Approximately 128,000 car accidents are reported in Pennsylvania every year, causing about 80,000 injuries annually. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reports that if you are a licensed driver in the Commonwealth, you have one in 40 chance of being in a car wreck each year.
Motor vehicle accident injuries range from scrapes and bruises to life-altering, permanent, catastrophic injuries. The physical, emotional, and financial impacts of vehicle wrecks can be devastating. Fortunately, if someone else’s negligence contributes to a car accident, injured victims may seek monetary damages from the negligent parties to compensate them for their losses.
Having a committed injury attorney to fight for your rights can be a highly beneficial. A Bucks County car accident lawyer could negotiate with insurance companies and ensure you are rightfully compensated for the harm you suffered.
Types of Damages in Car Wreck Cases
The damages available in a vehicle collision case fall into several categories. A skilled attorney in Bucks County could advise someone injured in a car crash which damages might be available in their particular case.
Economic damages cover the out-of-pocket expenses the plaintiff has incurred and will incur as a result of their injuries. Economic damages include medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, future expenses anticipated to accommodate the injury, as well as lost earning capacity.
Non-economic damages are not easy to quantify because they compensate for intangible losses that have no set monetary value but represent a claimant’s suffering. Examples include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of companionship.
Pennsylvania allows a judge or jury to award punitive damages in some instances. Unlike economic or non-economic damages, punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant for intentional or reckless behavior that is egregious. In a car accident claim, punitive damages could apply if the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the collision.
Pennsylvania Vehicle Insurance Coverage
There is a Pennsylvania law that impacts the damages an claimant might seek. The Commonwealth requires drivers to have liability insurance coverage but permits drivers to select between two types. Under 75 P.S. §1705, Pennsylvania drivers can choose either limited tort or full tort coverage.
Full tort coverage is more expensive because drivers with this insurance have no restrictions on the damages they might seek after an accident. Limited tort coverage is less expensive, but if a driver is injured due to another motorist’s negligence, the injured driver cannot claim non-economic damages in most cases. However, the law offers exceptions in certain circumstances, for instance if:
- The injured party was a pedestrian, riding a bicycle, or was a passenger in a bus or commercial vehicle when the injury occurred
- The at-fault driver was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- The injured driver suffered a catastrophic injury
A driver with limited tort coverage should not assume that they will not be fully compensated for their injuries. A local accident lawyer could investigate whether an exception applies to their vehicle collision case.
Limited Time to Bring an Action in Bucks County
Pennsylvania law allows people two years to file a lawsuit seeking damages for personal injuries and begins on the date the injury occurred. An injured person who fails to bring a lawsuit within the statutory period loses their right to seek redress in the courts.
There are only limited exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations. If the person injured in a vehicle accident is a minor at the time of their injury, they have two years from their 18th birthday to bring a lawsuit. If a potential defendant leaves the Commonwealth, the statute of limitations clock stops running until they return. Consulting with an experienced injury attorney soon after an auto accident could help an injured person and their family understand the local statutory deadlines and set their expectations accordingly.
Plaintiffs benefit from seeking legal representation sooner rather than later, even when they hope to avoid going to court. It is important for a seasoned injury attorney to interview witnesses as soon after the wreck as possible, when memories are still fresh. The evidence obtained from witnesses could move a negligent driver and their insurer toward offering a more reasonable settlement.
Insurance adjusters and defense lawyers might use intimidation or stonewalling to force an injured person into settling a case for less than they deserve. They could draw out negotiations, hoping to run out the statute of limitations and deprive the injured person of the opportunity to seek justice in court. Swift action could prevent this.
Accidents Involving Government-Owned Vehicles
In some car accident cases, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or a local government is a potentially negligent party and could be a defendant in an injured person’s claim for damages. This could happen if:
- The other driver was a government employee on official business
- An involved vehicle was government-owned
- Poor road maintenance was an issue
- The accident happened in a government-funded work zone
- Inoperative, defective, or absent traffic control signals were a factor
People who were injured in an event for which a unit of government might be a defendant have little time to act. Pennsylvania law requires filing a notice of claim with the potentially liable government entity within six months of the event that led to the claim. A claimant loses the right to pursue damages against the local government if the notice of claim is not timely filed.
If the notice of claim is filed in accordance with the law, the plaintiff still has until two years after their injury to file their lawsuit. A savvy legal professional could ensure that the claim is filed on time to preserve an injured person’s right to seek damages against a unit of government.
The law also limits the amount of damages an injured person might collect when their claim is against a government entity. For claims against the Commonwealth, recovery is limited to $250,000 per occurrence and $1,000,000 aggregate. If a claim is against a municipality or other local government, the cap is $500,000 aggregate.
Seek Guidance from a Bucks County Car Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in a car wreck and suffered severe harm, do not try to get compensation without the help of an experienced legal professional. Insurance adjusters and defense lawyers often offer injured claimants unfair settlement awards. Therefore, contact a Bucks County car accident lawyer who can work hard so you recover all the compensation you deserve. Call today for a complimentary case review.