state, PA car insurance law also requires drivers to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP).  Let’s dig into each of these requirements a bit further.

Liability Coverage

PA car insurance laws require every driver to carry $15,000/$30,000 bodily injury liability coverage.  This means that if you are in a car accident in PA,  your insurance company would pay $15,000 per injured person up to a total of $30,000 for all injuries related to the accident (minus your deductible).

PA also requires drivers to carry $5,000 of property damage coverage.  This means that your insurance company would pay up to $5,000 for any damage done to property as the result of a car accident (again, minus your deductible).

Typically these liability coverages are listed on the declaration page of your auto insurance policy in this format: 15/30/5.  These coverages would come into play if you are found to be at fault for an accident you are in.  If another driver is at fault, their insurance company would pay.

Personal Injury Protection

Pennsylvania is a no-fault state.  This means that in addition to the liability minimums mentioned above, PA drivers must also carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP).  This is also referred to as First Party Medical Benefits.  This coverage will pay for medical bills incurred by the driver or passengers even if the accident wasn’t your fault.  In Pennsylvania, the minimum amount of coverage allowed by law is $5,000.

Full Tort vs Limited Tort

Those looking for PA car insurance should also understand full and limited tort options.  What you chose determines your ability to sue a third party (the other driver involved in an accident) for pain an suffering.  If you select full tort, you retain your right to sue in any and all circumstances.  You can seek compensation for non-monetary damages such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, permanent injuries, scarring, etc.

If you select limited tort you are still able to sue for medical costs related to an auto accident.  However, your ability to sue for pain and suffering is limited to these unique circumstances:

  • Third party has no personal auto insurance
  • Third party was operating a vehicle registered in a state other than Pennsylvania
  • Third party was intentionally try to cause harm
  • Third party was operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs/alcohol
  • The injuries you receive as a result of the accident result in death or serious impairment or disfigurement

The question then becomes, why would anyone chose limited tort?  The main reason is that choosing limited tort reduces your premium.  PA car insurance laws allow drivers to make their own decision about selecting full or limited tort.  It is best to talk to an independent insurance agent to help determine what’s best for you.

Are the PA Car Insurance Minimums Enough?

Many people find it frustrating when an insurance agent informs them that the minimum coverage is not enough.  Yes, the minimums are enough to operate a vehicle legally.  If you are never in an accident, then you will have gambled and won.  But if you are in even a minor accident and found to be at fault, costs mount quickly.

Take, for example, a common scenario where you are driving three co-workers to lunch.  If you have the minimum 15/30 bodily injury liability coverage and all four people in the car are injured, it’s likely that the associated expenses will quickly exceed the $30,000/accident maximum you have on your policy.  Whoever files a claim first with get $15,000 each, but the third and forth injured parties are out of luck and would likely sue you personally for their damages.

Let’s also consider how quickly property damage could exceed the $5,000 minimum required by PA car insurance law.  If you’ve ever hired out for a landscaping project, you know that the cost for just a few bushes, trees and a small sidewalk can cost well over $5,000.  And, of course there are other scenarios — hitting an electrical pole or a business establishment — that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.  The minimum property damage coverage of $5,000 won’t get you far and you would be on the hook for the remaining balance.

Getting PA Car Insurance Right

The very first thing most agents will recommend are increased coverage limits.  For just a few hundred dollars more a year, you can get much higher limits.  But there are other options and enhancement to consider when shopping for PA car insurance as follows:

  • Collision Coverage – Collision pays for damage to your vehicle.  Many people are surprised to find out that’s not even part of the minimum requirements in their state.   But if you don’t have collision coverage and are in an accident, the insurance company would not pay for damage to your vehicle.
  • Comprehensive Coverage – Comprehensive pays for non-accident related damage to your vehicle, like vandalism or storm damage.
  • Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UIM/UM) – UIM/UM coverage helps pay medical expenses if the third party (other driver) involved in an accident is at fault but does not have auto insurance or if their coverage is not sufficient.

There are many other fairly basic options that you should consider when buying auto insurance.  Simple things like rental car reimbursement or towing, just to name a couple.  And some lesser known carriers even offer specialty enhancements like pet coverage, accident forgiveness, no-deducitible windshield replacement and new car replacement.  The best way to find the perfect fit when looking for PA car insurance is to contact an independent insurance agent.  Independent agents, like Element Risk Management, have access to a wide range of carriers so they can customize your coverage in a way that captive agents can’t.  Contact us today for a full review of your current PA car insurance policy.


Risk and opportunity are everywhere.  Know the difference.  Manage them well.