Car accidents are a fact of life. In fact, in 2022 alone, there were 115,938 reportable car accidents in Pennsylvania, not including minor fender benders that weren’t reported. The unfortunate part? These car wrecks injured 67,012 people and claimed the lives of 1,179 others.
There is no doubt that being involved in a serious car crash can change the very trajectory of your life. If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Pennsylvania and the other person was at fault, can you hold them accountable for your costs and other damages? The answer: it depends.
How Your Car Insurance Affects What You Can Hold Another Driver Liable For in Pennsylvania
Every state handles car accidents and insurance differently.
Pennsylvania requires that every motor vehicle must be insured. Liability insurance covers other drivers. The minimum requirement for liability coverage is $15,000 per person, $30,000 per crash, and $5,000 in property damage coverage. Drivers are also required to have at least $5,000 in personal injury protection coverage. Personal injury protection covers the insured driver and anyone else in the car. Drivers also have the ability to purchase uninsured motorist protection or underinsured motorist protection.
In Pennsylvania, we are a hybrid no-fault insurance state. As a driver, you can choose between a “limited tort,” no-fault insurance option of insurance coverage or the traditional “full tort” insurance coverage. But depending on the type you pick, it will have an effect on how you pursue a claim when you’ve been in an accident, especially how you will be able to hold the other driver accountable. How does this work?
What is the Difference Between the Two?
The term “tort” refers to the ability to sue someone in a civil case. No-fault insurance laws were specifically designed to reduce the litigious nature and court involvement of accident claims. But they can also be limiting.
If you have limited tort or no-fault coverage, your own insurance will compensate you for your costs and damages after an accident, no matter who was at fault. Your own PIP coverage will compensate you for “economic damages,” which are your quantifiable losses. These include your medical expenses, the cost to repair or replace your car, and any lost wages due to missed work. The upside? It’s usually less expensive. The downside? You won’t be able to sue an at-fault driver unless your injuries are serious enough to meet a certain threshold.
Full tort coverage allows you to pursue a claim against an at-fault driver. If you’ve been injured in an accident that was fully or partially caused by another driver, with full tort coverage, you can file a claim against their liability insurance or file a car accident lawsuit against them. In this case, you will be able to seek economic damages as well as your non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish.
Other Things to Consider
If that isn’t confusing enough, Pennsylvania uses a modified comparative fault rule when determining who was responsible for an accident.
In this model, the fault is divided between everyone involved in the accident. For instance, you may have been hit by another driver, but you also may have done something that contributed to that accident. If you are filing a claim against the other driver, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault that was attributed to you. If you are found over 50 percent at fault, you will not be entitled to recover any damages at all.
So, who decides the percentage of fault for an accident? In most cases, it’s the very people who are responsible for the car accident settlement – the insurance company. Unfortunately, this can become a complicated predicament, especially when there are multiple drivers and insurance companies involved. And it can have a significant effect on your compensation.
How Can You Limit Your Own Liability After an Accident?
What you say and do immediately after an accident can have an effect on the level of fault you’re attributed – and your compensation.
You might inadvertently tell another driver that you’re sorry, but this can be construed as an admission of fault. Don’t discuss the accident with others involved, and keep your comments limited to exchanging information. Unfortunately, the insurance company will use what you say as a reason to avoid paying a claim.
Should You Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Not all car wrecks will require the help of a car accident lawyer. If the accident is minor with no injuries, a lawyer will not be able to help much.
But if your accident resulted in serious injuries and significant damages, a lawyer can protect your interests to ensure your ability to collect compensation from liable parties. Your lawyer can even protect you in a claim with your own insurance company. After all, insurance companies want to limit their financial exposure after an accident, whether it’s a settlement with their own insured party or another injured individual. They often look for any reason not to pay a claim.
A car accident attorney will help you understand and navigate the claims process, communicate with the insurance company on your behalf, obtain evidence that supports your case, and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure you get the best possible settlement. If a fair settlement isn’t possible, your lawyer can pursue it further in court.
Car accidents and insurance claims are physically and financially overwhelming. At Silver & Silver, it is our goal to ensure that you get the maximum compensation you deserve after a car wreck. We fully understand the intricacies of Pennsylvania law and how insurance companies try to reduce car accident settlements. You never pay legal fees unless we secure compensation on your behalf. If you have been injured in a car accident in Pennsylvania, schedule a free consultation at (610) 658-1900 or through our online contact form.
This website is designed to provide only general information. The information presented on this website is not formal legal advice. You should not rely on any general information from any source for making legal decisions. Each legal matter is unique and requires specific attention from a qualified and experienced attorney. Unless a representation agreement has been signed with the Law Offices of Silver and Silver, we are not your legal representatives.