What Compensation Can an Accident Victim Expect in Pennsylvania?

Car accident victims who sustain injuries may face long-term or permanent health consequences, lasting emotional trauma, and loss of ability to work.

Your source of financial recovery will differ depending on the type of claim you are making and the types of insurance coverage available.  These sources and priorities of coverage can be confusing to the average layperson, so it’s always best to contact an attorney who regularly handles motor vehicle claims to get personal advice.

A. Medical Bills

Every person who is injured in a car accident can have their medical bills paid by a motor vehicle insurer.  If there is no insurance available at all, the person might be able to have their medical bills paid by the “Assigned Claims Plan”, https://www.pfracp.org/, which provides limited benefits.

Medical bills are paid on a “no-fault” basis-it does not matter who caused the accident, you are entitled to have your medical bills paid by a motor vehicle insurer as set forth in the law.  

If your medical bills exceed the amount of motor vehicle medical benefits, the excess bills will be paid by your health insurer or health plan.  In some cases, if you obtain a settlement your health plan or health insurer can require you to repay expenses they paid, through a process called subrogation. This is a complicated subject that must be addressed on an individual basis, and if you have questions about this, you can call our office.

If you do not have medical insurance, or you have out of pocket expenses such as deductibles or co-pays, then in most cases you will be able to recover those amounts from the wrongdoer, his insurer, or in some cases your Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist coverage.  Economic damages are always recoverable regardless of whether you are covered by the Full Tort or Limited Tort option, so you can always make a claim for your excess medical bills 

B. Lost Wages

If you become disabled or unable to work because of accident related injuries, you can make a claim for lost wages.  Like everything else, this depends on the type and amount of insurance coverage available.

“Lost Wage” coverage is an optional coverage that you can buy on your own policy.  This is a no-fault benefit that will pay you (according to the insurance policy terms) for lost wages you suffer as a result of a crash.  A typical coverage we see is a $1,000.00 per month and $5,000.00 total limit.  This means that the insurance company will pay you up to one thousand dollars a month, and no more than five thousand dollars in total.  Like all coverages, the amount can be increased-it will just cost you more in insurance premiums. In a typical $1,000.00/$5,000.00 policy, the insurer will have a five day waiting period.  That means that the insurer won’t begin making payments until you have been out of work for five days.  Once you miss day six, then the coverage will kick in. If you have a $1,000.00 per month limit your insurer will pay you (generally) 80% of your wages up to the   $1,000.00 monthly limit.

If you make $1,200.00 per month, then your insurer would pay you $960.00 (80% times $1,200.00).
If you make $12,000.00 per month, then your insurer would pay you $1,000.00- because 80% of $12,000.00 is $9,600.00, which is more than the monthly limit of $1,000.00.

What happens to the wage loss that is not compensated? In the first example, you would have a $40.00 lost wage claim that would be presented to the insurance company of the wrongdoer. In the second example, you would have an $11,000.00 lost wage claim that would be presented to the insurance company of the wrongdoer.

In situations where a person does not have this optional no-fault lost wage coverage, then the entire lost wage claim will be presented to the responsible insurance company. Of course, you may also be covered by a short term or long term disability plan at work, and that will factor into your lost wage recovery as well.

As with medical bills, you can always make a claim for lost wages regardless of your Tort Option.

C. Pain and Suffering

Auto accident victims who are covered by the Full Tort option have the right to make claims for pain and suffering, regardless of the severity of the injury. The amount of money that a person will receive depends on the nature of the injury.  A person who suffers a broken arm will generally receive more money than a person who suffers a broken pinky toe.  A person who suffers two fractured arms will generally recover more money than a person who suffers one fractured arm.

People who are covered by the Limited Tort option start out with a disadvantage-one which sometimes prevents them from recovering money for pain and suffering. When you are covered by the Limited Tort option, the general rule is that you cannot make a recovery for pain and suffering. There are many situations where people covered by the Limited Tort option can make a monetary recovery for pain and suffering.  For a detailed explanation click here. Because there are many exceptions to the Limited Tort doctrine, you should always  contact a skilled personal injury attorney. An attorney with lots of experience handling car accident cases will be able to tell you every situation when you can recover money even with Limited Tort.

Pain and Suffering money includes, obviously, compensation for pain and suffering.  It also can include a financial recovery for items such as inconvenience, humiliation, embarrassment, disfigurement, scarring, emotional trauma, mental trauma, and psychological trauma.  If you are married, your spouse may have a claim for a disruption in his/her life, or a disruption in the marital relationship.  If you witnessed a family member be injured or killed, you may have a claim for emotional distress damages.

Every case is different and needs to be examined on its own facts and circumstances.  A qualified personal injury attorney can help you navigate these complicated waters to make sure that you obtain all of the compensation to which you are entitled.

D. What should you do?

When you are injured in a car accident, you need to contact a lawyer who regularly practices personal injury law in Pennsylvania.  At our law firm, Attorney Thomas Berret has been handling injury and wrongful death cases for over 25 years.  Attorney Hal K. Waldman has been representing people injured or killed in car accidents for over 40 years.  Schedule your free consultation with our team at Hal Waldman and Associates at 412-850-3064. We serve the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.