Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers With Over 35 Years of Experience
The stress and fear of a car accident is often one of the most traumatic events in someone’s life. Too often, car accident victims face not only their physical injuries, but also growing medical bills and problems with car insurance claims, all while their injuries keep them out of work.
The car accident lawyers at Reiff and Bily use their decades of experience to help clients get the right amount of compensation. Our attorneys approach every case’s unique circumstances with strategies to help clients achieve their goals. Our focus on investigation and fact-finding helps us find the proof to maximize your compensation, with a goal of getting you the best settlement possible.
How to Increase Your Likelihood of ReceivING Full Compensation from a Car Accident in the Philadelphia Area
To ensure that you get the maximum amount of money that you can from a car accident case, you need to make sure your case is as strong as it can be. This means having all of the evidence and proof you can to show the other driver was at fault. Our attorneys will do what they can with whatever evidence you have, but to make your case as strong as possible, follow this car accident procedure:
Stop and Get Yourself Safe
After a car accident, safety should be your first concern. If you can, move your car to the side of the road. If your vehicle is too damaged, put your hazards/flashers on and call 911 for help. In any car accident that has injury, death, or severe damage to the vehicles, 75 Pa.C.S. § 3746 requires you to notify the police. This means you should always stop after a car accident, even if you might be at fault.
Report the Accident
Call the police whenever you are involved in a car accident. They might have questions for you or the other driver. They will also create an accident report and keep it on file, which can help later. They might also take their own pictures of the scene, which you might be able to use as evidence in your case.
Sometimes, they might arrest or ticket the other driver. Especially if the other driver was drunk, using drugs, or driving recklessly, their arrest and the outcome of their criminal case might help you in your case.
You should also gather as much information about the crash as you can. Anything you can get will be helpful when you file insurance claims or take your case to court. Make sure to write down or otherwise record information about the following:
- Time, date, and location of the accident
- Names of everyone involved (drivers, passengers, pedestrians, etc.)
- Other drivers’ names, phone numbers, addresses, and drivers’ license info
- Other drivers’ car registration info, license plate numbers, and insurance info
- Contact info for any witnesses
- Lighting conditions (e.g. closest lampposts)
- Weather and road conditions (icy, wet, covered in debris, etc.)
- Damage to all cars involved (location and extent of damage, were the cars drivable, etc.)
- Name and badge number of the police
- Info for EMS or fire personnel
You should always keep a notepad and pen in your car, just in case you need to record this information.
If anyone was hurt or killed, 75 Pa.C.S. § 3744 also requires you share with them your:
- License info
- Registration info, and
- Insurance info.
In any accident, make sure you get this information from the other drivers, too. This will be vital to getting your injury claims handled correctly.
Keep all of the information from your case together in one place. If all of this info is stored in your phone, make sure to make copies or e-mail it to yourself. If it is on paper, keep it together in one folder for easy access.
If you can safely take pictures, get as many pictures as you can. Your camera phone is even a great tool for quickly recording info. Snap pictures of the other drivers’ license, license plate, registration, and insurance.
Make sure to get pictures of the whole accident scene, the damaged vehicles, and any injuries to yourself or other drivers. Put yourself in the mind of a juror. If you need to prove a case in court, jurors need to understand what they are seeing in the pictures.
If you are too injured to get pictures, ask a passenger or witness to take them for you. If you need to, get a friend or family member to come take pictures for you. You can also use your phone to take video of yourself if you cannot write down notes. Make sure to write down or record anything you can about your condition – physical and mental.
See a Doctor
When you are injured, it is so important to get medical care. When you do, make sure to talk to your doctor about how you received the injuries, so they can make sure to check for any other, less-obvious conditions. Some injuries in a car accident take a while to appear, so keep in touch with your doctor after the accident, or follow up with them.
Get copies of your medical records, if you can. If you cannot get copies, make sure to ask your doctor to keep his copies available, in case you need them for trial. Keep your copies of your medical records in a safe place, along with any other pictures or notes you made of the accident. Also, keep your own notes and records of your treatment and recovery progress.
Contact a Lawyer
You can do this right away – you do not need to wait until after you see your doctor. Talking to a lawyer early in the process can help you make sure that you understand these steps toward recovery, and that you have someone who can help guide you through the process.
Never talk to insurance, especially the other driver’s insurance company, until you talk to a lawyer. Certain things you say could be taken as accepting fault, and accepting a payout might limit your options later. Talk to a lawyer before you try to handle the case or accept any auto accident settlements. Our free consultations make this easy for our clients.
Contact Your Insurance Company
In Pennsylvania, every driver is required to have insurance. Some portion of that insurance is for your own medical expenses, so talking to them early can help you get coverage you might need from the beginning. Additional coverage may be available later, but you may want to rely on your attorney to help you with this.
Get an Accident Report
Your lawyer or insurance company can probably do this for you, but you might want a copy for yourself. You can get a report of the accident from the police who responded to your crash. That means contacting their police department, or the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). For more info on accident reports, see the section below.
Does My Car Accident Injury Qualify for Compensation?
First, you should understand that any injury you get in a car accident can qualify for compensation. Whether the money comes from your own insurance, the other driver’s insurance, or from a lawsuit, any injury should qualify. There is no government agency that decides qualifications. Instead, any injury from a car accident can get compensated.
The type of compensation may be limited, though. For instance, insurance companies do not pay for pain and suffering. That means that smaller injuries that did not need medical treatment might not get you compensated for the pain. Medical bills, however, can always get compensation. That means that, even for cuts and scrapes, you can get compensation for your medical expenses.
More traumatic injuries, or injuries that take longer to recover from, can get even more money. Severe injuries can reach beyond insurance policies and get you compensation in a lawsuit. These include injuries like:
- Lost limbs
- Permanent disfigurement
- Brain injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Severe burns
Anything that will have a permanent effect on your life (or causes death) can see very high payouts. If you have lost a loved one, you may be entitled to their compensation.
One of the goals for an experienced lawyer is not only to get you the money you need, but also to get it to you with the least conflict. That means pushing insurance companies and other drivers to settle these cases. Often, settlements are the best option, because they avoid the hassle and expense of taking a case to court.
Settling does not mean “giving up,” and can actually sometimes lead to even higher payouts than a trial. A jury determines the payout in a trial, but they may under-value an injury. A settlement gets you exactly what you agree to accept.
How Much is My Car Accident Settlement Worth in Pennsylvania?
The value of a car accident claim depends on many factors. First, what injuries you suffered will greatly affect the value of your case. Your type of insurance, coverage levels, and supplementary coverage options will play a major role in determining potential settlements. Finally, your negotiation ability is a huge factor.
Usually, your own insurance will only cover $15,000 worth of damages. This means that if your injuries go beyond this, you will need to go after the other driver’s insurance for another $15,000. If $30,000 is still is not enough, you might need to fight to prove your injuries and the other driver’s fault before you will see any more compensation.
Hiring an attorney can not only help you get a better idea of what your case is worth, but will put an experienced negotiator in your corner. Trying to settle a case with insurance or other attorneys on your own, without legal counsel, can be difficult. Our lawyers have the experience necessary to know what your injuries are worth and how high a settlement offer should be. Plus, for most people, an accident is personal; they hurt you, and you want compensation. Hiring an attorney can help put distance between you and the legal dispute, allowing cooler heads to discuss the issue rationally.
On top of that, insurance companies often have highly paid legal teams on their side. These teams fight to reduce your claims of injuries, hire their own experts to show you are at fault, and otherwise drive down the cost of settlement. To fight this, you need a legal team of your own. Reiff and Bily’s experience with car accident cases puts them at the same level as these legal teams, and can help get you the settlement you deserve.
Common Car Accident Injuries
Fatal car accidents have gone down since their height in the 1970s. However, there are still far too many deadly car accidents. According to PennDOT’s 2015 Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics report, 127,127 accidents occurred in PA in 2015. Many of these – 66,735 crashes – had property damage only. 59,290 car and truck accidents produced some type of injury. Of these injuries, 3,030 involved “major” injury, and 12,503 involved “moderate” injuries. Unfortunately, 1,102 of these accidents caused 1,200 deaths, in total.
PennDOT does not release lists of specific injuries, but a 2010 CDC report offers a view of what car accident injuries emergency rooms commonly treat. The report found that 23.6% of all ER visits after a car accident were for sprains or strains of the neck and back, like whiplash. 15% of ER visits were for mild to moderate contusions and bruises. 8% of crash-related ER visits were for spinal problems. Sprains, fractures, and open wounds covered a smaller part of motor-vehicle injuries.
While head injuries are not included in the CDC’s report, many people have severe headaches after a crash. Neck injuries can cause headaches, but long-lasting headaches could be a sign of brain injury. Always make sure to have a doctor check for signs of concussions and brain trauma.
Injuries Like Whiplash Can Appear Days Later
A car accident is a high-stress, emergency situation. Your body reacts by releasing adrenaline (epinephrine), which causes the “fight or flight” response. The adrenaline rush speeds up your reaction time, boosts your strength, and masks the feeling of pain. Immediately after an accident, you might not feel hurt and may not notice injuries until later.
Other injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury (SCI), or “whiplash” injuries might not even be noticeable until days later. These kinds of injuries may take a while to “set-in.” Other times, their symptoms may simply go unnoticed for days after a crash. Therefore, it is vital to seek immediate medical attention after any car accident. Even if you do not feel injured at first, consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor.
Many people dismiss their accident as a “minor fender-bender.” Even low-speed crashes or minor accidents can result in injury, especially whiplash. The quick, “whipping,” back and forth motion of your head can cause neck injuries that might lead to discomfort for the rest of your life.
Dealing with Car Insurance Claims
Your insurance carrier will cover expenses up to a certain point, but what happens if you need more damages covered? When insurance does not cover enough, or your injuries are too severe, you might be able to file a lawsuit to get you the compensation you need.
Insurance companies have their own interests in mind. They work to give the lowest payouts they can so they can keep costs low for their customers. This means they might give low offers on car insurance claims that will not cover all of your needs. It is important to get a lawyer on your side who can help you understand what your case is worth, and help fight for the maximum compensation.
“Fault” in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is a “no-fault state” for car insurance coverage. This means that, regardless of whether you or the other driver caused the crash, insurance can cover you. “Personal Injury Protection” or “PIP” will cover your injuries up to a certain limit. If you need more coverage, or your injuries are too severe, you can reach beyond PIP and go after the other driver’s insurance.
Only then does it become a question of who is “at fault.” Whichever driver caused the crash will ultimately be the one whose insurance pays for injuries. If the other driver was at fault, you might be able to get all of your injuries covered by their insurance.
However, proving fault is not always easy. The experienced legal team at Reiff and Bily carefully investigates our cases. We look to all factors to help prove the other party was responsible for the crash and work to protect our clients and get their injuries compensated.
“Full Tort” vs. “Limited Tort” in Pennsylvania
When you sign your insurance policy, one of the things you choose is whether you want “full tort” or “limited tort” coverage. If you select a full tort option, you can go to court over a crash, and any damages would be available to you. Under limited tort, you can only take a case to court over “death, serious impairment of bodily function, or permanent and serious disfigurement.”
The key difference between cases that go to court and do not go to court is the availability of damages for “pain and suffering.” A court case under full tort insurance can award you money for your physical pain and mental anguish, but limited tort insurance cannot. Regardless, hiring an attorney to fight for you in your case will help ensure you get the maximum compensation available.
How do I Get or File a Crash Report?
Many drivers are confused about accident reports and how to get one from the police. When you report an accident to the police, they will create a formal report of the crash and submit it to PennDOT. After it is submitted, parties to the accident, their personal injury attorneys, or their insurance representatives can request a copy of the report by submitting PennDOT’s Form M-600.
If for some reason police do not investigate, you are still required to submit an accident report on your own within five days, under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3747. Hiring an attorney can help you properly submit this report.
You may also report your accident to your insurance company. These kinds of reports are usually done over the phone and involve explaining the facts of what happened. The information you collect at the scene of the accident can help with these reports.
Your insurance company or lawyer may want you to get a copy of your accident report. They should be able to get a report themselves, but if you need to get it yourself, you can. Contact the police department that handled your accident for help. Otherwise, you can submit Form M-600 to PennDOT.
Our Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers Can Help
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 care about the losses of victims and their families. That is why we fight hard on behalf of our clients to get compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, permanent disabilities, loss of enjoyment, and other expenses.
Our attorneys have been handling car, truck, and drunk driving accidents on behalf of victims for more than 35 years. We have recovered enormous amounts for clients. Keep in mind, though, that each case is different, and every jury has a mind of its own. Not every case will win. Even so, choosing an experienced attorney with real trial experience can increase your chance of getting compensation.
Our years of legal experience also provide the perspective and insight required to properly advise our clients. 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 protect yourself from the beginning, and we are happy to help.
Call for a Free Consultation
If you have already been in an accident, do not rush to accept a car accident settlement from an auto insurance company. A settlement may seem like what you need, but it may not cover everything you should be entitled to. We understand the costs it can take to rehabilitate from a serious injury, but we also understand what your injuries are worth. Remember, auto insurance adjusters work for the insurance company – not you. Their low offers are designed to keep their company’s profits high. They are not on your side, but we can be. Call (215) 274-0072 to speak to our lawyers today for your free consultation.
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