How To Determine Fault In A Car Accident

Determining Fault In A Car Accident Can Be An Involved Process

Determining fault in a car accident is not always easy, as there can be many steps involved in the process. Unfortunately, a car accident is one of the risks involved with driving a car. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation determined that, in one recent year, there were a total of 128,420 traffic accidents throughout the state. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation found that 1,200 Pennsylvanians were killed in these crashes and 78,000 were injured. 

For many Pennsylvanians, a car accident is life-changing. Victims often find that they can no longer work, or can’t work the same job or hours that they did before. Car crashes also result in astronomical medical bills. Insurance can cover a portion of the medical bills, but deductibles and coinsurance alone can add up to thousands of dollars.

Many Pennsylvanians end up filing for bankruptcy protection because they cannot pay their medical bills. Often, the only available relief is a lawsuit. Pennsylvania law allows you to receive compensation for damages suffered in a car accident. The Law Firm of Fenters Ward can help you get the compensation you deserve. The first step in receiving that much-needed compensation is determining who was at fault. 

Types Of Auto Insurance In Pennsylvania

  • Full Tort Liability
  • Limited Tort Liability

There are two types of auto insurance in Pennsylvania: full tort liability insurance and limited tort liability insurance. The type of coverage you have affects how much compensation you can receive from an at-fault driver in a car accident.

Full tort liability insurance allows you to recover the cost of both economic damages (i.e. tangible monetary damages) and non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering). 

With limited tort liability insurance (aka no-fault coverage) your insurance pays for economic damages that result from an accident (not to exceed the value of the policy). You can only sue the at-fault party for non-economic damages or “excess economic damages” in specific circumstances, namely if you suffered a “serious injury” as a result of the crash.

According to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, a serious injury is defined as “a personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of bodily function or permanent serious disfigurement.” This means that if you are killed in a car accident, for example, your family can recover non-economic damages in a wrongful death suit. If you have limited tort liability insurance and your insurance refuses to cover legitimate economic damages, you do have the option of filing a lawsuit against your insurance company for compensation that is rightfully yours.

Ask The Law Firm of Fenters Ward if this option is right for you.


To be compensated for your injuries following a car accident, you must provide documentation of said injuries. This is true no matter what type of insurance you carry. Such costs include the cost of a hospital stay (along with doctor’s fees and the cost of any treatment you received during your stay), the cost of the ambulance ride, follow-up appointments, rehabilitation, therapy, and medical devices.

It is important that you file all documentation regarding these costs. You should also keep track of your lost wages while you are out of work, as well as lost commission, tips, and/or contributions to a retirement plan. Without proper documentation, you will have no chance of recovering the money you are owed.

Statute Of Limitations

In Pennsylvania, car accident victims must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident. There is one caveat to this: some injuries (e.g. brain injury) are not revealed to be severe until long after the accident. For this reason, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allows car accident victims with limited tort liability insurance to file a lawsuit within two years of discovering how badly they have been injured.

An experienced attorney at The Law Firm of Fenters Ward will be able to advise you on this issue. We recommend contacting The Law Firm of Fenters Ward and hiring an attorney as soon as possible following your accident. Two years can go by quickly – especially if you are focused on recovering – and you do not want to miss out on money that is rightfully yours.

Determining Fault In An Accident

For someone to be held legally liable for your pain and suffering, it has to be determined that they were at-fault in the accident. You must show substantial evidence that the other party was negligent under four key elements. These elements are:

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Injury
  • Causation

You (or rather, your attorney) must first establish that the other party owed you a certain duty. When it comes to car accidents, establishing duty is usually cut and dry, as every driver has a duty to drive safely, follow the rules of the road, and not put other drivers in danger. In other words, duty can be established based on the simple fact that the other party was driving. You must then establish that the other party breached their duty.

This is where things get tricky.

Proving that the other driver breached their duty – say, by committing a traffic violation – is not always so simple. For instance, you might know that the other driver ran a red light and t-boned you, but if there were no cameras and no eyewitnesses, how do you prove it?

This is where police reports and accident reconstruction experts are necessary. It is also where an experienced lawyer is necessary. An attorney from The Law Firm of Fenters Ward can fight for justice on your behalf.

To be compensated for an injury, you need to show that you were in fact injured. This is where you need medical records and documentation. If you have an injury that doesn’t require hospitalization, see your primary doctor as soon as possible.

Finally, you need to prove that the other driver’s breach of duty caused or worsened your injury. The Law Firm of Fenters Ward can help you establish causation.

Scroll to Top