When injuries result from a rear end car accident in Pennsylvania, financial compensation depends on: 1. the type of insurance the injured person has (full tort or limited tort), and 2. how much Bodily Injury Liability coverage the at-fault driver has. PA car insurance law requires PA residents who own cars to choose between a full tort and limited tort policy. This often makes the difference in whether a person injured in a rear end car accident can get full compensation.
Two Key Factors Affect Compensation
There’s a common misconception among Pennsylvania drivers about financial compensation after a car accident that’s caused by another driver. Most people assume that a driver who causes a car or pedestrian accident is on the hook for any and all damages. This is true, to a certain extent.
Under Pennsylvania car accident law, negligent drivers can be sued and ordered to pay a financial sum to an injured party. However, this is subject to key factors or qualifications.
1. The Injured Party’s Own Policy – Full Tort or Limited Tort
First, whether a Pennsylvania driver or passenger can get compensated at all depends on the type of insurance policy they chose, full tort or limited tort. This tends to be confusing for many injured drivers and passengers. It’s pretty common for someone injured in a car accident in Pennsylvania to ask, Why should my own car insurance policy matter, if someone else caused the car accident? The answer is that decades ago, the PA legislature decided that car insurance should be more affordable. So, people can choose between full tort and limited tort. The latter costs significantly less because it limits the policy holder’s ability to get fully compensated.
Full Tort Versus Limited Tort – What’s the Difference? If you have a full tort car insurance policy, you can seek compensation for car accident injuries against the at-fault driver without any limitation. With a limited tort policy, you can only seek compensation in specific situations.
In some instances, the full tort versus limited tort distinction won’t even apply. Individuals who aren’t covered under a car insurance policy as either a named insured or family member aren’t bound by the tort selection. For example, a Philadelphia resident is driving her friend to a party. The friend riding in the passenger seat doesn’t own a car and isn’t covered by a parent or spouse’s policy. While stopped at a red light, they are hit from behind by a truck. Both are injured. The driver would be bound by her tort election. However, the friend/passenger won’t be bound by any such tort election because she simply isn’t covered by any car insurance policy.
2. The At-Fault Driver’s Bodily Injury Liability Coverage
Second, the actual compensation doesn’t come from the at-fault driver’s pocket (or bank account). In theory, it could, but in about 99% of car accident lawsuits, the at-fault driver isn’t going to be writing a check to the injured party. Rather, the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company will pay via a type of coverage called Bodily Injury Liability. This coverage kicks in when a driver causes a car accident and is required on every policy issued in this state. Under PA law, the minimum required for this type of coverage is $15,000 per person, although many people purchase more coverage, such as $100,000 or $250,000.
What happens if the at-fault driver didn’t have any insurance at all? Let’s say the at-fault driver’s policy had lapsed or they stole a car. Or what happens if the at-fault driver has a minimum policy ($15,000 of Bodily Injury Liability) and caused major injuries that exceed $15,000?
In these situations, an injured driver or passenger may be able to seek compensation by filing a UIM or UM claim with their own insurance company. This type of claim is only available if the injured individual opted into the coverage and applies when the other, at-fault driver didn’t have any insurance or didn’t have enough insurance.
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