Can You Sue for Intentional Car “Accidents” in Pennsylvania?
The May 2017 Times Square crash in New York city left one Michigan teen dead, injured 22 others, and caused at least thousands of dollars in property damage and injuries. On May 18, the 26-year-old driver of a Honda Accord jumped the curb and drove for more than three blocks before coming to a stop near W 45th St. Since the crash, the family of the deceased 18-year-old has been grieving, the injured victims have been recovering, and the driver has been charged with murder, attempted murder, and 20 counts of aggravated vehicular assault.
When you or a loved one is the victim of a tragic, intentional action, you may face medical bills, may be unable to work, may be suffering from physical pain, or may have lost a loved one. Generally, the police and the criminal justice system will handle charging the attacker, but you may have a chance to recover financially in civil court as well. The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm will explain how intentional car accidents, whether you were a pedestrian or another driver, may qualify you for financial compensation.
Intentional Car “Accidents” Can Lead to Compensation
Calling an intentional crash an “accident” undercuts the severity of the actor’s decisions. First, an “accident” implies that there was some oversight or that someone was simply not careful enough. This is the case in most car accidents, where another driver drives distracted, drives under the influence, or drives without the proper care. In a situation where someone intentionally hits another with their car, things are much more serious.
Not only can the aggressor be charged with crimes for their actions, they can also be sued in civil court for damages. These kinds of damages are usually available for accidental injury caused by someone else’s negligence, but higher damages may be awarded when the actions are intentional. If the driver’s actions were especially heinous or outrageous, courts may even award “punitive” or “exemplary” damages on top of the compensation you receive in order to punish the bad actor. If the injuries are especially severe, like brain injuries or spinal cord injuries, damages might be high.
Intentional crashes do not need to be as outrageous as the Times Square crash. The driver in Times Square reportedly has a history of disturbed and outrageous criminal behavior, and purportedly admitted he wanted to kill the pedestrians he hit with his car. This is especially terrible behavior, and is far outside the normal circumstances for a car accident.
Most often, car accidents are indeed accidents – but on some occasions, anger and “road rage” may lead one driver to hit another (or hit a pedestrian). Other times, people may intentionally cause a car accident in order to commit auto insurance fraud or try to coerce their victims into paying money out-of-pocket to cover the damage. Often, car insurance companies handle these cases differently.
Will Car Insurance Pay for Intentional Crashes?
Car insurance is meant to protect injured victims when accidents happen. Driving a car is by far the most dangerous thing that most people do on a day-to-day basis, and auto insurance is required in Pennsylvania (and every other state) to help pay for injuries. If everyone was required to pay for injuries out of pocket when they cause a car accident, it is unlikely that most people would be able to afford these payments. Instead, insurance makes financial recovery after a car accident possible.
Since many intentional car accidents are part of insurance fraud scams, insurance companies often refuse to cover crashes that their insured driver intentionally causes. Most insurance policies cover only accidental or negligent injuries and damage, and specifically include language that allows them to block payments for intentional car accidents.
The definition of “intentional” is very specific – and very important to injured victims of intentional car accidents. Nearly everything a driver does behind the wheel is “intentional,” in some respects. You do not often accidentally get in the car, turn the key, put the car in gear, and press the gas pedal. It requires thought and intent to drive a car. This kind of action is not included in the definition of what an insurance company will deem “intentional.”
Often, people cause car accidents when they run red lights, run stop signs, or speed. Often, the goal is not to harm others but to beat the light or get to their destination faster. While running the stop sign or speeding might be done “intentionally,” insurance companies often still cover these accidents because the harm the driver caused was not “intentional.”
Hire a Lawyer Whenever You’ve Been Injured in an Intentional Car Ascident
In order for an insurance company to be able to count a crash as “intentional,” there must be an intent to cause injury. Even in cases like the Times Square crash, courts may interpret this definition very strictly if your attorney can make a good argument for it. This means that even when a driver clearly intended to cause a crash and cause injury, evidence that they applied the brakes or slowed down may convince a court that the crash was not “intentional” enough to allow the insurance company to block payments.
It is strongly recommended that you talk to a Lancaster car accident lawyer when you’ve been harmed by another person’s actions. Even if restitution payments might be part of the bad actor’s criminal punishments, it may not be enough to cover your needs. Taking your case to an experienced car accident injury attorney can help you get the compensation you need.
Fighting the car insurance company and their definition of “intentional” might be the key to making sure you are able to collect compensation for your injuries. If the insurance company will not cover injuries, you might be entitled to compensation from other sources. For instance, if the city did not take enough care to protect pedestrians from traffic by using barriers and pillars, you might be entitled to compensation from the government. Alternatively, if you were injured while driving another car, your own insurance company might be required to pay for your injuries if the aggressor’s insurance won’t pay.
Our Pennsylvania Accident Injury Attorneys Can Help
If you or a loved one was injured by an intentional car crash, talk to a Bucks County car accident lawyer right away. If someone you love was killed in a crash, you might be entitled to substantial compensation. Never accept any settlements from an insurance company or another driver before having an attorney review your case and help you understand what your case is worth. For a free consultation on your Pennsylvania personal injury claim, talk to the lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm today. Our phone number is (215) 709-6940.