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It may be tempting, but driving without car insurance in Pennsylvania can have consequences. PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation), fines and license suspensions aside, car insurance provides vital financial protection in case of an accident. Bankrate’s team of insurance experts break down what could happen if you drive without car insurance in Pennsylvania to help you understand why continuous coverage is critical.

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Pennsylvania car insurance laws

Pennsylvania state law requires all drivers to have insurance. The minimum amount of insurance you must have in Pennsylvania is 15/30/5. This means that if you get into an accident, your insurance provider must cover up to:

  • $15,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $5,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $5,000 first-party benefits

First-party benefits coverage is unique to Pennsylvania. It works similarly to what other states call personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and provides, at a minimum, $5,000 of coverage for your medical expenses, regardless of fault.

Pennsylvania is among a small handful of states that have no-fault insurance rules. If you get into an accident, your insurance is responsible for your medical costs and lost wages — no matter who caused the accident.

However, Pennsylvania is even more unique in that you can choose to opt out of fault-based insurance if you want. This means you can choose, when initially signing up for insurance, to have the option to sue an at-fault driver for emotional distress as well as pain and suffering if you get into an accident.

An at-fault policy (or full tort policy) is typically more expensive than a no-fault policy (or limited tort policy). If it sounds unusual, there is a rhyme and reason for limited tort policies. Limited tort policies were created to both lower insurance costs and decrease frivolous lawsuits, which they’ve done, but they do limit your options if you are hurt in a serious car accident.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Pennsylvania

Some drivers may try to skip on car insurance in Pennsylvania to cut down on their monthly budget, but the consequences of doing so can come at a high price, namely in the form of fines and suspensions.

Penalty type First offense
PennDOT fines Minimum of $300
Registration suspension Three months plus $76 restoration fee
License suspension Three months plus $76 restoration fee

Although some states have higher fines for driving without insurance, Pennsylvania’s law is particularly severe regarding registration suspensions. No one can drive your car for the three months that your registration is suspended, as the registration plate, card and driver’s license must all be surrendered to PennDot. This could cause you to have trouble commuting to work. In the end, any initial savings you may have seen by forgoing insurance could be offset by three months worth of lost wages.

While preventing a vehicle registration suspension is possible, you’d have to pay a $500 civil penalty fee to do so. In addition, the $76 restoration fee still applies. These fees, coupled with the initial fine for driving without insurance and the restoration fee for a suspended driver’s license, could exceed $1,000 — the equivalent of about six months’ worth of full coverage in Pennsylvania, on average.

Getting into an accident without insurance

Getting into an accident without insurance can have a devastating impact on your finances. In some states, you must have an SR-2  filed after an uninsured accident. However, Pennsylvania is one of a few states that does not have an SR-22 requirement. Perhaps more significant than the fines and penalties you’d incur if you drove without insurance is the potential for a lawsuit if involved in an uninsured accident. If you do not have sufficient liability insurance during an accident, you may have to liquidate your assets to pay for the other party’s medical bills or property damage. This could put your home, car and retirement savings at risk.

There are many cheap car insurance companies in Pennsylvania. Before considering driving without insurance, it may be a good idea to shop around. Chances are that you may find a policy within your budget.

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