GOT QUESTIONS? WE’VE GOT ANSWERS!
After an accident:
- Safety is the most important factor – Check on yourself and your passengers for injury. If your vehicle is operational and in a dangerous place, move it to a safer place when possible. Turn your engine off;
- If your vehicle is not in a dangerous place, leave the vehicle where it is – it may be helpful to police and others when determining how the accident occurred and who is at fault. Take photos of each vehicles position before moving them;
- Always call the police. A police report is important for both property damage and personal injury claims. It will identify all parties involved and relevant insurance policies, while creating an official record;
- Take photos. Take photos of other Driver’s License, Insurance Card, Registration and License Plate. Take photos of the accident scene, traffic control devices, position of the vehicles, property damage, impact points and any other evidence you logically believe will be helpful. With modern cell phones, this should be easy, so when in doubt take more photos not less;
- If injured ALWAYS seek immediate medical treatment. No matter how minor your injury may seem, a trip to the Emergency Room to get checked out is always a smart precaution. Often times the pain from an injury won’t manifest for a few days after the accident. Immediate medical treatment will help your pain and recover once your adrenaline wears off. Don’t worry, without exception the first $5,000 of your medical bills are ALWAYS covered by your Auto Insurance (called Personal Injury Protection (PIP)), not your Health Insurance. If you are hurt to any degree, don’t avoid the Ambulance, ER, Family Doctor, follow up appointments etc. simply because of money concerns. Unlike Health Insurance, with PIP coverage you will never incur a co-pay or deductible, EVER.
- Contact our office. We will help you with filing a claim with your insurance carrier and protect you against disclosing harmful information to the other drivers insurance carrier. Depending upon the various types of coverages in play, guarding against giving a recorded statement to the police or any insurance carrier (including yours) may be important.
At our Firm, we aim to be “Personal. Injury Attorneys” rather than just “Personal Injury Attorneys” – if you are ever injured and need legal help, the distinction will become clear.
The right attorney has the personal skill and experience to truly understand the client and his/her case and deals with the client one-on one. Every client is unique and needs an individual game plan created by the attorney to achieve the best result. We aim to make the client feels comfortable so they can concentrate solely on getting well to carry on with their day to day job and responsibilities. When you hire us, your problem is now our problem and we are in it together.
In today’s world a great deal of information is just a few clicks away on the Internet. As a result, people are tempted to read a few articles on-line and adopt a “do-it-yourself” approach to their case. The “do-it-yourself” approach, at least with respect to legal matters, is a bad idea.
If you needed surgery, would you operate on yourself? No. you would go to a medical professional with the education, training, experience, and skill necessary to handle the task. Why, then, would you try to “do-it-yourself” when it comes to handling your case? Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is your best bet. Going at it along just can’t replicate the results that our three years of law school, countless prior injury cases and the many, many hours of courtroom experience can.
When hiring us you will have an opportunity to meet with a licensed attorney so you can ask the questions that are important to you and gather the information you need before making an educated decision about how to proceed with your case.
Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney means you will have a strong advocate in your corner. Someone who has been “in the trenches” for many years and has the education, training, experience, and skill necessary to handle your case. Working with a professional also ensures that you will not fall victim to the many tricks and pitfalls associated with the handling of personal injury claims, such as notice requirement s to state agencies, Statute of Limitations deadlines, duty to protect medical liens, sources of insurance coverage, determining tort status and exception, to name a few.
There is no upfront cost for our time. If we win or settle your case, the firm is paid an agreed upon percentage of your “winnings” at the end.
Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney means you can focus on what is most important to you – getting better. With a professional handling your case, you will have more time to focus on your recovery, your family, your work, and all of the things that you hold dear. You will have more time to go to doctor visits, have tests and medical procedures performed, participate in therapy, rest, and do whatever else is necessary to get better.
Having the benefit of a strong team means you can maintain your focus on getting better.
You have to ask yourself if you have sufficient knowledge to go toe to toe with the insurance company or defense attorney. Do you think what they tell you is accurate or in your best interest? No way, they have completely opposing interest to you. They don’t want to protect you – they want to protect their insured/client and pay you as little money as possible to settle the claim. They don’t care if you need medical treatment. In fact, they want you to settle as quickly and cheaply as possible, even if you still need treatment, haven’t fully recovered, and still may miss work. A good, experienced attorney on your side will know how to evaluate your cases value and maximize your claim.
A basic example – Say the insurance company offers to settle your case before a lawsuit for $500.00 (a very standard offer made to unrepresented parties to induce a quick settlement). If you hire an attorney that can settle your case for $750.00, after paying the attorney you still net the same take home dollars and you didn’t have to deal with the negotiation or personal hassle. So if an attorney can maximize your case value by 50%, then hiring the attorney paid for itself. If our firm can maximize your case by more than 50%, then not only did we save you the time and hassle, but we put more net dollars in your pocket.
Since most people have never negotiated a personal injury claim on their own behalf, how would they even know what their case was worth and if the $500.00 offer in the example above was fair or an insult? They wouldn’t, which is why you should contact our firm for a free consultation.
The most important thing is your health. If you’re in a car crash, you’ve likely been hit by a several thousand pound piece of machinery and pushed suddenly. Or, possibly you’ve had a serious fall and may have broken or torn something. Whatever happened, if you have pain you should get it checked out to be safe. You don’t want to make things worse. Many times immediate treatment can reduce recovery time or otherwise treat a problem before it becomes irreversible.
Secondary to regaining your health, when you’re injured seeking immediate treatment is also important to your case. The insurance company or defense attorney will argue if you didn’t go to see a doctor right away then you must not have been that hurt. They’ll assume lack of treatment means lack of injury. Going to a good doctor is not only the best course of action for your health, but also creates a record that can be used to prove your damages. Records are very helpful, if not absolutely necessary, when making a claim.
Mistakes happen, but from a legal perspective someone is always at fault. We all have a duty to act reasonably and take precaution to avoid causing injury. When another person fails in upholding that duty, no matter slight a failure, they are at fault to some degree for causing your injury.
Other times, there is clearly a faulty party, but they can’t be identified, such as a hit and run. Auto insurance carriers typically offer what is called uninsured motorist / underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage which may apply to a situation like this. Customers are required to accept or waive UM/UIM coverage in writing when they purchase their auto insurance coverage. As long as the coverage has not been waived, there may be insurance coverage available when the identity of the at-fault party is unknown.
Generally speaking, in Pennsylvania an injury lawsuit must be filed within two (2) years from the date of the incident that gave rise to the injury (i.e. date of assault, date of the car crash, date of the slip/fall). See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5524.
The most routine exception to the 2 year period pertains to kids/Minors. If a person is an unemancipated Minor on the date of injury, they have until their 20th Birthday to file an injury lawsuit. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5533.
Because of potential procedural pitfalls, when possible, attorneys do not prefer to wait until the last minute to file a lawsuit. The proper facts and parties must be explored in advance. Inaccuracy in this regard could be fatal to your case. Don’t delay – contact our office promptly. It won’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time.
In Pennsylvania, the law requires a certain minimum amount of auto insurance coverage. This amount is informally called a 15/30/5 Policy. These numbers are shorthand, for $15,000 of coverage for injuries you cause to one person; $30,000 of coverage for injuries you cause to two or more people; and $5,000 of coverage for damage you cause to the property of others. That’s it.
Perhaps you noticed, the required state minimum does not cover injuries to YOU or damages to YOUR VEHICLE. The state minimum is insufficient and outdated coverage, being in place since the 1970’s with no changes or indexing for inflation and the realities of modern life.
“Good” coverage protects OTHERS and protects YOU.
You should purchase UM/UIM coverage. UM/UIM is shorthand for Uninsured/Underinsured. This covers YOU for injuries you suffer by a driver that doesn’t have liability coverage (i.e. Uninsured) or doesn’t have adequate liability coverage (i.e. Underinsured). For example, if you are injured by a driver that is uninsured and you don’t have UM coverage in place, you are likely out of luck to be financially compensated for your injury. Similarly, if you are injured by a driver that is underinsured (e.g. the other driver only has 15/30 liability coverage) and you don’t have UIM coverage in place, you are limited to $15,000 of financial compensation for your injury. Worse yet, at any given time in Pennsylvania up to 20% of drivers are not insured. UM/UIM coverage gives you the power to insure all drivers on the road for as much as you want them to be insured for.
Pay extra for Stacking if you own more than 1 vehicle. Stacking allows you to combine UM/UIM coverage that you have on 2 or more vehicles and make it available to you all at once. For instance, imagine that you have $25,000 of UM/UIM coverage on each of the 3 vehicles in your household. If another driver is uninsured/underinsured and at fault for an accident that injured you, you are able to make a claim to your own insurance company for your injuries up to $25,000 because of the UM/UIM coverage you purchased. (Yes, you can make a claim against your own insurance company!) BUT, if you paid just a bit extra for Stacking, then you would be able to make a claim to your own insurance company for your injuries up to $75,000 (Because all 3 of your $25,000 policies are combined, i.e. “stacked” together).
You should purchase the Full Tort option. Full Tort allows you to financially recover for any degree of injury no matter how minor. The alternative is the Limited Tort option, which only allows recover for an injury that is a “serious impairment of a bodily function” or a “serious permanent disfigurement”. What does this really mean – it means that if you don’t purchase Full Tort coverage and suffer whiplash causing neck and back pain resulting 6 months of physical therapy, you might not be able to financially recover for your injuries. Most attorneys would agree that a “serious impairment of a bodily function” or a “serious permanent disfigurement” would include a broken bone, a herniated disc, a permanent and noticeable scar and/or an injury requiring surgery. But there are many lesser injuries one could suffer that are still very painful, lasting and inconvenient but may be barred if you select the Limit Tort option. Choosing the Full Tort option leaves nothing to chance.
You should purchase Full Coverage (which is not the same thing as Full Tort). Full Coverage refers to Collision Coverage (when others crash into your vehicle) and Comprehensive Coverage (damage caused other ways, such as hail stones, theft, vandalism, etc.). This is a good idea if your vehicle is valuable and is required if your vehicle is leased or financed. It’s also great protection if your vehicle is struck by an uninsured driver. Lastly, it’s great coverage to have if liability is unclear. If you think an accident is the other guys fault, but he thinks it’s yours, this coverage will require your insurance carrier to fix your vehicle promptly and your carrier will duke out liability with the other guy on your behalf.
Purchase Property Damage Liability coverage greater than the $5,000 required state minimum. This type of coverage not only covers damage you cause to the other guys vehicle, but also to personal and real property. If you rear end someone sending their car crashing into a telephone pole then a store front window while breaking their expensive Iphone and designer sunglasses, this is the coverage that protects you. Maybe $5k would cover the tab in 1976, but not today. Nowadays most any accident, no matter how minor, will result in more than $5,000 in damage.
You should purchase Personal Liability Coverage greater than the minimum required $15,000/$30,000 (i.e. 15/30). There are all different increments of coverage available above 15/30, the most common starting at $25,000/$50,000 (i.e. 25/50) all the way up to $500,000/$1,000,000 (i.e. 500/1000) and beyond. This coverage compensates OTHERS for injury you cause them due to your negligence (i.e. mistakes, bad driving, etc.). It also protects YOU because your increased coverage will be adequate to compensate others, and therefore they are extremely unlikely to pursue your personal assets in a lawsuit. Win – Win!
Lastly, you should consider increasing your First-Party Benefits Coverage. The First-Party referred to here is YOU! This is coverage that compensates you no matter who is at fault. The state minimum coverage in PA does provide you $5,000.00 of coverage for your Medical Bills (called PIP). But if you buy “good” insurance, you can be covered for more than $5,000.00, plus Funeral Costs, Accidental Death Benefits and Wage Loss. Of course, when deciding on this coverage you should consider what other coverages you may have in place through Health/Life/Disability policies. There’s no sense in paying twice.
“Good” Coverage obviously costs more than the state minimum coverage. I’ve litigated thousands of auto cases – take it from me, if you’re ever in an accident you will never regret having paid a bit extra. Before an accident it will give you peace of mind and after an accident it will compensate you and your family while protecting your assets. The difference between good and bad coverage is probably the cost of few nice dinners a year – you and your family are worth that. Don’t skimp here.
In sum, I recommend to my own family and my clients:
- Buy the optional UM/UIM coverage;
- Pay extra for Stacking to combine your UM/UIM coverages if you have more than 1 vehicle;
- Always pay more for the optional Full Tort coverage (not to be confused with Full Coverage);
- Buy the optional Full Coverage to protect your vehicle against damage caused by Uninsured / Underinsured drivers;
- Buy increased amounts of Property Damage Liability coverage;
- Buy increased amounts of Personal Injury Liability coverage; and
- Consider increasing your First-Party Benefits.
Call my office anytime if you have questions!