Is Pennsylvania an At-Fault State?
Who Will Pay My Insurance Claim After a Car Accident in Pennsylvania?
All car accidents are, without a doubt, stressful experiences. Even once the initial shock has warn off, you still have so much to consider, including your physical, mental, and emotional recovery. There may be medical expenses and medical bills, property damage, and more. A car accident is not something anyone wants to endure.
Navigating the insurance process can be one of the most overwhelming parts of any car accident case. If you’ve never gone through the claims process before, it can be confusing; and even if you have, no two cases are alike. It’s not uncommon to start getting calls from the insurance company just a day after an accident.
One of the things that can make understanding the claims process so difficult is that it’s incredibly different from state to state. Recovering compensation after a car accident in California will be different than it is in New York. It’s crucial to understand how things work in your state, because the laws surrounding insurance coverage vary drastically around the country. So how does car insurance work in Pennsylvania?
In this article, we’ll explore how the fault system works in Pennsylvania, whether it’s an at fault state, and how all of this can impact your accident claim. Remember, you can contact a car accident lawyer at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation at any time. We are ready and waiting to take your call.
What is the Difference Between Fault and No Fault Insurance?
Throughout the US, states are divided into one of two categories: those that use no fault insurance, and those that use at fault insurance. These systems are vastly different, and change what the aftermath of a car accident looks like. But what exactly is the difference between the at fault system and the no fault system, and how does it impact you?
The At Fault System
In an at fault state, the at fault driver is legally responsible for covering all necessary expenses the victim has incurred from the car accident. Imagine you were to get into a car accident that is clearly the other driver’s fault. Perhaps you were passing through an intersection on a green light, and a drunk driver blasted through their red light and collided with your vehicle. In this accident, it’s clear that the other driver is responsible. If this accident occurred in an at fault state, the negligent driver would be the one responsible for paying all the expenses the accident has created for you — for example, if you were injured and required medical treatment, those medical bills would be the other driver’s financial responsibility. Initially, you would file an insurance claim with the at fault driver’s insurance company to begin this process. If sufficient coverage cannot be acquired through the insurance company, you have the legal right to file a personal injury suit against the driver for additional damages. This is the system that the majority of the country uses.
The No Fault System
In a no fault state, things function differently. Regardless of who has caused the accident, no fault laws dictate that each party uses their own insurance provider to receive coverage for related expenses. Let’s say the same kind of accident explained above happened, where you experienced a crash that was entirely the other party’s fault — but this time, it happens in a no fault state. Rather than filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, and holding them responsible for paying any expenses, you would file an insurance claim with your insurance provider. In other words, fault doesn’t really matter — you’ll be using your own car insurance policy regardless of who caused the accident.
There are a handful of no fault states across the US: Florida, Kansas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Kentucky, Utah, and Pennsylvania.
Why is the Car Insurance System in Pennsylvania Different?
As mentioned previously, Pennsylvania is a no fault insurance state, which means that if you were to experience a car accident in Pennsylvania, you would file an insurance claim with your own insurance company in order to be compensated for your medical expenses and additional fees surrounding the accident.
However, Pennsylvania not a pure no fault insurance state; rather, it uses a unique system that gives drivers the choice of what kind of car insurance policy they want to opt into. This system puts Pennsylvania in the rare position of being a “choice no fault state,” in which drivers choose between two versions of tort insurance.
When a driver goes to purchase auto insurance in Pennsylvania, they will be given two options: limited tort and full tort coverage. The kind of auto insurance they choose will impact how they receive compensation should they experience a car accident.
Full Tort Coverage vs Limited Tort Coverage
Drivers with full tort insurance have essentially chosen not to participate in the no fault insurance system. If a driver with full tort insurance gets into an accident that’s caused by another driver, they can file a lawsuit against that at fault driver’s insurance in order to receive compensation. A personal injury suit like this accounts for far more than just medical bills, those though are certainly considered. When you file a car accident lawsuit against an at fault driver, you can hold them accountable for a myriad of things: lost wages, a lowered earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and more.
If Pennsylvania drivers purchasing auto insurance select limited tort coverage, they are, as the name implies, more limited in their ability to seek compensation after a car accident. A driver with limited tort car insurance is choosing to use the no fault system. With limited tort insurance, while you do have some ability to file a lawsuit, it’s more restricted than it would be to a driver with full tort coverage. If you have limited tort coverage, you can sue another driver only for economic damages such as medical expenses; you cannot sue for any non-monetary issues, such as pain and suffering.
The reality is that the expenses of a car accident are far more than just monetary; they can take away an accident victim’s ability to enjoy life the way they once did. Using limited tort coverage means that you are likely unable to receive compensation for these things.
What Tort Option Should I Choose?
If limited tort insurance puts limitations on what a driver can do and how they can receive damages after a car accident, why would anyone select it? The answer, for most, is that limited tort insurance policies are much cheaper than full tort insurance. Because full tort provides more coverage in the event of a car accident, it tends to be around 15 percent more expensive than limited tort insurance.
Many experts recommend purchasing full tort insurance if possible, given that it offers you a wider range of options in the event of an accident. But of course, the choice is entirely up to you. Limited tort insurance policies may be right for Pennsylvania drivers who are certain they’d never be interested in a lawsuit, or who are operating within a budget
Are There Exceptions to Limited Tort Insurance?
Generally, when a driver chooses to purchase limited tort auto insurance, they’re agreeing to the limitations that this kind of insurance comes with. One of these is an inability to file a personal injury lawsuit for pain and suffering against another driver after a car accident. But while this is the rule, there are some exceptions.
In the majority of cases, a Pennsylvania driver with limited tort insurance cannot sue another driver for non-monetary damages after a car accident, even if that driver is completely at fault. But there are certainly some instances in which it may be possible for a driver with limited tort insurance file a personal injury suit.
A driver’s ability to sue for non-monetary damages in this situation is dependent on the extend of their injuries. If a driver has limited tort coverage, but meets the criteria of a “serious injury” inflicted by the car accident, they may be able to sue the other party or parties involved. Pennsylvania defines serious injuries as: “Bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” An accident victim must be able to prove that they meet this criteria in order to sue.
It’s important to note that this definition of severe injuries is not an easy bar to meet. While there is a definition provided, it’s not overly specific; a great deal up to interpretation when it comes to deciding what qualifies as a serious injury. It’s not out of the question for someone to argue that they meet the criteria, only to be denied. However, if this does happen, it’s not the end of the road. Working with an experienced lawyer, you can absolutely push back against this decision and secure your right to sue.
If you have serious injuries and are interested in the possibility of filing a personal injury lawsuit, don’t hesitate to reach out to Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys. We’re ready and waiting to take your call and help you explore all of the best options for your particular case. Call us today for a free initial consultation.
What is Personal Injury Protection?
Personal injury protection (PIP) is a component of a car insurance plan, and is primarily available to those who live in a no fault insurance state. PIP provides medical benefits coverage if the policy holder is injured in a crash. PIP also offers the same coverage to any passengers traveling in the policyholder’s car at the time of the crash, even if they don’t have their own insurance policy.
PIP plans typically have a per-person maximum, meaning that there’s a cap on the medical expenses they’ll cover for each injured party. PIP coverage applies to anyone injured in an accident, regardless of fault, meaning that at fault drivers are protected as well.
In some states, PIP is entirely optional, while others require drivers to purchase at least a particular minimum. In Pennsylvania, the minimum personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is as follows:
- $5,000 medical benefits
- $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident for bodily injury liability
- $5,000 property damage
Is PIP the Same as Bodily Injury Liability Coverage?
Bodily injury liability coverage is slightly different from PIP. While PIP provides coverage to everyone injured in an accident, including the driver and policy holder, bodily injury liability is designed to help other injured parties in an accident where you are at fault. If you cause an accident and it results in an injury to another party, your bodily injury coverage would be used to cover their medical expenses. It also provides coverage for any property damage the at fault driver may have caused.
Working With Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys
Car accidents are an overwhelming experience for anyone, and no fault insurance rules can feel confusing. But at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, we believe that car accident victims should not have to face any of that alone. We have decades of experience fighting for accident victims; you can visit our Client Victories to explore many of the great successes we’ve had with our clients.
Each of our lawyers is an expert in all things personal injury, and we pride ourselves on treating our clients like family. When you work with Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, you’ll have a partner to lean on every step of the way, and you can really assured that every possible option will be explored on your behalf. If you have questions about the no fault rules in your area, or are an accident victim interested in talking to someone about your case, Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys is here.
Contact us any time for a free consultation to learn how we can protect your interests.
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