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Pennsylvania Car Accident Compensation Laws

Auto accidents are a very common occurrence in Pennsylvania, which makes familiarity with Pennsylvania car accident compensation laws an unfortunate necessity for many drivers. This article discusses what need to know about Pennsylvania car accidents, including what to do after an accident, Pennsylvania car accident compensation laws, and how to get appropriate compensation for your injuries and losses.

What Should You Do After an Accident?

Here is a list of what to do if you are in an accident:

  • Don't leave the scene; leaving the scene of the accident, even if it's minor, could be considered an illegal hit-and-run
  • Get to safety out of traffic and check everyone for injuries (and consider providing first aid to any car accident victims)
  • Call the Pennsylvania highway patrol or the police department for help and medical assistance; you will want to make sure you get a copy of the police report or accident report
  • Collect contact information and driver's insurance information from the people who were driving any vehicles involved in the accident
  • Take pictures of the scene and get the contact information of any witnesses; also, check with nearby businesses or homeowners for a copy of their security camera footage, if applicable
  • Call your insurance adjuster and notify them of a possible car accident claim
  • Get checked out by a doctor

You can and should consider doing all of this before bringing a personal injury lawsuit.

Pennsylvania Car Accident Compensation Laws: At a Glance

Below is a table outlining key sections of Pennsylvania's car accident compensation laws, followed by in-depth explanations of important aspects of the laws.

Statute of Limitations

Two years for most personal injury and property damage lawsuits (Title 42 § 5524(2),(3))

Limits on Damages No cap on most damages (prohibited by state Constitution); $500,000 cap on claims against the local government (Tit. 42 § 8553(b)); $250,000 in favor of any plaintiff or $1,000,000 in the aggregate (i.e. if there were multiple plaintiffs) cap on claims against the Commonwealth (Tit. 42 § 8528(b))
Other Limits Choice no-fault rules may limit the ability to sue (Tit. 75 § 1705(c),(d)); modified comparative negligence fault system may prevent or diminish damages (Title 42 § 7102)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Economic vs. Non-economic Damages

There are typically two types of damages to consider after you've been in a car accident: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are the objective losses you've incurred as a result of your injury or damage to property. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are the more subjective costs of an accident, like emotional distress and the loss of spousal companionship.

Economic damages typically include:

  • Car repairs or replacement
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages

Non-economic damages can include:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of affection or companionship

Who Was at Fault? "Choice No Fault" and "Comparative Negligence" Rules

Pennsylvania is one of just a few states that follow the "choice no-fault" rule which permits drivers to carry either no-fault or traditional insurance. The former means that your insurance compensates you for economic damages regardless of who was at fault in the accident. This lessens your own liability but also limits your ability to sue other drivers.

In circumstances where you are permitted to seek legal remedy, Pennsylvania allows you to recover damages even if you were partly to blame for causing the accident. However, you must not be more than 50% at fault in order to do so. Additionally, according to the modified comparative negligence standard, any damages that are awarded will be reduced in proportion to the degree that you were at fault. For example, if you were 10% to blame and the other driver was 90% at fault, you may still file a lawsuit, but an award of $10,000 will be reduced by $1,000.

Limits on Damages in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, most damage caps are unconstitutional according to the state's Constitution. However, there are exceptions for claims against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and local governments, which are capped at $250,000 and $1,000,000, respectively. Additionally, all claims are time-sensitive and carry deadlines for filing your lawsuit in court. In Pennsylvania, the deadline for personal injury and property damage claims is two years.

Get a Claim Review from a Pennsylvania Attorney

Pennsylvania's "choice no-fault" and comparative negligence rules can make navigating insurance claims and lawsuits more difficult than in other states. After a car accident, you'll want to know how these rules might affect your ability to recover damages for losses you've incurred.

Receive a claim evaluation from an experienced attorney, familiar with Pennsylvania's car accident compensation laws to evaluate the strength of your claim.

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