Why is the Act a big deal?
This act significantly alters the law in the area of liability for damages when more than one person/company is responsible for harming a victim and affects everything from automobile accident cases to product liability cases. Historically Pennsylvania followed a doctrine developed through the common law of England that was known as joint and several liability. The focus and intent was to make sure that the victim was made whole regardless of the proportion of liability each defendant shared. Therefore, a Plaintiff’s personal injury attorney in Pennsylvania was free to focus on establishing damages rather than damages apportionment. Under this doctrine, the victim would be made whole so long as one of the responsible parties had sufficient monetary capital to make the victim whole. The defendants were then left to fight among themselves regarding reimbursement for payments made – but the victim was made whole and made whole without having to try to collect from all of the defendants, many of whom often would not have sufficient funds to satisfy the judgment.
Under the Fair Share Act, the focus is no longer on making victim’s whole. It is on the Defendants and what proportion of the harm they caused. By losing sight of the victim and de-emphasizing the individual victim, this Act has set up impediments to recovery that will result in additional litigation over assigning blame, finger pointing, inability to recover for harm, and increased medical expenses borne either by the victims or insurance companies or society when damage awards are no longer collectible or law suits are no longer economically feasible because one defendant is insolvent.
Here is a real life example: minor child is hurt in Pennsylvania by a defective product that burst into flames. The manufacturer is Chinese and has no assets in the United States. The seller is a United States Corporation and as a matter of law there is a warranty of merchantability and of fitness for consumer use. The Chinese Company is not worth pursuing because the damages are not sufficient to warrant attempts to collect in China. The US company will argue it bears very little proportional responsibility. The end result is that the victim will most likely now be unable to recover anything because the cost of bringing suit with a questionable ability to recover make the suit not viable. The individual, the health insurance company or the government through Medicaid will now have to bear the cost while the responsible parties get off without being held accountable.
The same result obtains in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident where two defendants acting together cause the crash. Suppose a semi-truck leaves Smethport, McKean County, Pennsylvania, travels on Route 6 to Coudersport, Potter County Pennsylvania and meets a car traveling from Wellsboro, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. Suppose further that the car runs the red light in front of the court house, and that the semi-truck is traveling too fast for conditions and cannot stop. The semi-truck swerves and strikes a motorcycle, rendering the operator a paraplegic. Unfortunately, the operator of the car had no license and no insurance. Under the prior law, the motorcycle operator would have been able to recover from the trucking company. Under the Fair Share Act what amount the victim can recover is going to be driven by what share of responsibility is applied to the truck driver. The practical result is that there will probably be years of litigation culminating in a trial over how much the truck driver is responsible. The car driver has no insurance and likely will have no attorney. That leaves the big trucking company the opportunity to blame that driver and absolve itself of all or most responsibility even though it has insurance that could cover the injuries. Tragically, the jury will never be told that their apportionment of fault will deprive the victim of the compensation they thought that they were awarding.
Contact Attorney Ross at (814) 274-8612.
When you hire our firm to handle your car accident and personal injury claim, we will help you sort through these confusing issues. We will uncomplicate the law for you and ensure that all of the property insurance companies have notice so that you will be in a position to recover from all resources that are available. You will be able to relax and focus on getting better, which is the way it should be. We will take care of handling your claim for you.
Do I Need An Attorney?
It’s a fair question. If you don’t need a lawyer, why pay a lawyer? The answer is “it depends.” Some cases involve only property damage and are not complicated. Some cases involve personal injury and recovery is not a simple matter.
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From offices in Coudersport, Potter County, Pennsylvania, the attorneys at Ross and Ross, LLC serve the personal injury, bankruptcy, social security disability, divorce and family law needs of Western, Northwestern, Central and North Central Pennsylvania including the communities of Coudersport, Galeton, Shinglehouse, West Branch, Smethport, Port Allegany, Bradford, Roulette, and Wellsboro, as well as Potter County, McKean County, Tioga County, Cameron County, Bradford County and other areas of Western PA and Central PA.
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