Being in even a minor car accident isn’t much fun. But, if the accident is serious enough, you may suffer physical or emotional injuries, on top of having your vehicle damaged. All of this can become quite expensive. Most people probably immediately think of suing the other driver involved in a car accident. In, Pennsylvania, however, this is not always an option.
In personal injury cases, the plaintiff will allege that the defendant acted negligently and, as a result, caused injury to the plaintiff. A person acts negligently if they do not take reasonable care to avoid harming others. In car accidents, this could mean someone went through a red light, was distracted or not paying attention or was driving over the speed limit.
All drivers have a duty of reasonable care to avoid hurting anyone they encounter while driving. A breach of this duty occurs when the conduct of the driver falls below what the conduct of a reasonable person would have been in a similar circumstance.
If it is shown that the duty of reasonable care has been breached, the plaintiff must then prove the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries. There exist a wide range of injuries that can be caused by a car accident, from the physical, like a broken bone, to the emotional, like pain and suffering or even post-traumatic stress disorder. The level of difficulty in proving if the defendant caused a plaintiff’s injuries will largely depend on the nature of the injury claimed.
Finally, a plaintiff must show that he or she actually suffered some sort of harm, whether it is monetary loss (such as damage to a car) or an injury. A plaintiff may recover for such items as medical bills, lost income or earning capacity, pain and suffering, and property damage. If a plaintiff cannot demonstrate any sort of loss, the plaintiff may not recover anything.
Laws Specific to Pennsylvania
Importantly, Pennsylvania allows drivers to choose either “limited tort” or “full tort” automobile insurance. If limited tort is chosen, this means that a person involved in a car accident cannot file a lawsuit against the other driver to recover damages. Instead, the person’s own insurance company will pay for items such as medical bills. However, it is possible to file a claim against the other driver if you sustain certain “severe injuries.” In Pennsylvania, “severe injuries” are determined by what is known as a “verbal threshold,” as opposed to a “monetary threshold.” This means the nature and/or severity of the injury is determinative and not the monetary cost of the injury.
It is important to note that it is possible for Pennsylvania drivers to opt for full tort automobile insurance,, which would allow for the possibility of filing a lawsuit against another driver in an accident, even if not deemed to cause a “severe injury.”
Under Pennsylvania law, a person has only two years to file a lawsuit to recover damages from someone who acted negligently. In legal terms, this is known as the statute of limitations. If a person files suit after the statute of limitations has expired, their ability to recover compensation will likely be lost.
Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys
If you have been injured in a car accident, you should discuss your situation with an attorney as soon as possible in order to fully protect your rights. The Pearce Law Firm, P.C. has the expertise and experience to help you obtain a timely settlement or proceed to trial. Contact us today with any questions you may have.