Pennsylvania is one of the top ten states for the highest number of accidents in 2022 — 1,103 this year alone.
Distracted driving and speed cause most car accidents across the United States. Younger drivers are most often affected by both, making them far more likely to be in an accident. Interestingly, most car accidents occur within ten miles of a person’s home.
Regardless of when or why an accident occurred, you might be able to recover money damages after the crash. You could recoup some of those expenses from your insurance company or another driver.
Pennsylvania’s fault system is unique compared to other states. Talk with a Pennsylvania car accident lawyer about your options following a traffic accident.
Although 2022 fatal accidents increased in Pennsylvania, the state had a welcome downward trend in fatal crashes. In 2020, there were 1,129 fatalities and 61,248 reported injuries due to 104,475 reported car accidents.
While the number of fatalities may seem somewhat high, this number is the lowest it has been since 1950, when there were only 113,748 crashes reported.
The year 2020 also had 1.1 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, the second-lowest since 1935. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PA DOT) believes the low numbers in 2020 resulted from a dramatic decrease in travel in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to the PA Dot, in 2020, one in 57 people living in Pennsylvania was in a reportable crash. Also, one in 11,339 people was fatally injured, and 1 in 209 people suffered injuries.
If you are one of the many people in Pennsylvania who have been in an accident, you may want to call a Pennsylvania car accident lawyer to discuss your legal options.
Driver Error is the Leading Cause of Accidents
Most accidents in Pennsylvania are preventable, which makes fatality and accident statistics even more concerning.
Nationally, driver error contributes to accidents in about 85% to 90% of crashes. Factors like alcohol and speeding continue to head up the list of reasons crashes in Pennsylvania occur.
The top driver errors that led to fatalities in 2020 included:
- Drunk driving
- Improper turning
- Careless or illegal passing
- Distracted driving
- Traveling without clearance
- Drowsy driving
Using safe driving practices goes a long way toward preventing accidents in Pennsylvania. If you or a loved one has been in a car crash because of any of these reasons, talk to a Pennsylvania car accident attorney about your legal rights.
Understanding Fault in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania allows drivers to have a choice about insurance coverage when it comes to fault. They are a “choice” no-fault state. Drivers can decide if they want an insurance policy that provides no-fault coverage. There is no legal duty to get no-fault coverage.
If a driver does have personal injury coverage, they will look to their own insurance to compensate them. Compensation often covers medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the damages involved in the case are higher than what is available for coverage, then the at-fault driver might have to pay that difference.
If a driver does not have no-fault insurance, they will turn to the other driver involved for compensation.
You can still receive damages if you do not have no-fault insurance. You often have the option to file a lawsuit against the person responsible for damages. A Pennsylvania car accident attorney can help you with this process.
Most, but not all, personal injury cases use the concept of negligence.
Negligence means that someone was careless or reckless. When someone is negligent, they did not act with reasonable care in the situation. They violated their “duty of care” to the victim.
Every personal injury claim needs to meet four requirements:
- Duty. The defendant had a duty to the victim.
- Breach. The defendant violated or breached that duty.
- Causation. The breach of duty caused injuries to the victim.
- Damages. The victim suffered specific damages or injuries.
Your Pennsylvania car accident lawyer will help you prove these four elements to an insurance company, jury, or judge. They will gather and present facts and information on your behalf. If you cannot prove these elements, you cannot have a successful legal claim.
Consider an example. Imagine you were in a car accident. Someone ran into you while you were stopped at a stop sign. You injured your neck, and your car needs a new bumper.
Every driver has a duty to those around them to drive reasonably based on driving conditions. This usually means they should follow the rules of the road. For example, they should obey stop lights and drive the speed limit. As a result, the duty element required for a personal injury claim is satisfied in almost every car accident case.
In the example, the other driver breached their duty because they were not paying attention to those around them. They did not see your vehicle stopped at the stop sign.
Causation and Damages
The focus turns to you regarding the third and fourth elements of a personal injury claim. You must prove any injuries or damage were directly caused by the other driver.
In the example above, you must prove that someone hitting the back of your vehicle caused damage to your bumper and neck injury.
A Pennsylvania car accident attorney can help you understand the full effects of a crash before or during a lawsuit. You might still have effects from injuries for years to come.
Personal injury cases often involve physical injuries. But other injuries might occur as well. For example, if the damage was only to your bumper, you could still assert a lawsuit for property damage. This is true even if you had no physical damage. The claim would simply request that the driver who hit you pay for the cost to repair or replace your bumper.
Emotional or Mental Damages
You may still have a legal claim if your injuries were emotional or mental as well. Talk to a Pennsylvania car accident lawyer to determine your options in that type of situation.
Collateral Source Rule
Pennsylvania uses the collateral source rule for showing damages at trial. This rule states that payments from any other source cannot decrease the damages in your legal case.
The most common example of this rule relates to medical expenses. In many cases, a car accident victim’s health insurance will pay for some or all of their medical expenses after a crash. No one can discuss your insurance coverage at trial because of the collateral source rule.
In most situations, your health insurance company will require reimbursement for any expenses they covered. If the jury does not consider the full amount of all bills, you could end up repaying those bills yourself.
Pennsylvania does not have a specific statute on the collateral source rule. Instead, the collateral source rule comes from case law. Case law includes opinions that bind lower courts and act as law in Pennsylvania. The collateral source rule has some limited exceptions that your Pennsylvania car accident lawyer can work through with you.
Dram Shop Laws in Pennsylvania
A dram shop law is a state law that imposes legal liability on any individual or business that overserves alcohol to a drunk person. The business or person is then responsible for any damage that person causes. The person drinking the alcohol must have been visibly drunk to trigger Pennsylvania dram shop laws.
Pennsylvania’s dram shop law goes further than other states. Businesses that serve alcohol to minors can be liable for the actions of drunk minors. This is true regardless of whether the minor was visibly drunk.
Dram shop laws can be helpful but complex. A Pennsylvania car accident lawyer will be able to evaluate your situation to determine whether a dram shop claim makes sense in your situation.
Negligence Per Se in Pennsylvania
Negligence per se means that a defendant (the at-fault party) is automatically negligent because they broke the law. Pennsylvania law requires a car accident victim (the plaintiff) to show four very specific elements to prove negligence per se:
- The purpose of the law should be to protect people in the plaintiff's position.
- The law must apply to the at-fault driver’s conduct.
- The at-fault driver must have violated the law.
- There must be proof that violating the law caused the car accident victim’s injuries.
While negligence per se can be very helpful in proving a case, it is not automatic. A Pennsylvania car accident attorney can review your situation to determine if asserting negligence per se is an option based on the unique facts of your case.
Accidents are often more than one person’s fault. The law accounts for this reality by altering how you can recover when you may be partially at fault for your own injuries.
In many states, your money damages in a personal injury case can decrease if you contributed to the accident that caused your injuries. States have slightly different laws, but they generally fall into two categories regarding this type of defense.
Comparative negligence decreases your total award by the amount of fault attributed to you for the accident. Consider the rear-end accident example above. If your brake lights were not working correctly, this factor may have played a role in the accident. A jury would then assess a certain percentage of fault to you and a portion to the other driver.
If you recover $10,000 but are found to be 10% at fault, your total award would decrease by 10%. That is, the other driver was 90% percent at fault, so he should pay for 90% of the damages.
Many states use comparative negligence, including Pennsylvania. However, Pennsylvania modifies traditional comparative negligence, i.e., Pennsylvania does not allow plaintiffs to recover anything if they are at least 51% at fault. Car accident victims can still recover something if their portion of the fault is at 50% or below.
It can be difficult to determine who is technically at fault in a crash, but a Pennsylvania car accident attorney can help with this process.
Contributory negligence states bar recovery for victims who are at fault in any way. In the rear-end example above, you would not be able to recover anything because you were partially at fault.
This rule is used in very few states. Some states will modify this rule so you are only barred from recovery if your fault is above a certain level. Other states provide broad exceptions.
Comparative negligence can make a case complicated. A Pennsylvania car accident attorney can explain to you how the court might divide fault so that you can be prepared.
Car Accident Statistics in the 5 Largest Cities in Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is by far Pennsylvania’s largest city. It is home to approximately 1.58 million people. It has nearly four times the population of Pennsylvania’s next-largest city, Pittsburgh. Philadelphia is located in Philadelphia County, which is also the most populous county in Pennsylvania.
Because of its population, Philadelphia County also sees the most car accidents in the state. However, even with the larger population, the crash rates are high. Philadelphia County has 12.4% of the population, but 14.5% of the state’s fatal car accidents.
Philadelphia County also had 13.8% of the crashes that led to injuries. In 2020, there were 10,108 crashes in Philadelphia County.
With just over 300,000 people, Pittsburgh is located in Allegheny County, which has over 1.2 million people. It had about 5.4% of fatal car accidents in 2020, with 9,818 total accidents in the whole county.
According to the 2020 census, Allentown has about 121,000 residents. It is the largest city in Lehigh County.
In 2020, 4% of all Pennsylvania accidents occurred in Lehigh County. There were 4,186 total accidents that resulted in 30 fatalities and 1,833 injuries.
Reading is the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania, with just under 95,000 residents. It is the largest city in Berks County.
Berks County saw 4.2% of the total crashes in Pennsylvania during 2020. There were 4,357 total accidents. Of those, 36 resulted in fatalities and 1,746 resulted in injuries.
The fifth-largest city in Pennsylvania is Erie. It has just under 94,000 people within its city lines. It is also the largest city in Erie County.
Erie County had just 2.2% of the total number of crashes in 2020. Of those 2,327 accidents, 14 resulted in fatalities, and 1,014 involved injuries.
Get connected to a Pennsylvania car accident lawyer to learn more about your options after a crash. Contact Accident.com for more information.