Pedestrian Accidents, Part 1: Who Has the Right-of-Way?

Each year an alarming number of people die or are injured as pedestrians in motor vehicle accidents. In fact, for 2009, the last year in which pedestrian accident data was available through the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, over 4,000 pedestrians were killed in automobile accidents and an estimated 59,000 people were injured as pedestrians in traffic crashes across the United States. That same 2009 study indicated that a pedestrian was killed every 2 hours and a pedestrian was injured every 9 minutes in traffic accidents.

While the number of pedestrian accidents has been trending downward in the last few years, it remains alarming that so many pedestrians are involved in accidents, and that all too often they are seriously injured or killed. Further, many times alcohol or other drugs are involved in the accident, either if the pedestrian was under the influence or more commonly, the driver of the vehicle was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.

It may also may come as a surprise to many that in Pennsylvania, the right-of-way in these situations is determined by the location of the pedestrian crossing and whether there are traffic or pedestrian control devices on the street. If there are no such traffic control or pedestrian control signals, or if they are not in operation, the driver has the obligation to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian who is crossing within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection, even if no crosswalk is designated. However, where a pedestrian is crossing a roadway at any other point besides a crosswalk or an intersection, the pedestrian has the duty to yield the right-of-way to the vehicles upon the roadway.

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Pennsylvania's Teen Driving Laws Seek to Reduce Accidents and Fatalities

In the past few months, Pennsylvania has experienced several tragic losses of teenagers through vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, most of us can think of one specific accident that hit close to home. Maybe it was a group of teens in a nearby town, from the local high school, or a friend or family member. If it seems to happen all too often, that is because it does. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16 to 20-year-olds.

In its 2010 Crash Facts and Statistics Report, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation notes that 17- and 18-year-old drivers are more than twice as likely to get in accidents than drivers over the age of 30. 16-year-old drivers, however, are much less likely than 17- and 18-year-olds to get into accidents due to the mandatory six month waiting period between obtaining a Learner's Permit and a license. Recognizing this positive correlation between reduced accidents and extended learning periods for new drivers, Pennsylvania enacted a new teen driving law, Act 81 of 2011.

The table below outlines the stated objectives of Act 81 and the corresponding changes that went into effect on December 27, 2011:

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Fair Share Act Changes How Liability is Assigned in Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Corbett recently signed the "Fair Share Act." This legislation brings Pennsylvania out of the minority of states regarding the method used to assign liability in personal injury cases. Our state has now joined over 40 others in abandoning the theory of joint and several liability. There is a significant difference between the two methods:

  • Joint & Several Liability – the old law:  Under this method, if there were multiple Defendants determined to be at fault in a personal injury case, any of the Defendants could be required to pay 100% of the damages awarded to the injured party. The payment could be awarded regardless of the Defendant’s percentage of fault in the sustained injury. For example, if one of the Defendants was found to be 1% at fault in the case, the individual or business could still be required to pay in excess of 1% of the damages, even up to 100%, if the other Defendants were unable or unlikely to pay their shares. 
  • Fair Share Act – the new law:  This law eliminates the joint and several component in Pennsylvania’s liability laws. Under the new Act, Defendants will only be held liable to pay the percentage of damages for which they have been found to be at fault. There are exceptions if their damages exceed 60%. Using the same example as above, a Defendant who was found to be 1% at fault in a case, will only be required to pay 1% of the monetary damages awarded even if the other Defendants are unable or unlikely to pay their shares. 
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The Benefits of Stacking Your Auto Insurance Coverage

Most of the time we drive our cars without major incident but as an attorney, I often see situations when someone is involved in a serious accident and their car insurance plays a major role in the options available to them. Purchasing car insurance can be very confusing. There are certain aspects of car insurance that are not mandatory in Pennsylvania and it can seem quite attractive to elect not to have certain coverage in order to keep your monthly premium as low as possible. I began writing a series of blog articles covering the aspects of auto insurance to help explain and highlight the risks and benefits of various elective coverage options. 

Previously, I wrote two articles on car insurance coverage one discussed full tort and limited tort and the other discussed underinsured and uninsured insurance coverage. In this article I will explain stacking, which is another important aspect of insurance coverage which many individuals are unaware of.

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The Benefits of Underinsured/Uninsured Insurance (UM/UIM) Coverage

In my previous article Full Tort vs. Limited Tort, is it worth the extra money?, I discuss the differences between full tort and limited tort coverage. The world of automobile insurance coverage can be complex and many times confusing. In this article I wanted to talk about another aspect of automobile insurance coverage which, is the importance of and the difference between, uninsured motorists (UM) benefits and underinsured motorists (UIM) benefits.

What is Uninsured Coverage?

Uninsured benefits are similar to underinsured, in that it allows you to recover from your own insurer in a case where the driver at fault for the accident did not carry any insurance coverage. When purchasing an automobile policy, it is easy to assume that every driver out there both has insurance and has sufficient coverage because the law requires everyone to have automobile insurance. However, the reality is that many drivers are not even covered by automobile insurance and many that are covered have the minimum coverage allowed by the law, which in many cases, especially where there has been a serious accident, will not even begin to compensate a victim for his or her injuries, lost wages and other damages.

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Full Tort vs. Limited Tort, is it worth the extra money?

When a client comes into my office with a potential personal injury claim involving an auto accident, many times one of the first questions I'll ask is whether that person had full tort or limited tort insurance coverage at the time of the accident. And in many of those situations, the response I get to that question is "I don't know" or "what's the difference." The difference can be significant. 

In Pennsylvania, insurance providers are required to provide consumers with a choice between full tort coverage and limited tort coverage. Limited tort coverage is almost always cheaper and, because of that cost savings, can affect the choice an individual makes. This choice has the potential to cost them significantly should they ever be involved in an automobile accident. 

The difference between limited tort coverage and full tort coverage is that, limited tort coverage permits a person injured in an automobile accident to only recover for his or her out of pocket medical bills, wage loss, automobile repair costs, and other actual monetary loss.  When an individual elects to have limited tort coverage, he or she is foregoing the right to pursue damages in a personal injury claim for pain and suffering and other similar damages, even where you are not at fault. There is a limited exception to this general rule that permits a person with limited tort coverage to pursue a claim for pain and suffering where the injuries they sustained in the accident were "serious." Serious injuries however, are not always clearly defined or proven. Certainly, where an individual requires life saving treatment following an accident, those injuries would be serious and allow full recovery for pain and suffering. The problem is that in the majority of cases, the line that differentiates a serious injury from that of a non-serious injury is less clear.

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