Here in Sun Country, unfortunately, like everywhere else, car accidents happen. In Pennsylvania, the law requires you to maintain automobile insurance with minimum coverage limits for medical benefits ($5,000) and liability coverage ($15,000.00 per person, 30,000.00 per accident.) If you are involved in a car crash, then, even if the crash is someone else's fault, your own insurance pays your medical and wage loss benefits. These are called "no-fault" benefits, and are paid up to the limits of your policy's coverage.
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you have the right to sue the person at fault for your injuries and damages that exceed the limits of your own "no fault" insurance. These costs may include additional medical expenses and wages, as well as damages for pain and suffering. After your own no-fault benefits are exhausted, the liability insurance of the driver at fault comes into play. In addition, if your damages exceed the responsible driver's liability coverage, you can submit another claim to your own insurance company, if you have purchased underinsured motorist coverage. The insurance policy language will specify how a claim for these benefits will be handled.
Moreover, if you are involved in an accident with a driver who does not have insurance, you can submit a claim to your own insurance if you purchased "uninsured motorist" coverage. This coverage acts as a first level of liability coverage if the driver who caused the accident has none.
It is always advisable to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable attorney following a motor vehicle accident. Not only will the attorney make sure you apply for the appropriate benefits but the attorney will also advise you on the best way to protect your potential claim or suit against the responsible driver and his or her liability
insurance company. Often times, witness statements, scene and vehicle evidence, and other important information should be preserved immediately. Failure to do so could jeopardize your claim later. Insurance carriers will often negotiate with counsel represented parties differently than with individuals who represent themselves. Experienced attorneys will also have a much better idea of what your claim is worth and whether or not the insurance carrier is negotiating with you in good faith.
In addition, in Pennsylvania, you can elect either "limited" or "full" tort coverage. With full tort coverage, an injured person is entitled to be compensated for pain and suffering regardless of how serious the injuries are. On the other hand, an injured individual who elected limited tort coverage must prove a "serious injury" in order to recover for pain and suffering. A "serious injury" is defined as a "personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement." Limited tort coverage costs less in premium but restricts rights to sue. As a result, it is best to have full tort coverage.
A limited tort case is often difficult to negotiate or litigate. Since most disputes center on whether there has been a "serious impairment of body function" your attorney will need to fully evaluate and explore how your injury has affected the activities of your daily life. What could you do before the accident that you can't do now? Is the restriction temporary or permanent? What does your doctor say? Only by careful evaluation and proper documentation can such a claim be successful.
No fault insurance is only half the story. In reality, as far as motor vehicle accidents are concerned, Pennsylvania is a part no-fault and part fault state. Knowing your rights and your options is essential to being fully compensated.