What Happens If the Person at Fault in an Accident Has No Insurance in Pennsylvania?
Car accidents can be stressful and overwhelming experiences, particularly when they involve an uninsured driver. In Pennsylvania, like many other states, having auto insurance coverage is mandatory to ensure that individuals involved in accidents are protected and can be compensated for damages and injuries. But what happens if the person at fault in an accident has no insurance? In that circumstance, the situation is less clear.
Pennsylvania’s Mandatory Auto Insurance Coverage
Pennsylvania law requires all drivers to carry auto insurance coverage to protect themselves and others in the event of an accident. The minimum required coverage includes the following:
- Bodily injury liability – minimum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.
- Property damage liability – minimum limit of $5000.
- Medical benefits coverage – minimum limit of $5,000.
Bodily injury liability coverage helps pay for injuries suffered by others in an accident for which you are at fault. Property damage liability helps pay for damages to another person’s property caused by your car. Medical benefits coverage, also known as personal injury protection (PIP), pays for medical expenses resulting from injuries sustained in an accident, regardless of fault.
The amounts listed above are only minimum requirements. Drivers always have the option to purchase more coverage since an at-fault driver will be personally liable for the damages incurred above these policy limits. The more coverage you have, the less likely you’ll pay for someone else’s damages out of your pocket.
Pennsylvania’s Choice No-Fault System
Pennsylvania has different types of potential insurance coverage for your damages. Under the law, you are required to have medical coverage under your policy, also known as “no-fault insurance” or PIP coverage, as stated above. Regardless of whose fault it is, your auto insurance company covers the initial medical bills up to the limits of your coverage.
Pennsylvania law also requires auto insurance companies to offer drivers uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) at the same limits as their liability coverage. But Pennsylvania auto insurance policies don’t automatically have UM/UIM coverage. So while the additional coverage is extremely helpful, you must check your policy to confirm whether you have this coverage.
While different coverage options are available to Pennsylvanians, they don’t get to choose “at-fault insurance” or “no-fault insurance.” Instead, Pennsylvania follows a choice no-fault system, meaning drivers can choose between limited and full tort insurance coverage, regardless of who is at fault. Whichever tort option coverage you choose determines your ability to sue for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, unless you have sustained serious injuries.
Limited tort coverage allows drivers to save on their insurance premiums. It restricts their right to sue for non-economic damages unless the injuries are “serious,” as defined by the law. Opting for full tort coverage grants drivers the unrestricted right to sue for all damages resulting from an accident, including non-economic damages, regardless of the severity of the injuries.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit against an Uninsured At-Fault Driver
When an uninsured driver causes an accident, the injured party’s options for compensation are limited. One option is to file a claim with your insurance company if you have UM coverage. UM coverage compensates you for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages up to the policy limits. It acts as a safety net when the at-fault driver cannot provide compensation due to a lack of insurance.
You should still speak with a personal injury lawyer if you don’t have UM coverage. There may be an exception that applies to your case. For example, you may still have a claim if the insurance company did not provide you with the proper forms to reject UM coverage.
If your case does not meet any exceptions, the last option is to file a personal injury lawsuit against the uninsured driver. The first step in pursuing a personal injury lawsuit is identifying the uninsured at-fault driver. Gather as much information as possible at the accident scene, such as the driver’s name, contact details, license plate number, and vehicle description. This information will help in locating the individual later on.
Your lawsuit could be successful if the at-fault driver has personal assets. However, it is essential to consider whether the driver has the financial means to cover your damages before proceeding. Suppose you successfully obtain a judgment against the uninsured driver, and they have the financial assets to cover it. In that case, you can seek recovery through various methods, such as wage garnishment or seizure of assets.
Sometimes, the at-fault driver may have operated a vehicle for work purposes. If this is the case, their employer may be liable under certain circumstances. Depending on the specific circumstances of the accidents, other parties may share responsibility, such as vehicle manufacturers or governmental entities. Consult with a personal injury attorney to evaluate all potential avenues for seeking compensation.
Consult with an Attorney
Understanding the different layers of a lawsuit is not easy when you don’t have legal training. For example, it’s crucial to be aware of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases. In general, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Pennsylvania is two years from the date of the accident. However, some exceptions apply. But, if you fail to file a lawsuit within this timeframe, you may miss your chances to seek compensation. Missing a deadline or failing to file paperwork is why consulting with an attorney is prudent after a car accident.
An attorney can provide the guidance and expertise needed to protect your rights and maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation, especially when an uninsured driver is involved.
Accident Attorneys Ready to Help You
The Rosen Justice Injury Lawyers don’t shy away from complicated cases. We are nationally recognized attorneys with over 75 years of combined experience. Our decades of experience have equipped us with the skills and knowledge to fight for the compensation our clients deserve. Contact us today.