Philadelphia Auto Accident Attorney
Screeching tires, blaring horns, and shattering glass are but a few of the extremely traumatic events a car accident victim experiences. In the moments before the impact, the driver and occupants of the car, truck or SUV may wonder if they will see their family members again. Unfortunately, on top of physical injuries and emotional stress, accident victims face all kinds of financial issues brought about by having to stop work due to serious life-altering injuries. Furthermore, they often have to handle an array of insurance problems including denials of coverage or claims that purchased coverage is insufficient to cover all expenses.
The car accident lawyers at Reiff & Bily can utilize their years of experience and training to fight to increase the likelihood that you will receive an appropriate level compensation for your injuries following an accident. Our attorneys approach each and every personal injury matter strategically. Reiff & Bily’s personal injury attorneys recognize that all cases have their own unique facts, circumstances, and goals. Therefore we always engage in extensive investigation and fact-finding before pursuing all legal avenues that are reasonably likely to result in a favorable jury award or settlement.
WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT?
Following a car accident, your most important concern should be your safety and well-being. If you are able to do so safely, move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic. If your vehicle is severely damaged and you cannot drive it to the shoulder or to another safe location, you should put on your hazard lights (blinkers) and wait for assistance. If you are injured and cannot move but can reach your cell phone, call 911 for emergency assistance immediately. Otherwise, you should wait to call law enforcement until you have moved the vehicle to the shoulder and reached safety. However, and this cannot be understated, you must contact law enforcement after most accidents in Pennsylvania. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3746 – Immediate notice of accident to police department, states that a driver “shall immediately” and through the “quickest means of communication” provide notice to the police when:
- There is an injury.
- A death occurs due to the accident.
- A vehicle involved in the accident is so damaged that it cannot be driven in a regular manner without further damaging it, causing a traffic hazard, or when a vehicle requires towing.
If anyone was injured or killed in the accident, § 3744 – Duty to give information and render aid, requires the parties to remain at the scene and contact law enforcement. Furthermore, under the same law a driver has an obligation to share his or her name, address, license and registration with the other party or parties involved in the accident. The driver must also provide his or her insurance card to the other involved parties.
If the accident that occurred involves damage to a parked car, unattended vehicle, or to property, the driver also has an obligation to immediately stop the vehicle under § 3745 – Accidents involving damage to unattended vehicle or property. The driver holds the responsibility of providing their information, locating the owner, or posting the information in a conspicuous location on the vehicle or property.
WHAT IF MY LICENSE IS SUSPENDED OR EXPIRED?
Individuals who were involved in a serious accident while not properly licensed under an expired or suspended license can face serious consequences. Under § 3742.1 Accidents involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed, any individual driving under a “disqualified, canceled, recalled, revoked or suspended” license or otherwise not holding a license who causes an accident resulting in personal injury or death can face prosecution under this statute. For minor bodily injuries, the improperly licensed driver can face second-degree misdemeanor charges. If a party suffers a serious bodily injury or death, a third-degree felony can be charged. Aside from these penalties, § 3742.1(b)(3) holds that motor vehicles used in the commission of an offense, such as causing bodily injury while improperly licensed, can be subject to forfeit as contraband.
As far as personal injury considerations go, an unlicensed driver is unlikely to have insurance coverage. If the at-fault driver in unlicensed without coverage, the injured parties may be placed in a very difficult situation unless they have full tort and full coverage. The lack of uninsured motorist coverage may result in a lack of compensation for significant injuries. Additionally if full tort is selected or the threshold to bring suit under a limited tort policy is met, juries are unlikely to favorably view at an unlicensed driver who is at-fault for an accident.
WHO REPORTS A CAR ACCIDENT?
Many drivers are confused as to what is a car accident report? Others may not understand exactly how to report a car accident to police. However, since drivers are obligated to call the police – typically by dialing 911 — after a car accident occurring in Pennsylvania, the police will complete the accident report. After the police submit the report to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, a party or their personal injury lawyer can obtain a copy of the report by completing Form M-600 and submitting it to the Pennsylvania DOT.
However, if a police officer does not investigate an accident as required under § 3746, the driver of a vehicle involved in the accident must file a report. § 3747 –Written report of accident by driver or owner, requires a driver of a vehicle that is in any way involved in the accident not reported by police to complete their own accident report. This report should be submitted to police should be in writing and must be submitted to the police within five days of the accident. If the original report is insufficient, the police department may require the driver to submit an additional supplemental report.
Drivers should also know how to report the accident to their own insurance company. When calling their insurer, they should only provide facts and should not speculate about fault or what they should be prepared to provide certain information to the representative. This information includes:
- The time the accident occurred.
- The exact location of the accident. Road names, mile markers, and landmarks are important.
- The name of the other driver.
- The other driver’s home address.
- The other driver’s license number.
- The other driver’s insurance carrier and policy number.
- The other driver’s phone number.
- Contact information for any individual who witnessed the accident.
If it is possible and safe to do so, it can be useful to take a photograph of the accident scene. Since even the most basic smart phones have cameras, it is often possible to take a photo. Furthermore, your insurer may ask you to take photos of the damage to your vehicle.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED A MINOR CAR ACCIDENT?
Many people dismiss their accident a “minor” or just a “fender bender.” While some accidents may indeed turn out to cause only slight injuries and minimal damage to a vehicle, individuals should never simply assume that injuries are only “minor.”
In the medical profession, it is a well-known fact that the full extent of injuries may not present themselves immediately. Back, neck, spinal compression, and other whiplash injuries are particularly known to present in this manner. Pain will usually present within a few hours of the accident once adrenaline and other chemicals released during a traumatic experience return to normal levels. In fact, most medical professionals will distinguish between immediate pain; an onset within seconds or minutes, acute pain; pain that presents within hours or days, and chronic pain
Furthermore, certain neuropathic injuries, pain to nerve tissue, have a delayed onset. One study found that damage to microglial cells in the spinal cord play a role in the development of neuropathic pain. Furthermore the data suggests that fractalkine release can lay a role in the onset of pain. Furthermore, other studies have found that treatments do not focus on the different phases in the development of neuropathic pain and thus pain may grow worse over time and the full extent of the injury may not be known for some time.
Even after suffering what initially appears to be a minor accident, it is still prudent, and may be required under Pennsylvania state law, to report the accident. Furthermore, seeking medical attention is also a good idea. In some cases internal injuries can initially fly under the radar. Seeing a doctor and getting a clean bill of health following an accident can also provide peace of mind. And, if the doctor does find something amiss, your diligence will make it more likely that you’ll be able to hold the responsible party accountable for your injury.
WHAT ARE COMMON CAR ACCIDENT INJURIES?
Since their height in the 1970s, fatal car accidents have continued their steady decline. However, there are still far too many accidents producing fatal injuries. According to the 2014 Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics report compiled by Pennsylvania Department Of Transportation (PennDOT), 121,317 accidents occurred in the state over the course of 2014. The majority of these crashes only produced property damage. There were 62,558 crashed causing property damage only (PDO). The next largest classification are crashes that produced a personal injury. There were 57,652 car and truck accidents that produced an injury of some type. Of these injuries, 3,042 were classified as major and 12,075 were considered moderate injuries. Unfortunately there were 1,107 fatal accidents that produced 1,195 fatalities.
While PennDOT has not made the exact injuries suffered by driver and vehicle occupants available, a 2010 CDC report offers a window into the types of injuries commonly suffered by individuals involved in car accidents who sought treatment at an emergency room for their injuries. The report found that 23.6 percent of all ER visits after a car accident were due to sprains or strains of the neck and back. For individuals wondering what whiplash is, it is likely covered under this category since it is a nerve shearing injury in the neck.
15 percent of ER visits were attributed to mild to moderate contusions like cuts and scrapes. 8 percent of motor vehicle crash-related ER visits were attributed to spinal disorders. Sprains, fractures, and open wounds also accounted for single-digit percentages of motor-vehicle related injuries. While head injuries are not included in the CDC’s report, many people seem to wonder why they have a headache after a car accident. If a headache is present that persists and the induvial struck their head during the crash, a traumatic brain injury is possible.
WHOSE INSURANCE COVERS A CAR ACCIDENT IN PENNSYLVANIA?
Pennsylvania drivers know that they must purchase car insurance coverage, however many are confused as to whose car insurance will cover the costs of the accident. Under Pennsylvania’s no-fault system, your own policy is supposed to pay for your injuries, no matter who caused the accident. But you may not have as much insurance as you believe. For personal injury claims, insurance will only pay up to your personal injury protection (PIP) limit. If, your policy has a low limit for personal injury, you will likely have to pursue the other driver’s insurance.
In general, there are 3 kinds of car insurance that Pennsylvania drivers are required to have, plus other kinds you can choose to buy or not. You can also choose different limits or amounts on each of these parts of your insurance.
- Personal Injury Insurance– Known as PIP for short or sometimes referred to as the medical expense benefit, PIP covers the medical benefits for you and others included in your policy. Fault is not a factor regarding PIP as the no-fault policy requires your own insurance company to cover your medical expenses. Each Pennsylvania driver must carry a minimum of $5,000 of PIP coverage. However, in today’s day and age of rapidly escalating medical costs, carrying additional PIP coverage is recommended.
- Bodily injury liability– This type of vehicle insurance coverage pays for the medical and rehab expenses of others. Thus, anyone you injure in a car accident that the court decides you caused will draw on this type of coverage. The minimum limit is $15,000 per person or $30,000 per accident. The $30,000 number is the total available to all the people injured in one accident. As discussed above, medical costs have inflated extremely quickly. When there are multiple occupants in a vehicle or when multiple cars are involved in an accident, this limit can quickly be eclipsed.
- Property damage liability– This required coverage covers the cost of repairing or replacing property that you damaged in an accident for which you are found liable. The minimum is $5,000 of coverage. Again, consider the value of a vehicle and other property in today’s day and age. $5,000 in coverage will not go particularly far. If you do not have other assets to cover damages, you may be forced to sell off assets or property or face wage garnishment.
Additionally, certain all-purpose policies are acceptable coverage in Pennsylvania provided that, like above, it meets certain minimum coverage limits.
When an insurance agent asks if you want full or limited tort coverage, they approach the matter from a different perspective from that of a car accident lawyer. Furthermore, the agent rarely places him or herself in the shoes of a hypothetical accident victim when selling coverage. Rather, they focus on the consumer’s immediate concern which is often the plan premium and the monthly price the individual will pay to obtain and keep coverage. Unfortunately, focusing on saving a few dollars a month or making sure that the insurance company can beat a competitor’s price does not serve the best interests of the consumer after an accident when the policyholder actually needs to invoke coverage under his or her plan.
Consider this aspect of Pennsylvania’s car insurance regime. The regime is, technically, a choice no-fault system. That is, one additional choice a driver in Pennsylvania must make regarding insurance is whether to opt for full tort coverage or whether limited tort is sufficient. Full coverage will allow a driver to pursue a claim in a court of law regardless of circumstances and obtain damages for pain and suffering. Under a limited tort plan, a car accident lawsuit can only be filed if the individual meets a “serious” injury threshold. Unfortunately the bar to meet this injury threshold is rather high. Typically this requires broken bones, severe disfigurement, or other impairments of bodily function. Thus, when people ask what compensation they can get for their car accident or whether they can obtain a car accident settlement that includes pain and suffering the question of whether they have selected a full or limited tort insurance plan is of paramount importance.
HOW DO CAR ACCIDENT INJURY CLAIMS WORK?
Pennsylvanian wondering what a car accident claim is can receive two separate answers depending on how far the matter has proceeded. At first, a car accident claim is a request for compensation that you make to your insurance carrier. As discussed above, as a no-fault state your carrier will pay your expenses up to a certain point. But what happened when your insurance policy is insufficient to cover all of the damages suffered? Provided that you have selected certain additional coverage options or meet the “serious injury” threshold, you will be permitted to file an additional claim. This time it is a legal claim – a car accident lawsuit – that you can file in Pennsylvania court.
Thus, you selection of full or limited tort coverage affects the damages you can recover. And when your agent asks whether you want full or limited tort coverage, you are choosing whether you can sue for all damages following an accident — or not.
WHO IS AT FAULT FOR A CAR ACCIDENT?
While Pennsylvania is a no-fault state for car insurance coverage state, it turns out that fault does matter to the outcome of your claim. If your PIP policy is insufficient to cover your injuries, you will make a claim against the at-fault driver’s policy. If the at-fault driver is the other party, his or her bodily injury and property damage will compensate your damage claims. If the at-fault driver is you, you could be placed in a precarious financial situation and the other driver may even pursue your policy. However, if you are judged to be at-fault, your policy’s bodily injury and property damage coverage will provide compensation to the other driver.
However, proving fault is not always easy. The experienced legal team at Reiff & Bily carefully investigates facts and evidence, studies police and other reports. We explore every possible factor that could have contributed to the accident. These can include unsafe road conditions, inadequate warning signs, or defective traffic safety devices as well as the other driver.
WHAT ABOUT CAR ACCIDENTS WHERE THE DRIVER WITHOUT INSURANCE IS AT FAULT?
Unfortunately, many drivers believe that “full tort” also means “full coverage.” Unfortunately, full tort only applies to your ability to bring a claim in court and the types of damages you can obtain. Drivers operating under the false assumption that these terms are equivalent are then unpleasantly surprised to find out—after an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver —that this is not the case and the policy doesn’t cover all their expenses.
To be fully covered for a car accident in Pennsylvania, you need to have two types of optional coverage as well as the mandatory coverage. The first is uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This will provide coverage if you are in an accident and the at-fault driver has no insurance coverage at all. The second type of coverage a policy would also need to include to be considered is underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Coverage of this type provides additional coverage when the at-fault driver’s insurance policy is not sufficient to cover your damages.
Having these supplemental coverage options protects you in case another driver causes your accident and is either not insured, or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your injuries fully. If you don’t have full coverage, your insurance will stop at the limits of the required coverage—usually that $15,000 per person. Consider a scenario where you have $50,000 worth of damages above your PIP limit. The other driver’s insurance will cover an additional $30,000. In this case your UIM coverage would kick-in and provide the additional funds provided that it did not exceed the UIM policy limit.
WHAT IF I AM SERIOUSLY HURT BUT DON’T HAVE FULL TORT OR FULL COVERAGE?
If you select a full tort option, you can sue in court for all damages. This includes being able to request a jury award that provides for monetary compensation for your pain and suffering. With limited tort, you can be compensated for all out-of-pocket medical and other expenses, but you cannot recover damages for “pain and suffering.” And again, the exception is if the accident has resulted in “death, serious impairment of bodily function, or permanent serious disfigurement.”
While insurance companies charge more for full tort coverage, they may give agents incentives to sell limited tort, to keep their costs down if there is an accident. A driver must consider his or her own finances? Is the driver’s financial situation so dire that he or she cannot afford a slightly higher premium? In the event of a car accident, do you have the savings to absorb the hit? Can you live with allowing a party to walk away from the pain and suffering they have caused you without being held accountable and securing compensation?
SO, HOW MUCH IS THE AVERAGE CAR ACCIDENT SETTLEMENT?
As you can see above, there are a broad array of factors that determine the actual value of a claim. First, the actual injuries you suffered play a large role in how much a potential settlement may be worth. Aside from this factor, the type of insurance selected, the coverage levels, and supplementary coverage options also play a major role in determining a potential settlement amount. Additionally, who negotiates your settlement also plays a big role in how much your case is worth. Some individuals who negotiate the settlement on their own behalf can find it difficult to retain the needed perspective and distance in the matter. They may jump at the first offer and settle for a pittance of the case’s true value. Others may have unreasonable expectations and refuse to budge from an outlandish opening number resulting in hard feelings and both sides digging in with their opening numbers. All of these factors and more impact what a car accident settlement may be worthy. And only after a meticulous review of all relevant facts and circumstance present in your matter can a rough estimate of the average value for the case of your type be made. Thus, when a potential client asks “How much can I get for a car accident lawsuit,” the answer is almost always, “It depends.”
EXPERIENCED, DEDICATED PENNSYLVANIA CAR ACCIDENT LAWYERS HANDLE ACCIDENTS FROM THEIR PHILADELPHIA LAW OFFICE
Being involved in a serious car accident is an emotionally wrenching experience. Few people truly understand the psychological impact accidents have on victims and their families. The lawyers at Reiff and Bily are a rare breed of car accident lawyers. We care about the losses experienced by victims and their families. That’s why we fight hard on behalf of our clients to get compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, permanent disabilities, loss of enjoyment, and other associated expenses as well as medical expenses.
The car and truck accident lawyers at Reiff and Bily have been handling car, truck, and drunk driving accidents for more than 35 years. We have recovered enormous amounts for victims of negligent driving. See some of our results here. However, please do keep in mind that every matter is different and subject to its own facts and circumstances. Furthermore, juries in Pennsylvania are free to believe or disbelieve evidence based on their perceptions and assessments of what evidence is trustworthy and accurate.
Even so, selecting an experienced attorney who understands the court system and has trial experience can increase the likelihood of a successful claim. Furthermore our years of experience provides the perspective and insight required to advise regarding the appropriate insurance coverage for Pennsylvanians. Call and ask our lawyers at Reiff and Billy for help in choosing the right automobile insurance. There is no better way to minimize the stress caused by an accident than to be properly covered before one happens, and we’re happy to help. The call and advice is free.
And if you have already been in an accident, please—we beg you—do not rush accept a settlement agreement from an auto insurance company. First, speak to an experienced attorney. We understand the costs it can take to rehabilitate from a serious injury. Furthermore, we understand what certain injuries and other damages are worth. Remember, auto insurance adjusters work for the insurance company – not you. They are trained to give you minimal compensation, so that the company can have maximum profits. They are not on your side.
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in an accident, call Reiff and Bily at 1-800-861-6708, or contact us online.
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