Pennsylvania’s geographic location gives it its nickname of the “Keystone State.” Situated in the center of the original thirteen colonies, Pennsylvania is still the primary gateway between the northern and southern states on the country’s eastern seaboard. Pennsylvania also serves as a thoroughfare for many people traveling east from the Midwest. Additionally, the proximity of New Jersey to the commonwealth’s largest city means that there is a constant stream of interstate drivers traveling through Philadelphia and the rest of Pennsylvania. When an out-of-state driver is involved in an accident in Pennsylvania, many questions arise.
Whether you live in Pennsylvania or were just passing through, there are a number of things you should do if you are involved in a car accident. Everything you do, from receiving medical attention to contacting local law enforcement, could impact your ability to obtain financial compensation for your injuries and other damages. In addition to taking steps to ensure your health, it is also important to understand the insurance implications.
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. To understand what you need to do after an accident, contact our Philadelphia car accident attorneys at the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940.
Steps to Take if You Are Involved in an Accident in Pennsylvania But Live in Another State
Getting into a car accident in your home state is often fraught with problems. When you are involved in a collision in another state, these problems will likely feel magnified. In addition to the logistics of dealing with an accident far from home, you might be concerned about how the local laws will affect you and whether you or the other’s driver’s insurance claim will cover your damages. Fortunately, the steps you should take after an out-of-state accident are similar to those you should take if you are involved in a crash in your hometown.
Call the Local Authorities and Seek Medical Attention
The safety of you and your passengers is paramount after any accident, no matter where it occurs. You want to see if anyone in your car is injured, and if so, how bad those injuries are. If you can, you should move away from the car and to a safe area away from traffic. If you, or a passenger, are seriously injured, do not move and wait for medical personnel to arrive.
You should call local law enforcement. The police will come and cordon off the site. They will also ensure any injured accident victims receive the medical treatment they need. Do not refuse treatment. While it might be more convenient to wait until you are back home to see a doctor, you should take any medical treatment that is offered. This is not only important to confirm the extent of your injuries, but it will also help our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers link your injuries to the accident.
The local police who arrive on the scene will also draft an accident report. This important document will include information regarding the parties involved, a schematic of the crash site, and the responding officer’s initial conclusions regarding the cause of the accident.
Take Photographs of the Accident Scene
Pictures of an accident scene could help an investigator understand what occurred, spark a witness’s memory, and provide vital documentary evidence of the aftermath of the crash. Do not be shy. Take as many photographs as possible. Be sure to photograph the vehicles involved, the debris, skid marks, and any damage to the vehicles. Do not forget to take pictures of your injuries. Documenting the crash scene could be a critical source of evidence for our Pennsylvania car accident lawyers because pictures are rarely open to interpretation.
Exchange Information With Other Parties Involved
Even though this information will appear in the police report, you still want to exchange information with any other drivers involved in the accident. This includes getting their names, contact information, insurance policy numbers, the make and model of vehicle, and their driver’s license number.
In addition to other drivers involved, you should take notes regarding the accident while it is fresh in your mind. If possible, write down the time and location of the accident, the weather and road conditions, the damage the vehicle suffered, and the name and badge number of the responding police officers.
Talk to Witnesses
The police, your insurance company, the other driver’s insurer, and our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers will ask you what occurred. This information will help our office determine what happened and what parties could be held liable. Unfortunately, your memory and testimony only offer so much weight – especially the recollections of other drivers contradict your version of the accident. This is one reason why uninterested witnesses are crucial. You should talk to anyone who saw the accident and get their contact information. Do not ignore a witness just because they saw things differently. You can almost guarantee that the other driver’s insurance company will attempt to rely on such a witness. It is crucial for our Reading, PA car accident lawyers to address any testimony that could refute your version of events.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Nearly every insurance policy requires that a policyholder contact the insurer if there are involved in an accident. In many cases, failing to notify your insurance provider could jeopardize a future claim. However, this does not mean you should provide too much information or agree to a settlement.
When you talk with an adjuster from your insurance provider, remember to stick to the facts. You should not offer any opinions, accept fault, or offer any details about your injuries. The information you provide should be limited to the objective facts of the case. You should not offer any opinions about the cause of the crash or the extent of your injuries. Under no circumstances should you speak with an agent from another driver’s insurer without speaking with an experienced attorney.
Call Our Pennsylvania Car Accident Lawyers
When you are involved in a car accident in another state, the local laws typically govern how the case will be handled. If you were injured in a crash in Pennsylvania, you should have local counsel familiar with Pennsylvania law. Before you speak to an insurance company, you should speak with our Upper Darby car accident lawyers.
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 policyholder, any spouse or relative living with them, and minors in their custody.
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.
In Pennsylvania, policyholders 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 non-economic 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, which 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 non-economic losses. A Stroudsburg car accident attorney can help you navigate the nuance with car accident law and out-of-state drivers.
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 a motor vehicle 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 at (215) 709-6940.