When the days are short and the temperatures drop, car accidents become a daily possibility. Icy roads, vision impaired by snow and slick intersections are the ingredients for a stew of bumper-to-bumper crashes.
When examining automobile insurance coverage, it's important to remember that Pennsylvania is one of the few states that offers "choice no fault" insurance. This means you can choose to carry no fault insurance or traditional insurance.
If you choose no fault insurance, then after an accident you can collect from your insurance company up to the policy limit no matter who was at fault in the accident. While this is an efficient and timely way to get compensation, it also limits your ability to sue other drivers for their roles in the accident.
Are you less than 50 percent responsible?
If you have a situation in which you choose to seek a legal remedy against the other drivers, you must first determine that you are no more than 50 percent responsible for the accident. If you are less than 50 percent responsible, you can collect from the other drivers' insurance in proportion to the degree you were at fault. For example, if you were 30 percent at fault and another driver was 70 percent at fault, you could receive an award that is reduced by 30 percent.
This is obviously tricky, but not as tricky as trying to determine fault when more than two cars are involved in a crash, and winter driving conditions are a breeding ground for multiple-vehicle collisions.
If one driver crashes into you, then another driver crashes in to the second driver, who is responsible for which percentage of the accident? If you plan to use no fault insurance, the point is moot because your insurance company will cover your damages up to your policy limit. But if you plan to seek a legal remedy, the details of the accident become very important.
Gather as much information as possible
Where there are multiple at-fault drivers, you need to get as much information as you can to prove your role in the accident. Some possible sources of information include:
- Police reports, including accident reconstruction
- Eyewitness statements
- Photos taken by bystanders or media
- Surveillance camera footage
- Damage patterns exhibited on the vehicles
- Tire tracks and skid marks left on the road
- Debris from the crash.
You and your legal team can use this information to determine the percentage of your responsibility in an accident.
It rarely gets above freezing in central Pennsylvania during December and January and the beautiful hills and valleys can be especially treacherous. Make sure you have a proper insurance policy for the conditions and, if necessary, be prepared to fight in court for what you need.