Pennsylvania is a unique state. As the snack food capital of the U.S., home of the mushroom capital of the world, and many other culinary delights, Pennsylvania is undoubtedly something special. What else makes PA so rare? Its no-fault car accident laws—and what those laws mean for PA drivers.
As car accident lawyers in PA, at May Herr & Grosh, we have seen firsthand how someone who doesn’t have the right kind of auto insurance or enough coverage can suffer financially and emotionally. We don’t want that to happen to you. If you operate a vehicle in Pennsylvania, you need to understand what our state’s no-fault laws mean for you.
What Does It Mean to Be a No-Fault Insurance State?
As one of only a dozen states that operate under no-fault rules, in Pennsylvania, vehicle owners who are injured in a car accident have their medical bills paid by their own insurance company, no matter who’s at fault for the accident. Your automobile insurer will pay for your medical treatment up to your coverage limits ($5,000 is the minimum amount of first party medical benefits required in the Commonwealth, but you can opt to purchase more).
This rule means that when you cause an auto accident or suffer an injury in a crash caused by another driver, you or your health insurer will be responsible for paying the difference if the cost of your medical care is greater than your “PIP” or first party medpay policy limits. In the event that you did not cause the crash, you can always bring a claim against the negligent driver’s automobile insurer for your out-of-pocket medical expenses (and, under certain circumstances amounts paid by your health insurer), but until you settle your claim, you and your health insurer will be responsible for paying for your accident-related medical care.
“Limited Tort” Versus “Full Tort” Auto Insurance
A tort is a legal term for injury. So when you choose to purchase “limited tort” insurance in Pennsylvania, it limits your rights—and those of anyone else covered under your policy—to get financial compensation for injuries and losses when another driver causes an automobile accident in which you are hurt. With “limited tort” insurance, you can only seek compensation for medical treatment and other out-of-pocket losses, not pain and suffering and other non-economic losses.
On the other hand, a vehicle owner who purchases “full tort” coverage has unlimited rights to receive financial compensation for injuries and other losses when another driver causes a motor vehicle accident. Even though it’s a more expensive option, most drivers believe that the “full tort” option is worth the extra money, as they have the option to pursue full restitution for their crash-related injuries and losses.
What About Serious Injuries?
There are several exceptions that will sometimes allow you to receive “full tort” benefits, even though you elected to purchase “limited tort” insurance. One of the most common is that if an injury sustained in a traffic accident is serious enough, a claimant can seek compensation for pain and suffering and other non-monetary losses notwithstanding their “limited tort” status. A “serious injury” may be serious impairment of a bodily function or severe or permanent disfigurement.
Often, if an injured party is required to undergo surgery as a result of their accident-related injuries, that will be enough to overcome the “limited tort” threshold under Pennsylvania law. Other common exceptions to “limited tort” status will arise if the driver who struck you was driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance or if the vehicle they were driving at the time of the crash was registered in a state other than Pennsylvania.
If any of these circumstances arise, it’s best to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
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What To Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident
A little while ago, we posted about what to do after a hit-and-run car accident. This post-accident process is like what you should do in other types of car crashes, as well. If you are hurt in a car accident due to distracted drivers, drunk driving, or any other reason, you should:
- Get medical treatment for your injuries
- Take notes and photos at the accident site
- Make a police report
- Inform your insurance company
- Call a car accident lawyer
When to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
Since each car accident case is unique, it’s essential to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights. As soon after the accident as possible, contact a car accident lawyer. They can advise you on various issues, from vehicle and property damage to getting the medical treatment you need for your accident-related injuries.
Passenger Injuries and Vehicle Damage
If you are a passenger in a car involved in a crash and you sustain an injury, your medical expenses are covered by automobile insurance in the following priority:
- A policy covering a vehicle for which you are the named insured;
- A policy covering vehicles insured in your household (for which you are an insured):
- For occupants of an insured vehicle, the policy on that vehicle (e.g. if you don’t own an insured vehicle and are a passenger in someone else’s car, you can make a claim for medical benefits against their insurance company);
- For persons not occupying a vehicle (i.e. pedestrians), the policy on any motor vehicle involved in the crash. This will often result in you making a claim for your medical benefits against the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
It’s important to note that another driver’s policy may not cover your total expenses if the driver is not insured or is underinsured, which is why it is important to have health insurance in addition to car insurance.
You should also know that a claim for damage or total loss of a vehicle can be made against the driver who is at fault with no limitations, provided the driver has insurance or adequate assets to pay for repairs. If the at-fault driver is uninsured or does not have adequate coverage to pay for damages to your vehicle, you can make a claim against your own insurance company for repair or replacement costs, assuming you purchased collision coverage for your vehicle.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you whether you are a passenger who sustained an injury or your vehicle sustained damage in an accident.
Do You Have a Car Accident Case? Schedule A Free Phone Consultation!
The attorneys at May Herr & Grosh in Lancaster, PA, are experienced in handling accident cases. If you have been injured due to a serious car crash in southeastern PA, our car accident lawyers are ready to assist you. Schedule a free phone consultation today to discuss your questions with a skillful and knowledgeable attorney.