What Do I Do if I Was In a Car Accident in Pennsylvania but Live in Another State?

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Mandatory insurance regulations leave a lot of people with automobile insurance policies that they do not understand. This is evident when one is expecting to recover for losses from an accident but ends up empty handed. This unfortunate consequence can be a result of not understanding the state’s regulations nor the policy provisions. However, a state’s insurance regulations do not only affect those who own registered cars within that state. These regulations also affect vehicles that get into an accident within that state but are registered elsewhere. Certain policy provisions may limit the amount of coverage available in specific circumstances. A Philadelphia car accident attorney at the Reiff Law Firm explains.

Insurance Regulations for Drivers in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, there are three policy features you must understand if you own a vehicle registered in the state, or if you are driving an out of state car in Pennsylvania. These include financial responsibility, first party benefits, and tort options.  Understanding the implications of these provisions is necessary to know how to proceed in the wake of a Pennsylvania car accident.

Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFR)

In Pennsylvania, the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFR) governs liability standards for residents who own vehicles registered in the state. The MVFR designates the amount of liability insurance that is required, the benefits included, who is covered, and in what circumstances certain benefits are available. At a minimum, the MVFR requires that the owners of registered vehicles maintain insurance in the amount of $15,000 for injury to one person in an accident, $30,000 for injury to two or more people in an accident, and $5,000 for damage to property in an accident. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1702. A registered vehicle that maintains this minimum is known to be covered by “financial responsibility.” This covers injuries and property damages resulting from an accident that was caused by the insured. An ‘insured’ includes the named policy holder, any spouse or relative living with them, and minors in their custody.

First Party Benefits

Pennsylvania residents are also required to have “First Party Benefits” on their policies. This feature covers certain medical expenses resulting from injuries due to an accident. The required minimum for this coverage is $5,000. 75 Pa.C.S.A. §1711. However, first party benefits can also include coverage for income loss, accidental death, and funeral needs. First party benefits come into play anytime an insured is in an accident with a registered vehicle, regardless of who is at fault.

Tort Options

In Pennsylvania, policy holders are also required to elect a tort option. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1705. They can select full tort insurance or limited tort insurance. This election governs the insured’s ability to recover for injuries caused by other drivers. The limited tort option allows an insured to recover for medical and other out-of-pocket expenses. However, under this option, they cannot seek financial compensation for pain and suffering or other noneconomic damages unless their injury is considered a “serious injury.” A serious injury is one that results in death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1702. The full tort option allows the insured to seek financial compensation for medical and out of pocket expenses, as well as for pain and suffering and other nonmonetary damages. Under this option, an insured’s rights are considered “unrestricted.”

What Happens If You Get Into an Accident in Pennsylvania as an Out-of-State Driver?

If you own a vehicle that is not registered in Pennsylvania, but get into an accident within the state, you may still be subject to the minimum requirements set forth by Pennsylvania law. This can apply notwithstanding that you have an insurance policy that complies with the requirements from your state, that may or may not be lower than the minimums in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s principles governing tort law could still apply, even if they are in conflict with the law from your state. Although the mandatory minimums may still apply to you, first party medical benefits are treated differently. As an out of state vehicle, if you are driving with Pennsylvania residents in your car and you get into an accident, first party medical benefits will not apply to them. In discussing the statute dealing with the coverage of first party benefits, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has stated that first party benefits “[are] required only for vehicles registered in Pennsylvania.” Boone v. Stonewall Insurance Company, 554 A.2d 968, 970 (Pa. Super. 1989) (emphasis added). Lastly, when you are in an accident with a Pennsylvania registered vehicle that has selected the limited tort option, their rights are not limited as applied to you. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1705(d)(1)(ii) creates an exception for those who have selected the tort limitation to have full tort rights when they are injured in a car accident in Pennsylvania by a vehicle registered in another state who is at fault. Therefore, because their rights become unrestricted, they are allowed to sue you for medical and out of pocket expenses, as well as, pain and suffering and noneconomic losses.

Our Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers Can Handle Your Out-of-State Collision

The interplay of these three provisions can determine what kind and the amount of recovery you are entitled to. Determining fault, understanding policy provisions, and applying the correct regulations is vital to your full recovery. If you own a vehicle registered in another state and were in an accident in Pennsylvania or if you are a Pennsylvania resident that suffered an accident with an out of state vehicle, you must contact the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm today.

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