Car accidents happen even when we’re careful and obey traffic laws. We cannot control the behavior of others, and so we may find ourselves injured in collisions that were no fault of our own.
If you’ve been involved in any type of traffic accident in Pennsylvania, you might wonder what laws apply. Understanding these can make a significant, and positive, impact on your ability to recover fair compensation after such an incident, and our car accident attorneys are here to share our insight.
The following is a basic overview of Pennsylvania’s car accident laws.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
It is against the law to leave the scene of a traffic accident. According to § 3744 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (PCS), the driver of a vehicle that has been involved in an accident causing property damage, injury, or death must remain at the scene to exchange information with the other driver or drivers and to render reasonable assistance to anyone who has been injured. They must also report the incident to the police. If the driver is disabled, these duties fall to any physically capable passengers.
According to PCS § 3743, a person who leaves the scene of an accident causing property damage may face third-degree misdemeanor charges and penalties of up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. A person who leaves the scene of an accident causing injury or death may face misdemeanor or felony charges under PCS § 3742, depending on the circumstances. For a hit and run accident causing another’s death, the minimum penalty is 3 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. Enhanced charges and penalties will apply if the defendant is accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
It is important to note that there are exceptions to these laws. If a driver is unconscious or severely injured and unable to remain at the scene or render reasonable aid, they should not face criminal charges and penalties under § 3742 or § 3743.
Fault vs. No-Fault Coverage & PA Auto Insurance Requirements
All Pennsylvania drivers are required to carry liability insurance, which covers injuries to another person or damage to another’s property. As of 2022, PA liability insurance requirements are $15,000 for the injury or death of one person in an accident, $30,000 for the injury or death of more than one person in an accident, and $5,000 for property damage. Failing to maintain liability insurance coverage may result in a 3-month license suspension by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
Although every driver must maintain liability insurance, Pennsylvania is unique in that drivers can decide whether to choose fault-based or no-fault coverage. Most states implement one system or another, but in Pennsylvania, drivers can make this decision.
A no-fault system means that each driver in an auto accident turns to their own insurance policies to cover their injuries and property damage. A fault-based system means that the person who caused the accident would be responsible for paying damages. While there are advantages and disadvantages to each, it is important to note that drivers with no-fault coverage usually cannot sue the other driver, even if they were clearly to blame.
That brings us to our next point: how is fault determined in a Pennsylvania car accident?
Pennsylvania’s “Modified Comparative Fault” Rule
If a driver has fault-based coverage and is pursuing a lawsuit against another driver, Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative fault rule. This means that a person’s damages may be reduced by whatever percentage they are deemed at fault. If a person is more than 50% to blame for an accident, they are barred from seeking damages from the other party.
Let’s take a look at this in action. Susan and Wanda are involved in a collision at a Harrisburg, PA intersection. Both are injured; Susan sues Wanda for medical bills and other damage. Upon hearing the case, however, the court determines that Susan was 20% at fault in the crash. If her award would have been $100,000, this would be reduced by 20% ($20,000). Wanda would have to pay $80,000 in damages to Susan for the harm she experienced in the accident. If Susan was 51% at fault, however, she would not be able to seek any compensation from Wanda.
Types of Damages Available
In Pennsylvania, there are different types of damages a person can recover after a car accident. These are typically divided into two main categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages include all quantifiable losses, like medical bills, the cost of ongoing care or therapy, lost earnings, loss of future wages, and medical supplies. Non-economic damages are a little more difficult to calculate because they do not have specific dollar values assigned to them. These damages are awarded for the pain, suffering, and emotional trauma that a person has endured and may endure in the future as a result of their injuries.
The value of a Pennsylvania car accident claim will vary considerably depending on the severity of injuries and the impact they have had on a person’s life. In the end, the goal will be to recover a settlement or award that helps a victim rebuild their life so it resembles (as closely as possible) how it was before the accident occurred.
Statute of Limitations for a Pennsylvania Car Accident
PCS § 5524 imposes a 2-year limit on legal proceedings related to personal injuries, which includes car accidents. If a person wants to recover compensation for injuries that another has caused to them through their negligence or wrongdoing (as in an auto accident), they must come forward within two years of the date of the incident. Failing to come forward may cost a person their right to sue.
Ready to Learn More? Contact HHR!
If you want to find out more about Pennsylvania car accident laws and how they apply to you, our team is standing by to help. We’ve been fighting for the injured in Harrisburg and throughout the commonwealth for the past 100 years. We know the laws and we are committed to protecting our clients’ interests to the fullest extent so they can heal, recover, and move on with their lives.
Call (888) 498-3023 today for a free confidential consultation.