If you get into a car accident in Philadelphia and resort to filing a personal injury lawsuit to get the compensation you need and deserve, your case will be governed by the car accident laws of Pennsylvania.
Like in most states, Pennsylvania car accident laws mostly come from the common law; they are the result of decisions made in previous cases that are similar to your own. However, there are also a few statutory laws that can play a part in a car accident case in Philadelphia.
Here are some of the car accident laws that most commonly impact a case.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a law that will impact every car accident claim in Pennsylvania because it dictates when the lawsuit can be filed. Under Pennsylvania's statute of limitations for cases that stem from personal injuries or property damage suffered in a car accident, you can only initiate your lawsuit within two years of the accident occurring.
Personal Injury Law
Car accident cases fall into a broader category of lawsuits: Personal injury lawsuits. Personal injury cases have developed lots of different rules through the common law process, with judges coming up with legal doctrines to help resolve the case before them. Over time, these individual decisions have created rules that can be applied to other cases and that have stood the test of time, so far.
The most basic common law rule for car accident cases in Philadelphia is the one that requires the accident victim to show four things:
- The person they are suing owed them a duty of care,
- That duty of care was breached,
- That breach was the cause of the accident, and
- The person filing the lawsuit was hurt in the crash.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, your case will focus on satisfying these four requirements. If even one of them fails, the lawsuit will be lost.
No-Fault Insurance Rules
Pennsylvania is one of a small handful of states in the U.S. to use a “no-fault” system for smaller or less severe car accidents.
Under this law, which is embodied in the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), drivers can choose insurance coverage that either uses “no-fault” rules or regular rules. Those can choose “no-fault” rules, also called limited tort coverage can only recover from their own insurance company, and cannot recover non-economic damages in the crash unless they suffered a “serious” injury. Drivers who choose the regular fault rules on their car insurance policy, called full tort coverage, can choose to file a lawsuit against the driver that caused the accident and can stand to recover non-economic damages for their injuries, like compensation for their pain and suffering.
Comparative Fault Laws in Philadelphia
If you are able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries suffered in a car crash, Pennsylvania's comparative fault laws can impact your case. These laws dictate how much you can recover in a crash that you were partially to blame for, or even whether you will be allowed to recover anything, at all.
Luckily, Pennsylvania uses a “modified comparative negligence” law. Codified in a statute, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 7102, this law allows you to recover compensation from any driver who was more responsible than you were for the accident but reduces the amount you can recover by how much you contributed to the accident.
For example, imagine you are involved in a two-car accident, and that you were 25% to blame, while the other driver was 75% responsible for the crash. Pennsylvania's comparative negligence law would still allow you to recover compensation for the injuries you sustained in the crash, but the amount that you would recover would be diminished for 25% because you were partially responsible for the wreck. However, if you were in a two-car crash and were 51% or more to blame, you would be unable to recover any compensation because you were the most responsible party for the crash.
Pennsylvania's Traffic Code and Negligence Per Se
The PA traffic code outlines all of the rules of the road, from which side of the road you have to drive on, to the difference between a double-yellow center line and a dashed white one, to rules on registering your vehicle.
Everyone is expected to abide by these rules in Pennsylvania, and if there is a car crash while one of the drivers involved was violating one of these rules, it can be used as evidence against that driver in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit.
The legal doctrine that allows this to happen is called negligence per se. The idea behind this doctrine is that it is always negligent to break one of these rules, so if the rule was broken, it means the person breaking it was acting negligently. It can be an effective way to determine who was at fault in a car accident.
Wrongful Death Statute
Finally, if the car accident resulted in a fatality, a strange circumstance arises: If the victim died, does that mean the person who caused the crash cannot be sued?
Because it would be horrible to let bad drivers kill the people they merely hurt in a car crash that they caused, all states have enacted wrongful death statutes. These allow the victim's next of kin or their personal representative to pursue civil lawsuits against the driver who caused the accident.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
These are just some of the many laws that can impact a personal injury lawsuit that stems from injuries suffered in a car accident. There are many others that are less common but can still affect your case.
This is why having a personal injury attorney representing you from the start can be the best way to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Contact the personal injury attorneys at the Philadelphia law office of Gilman & Bedigian online.