In the midst of a car accident, it is totally normal to feel overwhelmed. Navigating the aftermath of a vehicle collision may involve extensive medical care, expenses for damages, litigation with other party, and interfacing with law enforcement. Though the circumstances are undoubtedly stressful, it is important to remain calm and try your best to think clearly. As a resident of Pennsylvania, you have certain rights following an accident. In this article, we’ll walk you through what your rights are and what you can do to protect them after a crash.
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, we recognize that car accidents can be traumatic experiences. We express our deepest condolences if you or a loved one were injured in a car crash. With over 60 years of experience, we are eager to put our expertise to work for you. Please reach out to us today for your free consultation. We look forward to winning you the outcome that you deserve.
What Are the Motorist Laws in Pennsylvania?
The Department of Transportation is the brand of the government that oversees the roads, and they have many laws regarding motorists in the state of Pennsylvania. Specifically, regarding accidents, there are a few important bodies of law that you should be aware of.
First, you should be advised that the state of Pennsylvania requires that all motorists carry vehicle liability insurance. Vehicle liability insurance covers medical expenses, lost wages, and any other damages that occur from vehicle-related injuries. More specifically, Pennsylvania law requires a minimum level of coverage, which includes the below.
- $15,000 for bodily injury or death per person in a single accident
- $30,000 for bodily injury or death in total for a single accident
- $5,000 for property damage per accident
If you do not have the appropriate vehicle liability insurance, you can face legal penalties. More serious, though, you likely will be liable to cover any and all damages out of pocket. Accidents can be costly and the expenses may throw you into debt.
Determing Fault in a Car Accident
Second, you should be aware that the state of Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. In a fault state, the driver who is at fault for the accident is responsible for covering the other motorists’ damages. In Pennsylvania, however, fault is assessed in a more nuanced way. Because Pennsylvania is a comparative-negligence jurisdiction, fault in a car accident is determined in degrees. That is, parties will be held accountable for damages depending on their relative responsibility for the crash. If you are less than 51% responsible for a crash, you may still press charges. Here’s an example of how you could expect this to work in a real case.
Let’s say that motorist X was 20% responsible for the crash. On the other hand, motorist Y was 80% responsible. Under comparative negligence, motorist X can hold motorist Y accountable for damages, but his payout will reflect his degree of fault. If motorist X’s damages come out to $100,000, then they will only be able to collect $80,000, to account for their hand in causing the accident. For more background on the no-fault body of laws please review the Information Institute’s comprehensive overview.
In short, the two of the most important things to prove in your case are that you a) were driving legally (obeying all rules and with the proper insurance) and b) were less than 51% at fault. Unfortunately, though, the other party may employ certain tactics to make you second guess your rights. If this happens, try your best to remain level-headed. In the next portion of the article, we outline strategies you can use to make sure your rights remain intact.
Now that I know the laws, what can I do to make sure my rights are not compromised?
The first thing you should do in the wake of a car accident is to seek medical attention– for both yourself and the other driver(s) involved. Even if you feel that your injuries are minor, it is still a good idea to get a medical examination. You may be in shock, and therefore not comprehend the full gravity of your injuries. Moreover, receiving care from a physician is not only the right thing to do for your health, but it is also important to your case. Medical records are often a vital piece of information if your case goes to court.
After seeking medical attention, you will want to gather as much evidence as you can. Even before speaking with the other motorist, try to assess the scene. You’ll want to look for any visual cues you can that can be helpful to your case. Remember, the ultimate goal here is to prove that you are less than 51% responsible for the crash.
Types of evidence could include skid marks on the road, documentation of the damages to your vehicle, or even the position of the cars immediately following the collision. If you are not able to identify any visual markers, consider recording an account of how the crash happened. This could be in writing or even a recorded audio message. Similarly, you will want to contact your lawyer as soon as you can. Your lawyer will work alongside law enforcement to ensure that all of the evidence on the scene is preserved.
Next, you’ll want to consider contacting the police. In the state of Pennsylvania, you are not legally required to report all accidents. However, if anyone was injured, one or more vehicles are incapable of driving away, or if there was a hit and run, you’ll want to contact the police and register your accident.
Finally, before you leave the scene, reach out to any eyewitnesses. If anyone was around to witness the crash, this person may become a valuable asset to your case. Simply approach them, and try to take their information down. One benefit of contacting law enforcement is that if you are too distressed to find eyewitnesses, the police will be able to manage this process for you.
Once you are safe and sound, you may want to gather any supporting documents you need for your case. These could include a copy of your drivers’ license, your vehicle history and registration, your insurance information, and any medical records. Having these documents together will help you move your case forward in a timely fashion.
How Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys can help
We know that car accidents can be particularly trying times in a person’s life. Our hope is that by winning you the best possible outcome, we can make this difficult time a little bit more bearable for you. Our firm is one of the nation’s best personal injury firms, and our lawyers have been named the Best Lawyers in America.
What’s more, our team are experts in motor-related cases; many of our partners focus explicitly on automobile crashes, truck accidents, and even bus accidents to develop a deep and specialized skill set to handle the uniqueness of our clients’ cases. Our results speak for themselves: many of our lawyers have won multi-million dollar settlements for our clients. Please reach out to us today for a risk-free consultation.