Can You Sue For Personal Injury After An Accident? Your Insurance May Get A Say

Odd as it may seem, you may have determined whether or not you can file a case against the other party in an accident all the way back when you first signed up for your insurance policy. In the state of Pennsylvania, the type of insurance you carry can actually dictate when you are and aren't allowed to seek restitution for injury costs from other drivers directly.

Pennsylvania's Policy Is Choice No-Fault

When you sign up for insurance coverage, you have two different options: traditional policies and no-fault policies. Each is very different from the other in terms of coverage, cost, risk, and legal ramifications after an accident.

If you choose traditional coverage, your insurance company will decide whether or not you were at fault in the accident. Whichever party is deemed at fault, their insurance company will reimburse the other party. Both parties can go to court at any time to settle disputes, such as who is really at fault and how much money is needed. The driver who is not at fault may have the option to seek reimbursement from their own insurance company depending on policy.

If you opt for no-fault insurance, on the other hand, the other driver's insurance company won't really be involved in your life at all. Instead your insurance company will handle the damages and reimburse you for any minor injuries incurred during the accident. Your legal options are very limited when it comes to needing more assistance if the accident costs you more than your coverage will provide.

When Can You Sue With Traditional Insurance?

Traditional policies do not hamper your ability to seek legal damages at all. If the other party is deemed to be at fault, their insurance is responsible for paying you the full amount outlined in their policy. If your expenses exceed this amount, you are free to sue the other driver for the remainder for up to 2 years after the accident takes place.

The following expenses qualify to be reimbursed by the other driver's insurance or the driver him/herself after an accident:

  • Medical costs
  • Lost wages
  • Future lost wages due to disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost opportunity due to injury
  • Property damage

What About No-Fault Insurance?

If you experience property damage that exceeds the value of your insurance coverage, you can seek reimbursement from the other driver's insurance, and the process is similar if the coverage is still inadequate. However, personal injuries are usually limited to seeking reimbursement from your own insurance. If your coverage doesn't meet your needs, you can only seek compensation from the other driver's insurance if your injuries were severe.

Typically, sufficient severity to seek damages is demonstrated when you suffer any of the following injuries or impairments:

  • Permanent impairment of any body part.
  • Loss of control over one or more bodily functions, such as loss of bowel control, deafness, blindness, etc.
  • Partial or total disability as a result of the accident, which temporarily or permanently reduces your ability to work.
  • Serious and permanent disfigurement, even if the damage is only cosmetic. 

If you do qualify for a suit, you cannot seek restitution for lost opportunity, emotional distress, or pain and suffering. Instead, you will be able to sue for present and future lost wages and medical bills that exceed your own insurance coverage.

Both policies have their benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to understand the ramifications of your insurance choice. The last thing you need is to be blindsided after an accident by a lack of support. If you've already suffered an accident, you should discuss your options with a qualified attorney. Even if your insurance is making your case difficult, a good lawyer can provide you with more info and help you get back on your feet.