It was 1974. “Blazing Saddles” was the box office champ, while “Rockford Files” and “Little House on the Prairie” made their television debuts. “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd was the solo sing-along of choice for shaggy-haired, mustachioed guys who resumed cruising in their muscle cars after the OPEC oil embargo ended that March.1974 also was the year the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted the law that set the state’s minimum limits for automobile insurance coverage. Those limits: $15,000 for bodily injury for one person, $30,000 for two or more persons, and $5,000 for property loss. Those were reasonable minimums for the time: The average price of a home in 1974 was about $35,000. The average annual income was around $13,000, and a typical car cost about $3,800.Here’s the problem: it’s been 41 years, and those limits haven’t been changed since. Raise your hand if you think $15,000 is enough today to cover anyone’s medical expenses after a serious crash that leads to a personal injury lawsuit. We don’t think so, either. Actually, we know so. Our Pennsylvania car accident attorneys are contacted just about every week by yet another person injured in an automobile accident by a driver who carried the state’s minimum required insurance coverage. In many cases, the driver’s insurance company already has cut them a $15,000 check and washed their hands of the situation. Their obligation has been met. In cases of serious injury, though, the victim’s troubles are just beginning, and $15,000 doesn’t begin to cover their losses. When they call our PA personal injury attorneys, they want to know what possible recourse they have. Each case is different, but our often unsatisfying answer goes something like this: They can pursue a civil claim against the underinsured driver and attempt to hold that person financially responsible for their injuries. Even if they win a large judgment, though, they likely won’t recover very much money from someone who could afford only the cheapest possible auto insurance coverage. These outdated coverage limits are 41 years old, which is way past their expiration date. That is why we are calling on all our clients, past and present, to join us in calling upon our state legislators to support a new effort that would finally bring Pennsylvania’s minimum auto insurance coverage closer to the 21st century. As we write this, State Rep. Brian Ellis of Butler County is preparing to introduce a bill that would double the minimum coverage limits to $30,000 for bodily injury for one person, $60,000 for two or more persons in an accident, and $10,000 for property loss. Use this link to identify your state legislators. Please call their offices – taking your calls and talking to you about the laws you wanted passed is part of their jobs – and ask them to support Ellis’s reform bill when it reaches the floor.
Rachel D. Olszewski, an attorney at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., is a dedicated advocate for clients who have suffered unjust harm. Following the legacy of her esteemed family members, Rachel specializes in personal injury, medical malpractice, and criminal defense. She is actively involved in professional associations and serves on the board of the Luzerne County Bar Association Charitable Foundation. Rachel is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania state courts and the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
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