According to 2018 data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, nearly one in every 44 Pennsylvanians will experience a car accident in their lives.

In 2018, more than 1,100 people lost their lives in crashes in Pennsylvania. These deaths can wreak havoc on families, with resulting legal action likely causing even more grief.

Understanding how a lawsuit after a car accident will likely play out can offer some reassurance in the wake of tragedy.

How Pennsylvania determines liability

Pennsylvania law says motorists may acquire “no-fault” insurance instead of more traditional liability insurance. No-fault insurance protects a driver from a lawsuit in a car accident but also prevents the policyholder from suing in turn. Any damages for property or injury will come from the policyholder’s own insurance company.

However, if the accident results in “serious” damage, injury or death, the victim or their family may sue for damages, regardless of insurance coverage. Victims may collect economic damages which include car repairs, medical expenses and lost wages. Victims may also sue for non-economic damages, including physical pain, emotional distress and the loss of a loved one.

Comparative negligence

Pennsylvania uses the modified comparative negligence standard when determining damages.

This standard asks that the ruling body assign percentages of fault for liability. If someone is less than 50 percent at fault, they may still receive partial damages in the lawsuit, reduced according to the percentage at fault. For example, if a driver was 25 percent to blame for an accident, he or she would only receive 75 percent of awarded damages. An award of $8,000 becomes $6,000.

Pennsylvania law is also one of the few states that says damage caps are unconstitutional. There are exceptions for claims against local governments or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania itself — lawsuits against local governments cap at $250,000 in damages, and $500,000 for those against the Commonwealth.

Consult with an attorney

Those who have suffered severe injury or the death of a loved one in a motor vehicle accident should have their case analyzed by a lawyer who is experienced in this area of the law.