Most drivers in Pennsylvania and across the nation have experienced an increase in incidents involving speeding, tailgating and angry drivers who weave in and out of lanes, putting all drivers at risk. Accidents that result from such reckless driving behavior can range from minor scratches and bumps to serious injury or death.
Proving that the actions of a negligent driver were the cause of the accident can be challenging, however, and will require skilled and experienced legal representation to navigate through the claims process, especially under Pennsylvania no-fault insurance laws.
What is negligence in Pennsylvania?
In a successful civil claim in Pennsylvania, the plaintiff must prove that the driver of the other vehicle was negligent. The elements necessary to prove negligence are:
- The defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care to other drivers on the road.
- The defendant committed a breach of this duty in their actions.
- This breach caused harm or damage to the injured party.
- The monetary value of the damages.
Pennsylvania laws operate under the legal theory of contributory negligence, which will reduce a compensable award by the percentage of fault that the injured party may have contributed to causing the accident. In other words, if the defense successfully proves that the claimant shared 25% of the fault for the accident, they can only receive 75% of the award they are seeking.
Where is the proof and who is liable?
Proving liability in a civil claim, which is a preponderance of the evidence, requires a lower standard than in a criminal case, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. However, without sufficient evidence, it can be challenging to prove that the other driver was driving recklessly.
If the police report indicates that the other driver broke the law, or if the accident resulted in serious injury or death, waiting for the outcome of a criminal case will strengthen a civil claim, so long as the plaintiff files within the statute of limitations. Some factors that will determine both the level of compensation and cause in a reckless driving case include:
- A police report that includes traffic violations such as speeding, illegal lane changes, driving on the shoulder or DUI.
- Statements by the injured party.
- Accident reconstruction using evidence from the scene, including photos of the damage to both vehicles, the area and severity of impact, skid marks, or distance of the impacted vehicle from the accident site.
- Witness statements.
- Extent of injuries to the victims.
Under Pennsylvania no-fault insurance laws, a limited tort policy may limit the damages the injured party is seeking, but a full-tort policy will allow them to claim the maximum compensation for their injuries.