Despite all of the recent safety improvements in cars and trucks, auto accidents still happen, and the consequences can be devastating. In addition to pain and suffering, injuries from auto accidents can result in medical expenses and lost wages.
Who pays my medical bills?
When involved in an auto accident, regardless of who is at fault, you should file a claim with your auto insurance for PIP (“personal injury protection”) benefits, which are also called medical payment benefits. Pennsylvania law requires every auto insurance policy to provide at least $5,000 in PIP benefits.
Depending on the severity of the injury, and the treatment needed, PIP benefits can be exhausted quickly. You should provide your health insurance information to medical providers as the secondary payment source for your medical bills.
Under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, in certain circumstances, your secondary payment source may be entitled to reimbursement of paid medical expenses out of any recovery you make against the at-fault driver(s). It is important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney to make sure that such claims are addressed.
How do I get paid?
The first source of recovery is the auto insurance policy of the at-fault driver. These benefits are called third-party benefits. Pennsylvania requires all auto insurance policies to provide at least $15,000 per person and $30,000 per occurrence third-party benefits.
The second source(s) of recovery is your own auto insurance policy, and sometimes also the auto insurance policies of those you live with. These benefits are called underinsured motorist (“UIM”) benefits, and they are coverage you purchase to compensate you in the event that you are badly injured and the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to adequately compensate you.
If the at-fault driver does not have any applicable auto insurance, you can recover money by making a claim for uninsured motorist (“UM”) benefits under your own auto insurance policy and also sometimes the auto insurance policies of those you live with. With UM claims, you need to show that you were injured and that the at-fault driver did not have insurance.
The law regarding UIM and UM benefits is constantly involving, so it is important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney to help you pursue these claims.
If neither you nor anyone in your household owns a car, and you are injured by an uninsured driver, it may still be possible for you to recover money. Pennsylvania has set up a fund to compensate those injured and without any source of recovery from which an injured person can received up to $15,000 in benefits. However, there are a number of eligibility requirements for such claims, which is another reason to work with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Full Tort vs. Limited Tort
Under Pennsylvania law, drivers have a choice between full tort auto insurance and limited tort auto insurance. Full tort auto insurance allows injured persons to recover damages for pain and suffering in addition to medical expenses and lost wages. Under limited tort coverage, an injured driver can recover only medical expenses and lost wages unless he/she can show a “serious injury” or the claim falls under one of several exceptions to limited tort coverage. A “serious injury” under Pennsylvania law is one that results in death, a significant impairment of a bodily function, or permanent scarring/disfigurement. Establishing a “serious injury” often depends on getting the appropriate diagnostic testing to confirm the injury.
Some of the exceptions to limited tort coverage are (1) you are injured as a pedestrian; (2) you are injured by an intoxicated driver; (3) you are injured by a vehicle that is registered out of state. If you have limited tort auto insurance, you can still make a claim for damages, but it is important to work with a skilled attorney to evaluate your claim.
Types of Auto Accidents
Since there are many different types of vehicles on the road, there are many types of auto accidents, each of which can present its own unique challenges when it comes to litigation and dealing with the insurance companies.
public transportation accidents, including SEPTA buses and trains
drunk driving accidents
accidents involving motorized bikes
distracted driving accidents
recreational vehicle (RV) accidents
It is also possible to suffer injury in an automobile crash due to some type of mechanical failure in your car. Such accidents may give rise to claims against automobile repair providers or automobile manufacturers. Such claims against automobile manufacturers are considered product liability claims, which are often complex cases involving showing a defect in the automobile.