If you get into a car accident in Pennsylvania, a key question will be, “Who pays for the damage?” While each case is unique, determining financial responsibility (liability) for an automobile accident depends largely on the insurance law in the state where the crash takes place. Pennsylvania is a choice no-fault state, meaning that drivers have the option to choose between fault and no-fault insurance.
Fault vs. No-Fault Insurance States
The two main types of car insurance laws are fault and no-fault. A fault law means that the driver or party at fault for causing the car accident is responsible for paying for related damage, including medical bills and property repairs. An at-fault driver will pay through his or her liability car insurance coverage. To qualify for this coverage, an accident victim must prove that the policyholder is at fault for the car accident with at least a 51 percent certainty.
A no-fault law means that after a car accident, all parties involved will seek financial reimbursement through their own car insurance policies, regardless of who caused the crash. Under this insurance system, all drivers must carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to pay for their own medical bills after a car accident. In a no-fault state, a driver does not have to prove fault or negligence to qualify for insurance coverage. Filing with your own insurer is called a first-party claim, while a claim against someone else is a third-party claim.
Hybrid or “Choice” States
Most states fall into either the “fault” or “no-fault” category. However, three states use hybrid insurance laws. Pennsylvania is one of them. Pennsylvania uses what is called a “choice no-fault” law, which means that drivers can choose to opt-out or opt-in to the no-fault system. When you purchase car insurance in Pennsylvania, you get to make your choice. The required types of insurance in Pennsylvania are as follows:
$15,000 per person in bodily injury liability insurance
$30,000 per accident in bodily injury liability insurance
$5,000 in property damage liability insurance
$5,000 in first-party benefits (Pennsylvania’s version of PIP insurance)
In addition, all insurance policies in Pennsylvania automatically come with $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. You can reject this coverage, however, if you submit a written request. Furthermore, when you buy a car insurance policy in Pennsylvania, you choose to either carry Full Tort or Limited Tort insurance. This chooses whether you will follow the fault or no-fault rule.
How Does Pennsylvania’s Choice No-Fault Law Work?
If you choose Full Tort car insurance coverage in Pennsylvania, this means that your ability to sue other drivers for causing a car accident is unlimited. This type of insurance eliminates all barriers to bringing a lawsuit against the driver who caused your crash. You will be free to file a claim with the other driver’s insurer, but you must prove fault to receive benefits. If you choose Limited Tort car insurance, you will have to contend with the serious injury threshold if you wish to file a third-party claim.
The serious injury threshold, also known as the tort threshold, places a minimum on the level of injury that must be caused by a crash before the victim has the right to file a third-party claim with Limited Tort insurance. This threshold is serious impairment of a bodily function, permanent serious disfigurement or death. If your injuries do not meet the threshold, you will only be able to file a claim with your own car insurance policy. You will not have the right to sue the other driver, even if he or she caused the accident. The benefit of Limited Tort insurance, however, is that you don’t need to prove fault.
For more information about how Pennsylvania’s insurance laws work, contact a car accident attorney.