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Common Questions Injured Victims Often Have After A Car Accident In Pennsylvania

Car accidents happen every day and can lead to serious injuries.  Victims of car accidents often have questions about their legal rights and what they can recover.  This article addresses and answers some of the common questions and concerns injured victims of car accidents have.

1. Who is going to pay for my medical bills?

Pennsylvania is a no-fault state.  What that means is, regardless of who is at fault for the accident, your own car insurance policy would pay for your medical expenses.  This is called PIP or first party benefits.  In Pennsylvania, there is a minimum of $5,000 that an insured driver must carry on their first party benefits coverage.  Therefore, injured victims in Pennsylvania car accidents who require medical treatment would need to provide their car insurance policy information when they seek medical treatment.

In many car accident cases, injured victims simply do not know that they should provide their car insurance policy information and instead, provide their medical health insurance information. This is a mistake. Many health insurance policies require a co-pay or co-insurance for any medical treatment. However, claims made under PIP or first party benefits coverage do not require any type of co-pay or co-insurance.

Many times, once a co-pay is paid, it is difficult to get it back.  It can also be a hassle to have your medical provider change the insurance information to the car insurance policy.

Therefore, it is important to provide your car insurance policy information when you seek medical treatment in order to avoid these problems and confusion.

2.  What are my legal rights?

In Pennsylvania, car accident victims’ rights depend on two things: 1. the type of car insurance policy purchased (i.e., full tort versus limited tort) and 2. the nature and extent of the injuries sustained in the accident.

When drivers purchase car insurance, they have to choose between a car insurance policy that has "limited tort" or "full-tort."  Though limited tort is less expensive than full tort, it does not allow an insured who is injured in a car accident to sue another party for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering unless an exception is met under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Recovery Responsibility Law (MVFRL).

An injured victim can sue for non-economic damages pursuant to section 1705(d)(1) of the MVFRL if the driver at fault is:

  • convicted of or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance in the accident,
  • operating a vehicle registered in another state,
  • intentionally injures the plaintiff, or
  • the owner of a currently registered motor vehicle and has not maintained financial responsibility as required.

If none of the exceptions apply, the injured person can still seek non-economic damages if he can prove that he sustained a "serious injury."  See part 2 of this article which discusses "serious injury."

Related PA Car Accident Article: Pennsylvania's Limited Tort: When You Can Sue for Pain and Suffering (Part B: Serious Impairment to Body Function)

Therefore, if an injured victim has limited tort, he cannot bring a lawsuit to recover non-economic damages unless one of the above exceptions is met or he suffered a "serious injury."

On the other hand, if the injured victim has full tort, he can bring a lawsuit to recover non-economic damages.

Click here to read part 2 of this article.

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