What Are Your Rights After a Winter Weather-Related Car Accident in Pennsylvania?

Dec 23, 2022 - Car Accidents

Winter is officially here in Pennsylvania. As daily lows regularly dip below freezing, snow will be a possibility for the next few months, and while this may mean that the kids get some days off from school, it means that Pennsylvania’s roads will become more dangerous as well.

With fewer drivers on Pennsylvania’s roads during the winter months, the number of car accidents actually drops in January, February and March according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). But, for those drivers and passengers who are on the road, getting injured in an accident is a very real concern.

If you get injured in a winter weather-related car accident in Pennsylvania, what are your legal rights? Here’s what you need to know:

Bad Weather Does Not Excuse Bad Driving

The first fact you need to know is that bad weather does not excuse bad driving. If anything, drivers in Pennsylvania need to be more careful when it is snowing or when winter precipitation has accumulated on the roads. Just like any other time of year, if drivers make mistakes that lead to car accidents, they (or their insurance companies) can be held accountable in accordance with Pennsylvania law.

Many types of driving errors can lead to accidents in winter weather. This includes everything from driving too fast for the conditions to texting behind the wheel. The types of negligence that present risks in good driving conditions can be even more dangerous when the road is slippery or visibility is limited—and there is no excuse for any driver to put other road users in harm’s way.

Your Rights Depend (In Part) On Your Auto Insurance Coverage

If you get injured in a winter weather-related accident caused by another driver’s negligence in Pennsylvania, your rights depend on your auto insurance coverage. One of the first things you need to figure out is whether you have “limited tort” or “full tort” coverage under your policy.

If you have “limited tort” coverage, you will be limited to securing coverage under the “medical benefits” portion of your policy unless your injuries are severe enough to allow a claim against the at-fault driver. But, if you have “full tort” coverage, you can seek full compensation under the at-fault driver’s policy even if your injuries do not cross the severity threshold that applies to “limited tort” coverage. You should be able to review your policy’s declaration page or the coverage summary in your insurance provider’s app to figure out which type of coverage you have.

While reviewing your insurance policy, it is also a good idea to confirm whether you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Under Pennsylvania law, drivers are only required to carry $15,000 in bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance per person (and $30,000 per accident). If you were seriously injured in your car accident, this could be far less than you need to recoup your accident-related losses. By filing a UIM claim (if you have the coverage), you can secure additional compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other accident-related losses.

When examining your auto insurance policy to see if you have UIM coverage, you will also want to see if your policy allows “stacking.” This costs extra, but it is well worth the additional cost if you suffer serious injuries in a collision. If your policy allows stacking, you can combine the UIM policy limits for all of your vehicles to further increase the coverage that is available to you.

You Have the Right to Be Treated Fairly By the Insurance Companies

Regardless of the type(s) of insurance claim(s) you can file, you have the right to be treated fairly by the insurance companies. Insurance companies have a legal obligation to handle all claims in good faith, and this means that they cannot lawfully deny coverage when liability is clear.

But this does not mean that securing coverage for your accident-related losses will be easy. Even if you are seeking “no-fault” medical benefits under your auto policy, you can still expect your insurance company to put up a fight. In virtually all cases, the insurance companies won’t pay unless they are convinced that paying is absolutely necessary. As a result, it is up to you to make sure you receive the coverage you deserve.

How can you make sure you receive the coverage you deserve? The best thing you can do is hire a lawyer as soon after your car accident as possible. Your lawyer can conduct an investigation to gather the evidence needed to prove liability, and then your lawyer can work with you (and your doctor and other experts) to calculate the value of your claim. With this information in hand, your lawyer will be able to negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf.

You Have the Right to Hold Any Other At-Fault Parties Accountable

While driver negligence is a common factor in winter weather-related car accidents, various other factors can cause (or at least contribute to causing) accidents as well. Depending on the factor(s) involved in your accident, you may also have a claim against:

  • An Automotive Manufacturer, Dealership or Repair Shop – If a vehicle defect or negligent service work played a role in your winter weather-related car accident, this could justify a claim against the company that is responsible.
  • A Government Agency, Construction Contractor or HOA – Government agencies, construction contractors, homeowners’ associations (HOAs) and various other entities can be held liable when road defects and other road-related issues lead to accidents.
  • The Other Driver’s Employer or Rideshare Company – If the other driver was on the clock or driving for a rideshare company (i.e., Uber or Lyft), then the driver’s employer or rideshare company could be liable.

Talk To a Car Accident Lawyer in Pennsylvania About Your Legal Rights

If you need to know more about your legal rights after a winter weather-related car accident in Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To speak with a lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, call 888-777-7098 or request a free consultation online now.

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