Uninsured Motorist Accidents
It is Friday afternoon and you are stuck at a red light while driving home from work. It has been a long week and you are ready to unwind on the weekend with friends and family. You have a kid’s birthday party on Saturday and football to watch on Sunday. As you think about the relaxing weekend you have ahead of you the light turns green, and after checking to make sure the intersection is clear you take your foot off the brake and start to drive.
Bam! Another driver trying to make a left turn across from you misjudges how fast you are going and smashes into the side of your car. Thankfully, everyone can walk away from this crash, but you know you and your passenger will need to go to the emergency room for xrays, and the pain in your shoulder does not feel like the kind that’s going to go away with an ice pack. Your car has definitely seen better days. The impact snapped your car’s rear axle and now you have a wheel that is pointing the wrong direction. That is something that duct tape simply cannot fix, even with a gallon of elbow grease. Your weekend plans have officially been wrecked. Then, when you start to talk to the other driver to get their information you find out he does not have auto insurance. You ask yourself: “Who doesn’t have auto insurance? Isn’t everybody supposed to have auto insurance?”
You are right of course. Only three states do not require drivers to carry auto insurance: Virginia; New Hampshire and Mississippi. You will notice that Pennsylvania is not on the list, and that is because Pennsylvania requires drivers to have bodily injury liability, property damage liability, and medical benefits auto insurance coverage. Guess what though? Even though the law requires drivers to have auto insurance coverage, an estimated 6.5% of Pennsylvania drivers did not have any in 2012. While that number seems small, you managed to find one of those people, and they just destroyed your car. Now what?First Steps
If you had a time machine you could go back in time and talk to your insurance company about Uninsured Motorist Insurance. It works like other forms of auto insurance coverage, but is designed for the exact situation you find yourself in now: making sure you are covered in case you get hit by someone that does not have auto insurance. No time machine? Then we will keep that information in mind for next time, but that does not mean you are out of options yet. It just makes things more complicated. Yes, more complicated than time travel.
As with any motor vehicle accident, if someone is injured, immediately call for medical help. Next, call the police to make sure the accident is properly documented. Take photographs of the scene including the damage to both vehicles, skid marks in the road, or any other details that might seem important. If there were any witnesses get their contact information, as well as the contact information for the other driver. You should then get in touch your insurance company to let them know what happened and see what they need from you. Your insurance might still cover some of your expenses, but the only way to know that is to call them.
You can find a more complete list of Do’s and Don’ts if you’re involved in a car accident on our website here.Who Pays for the Damage and Injuries?
Pennsylvania is what is known as a no-fault state when it comes to financial responsibility for injuries after an auto accident. What that means is that when it comes to payment for medical bills and lost wages resulting from personal injuries suffered in a crash, drivers first look to their own auto insurance policy for compensation, regardless of who is at fault for the crash. To complicate things, Pennsylvania allows drivers to choose between “Full Tort” and “Limited Tort” insurance coverage. Both “Full Tort” and “Limited Tort” coverage allow you to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the at fault driver for economic damages, no matter the severity of your injuries. The main difference is that “Full Tort” coverage allows you to also recover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, no matter the severity of your injuries. “Limited Tort” coverage, on the other hand, allows you to recovery non-economic damages only if you have suffered “serious injury.” What qualifies as a serious injury is very often difficult to determine and, in close cases, will be determined during trial of the case.
Pennsylvania’s no-fault rules only apply to the personal injury side of an auto accident. When it comes to the damage to your vehicle you are free to bring a lawsuit against the other driver to cover the cost of repairs. You may find though that an uninsured motorist does not have auto insurance because they cannot afford it, which can make it difficult to get money from them to pay for the damage they did to your car.
As complicated as it can be to be the victim of an auto accident with an uninsured motorist, things can be even more complicated if you do not have a skilled attorney by your side. The attorneys at Michael J. O’Connor & Associates have years of experience handling difficult situations like these. We will sit down with you and walk you through your options and be there with you every step of the way, so that you can go back to enjoying your weekends.
Email us or call our toll-free number at 800-518-4LAW for a free initial consultation and review of your case.