If you have been involved in a collision or any other kind of motor vehicle accident, you can seek compensation for your injuries, property loss, and other damages. Under personal injury law, you can sue the party at fault for causing the accident. The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of injury.
It is important to know that Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. Rules governing insurance vary by jurisdiction. Some states apply “at-fault” rules, while others apply “no-fault” rules. If you have been involved in a car accident in Pennsylvania, the laws may be different from other states you have experience with. Before you proceed with a legal action of any kind, it is helpful to understand what “no-fault” means and how it differs from rules governing at-fault states.
In a no-fault state, the insurance company of each party involved in an accident compensates its policyholder without regard as to who was at fault for the accident. There is no need in most cases to determine who is at fault for the accident because your own insurance company will be liable for your injuries.
Most states in the U.S. follow an at-fault system, which means that liability is based on tort law, under which the at-fault party is held responsible for the degree of damages that they caused. According to 2019 PennDOT data, 1 out of every 45 people was involved in a reportable crash accident in Pennsylvania.
Difference Between Tort and No-fault States
In a no-fault state, your insurance policy covers your own injuries and the damages you might suffer. If you live in a no-fault state, also called a tort state, the blame and financial responsibility rests on the individuals responsible for the accident or injury. The person responsible for paying damages, including medical bills and property damage, is the one responsible for the incident. Therefore, in tort states, the other person and/or the insurance company are liable for paying your damages. Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, meaning that your insurance company should pay you for damages. It is important to highlight, however, that there may be a limit to the amount of compensation you can recover.
How to Obtain Personal Injury Compensation in Pennsylvania
To begin the process, you will have to file a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim with your Pennsylvania insurance provider. A PIP is a claim that you make on your own insurance policy for payment of losses like medical expenses and lost wages. Your insurer will pay your medical bills and will reimburse you for some or all of your lost earnings up to the amount of your claim. Some insurance companies have policy limitations on the claim amount.
The no-fault system limits the amount of compensation you may be able to recover for damages. Most insurance companies pay the least amount of compensation required by law. Some companies find creative ways to limit their liability. Therefore, it is prudent to discuss your situation with a lawyer so that you are fully informed when dealing with an insurance company.
If your covered expenses exceed the policy limits, you will be responsible to pay for the difference yourself. You will be accountable for the remaining amount. It may alternatively be possible to opt-out of this system and file a third-party insurance claim; however, you will be subject to state imposed thresholds.
Limited Tort vs Full Tort Coverage in Pennsylvania
Under the no-fault system in Pennsylvania, there are two types of insurance coverage to choose from – Limited Tort or Full Tort.
- Limited Tort– As the name suggests, limited tort restricts your right to recover compensation for certain kinds of damages. You are still able to file a claim to recover compensation for monetary damages like medical expenses related to injuries caused by the accident; however, under this option, you will not be able to recover compensation for pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages. Choosing limited tort typically saves the policy holder money on their monthly premium.
- Full Tort– With full tort, you will be able to recover compensation for pain and suffering and other non-monetary losses, which may be possible even if your physical injuries are not as serious. This is typically a more expensive insurance option. Saving money up front by waiving the right to recover compensation for pain and suffering may sound like a good idea at first, but motor vehicle accidents leave more than physical injuries. These incidents can have lasting mental and emotional effects.
When choosing, it is essential to balance the amount of savings you receive on your monthly premium against the potentially long lasting damage a harmful car accident could cause.
Vehicle and Repair Damages in No-fault States
In Pennsylvania, insurance coverage applies only to injuries and certain other types of damages caused by a car accident. If you want to recover full compensation for a damaged vehicle, you can sue the at-fault driver. It is important to note that there are no limitations for seeking compensation for vehicle damages.
Minimum Insurance Laws in Pennsylvania
Following are the minimum amount of insurance coverage required by Pennsylvania:
- $15,000 in personal injury protection for the third parties
- $5,000 in property damage protection, per injured person
- $5,000 in the no-fault personal injury protection coverage
- $30,000 in total accident PIP for third parties
If you do not meet the minimum requirements, you will be responsible for expenses out-of-pocket. You will have to pay any remaining amounts owed to creditors, such as healthcare providers, on your own.
What if my medical bills exceed the coverage amount?
You can receive compensation for medical bills, as per the policy limit. You can even seek compensation from your health insurance provider. However, it can be difficult to recover compensation from both insurance policies. Therefore, it is ideal to get in touch with an auto accident attorney to help you proceed with your case fully informed of your options.
Is it possible to recover compensation for pain and suffering?
Yes, it is possible to recover compensation for pain and suffering in a no-fault state. As mentioned above, you can either choose a full tort insurance policy, or file a third-party insurance claim. In limited cases, you can file a lawsuit or third-party insurance claim against an at-fault driver in Pennsylvania. The responsible party may then be liable for certain damages if you are successful. An experienced personal injury lawyer will discuss all legal remedies available under the circumstances
You can file an injury claim!
You can file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party; however, you must meet certain criteria to do so. It is ideal to speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer who understands the entire process and its limitations. No-fault states like Pennsylvania have tricky rules for applying liability and recording compensation after an automobile accident. Only a minority of states follow the no-fault rules, and Pennsylvania is one of them. If you live in Pennsylvania, it is important to know minimum coverage amounts, restrictions on recovering compensation from another party, and the differences between types of coverage.
An attorney plays a significant role in recovering car accident compensation. Insurance companies will try to reduce the amount of compensation owed to you or will attempt to settle with much lower compensation than what you are owed. An experienced car accident lawyer will help you get the appropriate compensation you deserve under the law.