Pennsylvania Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline
Let's say you were driving through busy streets of Philly, and suddenly someone crashes into your vehicle. You are billed for medical services and property damage. Not only is this situation stressful, but also overwhelming because you don't have the resources to cover all of those expenses. How do you file a claim in this situation? Read on to learn about Pennsylvania's car accident settlement process and timeline.
Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Pennsylvania?
Yes, in some cases. You are required to file an accident report with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation ("PennDOT") within 5 days of the accident if: (1) the police did not investigate the accident, (2) anyone was injured or killed, and (3) there was severe property damage. If you fail to report an accident as required, you might get your license suspended.
Pennsylvania Car Insurance Laws
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that follow the "no-fault" system for car insurance. In Pennsylvania, drivers have the option to choose either: (1) a policy based on traditional tort liability or (2) a no-fault car insurance policy. Under the traditional insurance coverage, you have all options available to you, including suing the driver who was at fault and recovering both economic and noneconomic damages. However, choosing this option opens you up to get sued as well.
Under the no-fault insurance coverage, your insurance company will compensate you for economic damages regardless of who was at fault. Under this plan, you are unable to sue the driver who was at fault for economic damages, and you are immune from getting sued as well. Here, lawsuits are only available if the accident involved "serious injury," like impairment of a body function or permanent serious disfigurement.
Either way, drivers are required to purchase a policy that meets the minimum amount of insurance:
- $15,000 personal injury protection per person for third parties (passengers, pedestrians, and etc.)
- $30,000 personal injury protection in total per accident for third parties
- $5,000 property damages protection per occurrence
- $5,000 in no-fault personal injury protection coverage
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Pennsylvania?
A "settlement" is an amount negotiated between parties out of court, and "settling a case" means ending a dispute before it reaches a court trial. Car accident cases are typically resolved earlier in the litigation process or even before going to court. In Pennsylvania, courts have different rules depending on which county you are in. For example, Philadelphia courts require a case management conference, which helps cases move forward more smoothly and at a quicker pace before trial.
What is the Average Car Accident Settlement in Pennsylvania?
Car accident settlements in Pennsylvania depend on which method you use to make a claim. If you are allowing your own insurance company to compensate you under the no-fault system, you will only recover economic damages, which cover expenses like car repairs or replacement, medical costs, and lost wages due to missed work. However, if you are pursuing a lawsuit or making a claim under the traditional insurance policy, you can recover economic damages and noneconomic damages, which cover less concrete losses like physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
Pennsylvania has an exception in cases of "serious injury," which is a personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body or permanent serious disfigurement. If you are suffering serious injury, you should be certain that your car accident settlement awards you for both economic damages and noneconomic damages no matter which insurance policy method you choose.
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
Under Pennsylvania Statutes Section 42-5524, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for both personal injury and property damages. After this time period, you are completely barred from bringing a lawsuit.
Get a Claim Evaluation from a Pennsylvania Attorney
In some cases, you don't have to go to court to settle a car accident claim. However, you should always avoid agreeing to an unfair settlement and overlooking your full legal options. Pennsylvania's no-fault system and limitations make it difficult to determine an accurate amount of damages. To receive the compensation you deserve, you should contact an experienced Pennsylvania car accident attorney for a claim review.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.