As reported in newspapers, there was a five-vehicle pile-up on Interstate 81, causing two of the vehicles to burst into flames, one of which was a trailer hauling a full load of potatoes.
Firefighters rushed to the scene to contain the blaze which kept traffic in both lanes at a standstill past 6 p.m.
Two people sustained injuries that were not life threatening and were taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton.
Both the trailer and the Dodge pick-up it collided with were destroyed, though the cab of the trailer was spared because someone had the presence of mind to disconnect it from the trailer.
One of the drivers in this mashup is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and was taken by police for a blood draw.
Hazleton state police are investigating.
The modified comparative negligence standard
While police investigate, the parties to the accident must pick up the pieces of their lives and carry on– no small task. In just a few fraught seconds a person’s life is upended. They must sort through and take account of property damage, personal injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, physical pain and emotional distress.
The accident will have to be reconstructed and everyone’s relative contribution thereto assessed. Costs will have to be recouped.
In Pennsylvania, per the comparative negligence rule, if you’re able to sue, the damages you recover will be limited by the proportion of fault you bear for the accident.
So, who can sue? The short answer: It depends. Pennsylvania is a choice no-fault state. There’s a no-fault system drivers can opt into or out of by choosing auto insurance accordingly.
If drivers choose limited tort coverage, thus no-fault, they’ll have lower premiums, and their insurance company will compensate them for economic damages no matter who’s at fault.
However, no claim can be pursued against the at-fault driver unless damages fall within an exception to no-fault rules.
On the other hand, drivers can choose traditional insurance, that is, full tort coverage, thus opting out of the no-fault system and positioning themselves to sue for all economic and non-economic inflicted harms.
Do the damages of this case fall within an exception to no-fault rules? The experts must weigh in. In cases this complex, it’s best to consult with counsel experienced in this area of the law to ensure your rights are protected and to obtain the best possible outcome.