Understanding Pedestrians and Limited Torts

Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in West Chester, PA
The Herald-Mail reported last month that the Waynesboro Area School Board and the Borough of Waynesboro on the southern border of Pennsylvania had been “brainstorming ways to improve safety for pedestrians and motorists near the Waynesboro Area Middle School entrance,” as school administrators said students are crossing the borough-owned road to access the local mall parking lot.

In the northwest corner of the Commonwealth, the Erie Times-News reported on June 12 that a group of more than 60 people marched along the Bayfront Connector, “an area that has a bicycle path along part of the route, but no sidewalk.” Some of those who marched were remembering 8-year-old Jazarion Paul, who was flown to Pittsburgh by helicopter after he was struck in a hit-and-run pedestrian crash on May 28.

Even ahead of the Stanley Cup victory parade Downtown for the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 14, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) urged motorists and pedestrians to be aware of each other. PennDOT said in a June 13 press release that there has been an average of more than 250 pedestrian crashes in the City of Pittsburgh each year since 2011, with 20 of those crashes being fatal and 60 percent occurring in broad daylight.

As we enter summer, communities all over Pennsylvania will see an increase in the number of pedestrians engaging in outdoor activities. Whether it is outings in Brandywine Picnic Park or attending any one of a number of festivals or concerts, visitors and residents alike will choose to commute by foot in order to enjoy the favorable weather. When a motorist is intoxicated or distracted, there is an increased risk of a pedestrian being struck and severely injured.

In many pedestrian crashes, automobile insurance policies cover the damages of pedestrians struck by motor vehicles. Some victims who purchased limited tort coverage policies instead of full tort policies believe that the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) prohibits them from recovering non-economic damages, but the truth is that tort limitations do not apply to pedestrians.

Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in West Chester, PA

In L.S. v. David Eschbach, Jr., Inc., 874 A.2d 1150 (Pa. 2005), an 11-year-old girl (L.S.) suffered multiple contusions, abrasions, and fractures while attempting to cross the street after exiting her school bus. The girl’s natural parent and guardian commenced a timely negligence action in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County against the driver of the school bus and the owner of the bus company, but the trial court granted the bus driver and bus company owner’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and denied the plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment after concluding that L.S. had failed to meet the “serious injury” threshold as required by the limited tort provision to recover noneconomic damages.

L.S. appealed both Orders to the Superior Court, but a majority of the Superior Court determined that Section 1705 of the MVFRL expressly precludes a pedestrian, who is insured by a limited tort automobile policy, from recovering noneconomic damages absent serious injury. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, however, reversed the portion of the Superior Court’s decision that deemed Section 1705 applicable to pedestrians and remanded the matter to the trial court after concluding that “neither the plain language of the statute nor the express legislative intent support a statutory interpretation of Section 1705 that restricts the right of recovery of a pedestrian based upon his or her limited tort election.”

Many drivers in Pennsylvania opt for the limited tort option when purchasing automobile insurance in order to save some money on their monthly payments. While there are inherent risks to this decision when it comes to motor vehicle accidents, the Supreme Court’s decision in L.S. v. Eschbach has been cited by other courts in determining that not only are pedestrians not bound by limited tort restrictions, but bicyclists are also similarly able to seek noneconomic damages.

When it comes to compensatory damages for any kind of motor vehicle accident, economic damages refer to specific calculable losses such as medical bills and lost wages while noneconomic damages apply to forms of harm that cannot be quantified, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. In many cases, noneconomic damages can be several times the amount awarded for economic damages.

If you suffered serious injuries or your loved one was killed as a pedestrian struck by an automobile in Chester County, it is in your best interest to immediately seek legal representation. The dedicated team of West Chester personal injury attorneys at [[$firm]] will fight to get you all of the possible compensation that you are entitled to.