If you or someone you know is injured in a motor vehicle accident in Pennsylvania, while a vehicle occupant or a
pedestrian or on a
bicycle, you may have the right to seek
compensation for your bodily injuries, lost wages and excess medical bills, which collectively are known as a personal injury claim. To obtain compensation for your personal injury claim, you must prove the
negligence of the driver or drivers that caused the accident. Specifically, you must prove that the other driver or drivers were collectively 50% or more at fault (negligent) for the collision. If the court finds that you were 51% or more negligent for causing the accident, you will not be able to obtain compensation for your personal injury claim, because your comparative negligence was greater than the negligence of all of the defendants combined, i.e., because you were the primary cause of the accident.
Unfortunately, since 1990, an injured occupant in a motor vehicle accident in Pennsylvania now needs to do more than just prove the negligence of another driver to successfully obtain compensation for his or her bodily injury claim. Since the enactment of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, 75 Pa.C.S. § 1701, in 1990, an injured occupant must also determine their tort status, i.e. whether he or she has Full Tort or Limited Tort. Full Tort status allows you to seek compensation for your bodily injuries. Limited Tort status prevents you from seeking compensation for your bodily injuries.
However, even if you selected or are bound by the Limited Tort option, you may meet one of the exceptions to Limited Tort, which would then grant you Full Tort Status. Please also note that the Limited Tort restriction only applies to a claim for bodily injuries. It does not apply to a claim for lost wages, excess medical bills or property damage.
The third and final step in successfully obtaining full and fair compensation for your bodily injuries, excess medical expenses and lost wages, caused by a negligent driver or drivers, is to confirm that the negligent driver or drivers have sufficient automobile liability insurance to pay your damage claim. Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania legislature has not raised the minimal liability requirements for an automobile insurance policy issued in Pennsylvania since the 1970's. The minimum legal requirement is still $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident (no matter how many innocent people were injured). So while the negligent driver may be "insured", these days that does not guarantee that his or her policy limits will be sufficient to fully compensate all injured victims, as medical expenses alone are often more than the above minimum limits. In this situation, you must then find out whether you are eligible to receive uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits under another automobile insurance policy. Since this is optional coverage in Pennsylvania and not required coverage, there is no guarantee that it will be available to you.
A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will review your case to determine whether you have a viable claim for compensation for your bodily injuries, lost wages and excess medical bills against a negligent driver's automobile liability insurance policy and possibly additional automobile insurance policies providing uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits after analyzing your case with respect to Pennsylvania's Full Tort/ Limited Tort law.