Question: My 18 year old son was seriously injured in a head-on accident in Philadelphia. The other driver’s insurance company called to find out about the accident and told me that there was minimal coverage. What does that mean? Does the other driver still pay for my son’s medical expenses? Can my son still recover for his injuries and damages?
Answer: First, your son’s medical expenses are not covered by the other driver’s auto insurance policy. Rather, they are paid for by your son’s auto insurance company. The reason for this is Pennsylvania’s no-fault law. This means that regardless of fault, an injured insured driver’s medical expenses resulting from a Philadelphia car accident are covered by his own insurance policy pursuant to PIP or medical coverage. If your son’s medical/PIP coverage is exhausted, then he would use his private health insurance to cover his medical expenses. For example, if your son’s PIP coverage is $5,000 and his medical expenses are $8,000, then any medical expenses after $5,000 would be covered by his health insurance.
Second, minimal coverage means that the other driver has the minimum amount of liability coverage, and in Pennsylvania, that amount is $15,000. Your son may still recover for his injuries and damages from the at-fault driver; however, the maximum amount he will be able to recover is $15,000. Therefore, if his injuries and damages exceed $15,000, then he may be able to recover for his injuries from another source – his own auto insurance company by filing an underinsured (UIM) claim.
Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is a type of coverage a driver may choose when buying auto insurance; however this coverage is not mandatory. Therefore, your son may only file a UIM claim if he has UIM coverage.
UIM coverage protects an injured insured driver when the other driver’s liability coverage is insufficient. For instance, if your son’s injuries are valued at $100,000, he may recover $15,000 from the at-fault driver. Then, depending on the amount of UIM coverage he has, he may file a UIM claim with his own insurance company to recover the remaining $85,000 in damages.
Let’s assume your son has $100,000 of UIM coverage. If your son’s injuries are valued at $200,000, the maximum he will be able to recover is $115,000. He would receive $15,000 from the at-fault driver, and he would only be able to receive the maximum UIM coverage, which is $100,000.
Lastly, you don’t have an obligation to talk to the other driver’s insurance company. It is best that you consult with a lawyer and have the lawyer talk to the other driver’s insurance company.
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