A Guide to Buying Automobile Insurance in Pennsylvania

-From Personal Injury and Accident Lawyer, Gary Heslin


Something I have learned over 30 years of practicing automobile insurance law is that most people don’t understand the ins and outs of automobile insurance. How can they? Automobile insurance laws and policies are large confusing masses of regulations and documents which are constantly changing. What applies this year may not be valid the following year; what is compatible for you currently may not be next year.

After an accident, people tell me they had “full coverage” and expect that their loss will be covered. Sadly, I’m usually the bearer of bad news and have to explain to them that “full coverage” means the minimum amount of insurance that you need to drive a car in the State of Pennsylvania. If that is all of the insurance they have with their policy, their loss may not be covered.

Understanding Insurance Law

To help you better understand Pennsylvania Automobile Insurance Law, my law firm has prepared this guide. We hope it will assist you in making decisions on what type of automobile insurance is best for you and your family. Keep in mind, these are only suggestions, but they are based upon dedicating my practice of over 30 years to issues involving automobile insurance law. Over the years, I’ve seen how a person’s selection of an automobile insurance policy can have devastating effects on the financial future of that person or his family. I sincerely believe that this guide will help you choose the automobile insurance that is best for you and your family.

* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that the average American has a 30% chance of being involved in a serious auto accident in his or her lifetime.

Overview of Pennsylvania Automobile Insurance Coverage

Pennsylvania Automobile Insurance laws are confusing laws that directly affect everybody who owns a car and drives in the state. They require you to make decisions and choices about your automobile insurance coverage that could have a tremendous impact on you or your family if you should ever be injured in an automobile accident.

Simply stated, auto insurance is a contract between you and your insurance company that protects you against financial loss. If you have an accident, automobile insurance policies contain a variety of different coverages that can be purchased depending on your needs and wants. You agree to pay the premium, and in return, the insurance company agrees to pay for certain expenses that are defined in your policy.

Drivers must purchase and maintain automobile insurance in order to legally drive in Pennsylvania. A lapse in insurance coverage may result in the suspension of your vehicle registration privileges for three months unless the lapse of insurance was for a period of fewer than 30 days and the owner proves to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that the vehicle was not operated during the short lapse in coverage. If you are stopped for a moving violation and it is determined that you are operating a vehicle without insurance, you could face the following penalties and expenses:

  •  A minimum of a $300 fine for driving uninsured
  •  A three-month suspension of your vehicle registration
  •  A three-month suspension of your driver’s license
  •  Restoration fees to restore your vehicle registration
  •  Restoration fees to restore your driver’s license
  •  Vehicle impoundment

A Warning About “Full Coverage”

I can’t tell you how many times over the years that victims of auto accidents have told me that their losses should have been covered because they have full coverage. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Full coverage is a term that is often used by insurance agents to mean the minimum required coverage to legally drive a car in the state of Pennsylvania.

Read more: A Guide to Buying Auto Insurance