Failure to Pay a Motor Vehicle Judgment

Pennsylvania law has a little known provision which provides that any person who fails within 60 days to satisfy a judgment arising out of a motor vehicle accident can have his operating privilege suspended until the judgment is satisfied.  The Vehicle Code allows the injured party to forward to the Department of Transportation a certified copy of the judgment; upon receipt, the Department suspends the operating privilege of the operator who caused the damage.

In order to get the license suspension lifted, the judgment debtor must either show proof of financial responsibility (insurance) sufficient to cover the judgment or must provide evidence that the judgment has actually been paid.

There is a limit, however, to the amount required to be paid by the judgment debtor.  For an injury to one person arising out of one accident the entire judgment must be satisfied up to a maximum of $15,000; in the case of injuries to multiple persons, the entire judgment must be satisfied up to a maximum of $30,000; in the case of property damage, the entire judgment must be satisfied up to a maximum of $5,000.  These maximums correspond to the minimum insurance limits required for motor vehicle insurance in Pennsylvania.

In cases of hardship, the judgment debtor can apply to the court for the privilege of paying the judgment in installments; so long as the installments are paid in a timely fashion the suspension is lifted subject to reinstatement in the event of default in payment.

It is worth noting that in smaller cases, the license suspension penalty remains a strong motivator to force the negligent driver to pay for the damages caused by his or her negligence.  The suspension procedure comes into play most commonly in cases where drivers fail to maintain required insurance.  It can also apply to judgments arising out of small accidents where an insurance claim is not submitted.

– Kevin Palmer


Posted in Vehicle