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I was in a car accident in PA and my teenaged son was in the car with me. We were both injured. What are our legal rights?

 

A:

You may be able to sue the driver who caused the car accident.  However, before I discuss the lawsuit, I need to tell you about your medical benefits from your car insurance policy.

The law in Pennsylvania requires an injured driver's car insurance company to pay for the medical expenses resulting from a car accident, even if the accident was not the injured driver's fault.  Therefore, if you need medical treatment, your car insurance policy would cover the medical expenses.  This is the medical benefits or PIP benefits coverage in your car insurance policy.  Your PIP benefits also cover other members of the household living in the home.  Therefore, your son's medical expenses would also be covered by your car insurance policy.

PIP benefits will pay for medical expenses up to the limit you purchased.  The minimum PIP coverage an insured driver must carry in Pennsylvania is $5,000 per person, per accident.  Therefore, both you and your son would be eligible for at least $5,000 of medical benefits coverage.  You may have bought a higher amount of coverage, so you need to check your policy for the amount available.

If you have the minimum medical coverage of $5,000, that amount can be exhausted quickly. Once the PIP coverage is exhausted, your medical bills would be covered by your health insurance.  If you have co-pays, deductibles, etc., these out of pocket expenses may be recoverable from the at-fault driver in a PA car accident lawsuit.

In terms of a car accident lawsuit, you and your son may file a complaint against the driver.  You should not file a complaint without consulting a personal injury lawyer because the process is complicated and should be done by a lawyer.

Related: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Pedestrian-Car Accidents - Children Hit By Cars & Their Legal Rights

However, you may only file a car accident injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania under certain circumstances.  When buying a car insurance policy in PA, the driver has to choose "full tort" or "limited tort."  Full tort allows the insured driver to file a lawsuit for economic and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering regardless of the severity of injury.

On the other hand, an insured driver who has limited tort cannot sue for non-economic damages after a car accident unless his injuries are serious or permanent.  There are exceptions to this rule.  For example, if a driver at fault is an out of state driver, such as NJ, or if the driver is convicted of driving while intoxicated, then the injured driver may file a lawsuit to recover non-economic damages even if he has limited tort.

It is important to talk to a PA car accident lawyer who can go over all of these issues with you.  Feel free to call my office at 877.944.8396 to schedule a FREE case consultation.


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