As personal injury lawyers, one topic that always comes up as a concern to our clients is whether making claims on their own auto insurance will raise their rates.

Here in Pennsylvania, the main thing that will cause your rates to go up is driving dangerously and exposing the insurer to greater than average risk. Dangerous, reckless, or inattentive drivers represent a greater than average risk of the insurance company having to make payouts. The insurer, upon discovering that an individual insured driver represents a greater than average risk of payouts will increase the premiums charged to offset the risk.

The two main ways that your insurance company finds out about dangerous driving habits are your driving record (tickets/”points”) and if you have been at fault in causing an accident[1]. This blog is about what sort of claims you might make against your own insurance and if making any of these claims should raise your auto insurance rate.

Damage to Your Own Car

Unless you have “liability only” coverage, your insurance policy covers you for the costs of damage to your car. Unless you are at fault in causing the damage, presenting a claim for damage to your car should not raise your rates. The insurance company is well aware of the normal risks in the world of other drivers, trees falling on cars, damaging hailstorms, and the like.

The exception here is damage that you cause through your own fault. For example, if you were to drive your car into a telephone pole, that would indicate unsafe driving habits and a larger than average risk of future claims. The insurer would adjust your premiums accordingly.

Medical Bills

Every auto insurance policy sold in Pennsylvania has a minimum of $5,000 in medical benefit attached to it. The idea here is that if you are injured in an auto accident that there ought to be some assurance to first responders and that there will be some money available. Any medical treatment given for injuries sustained in an auto accident must be billed against this $5,000 first

Even if you have private health insurance, a healthcare provider providing medical services for injuries sustained in an auto accident is required to bill against that $5,000 on your auto policy until it is exhausted.

Just as is the case with damage to your car, unless you yourself caused the auto accident giving rise to the claim for medical benefits, making a claim for medical treatment under your auto policy will not increase your premiums.

Why do I have to submit a claim to my own insurance if someone else is at fault?

People who have been in an auto accident are commonly told to submit medical, auto repair, rental, lost wages, and other claims to their own insurance company. For most drivers, this is confusing, nerve-wracking, and even perceived as irresponsible or dismissive advice.

In reality, it is probably good advice as it will get the driver’s immediate needs for transportation, medical treatment, etc. handled faster. In practice, when you submit a claim to your own insurance for damages you suffered at someone else’s hands, they will pay the claim subject to the limits of the coverage involved and adjusting. Then, they will go after the other driver’s insurance to be paid back. This is a process called intercompany arbitration and it is automatic and handled internally by agreement of the insurance companies. 

If you submit a claim to your own insurance for medical damage, or damage done to your car, caused by someone else’s fault it will not raise your rates. You specifically bought insurance in case someone else caused these types of harm to you and the insurance company willingly sold those insurance benefits to you. 

When the other party has insurance, your insurer will get their money back through intercompany arbitration anyway.

The Exception to all of this: Bodily Injury Claims

The one common exception to the foregoing is Bodily Injury claims (“BI Claims”). 

BI claims are commonly referred to as personal injury claims. These have to be submitted directly to the at-fault driver’s insurance by the injured party. This is usually done by hiring a personal injury attorney to present those claims in a way that maximizes value. 

When the at-fault driver has no insurance or not enough insurance to fully compensate the injured driver, the injured driver may then turn back to their own insurance and present an uninsured or underinsured driver claim. 

You can read my piece about the menace of uninsured drivers here. Another interesting read on personal injury claims would be my blog on the limited tort scam.

Even if you are at fault, don’t hesitate to submit claims

Premiums rise with risk. Fault tends to indicate risky or inattentive driving behavior. When an insurer becomes aware of this it will adjust premiums upward to reflect that additional risk.

Where a driver is at fault in an accident claims are going to be made against his policy by the other side via intercompany arbitration and or via the presentation of a personal injury claim. The at-fault driver’s premiums are going to be adjusted upward, so it makes no sense to not take advantage of the coverage you have, even if you are at fault.

If you or someone you love has been injured and wants to pursue a personal injury claim, please contact my office or me, directly. 


[1] In a somewhat Orwellian twist, there are some insurance companies that offer a significant discount to drivers whom allow the insurance company to install tracking equipment in their car, so long as that tracking reveals careful driving. 

The J. Murphy Firm is a personal injury law firm in Pittsburgh. As personal injury lawyers, we cover a variety of cases, such as motorcycle crashes. Our entire staff is competent, compassionate, and client focused. We care about bikers and we understand how to deal with and overcome the potential biases bikers may face after an accident.

The vast majority of motorcycle crash cases are the result of another driver, usually operating a normal passenger vehicle, not seeing the motorcyclist or not judging the motorcyclists’ speed and position properly. Approximately two-thirds of motorcycle crashes where another vehicle is involved are caused by the other driver violating the cyclists’ right of way.

As a legal matter, most of the mistakes I am going to list are actually the other driver’s fault. Unfortunately, the laws of the road and the laws of physics aren’t always the same. As a motorcyclist, you will have to assume that you are invisible to other drivers.

Car Door

This is a pretty common scenario. A motorcyclist is driving in between two lanes of cars and a driver opens his car door right in front of the motorcyclist. Just because you will fit doesn’t mean you should try. Don’t give in to the temptation of squeezing past traffic and stay out of the deadly area between lanes of traffic or between traffic and parked cars.

Left Turn

Another common type of motorcycle accident is where another driver makes a left turn right in front of the oncoming motorcyclist. The average driver is looking out for other cars, and may not see, notice, or grasp the speed of an oncoming motorcycle. Drive defensively and watch out for drivers who might turn left in front of you. It is a good idea for all motorcyclists to get in the mindset that other drivers are simply less likely to see them, and consider that in all situations.

Sharp Corner

This is more common with newer motorcyclists. Not all curves in the road have a constant radius and the speed you enter a curve may not be appropriate throughout the entire curve. Unless you can see the entire curve or are already familiar with it, be careful with your speed and err on the side of caution.


Operating a motorcycle presents challenges and risks far in excess of those involved in operating a normal car or truck. If it is a bad idea to drive a car under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is more than doubly so with a motorcycle. Never, ever, operate a motorcycle when under the influence.


This is a variation on the sharp corner problem. Here you are negotiating a curve, or hill, or trying to stop and there is gravel or loose dirt, or even spilled oil on the roadway. These are possibly hundreds of times more dangerous on a motorcycle. Keep your eyes out for these potential death traps and avoid them at all costs. Never trust that road ahead which you can’t see will be clear of these wipe out hazards.


In his hit, “You May Be Right,” rock star Billy Joel sang about how driving your motorcycle home in the rain proves that you are insane. The good news is that motorcycle and tire technology have both come a long way since that song was released in 1980. While it won’t be pleasant, riding a motorcycle in the rain is a lot safer today. Remember that metal surfaces like streetcar tracks will be extra slippery and take your time.

Lane Changes

This is another nightmare scenario caused by auto drivers not seeing motorcycles. You should anticipate that auto drivers are unlikely to see you and may change lanes in front of you, or even potentially drive into you. Whatever you do, don’t make a crash like this more likely by lingering in the blind spots of cars, vans, and trucks.

We do hope that you enjoy the spring biking season. Please be careful and anticipate that you will be invisible to other drivers. Happy trails!

If you or a loved one has suffered from a personal injury due to a motorcycle accident, contact us.

The J. Murphy Firm are personal injury and auto accident lawyers in Pittsburgh. But, when a victim has been killed, we represent the victim’s survivors as wrongful death lawyers.

What is Wrongful Death?

People die every day, usually because of natural causes. When someone’s life is cut short due to the negligence of someone else, that is called a wrongful death action. We handle wrongful death actions in Pittsburgh and all over Pennsylvania.

When we put on a wrongful death action, it involves two separate types of claims on behalf of the survivors of the person who was killed. One type of claim is called a Death Action, and the other type of claim is called a Survival Action.

What is the difference between a Death Action and a Survival Action?

There are important differences between a death action and a survival action. Those differences have drastic effects on who can bring the case or share in the proceeds of the case. Additionally, how the proceeds of the case can be divided and minimizing the tax liability of those sharing in the proceeds.

Death Actions in Pennsylvania

As noted above, a wrongful death action involves a death action and a survival action. The death action in wrongful death case involves the survivors of the deceased making a claim for the loss of their loved one. People have a right to the love, support, companionship, guidance, and advice of their loved ones. When that loved one is killed by negligence or wrongful conduct, the survivors have a right to sue for what they have lost.

Because it represents the survivors suing for their own loss, the wrongful death claim is owned by the survivors. The basis of the wrongful death action is that the survivors are recovering for a loss. Meaning, payment of a wrongful death settlement or verdict to the survivors of the decedent is generally tax-free.

Survival Actions in Pennsylvania

The survival action in a wrongful death action involves claims for pain and suffering that the deceased went through before they died. If the deceased had lived, they would have been able to sue on their own for these damages. That right to sue for these damages survive the death of the deceased. That is why this action is called a survival action, it is the survival of claims the deceased had at their death.

The survival action is a claim for losses suffered by the deceased themselves. Because of this, the survival claim is the property of the estate of the deceased. Therefore it is subject to estate tax, if large enough.

Lost Wages

A lost wages claim is a claim for wages the deceased would have earned, had they survived. Such a claim for lost wages is normally a part of a survival action. If the deceased had actually earned the money being recovered in the lost wages claim, they would have had to pay income tax on those earnings. As a result, any part of the case that is a lost wage claim is subject to federal income taxes on wages.

Follow us on Facebook or for Part 2 of this blog. In the second part, I will discuss how we protect our clients from paying more than their fair share of taxes due on a wrongful death settlement.