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StateCollege.Com recently reported on a twenty-one year old Penn State student who was run down and left for dead after being hit by an unknown driver on blue course drive in State College. According to the report, the horrific accident occurred around 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning while the Penn State student was walking along the recently built section of blue course drive that connects Atherton Street with West College Avenue. The Penn State student was pulling a wheeled cooler and was struck from behind and was found lying in the street by a taxi cab driver. The crash investigators who arrived on scene were unable to locate much in the way of physical evidence and local State College police have asked anyone with information to contact the Ferguson Township Police Department.

As alarming and troubling as something like this is in our community, it highlights what may be the ultimate tragedy in this case and that is the fact that the Penn State student may not receive compensation for his personal injuries and medical bills depending on his and/or his parents auto insurance.

In Pennsylvania, when someone who is injured by a hit and run driver, whether they are operating a motor vehicle or are simply a pedestrian, their auto insurance will provide coverage for the injured person’s medical bills and personal injuries if they have what is referred to as Uninsured Motorist Coverage. Uninsured motorist cover is known as first party auto insurance coverage, which simply means that your auto insurance company provides insurance coverage to you. While not at issue in this particular case, a pre-condition to recovering uninsured motorist coverage is that the accident must have been reported to the police department, typically within thirty days from the date of the accident.

Unfortunately in Pennsylvania, auto insurance companies are not required to provide uninsured motorist coverage to their insureds and more troubling, many insurance agents will attempt to have a person waive uninsured motorist coverage under the false assumption that the insured will save money on their insurance premium. While this may be true in a literal sense, the amount of saving realized on a yearly insurance premium, typically one hundred dollars or less, pails in comparison to the true costs associated with the type of personal injuries sustained when someone is involved in a car accident with a driver who does not have insurance or flees the scene of the accident. As I have talked about in a prior post, waiving and/or not having sufficient uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage on your auto insurance policy is one the most financially irresponsible things you can do.

Likewise, auto insurance companies are permitted to sell auto insurance policies in Pennsylvania that exclude children who are not residing in the home at the time of the accident. This may seem self explanatory, but unfortunately it is not. Unlike health insurance which allows college age children to maintain health insurance through their parents health insurance provider while they are away at college, auto insurance companies can deny coverage for personal injuries suffered to college aged children while they are away at college simply because they are not “residing” at their parents home at the time of the accident. What this means for the Penn State student who was sustained personal injuries in State College in the early morning hours when he was the victim of hit and run driver is that if his parents car insurance contains a resident relative exclusion, he will not be able to collect the uninsured motorist coverage benefits for his personal injuries and medical expenses. If the same accident occurred while the Penn State student was home on break from college, he likely would be able to collect uninsured motorist benefits under his parents auto insurance policy for the same personal injuries and medical bills. It is important to note that not all States allow auto insurance companies to write car insurance policies that exclude resident relatives personal injury coverage while the resident is temporarily residing at another location.