Steven Fairlie and the other Pennsylvania Car Accident Attorneys at his firm have been providing car accident victims a superior level of service that has resulted in his selection by Philadelphia Magazine as a Pennsylvania SuperLawyer in Personal Injury.
Have you been hurt in an automobile or truck accident in Montgomery County, Bucks County, or the Philadelphia area? You’re not alone, recent statistics show that more than 3 million people a year get injured in automobile accidents. Being the victim of a car wreck was bad enough, but after an accident, the question as to who was at fault is only the first of many. For many people the insurance claims process that you are forced to become involved in after a crash can be complex and confusing. There are many forms to fill out and questions that need the right answers. You want to know how your property damage will be paid for. You want to know who will pay for it. You want to know how your medical bills will be covered and whether you should submit them to your own auto insurance (always the best – a Pennsylvania Car Accident Lawyer can explain the clear reason why), the other driver’s auto insurance, or your own medical insurance. At Fairlie & Lippy our Pennsylvania Car Accident Attorneys can answer these complicated questions and any others that arise after an automobile accident. We understand how to deal with automobile insurance companies to make sure our clients’ rights are enforced. Perhaps most importantly, we understand how to handle the process to maximize your recovery.
What should you do after an automobile accident? The following is a checklist of information that will prove helpful in the event of an automobile accident:
• Safety First: Check to see if you or any passengers with you were injured in the accident. Do not hesitate to call 911 for medical help. If anyone is unconscious, it is best not to move him or her unless absolutely necessary as moving them could complicate their injuries.
• Safely get out of the way of traffic: Turn off your vehicle’s ignition and turn on your hazard lights or open your hood to alert other drivers in the area.
• Call the police if the automobile accident involves damage, injury or death.
• Obtain and exchange the following information:
• Other driver(s) involved in the accident
• Telephone Numbers: (H) (C) (W)
• Insurance Provider:
• Policy Number:
• Responding Officer
• Badge Number:
• Accident Information
• Other vehicle description:
• Plate Number:
• Telephone Numbers: (H) (C) (W)
• Photograph: Take photographs of everything involved in the accident, as long as it can be done safely. This includes your injuries, the damage to all vehicles and of the accident scene in general. For this reason it is wise to keep a disposable camera in your glove box.
• Diagram: Create an accident diagram:
• See a Doctor: Sometimes there are injuries right after an accident takes place, but many people who are injured don’t realize it right away. Therefore, it is wise to see your doctor following an accident to be sure that all is well to avoid possible causation and statute of limitation issues down the road.
• Obtain a Police Report: Get a copy of the police accident report if the police responded.
• Log Information:
• All office visits for medical treatments and medication including names, dates of visits, amount charged and reasons for seeking the medical providers.
• All time taken off from work or school as a result of the accident and/or the inability to function properly at work or school as a result of your injuries. It is wise to get a letter from a superior verifying this lost time and/or loss of pay.
• Car repair estimates and/or bills
• Out of pocket expenses as a result of the accident such as taxi service, rental car, or child-care expenses.
• Photograph: Continue to take photographs of your injuries at different times after the accident, dating each photo.
• Contact Witnesses: Contact them for a written statement before too much time lapses.
• Contact a Pennsylvania Car Accident Lawyer: Contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your claim and discuss with you your legal rights and remedies available.
What kinds of automobile accidents are actionable? While automobile accidents occur for a variety of reasons, from a legal context there are three primary categories—negligence, intentional misconduct and strict liability. “Negligence” occurs when the driver causing the accident did not exercise reasonable care, or in other words, failed to act like an ordinary reasonable person would have acted in the particular situation that caused the accident. For example, a person who is distracted and rear-ends another vehicle at a stop sign is negligent. “Intentional misconduct” on the other hand, is an action committed when the person knew that doing so could cause harm and did not care, or actively desired to harm others. For example, a person who is driving at a high rate of speed, weaving in and out of traffic is intentionally putting others at harm. Lastly, “strict liability” is a special area of the law that can apply in some circumstances, where neither negligence nor intent would need to be shown—the other party is held strictly liable for their actions regardless of their level of care or state of mind. For example, if the accident was a result of a manufacturing defect, the manufacturer may be held strictly liable. If you have been involved in an automobile accident and someone else is at fault, consult an experienced Pennsylvania Car Accident Lawyer who can determine if you have an actionable claim.
What is at issue in an automobile accident personal injury case? There are three primary issues that arise in automobile accident cases—liability, damages, and coverage. First it is necessary to determine liability–who is at fault and to what degree. Then it is necessary to assess the injuries or losses that were caused and will be caused in the future as a result of the accident. Lastly, what the insurance company will pay after an accident varies depending upon the individual policies, level of liability, amount of damages accrued, and quality of representation.
What is the difference between limited tort and full tort, and why does it matter? In Pennsylvania, drivers may have a limited tort automobile insurance policy or a full tort automobile insurance policy. In a limited tort policy, your rights to bring a claim for compensation for your losses following an accident may be limited to monetary losses. Under this tort coverage, you usually cannot bring a claim for compensation for your non-monetary losses, i.e., pain and suffering, unless the injury is “serious.” Pennsylvania law defines a “serious” injury as one that results in death, serious impairment of a bodily function or permanent serious disfigurement. The tort selection you make matters more than the bottom line initial savings suggest (approximately 15% on your premiums), because the selection that you make applies to you and those members of your family that live with you. With limited tort coverage you are not just restricting your rights, you are restricting the rights of your spouse and children as well. On the other hand, with full tort, you are allowed under law to seek money damages for your pain and suffering due to any injury you receive in an automobile accident, provided of course that someone else is at fault. Most people who elect limited tort insurance do not understand that for $100 a year they are giving up the right to damages that might amount to $50,000 or more if they are involved in an accident.
Who will pay for the damage to my vehicle or my physical injuries? In Pennsylvania, the driver(s) who caused the accident generally pay nothing – their insurance company pays the claim for the damage to your vehicle as well as your personal injuries.
What if the vehicle that hit you was a commercial vehicle or tractor-trailer? Drivers of commercial vehicles are those drivers who are working for a company at the time of the accident, in the course and scope of their employment. Often these drivers are operating their vehicles under the pressures and demands of the workday, but under no circumstances should these put innocent drivers at risk. In commercial cases you may be able to claim against the driver’s personal liability insurance as well as the larger commercial insurance policy to ensure full compensation. In commercial cases, as in all automobile accidents, it is important not to sign anything without first talking to an attorney experienced in personal injury and automobile accident cases. Because the company’s insurance is at stake, it is not uncommon for their adjusters and investigators to get involved right away and try to limit the company’s liability.
Can I get my deductible back? Provided that you are not at fault for the accident and depending on your insurance policy, you may be entitled to get your deductible back. If your deductible applies regardless of fault, often your insurance company will “subrogate” the other company, meaning that they will collect your deductible from the other company. When they are repaid, they will also collect your deductible and return it for you. Therefore, if the accident is the result of another driver’s fault, the loss of your deductible is generally only temporary. The length of time it takes for the subrogation process to play out varies.
What if both parties involved in the accident were negligent? State laws vary regarding automobile accidents where two or more people are deemed at fault. In Pennsylvania, the comparative negligence doctrine mandates that in order to recover for your injuries you must establish that the other driver was more than 50% responsible for the accident. This is known as “modified comparative fault” or the “51% rule.” Under this rule an injured party can only recover if it is determined that his or her fault does not reach 51%. If the injured party was 50% or less at fault, he or she may still recover damages as reduced by the degree of his or her own fault. For example, if Jill is driving too fast under the conditions and collides with Jack, who forgot to turn his headlights on, the jury would be charged to assign percentages of fault. Say the jury found Jill to be 70% at fault and Jack 30% at fault in the automobile accident with Jack’s damages totaling $10,000. In Pennsylvania, Jack would be able to collect $7,000 in damages and Jill would not be entitled to any damages.
What damages can I recover after an automobile accident? The amount and types of damages you can collect after an automobile accident vary. The answer to this question depends on liability, amount of damages, and insurance coverage. However, the types of damages typically available include the following:
• Medical expenses
• Pain and suffering
• Mental anguish
• Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
• Loss of Consortium
• Property Damage
What if the person who hit you has no insurance or only a small amount? If you discover that the person who caused an accident has no automobile insurance or only a small amount, and you carry uninsured motorist coverage, your own insurance company will step it to take the place of the uninsured/underinsured driver so that you can recover for your injuries. Uninsured motorist coverage can apply whether you are a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or even the victim of a hit-and-run accident. However, while in some states you are required to carry this coverage, this is not the case in Pennsylvania. While you might save some money on your premium by foregoing uninsured/underinsured coverage, not having it when you need it can be devastating.
Do I have to take what the insurance company says is fair? You should not take any settlements offered by an insurance company without first speaking with an experienced Pennyslvania Car Accident Lawyer. Insurance companies typically offer a minimal amount of money in return for your signature stating that you will not sue them. Similarly, you may find that estimates provided by your insurance company can sometimes be lower than you might have expected. If you are unsatisfied with an initial estimate you do not have to take that of the insurance company in every case. Take the automobile to a certified body shop for another estimate and be sure to save and document all of the bills and work associated with the repair. Pay particular attention to the quality of the parts proposed for the repair – are they new or used, OEM or aftermarket?
What if my injuries are permanent? A permanent injury is one that will be with you for the rest of your life or for some period of time beyond the disposition of the claim. In most cases, the injured party is entitled to compensation from the liable party or their insurance company for all medical bills incurred to date and into the future for the permanent injuries resulting from the accident. It is therefore critical that you contact an experienced and knowledgeable attorney in the event that you or a loved one suffers a permanent injury resulting from an automobile accident because settling the claim may bar any future right to recovery.
How much time after the accident do I have to file a claim? Every state has certain time limits, called “statutes of limitations,” which determine the time frame within which victims of an automobile accident can file a claim. In Pennsylvania for example, the statute of limitations for automobile accident claims is two years from the date of the accident. Once the limit has expired, you will have waived your ability to obtain compensation from the parties at fault. There are narrow exceptions to this rule that apply in very limited circumstances. Consequently, it is important to contact one of our Pennsylvania Car Accident Attorneys as soon as possible to ensure that you receive everything to which you are entitled to under the law.
I wasn’t at fault but I’m being sued. Just because you’re being sued does not mean that you will be found at fault for an accident. If the accident wasn’t your fault but you’re being sued you can file a claim setting forth the reasons that the other party was at fault, known as a “counterclaim.” At Fairlie & Lippy, we will take control of the issues in your case, ensuring that the real victim prevails.
If you’ve been hurt in an automobile accident, sued following an automobile accident, or struck by an automobile as a pedestrian, the Pennsylvania Car Accident Attorneys at Fairlie & Lippy will investigate your accident, determine the responsible parties, and take action to obtain all remedies available to you under the law. While automobile accidents are unfortunately too common, the process of filing claims and recovering damages can be complex given all the variables. We can answer your questions, navigate the complexities and tip the scales in your favor when it comes to increasing the chance of a lucrative settlement.