Auto insurance coverage limits and the handling of claims if someone gets hurt or has a vehicle that sustains damage in a crash varies from state to state. Here in Pennsylvania, we’re only one of a dozen no-fault accident states. Every other state follows an at-fault system as far as filing claims for damages is concerned.
If this at-fault and no-fault language sounds confusing, do not despair. We’ll explain what the no-fault doctrine applicable in Pennsylvania means to you if you’ve been hurt or if your vehicle has been damaged in an auto accident below.
Understanding Pennsylvania Auto Insurance Requirements
Pennsylvania requires all motorists to have vehicle liability insurance. The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles also refers to this insurance as financial responsibility coverage. State law requires passenger car operators to have, at a minimum:
- $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident vehicle liability insurance
- $5,000 in property damage liability coverage
The insurance coverage a Pennsylvania motorist has may exceed these limits. However, no matter whether the policy limits are right at the state minimum or much higher, that coverage serves the same role, which is to give you funds to tap into to pay your medical bills or lost wages if you get hurt in a crash. The property damage coverage allows anyone whose vehicle you strike in a crash to recover up to that amount by filing a property damage claim with your insurance.
A minimum of $15,000 per person or $30,000 per accident in underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage is automatically tacked on to Pennsylvania auto insurance policies unless the consumer waives it. A driver who gets hurt in a crash can tap into it if involved in a hit-and-run or a crash with an underinsured individual.
What’s the Significance of Pennsylvania Being a No-Fault Accident State?
If you read the part above where we mentioned how you’d typically file a claim with your insurance company after a crash in The Keystone State, you may have surmised that this occurs because Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, which is correct.
Being no-fault simply means that Pennsylvania doesn’t assign blame to motorists for causing a crash. However, contrary to what the “no-fault” doctrine implies, liability does play a role in some accident cases in our state. Let us explain.
See, when we discussed the mandatory minimum insurance coverage earlier, you might have noticed that the limits that are intended to cover any injuries or lost wages you incur due to an accident are likely adequate if you suffered minor or mild injuries, but perhaps not as much so in the case of moderate or severe ones (especially given rising medical costs). That’s why even states like ours allow accident victims to file claims against the other motorist they can prove caused the crash if their damages are in excess of their own vehicle liability coverage limits.
Whose Insurance Pays if You Get Hurt in a Pennsylvania Accident?
So, while the fact that Pennsylvania is no-fault matters if you have relatively minor to mild injuries that you should be able to recover from within weeks because it provides you with a clearly defined path for recovering compensation for the harm you’ve suffered, liability still matters when it comes to pursuing compensation from the other party’s insurance coverage. You can only do so if you can prove they were responsible for causing your crash; however, only if you were less than 51% responsible for what happened (as a comparative negligence rule applies in Pennsylvania).
If you find that you can prove liability and are, thus, eligible to file an insurance claim, you would be entitled to recover compensation for any accident-related expenses that exceeded your policy limits up to the maximum coverage that the other motorist who struck you had.
When Fault Determinations Are Made in No-Fault States Like Pennsylvania
Reiterating a point mentioned above, fault determinations become relevant when you’ve maxed out your own insurance benefits as you look to recover compensation to pay off your accident-related expenses. You cannot file a claim against the other driver and expect to recover compensation unless you can show that party:
- Owed you a duty of care (such as to operate their vehicle safely)
- Violated that duty of care (did something to put you in harm’s way)
- Caused you harm by breaching their duty of care (injured you)
- Led you to incur losses due to their negligent actions (having outstanding medical bills and missing work and pay are examples of this)
Even if you can prove these elements of negligence, you can expect the other driver’s insurance company to fight back, as insurers almost always fight to keep their payouts low.
Who Pays for Car Damage in Pennsylvania Since It’s a No-Fault State?
If your car was damaged in a crash in Philadelphia and surrounding areas, it’s understandable that you’d be in a hurry to get it repaired. Perhaps one of the easiest options is to tap into your collision coverage to pay for the body shop bill if you purchased that coverage when you initially acquired or renewed your auto insurance.
In a situation where you don’t have collision coverage to pay to repair your vehicle damage, your next best bet would be to file a claim with the carrier of the person who caused your crash. Just like your mandatory minimum property damage limits are accessible to other motorists whose vehicles you may strike and damage, you’re entitled to the opposite if a crash damages your car.
Securing Help in Navigating Pennsylvania’s No-Fault Insurance System
Navigating a car accident case or any collision claim in the midst of you trying to recover from injuries or get your car fixed can be overwhelming. Matters only get worse if an insurer decides not to play nice and pay what you need to cover your accident-related bills or recover lost pay.
Letting an experienced Philadelphia car wreck attorney help you navigate the claims process and negotiations with insurance adjusters can alleviate the burden of having to do so yourself and ensure that your case’s integrity is protected. So, contact the Philadelphia law firm Shrager & Sachs for a free consultation to discuss your case as soon as possible. A statute of limitations applies to your case, so time is indeed running out to take action.