Anyone who has been in a car accident in Pennsylvania needs to understand the different state laws and insurance requirements that could affect any injury claim made over the accident.
This page provides a guide to our Pennsylvania-specific resources on All-About-Car-Accidents.com, starting with how Pennsylvania's "choice no-fault" car insurance system works. We'll also look at a few state laws that could affect a car accident lawsuit in Pennsylvania -- if your claim qualifies for exemption from no-fault -- and when it might make sense to get help from an experienced lawyer.
After any car accident in Pennsylvania, the first thing to understand is that the state follows a "no-fault" car insurance system. Regardless of who may be to blame for the accident, anyone who has been injured turns first (and often exclusively) to his or her own car insurance coverage to get compensation for injuries and lost income.
One wrinkle in Pennsylvania is that the state is technically "choice no-fault," meaning that purchasers of a car insurance policy have the option of choosing between "full tort" and "limited tort" coverage.
If "limited tort" is chosen, injured drivers and passengers are prohibited from suing anyone unless the accident resulted in "serious injury," which typically requires more than soft tissue injury. In recent Pennsylvania court decisions that have sought to interpret this "serious injury" threshold, qualifying injuries have involved serious impairment of a body function or permanent and serious disfigurement.
Why does exemption from no-fault matter? For one thing, taking a claim outside of no-fault lets an injured person demand compensation for pain and suffering and other kinds of non-economic damages (these aren't available to a claimant under no-fault). For more information, including a breakdown of the car insurance coverage minimums in the state, check out Pennsylvania No-Fault Car Insurance Laws.
If your injury claim is serious enough to let you step outside of Pennsylvania's no-fault system and file a lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident, there are a few state laws that could come into play, starting with the deadline for filing a personal injury case in court. This kind of law is called a "statute of limitations," and every state has one; different deadlines apply to different kinds of cases.
The relevant time limits for filing a lawsuit over a car accident in Pennsylvania are:
If you miss the two-year lawsuit filing window, the court will probably throw your case out, so it's crucial to pay attention to the Pennsylvania statute of limitations as it applies to your claim. Even if you're only making a third party insurance claim against the other driver and you think it's bound to settle outside of court, you always want to keep open the option of turning to the court system for a remedy if the settlement process isn't promising a satisfactory solution.
Learn more about Car Accident Laws in Pennsylvania.
You might not need the assistance of a lawyer in every car accident claim scenario. If you were involved in a minor car accident and you are simply making a claim through your own policy under Pennsylvania's no-fault car insurance rules, you can probably handle it yourself, as long as you're comfortable doing so.
But if you've suffered significant injuries and you think your claim meets the Pennsylvania threshold for taking a car accident case outside of no-fault, you might find that there is a lot more at stake. An experienced lawyer can be your best bet when you're trying to prove that your case qualifies for exemption from no-fault, and once it does qualify, your lawyer will protect your rights at every stage of any liability claim or car accident lawsuit you decide to pursue.