Pennsylvania No-Fault Car Insurance Requirements

How Pennsylvania's "choice" no-fault car insurance system works, Pennsylvania's minimum car insurance requirements, and more.

By , J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

You're required to carry certain minimum amounts of car insurance coverage on any vehicle you own and operate in Pennsylvania. Here's what to know:

  • Pennsylvania is one of around a dozen states that follow some version of a no-fault car insurance system.
  • Pennsylvania drivers must choose between "limited tort" and "full tort" coverage when buying a car insurance policy.
  • Driving without required minimum car insurance coverage in Pennsylvania could expose you to a number of penalties and significant financial risk.

Is Pennsylvania a No-Fault State?

Pennsylvania follows a somewhat unique variation of a "no-fault" car insurance system.

Under no-fault, after a car accident, your own car insurance coverage (called "medical payments" coverage in Pennsylvania) pays for medical treatment and other out-of-pocket losses incurred by anyone covered under the policy, up to coverage limits, regardless of who caused the accident.

In order to step outside of the no-fault system and file a third-party insurance claim or car accident lawsuit against the at-fault driver, your injuries must meet certain thresholds set by state law.

Pennsylvania's no-fault system is fairly unique in that vehicle owners can essentially "opt out" of the no-fault system when they purchase a car insurance policy. Pennsylvania Statutes Title 75 section 1705 requires insurance companies to inform customers of their coverage options when it comes to opting in or out. Let's take a closer look at these two options.

Limited Tort Vs. Full Tort Coverage in Pennsylvania

"Limited Tort" coverage, as the name suggests, limits your right (and the right of family/household members and anyone else covered under your policy) to get financial compensation for injuries and other losses when another driver causes a car accident.

Under this option, a claimant may seek recovery for all medical treatment and other out-of-pocket losses caused by the accident, but not for pain and suffering or other nonmonetary losses, unless the car accident injuries qualify as "serious," which usually means something more than soft tissue injury. Even head injuries might not qualify unless they're fairly significant.

According to recent Pennsylvania court decisions, "serious injury" typically requires serious impairment of a body function, or permanent and serious disfigurement. You can see all the details at Pennsylvania Statutes Title 75, Section 1705.

"Full Tort" coverage, which is more expensive, gives you and your covered family/household members unlimited rights when it comes to getting financial compensation for injuries and other losses when another driver causes a car accident. You're able to recover for:

  • the cost of all medical treatment and other covered out-of-pocket losses, and
  • pain and suffering and other nonmonetary losses stemming from the accident, even if your injuries don't qualify as "serious" under the statutory definition.

It's important to note that Pennsylvania's no-fault car insurance system applies to injuries caused by car accidents, but not vehicle damage claims. A claim for damage to (or total loss of) a vehicle can be made against the at-fault driver, with no limitations.

Now that you understand how no-fault car insurance works in Pennsylvania, and the difference between "limited" and "full" tort, let's examine the state's requirements for different kinds of car insurance coverage.

Minimum Car Insurance Coverage Requirements in Pennsylvania

In order to drive a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania, vehicle owners must carry certain minimum amounts of insurance on it:

  • $5,000 in no-fault "medical benefits" coverage, which pays your medical bills (or the medical bills of anyone else who is covered under the terms of your policy) after an accident, regardless of who was at fault
  • $15,000 for bodily injury liability, per injured person (when you cause an accident)
  • $30,000 total bodily injury liability per accident (when you're at fault), and
  • $5,000 per occurrence property damage protection (when you're at fault).

Pennsylvania also recognizes certain all-purpose car insurance policies as long as there is a minimum of $35,000 in total coverage.

Keep in mind that, if you're found responsible for causing a car accident, and the injured drivers' and/or passengers' losses exceed the limits of your car insurance policy (which is not all that far-fetched a possibility if you've only met Pennsylvania's minimum coverage requirements), you may find yourself personally responsible for making up the difference out of your own assets.

What Are the Penalties for Driving Without Insurance In Pennsylvania?

According to the Pennsylvania DMV, anyone caught driving without required liability insurance in the state could face:

  • a minimum $300 fine
  • a three-month suspension of vehicle registration and/or driver's license
  • restoration fees to restore your vehicle registration and/or driver's license, and
  • vehicle use restrictions.

Of course, if you're driving without insurance and you cause a car accident, these penalties could pale in comparison with the financial hit you might take.

Getting Help After a Pennsylvania Car Accident

It always makes sense to arm yourself with a basic understanding of Pennsylvania's car insurance rules, but when you're actually injured in a car accident, you might need more than just information.

Remember, when your car accident injuries are significant enough—and someone else is responsible for your crash—there's a good chance you might be entitled to step outside of Pennsylvania's no-fault rules and hold the other driver responsible for the full spectrum of your accident-related losses. An experienced legal professional can consider the specifics of your situation and help you decide on the best course of action.

Learn more about when you might need a lawyer after a car accident, and how to find the right attorney for an injury case.

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