Have you found yourself in the unfortunate situation of being found at fault for an accident in Pennsylvania? This could happen to anyone. That’s why it’s important to understand your rights and take appropriate steps to navigate the legal territory.
At GSAS Law, we recognize the complexities surrounding accidents. Whether they involve pedestrians, cyclists, or other parties, we can help. We want you to make informed decisions while avoiding potential pitfalls.
Understanding Your Situation: Found at Fault
In Pennsylvania, being found at fault for a car accident doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your pursuit for compensation. It’s important to understand the nuances of the legal framework governing fault and recovery. Pennsylvania operates under a modified comparative fault rule. This allows you to seek damages even if you bear a percentage of the blame.
Are you found partially at fault? The compensation you receive is proportionally reduced by your percentage of fault. For instance, if your damages amount to $10,000, and you’re deemed 20% at fault, the other driver’s insurance would cover $8,000. This modified comparative fault rule is applicable as long as your fault is equal to or less than 50%. This ensures that even if you share responsibility, you may still be eligible for compensation.
Pennsylvania’s choice no-fault system adds another layer of complexity. This means you have the option to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage or not. When purchasing insurance, drivers must choose between “limited tort” (no-fault) and “full tort” (at-fault) coverage. This decision significantly impacts your ability to seek damages. Carrying the no fault/PIP insurance allows you to file a claim with your own insurance provider. It doesn’t matter who was at fault in the accident. This provides a level of flexibility in seeking compensation, regardless of fault determination.
Moreover, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for filing a car accident claim is two years from the date of the incident. This emphasizes the importance of taking timely action to protect your rights and pursue the compensation you may be entitled to.
Car Accidents: Civil Cases or Criminal Cases in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the consequences of a car accident are typically treated as a civil case. This means that individuals who suffered harm have the right to pursue compensation through a civil claim. However, certain circumstances may elevate a car crash to a criminal case.
When is a Car Accident a Civil Case?
- Compensation Seeking. A car accident is considered a civil case when an injury victim seeks compensation through a lawsuit. Most cases are resolved through insurance claims or settlements. However, individuals may choose to file a personal injury claim to pursue higher compensation.
- Filing a Lawsuit. Not every car accident automatically becomes a civil case. Filing a lawsuit is a deliberate choice made by those seeking additional compensation.
When is a Car Accident a Criminal Case?
- DUI Incidents. Car accidents involving DUI (Driving Under the Influence) can lead to criminal charges. Pennsylvania has strict DUI laws. If a driver is under the influence and causes harm, they may face criminal prosecution. This can potentially result in prison time and fines.
- Hit and Run Offenses. Hit and run accidents, where a driver flees the scene, can lead to criminal charges. The severity of charges increases if there are serious injuries or fatalities involved. This can potentially lead to felony charges with significant penalties.
- Reckless Driving. Reckless driving, characterized by complete disregard for safety and property, can lead to criminal charges. Examples include speeding, tailgating, distracted driving, and texting while driving. Penalties for reckless driving in Pennsylvania vary from fines and license suspension to jail time.
Understanding the distinction between civil and criminal cases is very important. While most cases fall under civil jurisdiction, certain behaviors elevate accidents to criminal status.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents: Special Considerations
Sharing the road with pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vulnerable road users requires a heightened sense of responsibility. In cases involving a pedestrian accident or a bicycle accident, the stakes are higher, and the legal landscape can be more intricate.
Pedestrians: Disturbing Statistics
In Pennsylvania, pedestrian-related crashes constitute 2.7% of all reported traffic accidents, yet they account for a staggering 12.9% of traffic crash fatalities. The year 2021 witnessed a disheartening 24% increase in pedestrian deaths from the previous year, with 186 lives lost—the highest number in four decades. These statistics underscore the urgency of adopting safer driving practices, especially when sharing the road with pedestrians.
Bicyclists: Escalating Concerns
In 2021, 24 bicyclists lost their lives in accidents in Pennsylvania, marking a 9% increase from the year 2020. The upward trend is even more concerning when considering the 50% rise in bicyclist deaths between 2019 and 2021. As advocates for road safety, GSAS Law urges all vehicle operators to exercise caution and respect when encountering cyclists on the road, reducing the risks associated with these accidents.
Legal Protections for Injured Pedestrians
Pennsylvania law recognizes the vulnerability of pedestrians and provides essential protections for those injured in accidents. In the event of an accident, the medical bills of an injured pedestrian are covered up to the amount specified under the applicable auto insurance policy. This ensures that victims receive the necessary medical care without shouldering an undue financial burden.
Determining Liability: Who is at Fault?
Understanding the nuances of fault determination in Pennsylvania is essential for navigating the aftermath of a car accident. Unlike some states, Pennsylvania operates as a modified comparative negligence state, adding a layer of complexity to the process of assigning fault.
Comparative Negligence Frameworks
Different states employ varying approaches when multiple parties share fault in an accident. Two extreme models include pure contributory negligence and pure comparative negligence. In pure contributory negligence states, even a slight percentage of fault can bar a party from seeking damages. Only five states still adhere to this stringent rule.
On the other hand, pure comparative negligence allows a party to recover damages regardless of their degree of fault. However, the damage award is proportionally reduced based on their percentage of responsibility. Pennsylvania falls into a different category—it is a modified comparative negligence state.
Pennsylvania’s Modified Comparative Negligence
In Pennsylvania, a claimant maintains the right to pursue a damage award as long as their fault does not exceed 50%. The state follows a 51% rule, meaning you can recover damages as long as you are found to be less than 51% at fault. However, if your fault is equal to or greater than 51%, you are barred from seeking damages.
It’s crucial to note that even if you are eligible for compensation, your damage award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you were found 30% at fault for an accident with damages totaling $10,000, your compensation would be reduced to $7,000.
Dealing with Citations: Impact on Your Case
If you’ve been cited in connection with the accident, it can have implications for your legal standing. Understanding how citations may affect your case is vital. The attorneys at GSAS Law can guide you through this process.
When dealing with citations in the after a car accident in Pennsylvania, understanding the implications on your driving record is crucial.
- Recording Summary Traffic Offenses
In Pennsylvania, a summary traffic offense, such as a citation, is recorded in your driving history but does not appear on your criminal record. However, it’s essential to be aware of the lasting effects on your driving record, especially in the case of a speeding ticket.
- Duration on Driving Record
A speeding ticket, a common citation in accidents, stays on your driving record for one year. To mitigate its impact and potentially remove it from your record, consider the following options:
- Dispute the Ticket in Court. Contesting the ticket in court provides an opportunity to present your case and potentially have the citation dismissed.
- Defensive Driving Course. Taking a defensive driving course within 30 days of receiving the ticket can contribute to the removal of the speeding ticket from your driving record.
- Citations and Driving Records
It’s important to note that citations themselves do not appear on your driving record; only convictions are recorded. Whether you pay the fine immediately or arrange a payment plan makes no difference in this regard.
- Checking License Points
You can monitor the points on your license in Pennsylvania by visiting the Department of Transportation website. There is an $11 fee to check on your license points.
Navigating the Insurance Claim Process
In Pennsylvania, following up after a car accident involves a unique set of rules and procedures, especially when it comes to the insurance claim process.
Recovery of Damages if Found at Fault
Even if you are found at fault for an auto accident in Pennsylvania, you may still be eligible to recover damages. If the fault assigned to you is equal to or less than 50%, your insurance company should partially cover your damages. Understanding the intricacies of fault determination is crucial to maximize your potential compensation.
Understanding Possible Reasons for Denial
- Policy Exclusions: Review your insurance policy for any exclusions that might apply to your situation. Certain policies may have specific clauses that limit coverage in certain circumstances.
- Late Reporting: Delay in reporting the accident to your insurance company can be grounds for denial. Insurance policies often require prompt reporting to facilitate timely investigation.
- Policy Lapses: If your insurance policy lapsed or was not in effect at the time of the accident, your claim may be denied. Maintaining continuous coverage is crucial for claim eligibility.
You Have the Right to Challenge Denials
You don’t have to accept a claim denial. Insurance companies provide a service to others while maximizing their profits. Insurance policies and processes can be intricate and difficult to interpret. If your claim has been denied by an insurance company, hope is not lost.
Steps to Take After a Denied Claim
- Review the Denial Letter: Carefully review the denial letter from your insurance company. It should outline the specific reasons for the denial and any relevant policy provisions.
- Consult with an Attorney: Seeking legal advice is crucial when facing a denied claim. An experienced attorney can review the denial letter, assess the validity of the denial, and guide you on potential next steps.
- Appeal the Decision: In some cases, insurance companies allow policyholders to appeal a denial. Your attorney can assist in preparing a strong appeal, addressing the issues raised in the denial letter.
- Negotiate with the Insurance Company: Your attorney can engage in negotiations with the insurance company to explore possible resolutions and seek a fair settlement.
- Consider Legal Action: If negotiations and appeals prove unsuccessful, pursuing legal action may be an option. Your attorney can guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit to seek the compensation you deserve.
We’re Here to Defend Your Rights
Facing the consequences of a car accident, especially when found at fault, can be overwhelming. At GSAS Law, we want you to know that hope is not lost. Even if your insurance claim has been denied.
Insurance companies often employ tactics that may lead to claim denials. It’s important to recognize that you don’t have to accept a denial passively. Our legal system is designed to protect your rights.
Whether you’re dealing with a denied claim, exploring compensation options, or facing the complexities of a car accident case, our dedicated team is here to support you. We specialize in unraveling the intricacies of Pennsylvania’s legal landscape, advocating for your rights, and ensuring you receive fair treatment.
Remember, insurance claim denials are not the end of the road. With the right legal support, you can challenge denials, appeal decisions, and explore avenues for compensation. At GSAS Law, we are committed to helping you navigate these challenges, providing clarity, and working toward the resolution you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, contact us for a consultation. Our experienced attorneys will assess your situation, guide you through the necessary steps, and ensure you have the support needed to move forward. Your rights are important, and we’re here to protect them.