Earlier this month, a horrific car accident in Lehigh County, PA claimed the lives of 2 men while they were waiting for a bus. A 26 year old woman driving a sports utility vehicle struck a utility pole and swerved toward the victims and others, and ultimately crashed and killed the 2 men. The car also crashed into 2 other men from Allentown, PA, and they remain in serious condition.
In a similar accident just last week, 2 pedestrians in East Brunswick, New Jersey were killed when a car crashed into them and 3 others while they were walking home from a synagogue. The driver also struck a pole prior to crashing into the pedestrians. The driver had a dog in the car, and it is unclear whether the dog played a role in the accident.
The rights of the injured pedestrian victims in these 2 car accidents can be very different simply because they happened in different states. This article will only discuss the rights of the injured victims and not the deceased victims. The reason is that the deceased pedestrian victims in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have the same legal rights and their surviving family members/estates can sue the negligent drivers.
Before we discuss NJ and PA injured pedestrians' rights to recover damages in a car accident, we must explain "limited tort," as it is called in PA or "limitation on lawsuit," as it is called in New Jersey.
Pennsylvania "Limited Tort"
Pursuant to the PA Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), if an insured driver elects full tort on his/her insurance policy, every insured driver and the members of his/her household injured in a car accident have the right to seek compensation for:
1. all economic damages in excess of required first-party benefits, such as out of pocket medical expenses; and
2. all non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
However, pursuant to Section 1705 of MVFRL, a named insured can elect the limited tort option, which waives his/her rights and the rights of his/her household members to recover non-economic damages, unless the injury sustained is "serious."
The benefit of electing limited tort is that the named insured gets a discounted insurance premium.
New Jersey "Limitation on Lawsuit"
In New Jersey, there are similar tort options an insured driver must choose on his/her insurance policy. If a driver chooses the limitation on lawsuit option, the injured insured cannot bring a claim against the negligent driver for non-economic damages unless the injuries meet one of 6 specific types of injuries, which will not be discussed in this article.
If an insured has no limitation on lawsuit, he/she may bring a claim for any injuries sustained regardless of the severity of his/her injuries.