The Pennsylvania Car Accident Guide was created by our experienced attorneys to help injured residents obtain full compensation from the negligent party. Contact our office to schedule a free consultation.
Following a car accident, you’re likely feeling concerned about your health, finances and mode of transportation. Car accidents are very scary experiences that can have life-altering consequences. Our Pennsylvania car accident lawyers are here to help. For motorists, there’s nothing scarier than being involved in a traffic accident. An accident can throw your life into chaos. As you recover from your injuries, the mounting medical bills, physical pain, and emotional suffering can all take over your life. After an accident, you need help. Our Pennsylvania car accident lawyers offer the expertise you need.
Our team helps victims defend their rights, file claims for their injuries and fight for the maximum compensation they deserve. After an accident, your focus should be getting life back to normal – not fighting insurance companies and struggling to pay for auto repairs or medical bills. Our team takes care of all the legal aspects for you, so you can focus on your recovery.
Common Causes of Auto Accidents
After a car accident, you’ll likely be in shock and you may be uncertain about what led up to the accident. Too often, unsafe drivers cause accidents that can have serious consequences for victims. The majority of car accidents happen when unsafe drivers fail to adhere to traffic regulations. Their negligence can have a significant impact on the lives of victims.
Although car accidents happen for many reasons, the most common causes include:
- Drivers failing to obey traffic laws
- Distracted driving or texting while driving
- Improper vehicle maintenance
- Intoxicated driving
- Reckless driving
- Excessive speed
- Inexperienced drivers
No matter the cause of your accident, your primary focus should be on your recovery. Yet, beyond recovery, you still need to file claims with both the at-fault driver’s insurance and your own, seek punitive damages (in cases of gross negligence), and possibly file for disability as well as other forms of compensation.
An experienced car accident attorney can help you manage this entire legal process and protect your rights. All of this is overwhelming. A Pennsylvania car accident lawyer provides the help and honest advice you need.
Types of Recoverable Damages for Car Accident Victims
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your property losses, and pain and suffering. A lawyer helps you fight for the maximum compensation for your injuries and suffering. Too often, victims are bullied by insurance companies and pressured into agreeing to unfair compensation.
A qualified lawyer helps you fight for all the compensation and/or damages you are entitled to. There are many types of compensation – which cover costs related to your accident. Claims can be filed for:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of normal life
When you hire a Pennsylvania car accident lawyer, your attorney can help you pursue any and all avenues for recovering your compensation.
Avoid Talking to Insurance Companies
After an accident, you might feel inclined to speak with your insurance company. You may hear from the insurance company of the at-fault driver. We recommend you speak with an experienced attorney before talking to any insurance companies.
The goal of the insurance companies is to settle for as little as possible or avoid paying claims altogether. That’s why it’s important to seek a qualified Pennsylvania car accident lawyer.
A lawyer will speak on your behalf with:
Your Insurer. Since Pennsylvania is a “choice no-fault state,” in most cases, you will file a claim with your insurance company for costs related to your injuries. Property damage claims, on the other hand, are filed with the at-fault driver’s insurer. Even though you’re a client of your insurer, that company won’t always act in your best interest. An experienced lawyer will aggressively defend your right to compensation and seek the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries. As you recover, the last thing you need to think about is fighting with insurers to pay your medical bills.
At-Fault Driver’s Insurance. Insurance companies are notorious for fighting with victims to pay as little as possible. They may try to bully and hassle you to accept an undervalued settlement. In some cases, they may deny your claim altogether. When you hire a qualified lawyer, you avoid these nasty legal disputes. One of your lawyer’s primary tasks is fighting with insurers for a fair-value settlement.
What to Do After an Auto Accident
After an accident, you may be in shock, scared, and unsure of what to do. In the immediate aftermath, your primary focus should be your health and safety. If you’ve been in an auto accident, here are a few steps you should take:
- Call 911 – If you are able to, seek medical assistance immediately. Call 911. If you’re unable to, this will be the responsibility of witnesses or the other driver. If you are located in oncoming traffic, move to a safe location within close distance of the accident.
- Call Law Enforcement – If you’re uninjured and don’t see damage, you should still contact law enforcement. You may not feel your injuries right away because of shock, or you may notice damage to your vehicle after the fact. At the scene, investigators will take statements. Provide as much information as possible about your accident, but do not admit fault.
- Avoid Discussing Fault – Police may ask who caused the accident. You should not discuss fault with law enforcement, the other driver, anyone at the scene, or insurance adjusters. You might improperly implicate yourself. This can damage your case.
- Collect Evidence – At the scene, begin to collect evidence. Take photos and videos of the scene with your smartphone, and write down witness names and phone numbers. Also ask for the insurance and contract information for the other driver.
- Seek Legal Counsel – If you’re able to, you can call a lawyer from the scene. A lawyer can help investigate your case immediately, and ensure your rights remain protected. If you’re unable to contact a lawyer from the scene, seek legal advice as soon as possible. Your case becomes more difficult to investigate the longer you wait.
Frequently Asked Car Accident Questions
What Do I Do After a Car Accident?
When people come to my office, one of the questions they ask is, “What are the steps involved in making a claim to the insurance company after you’ve been involved in a car accident in Pennsylvania?” The first steps you need to do is seek medical attention and follow the treatment plan that your doctor prescribes to you. The next thing you need to do is hire an experienced personal injury lawyer; someone who’s handled car accident claims in the past and is not afraid to take your case to trial if need be.
After you’re done treating, the attorney collects all your records, documents all your out-of-pocket expenses, documents your wage loss, and sends a settlement demand to the insurance company. The insurance company typically responds within 30 days, and the opening offer is always a low-ball offer. The attorney that you hired and the insurance company then negotiate your claim over a period of several weeks. The ultimate goal is for the attorney to obtain the highest amount that the insurance is willing to pay.
At that point, you and your attorney will discuss whether that settlement offer is fair and the option of proceeding to trial. If you want to accept a settlement offer, then usually in a matter of two or three weeks the claim is resolved. If not, you’ll have to file a lawsuit. At that point, it’ll take at least a year or two before your claim is resolved. If you have to go to trial, it will be resolved about two years after the lawsuit is filed.
How Do I Pick the Right Attorney?
If you’ve been injured in a car crash in Pennsylvania, you want to hire an attorney who’s handled car accident cases and personal injury cases in the past; an attorney who’s experienced in making claims to an insurance company and who’s not afraid to take a case to trial if the insurance company’s not valuing your case properly. A lot of times, people unfortunately hire an attorney who is not focused on personal injury, and when the time comes to go to trial, that attorney may settle that case for pennies on a dollar rather than take the case to trial because of the inexperience.
What Mistakes Should I Avoid?
In speaking with my clients in the past, I’ve noticed that they’ve made a lot of mistakes after they’ve been involved in an auto accident. One of the biggest mistakes they make is not documenting the accident, either by not calling the police officer or not getting the other driver’s insurance information. Another mistake they make is not seeking medical attention right away. One of the things you need to do is go to a doctor and make sure you’re given some kind of treatment for your injuries because if you don’t, the insurance company’s going to use that gap in treatment later on against you.
Ironically, the biggest mistake people make is not after the accident. The biggest mistake people make in Pennsylvania is when they purchase their automobile insurance. In Pennsylvania, you have the option of purchasing limited tort insurance and full tort insurance. A lot of people make the mistake of buying limited tort because it’s cheaper. However, if you have limited tort and you’re involved in an automobile accident, you are limited in making a claim for general damages unless you suffer a serious injury. A serious injury, unfortunately, is not defined so you’re going to have to argue with the insurance company about whether you’ve been seriously injured.
If you have full tort, you can sue for general damages no matter what kind of injury you have, and you don’t have to prove that you have a serious injury. The insurance company is going to argue that you’re not seriously injured and you’re not going to be able to be compensated. When you purchase insurance, make sure you purchase the full tort option. If you have purchased insurance already, call up your insurance agent or your insurance company and tell them you want to switch over to full tort. For the few dollars you save with limited tort, it’s just not worth it if you get in an accident.
Should I Talk to the Other Insurance Company?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania in general, do not speak to the insurance company of the other driver. They’re going to ask for a statement, then they’re going to ask questions that force you to give answers that are going to incriminated you. They’re going to use that statement against you later on. However, you are obligated to speak to your own insurance company. Don’t speak to the other driver’s insurance company, but speak to your insurance company. However, you need to speak with an attorney before you speak to either one.
What if I Was Seriously Injured?
I was talking to someone the other day and they asked me what they should do if they were involved in an auto accident in Pennsylvania. First of all, it depends the severity of your injury. If you’re able to, call the police officers and file a police report right away, and seek medical attention if you’ve been injured. The second thing you need to do, if you’re able to, is photograph the damage of the vehicles and get the insurance information of the other driver. You need to report the accident to your insurance company right away, if you’re able to do that.
Some of the mistakes that people make is that they don’t seek medical attention because they think that they’re going to get better over a period of time. That’s going to be used against you later on when you make a claim for personal injury. The insurance company is going to use that gap against you saying if you were seriously injured, you would’ve seen a doctor right away. Sometimes people don’t see a doctor for weeks, and then they say to themselves, “I’m not getting any better. I need to get checked out.” That is a big mistake. Go to a doctor right away and see what they say. More times than not, they will refer you to physical therapy or some kind of treatment to help you get better.
What Are the Exceptions to Limited Tort?
If, by chance, you have limited tort insurance, and you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, there are exceptions. For instance, if you’re a pedestrian or a cyclist, even if you have limited tort insurance, you can sue for general damages. If you’re an occupant of a non-private passenger vehicle, such as an Uber, a Lyft, a taxi, or bus, you can still sue for general damages or make a claim for general damages. If you’re a victim of DWI or DUI, that’s another exception to limited tort. If the driver that hits you has no car insurance, that’s another exception to limited tort. In that case, you can make a claim for UIM damages as well. Keep in mind, if you do have limited tort, those are the five exceptions and you should contact a personal injury attorney to find out if you can make a claim or not.
Can I Get My Lost Wages Reimbursed?
If you have no-fault or PIP insurance, you have the option of being reimbursed for your lost wages that were a result of being hurt in a car accident. Depending on the insurance policy and depending on the insurance company, the reimbursement for lost wages may vary. Some insurance companies require you be out of work for two weeks, and then they’ll start compensating you for your lost wages at about 85% of what you were making with a limit capped out, depending on what your coverages are.
What if I Was Hit by Someone Who is Uninsured?
If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Pennsylvania and the driver that caused the accident does not have insurance, your chances of recovery are going to be limited unless you have underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. Underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage provides an extra layer of protection in the event the car that caused the accident is uninsured or underinsured. In Pennsylvania, the minimum limits are $15,000. If the driver that caused the accident does not have insurance or has minimum limits, you’re not going to be fully compensated for your injuries unless you have UIM, which is referred to as underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. I recommend that everyone makes sure you have that coverage. It doesn’t cost that much, and if you do purchase uninsured motorist coverage, ask your insurance agent about the stacking option.
Who Pays My Medical Bills?
One of the many questions people ask when they come to my office after they’ve been involved in a car crash is, “Who’s going to pay my medical bills?” Your medical bills will be paid by your PIP or no-fault insurer, if you have that coverage. Once the limits or the coverages run out, your PIP or no-fault insurer will stop paying your medical bills. At that point, if you have health insurance, your health insurance will kick in. If you never had PIP or no-fault, your health insurance will pay medical bills right away.
Some people don’t have health insurance and they wonder what’s going to happen. You should continue getting treatment and we will make a claim for the unpaid medical bills against the person that caused the accident. Many medical providers are aware of this situation, and they will ask the attorney to sign a letter of guarantee, meaning that the attorney will guarantee payment from the settlement funds or the judgment, for the services that the medical provider provided to you. There are options, but the best way to get your medical bills paid is make sure you have the PIP and/or no-fault coverage when you purchase your automobile policy.
How Long Will It Take to Settle?
One of the many questions we’re asked when somebody comes to this office after an automobile accident in Pennsylvania is, “How long is it going to take to resolve this matter?” It’s impossible to tell right away. It all depends on how long you treat and whether the insurance company is going to be reasonable. You can’t really make a claim to the insurance company until you’re done treating. At that point, the insurance company can be reasonable and decide to offer you a fair settlement, or not, and then you’re forced to file a lawsuit. I can tell you that, at this office, we do everything we can to move your case along as fast as possible.
Request a Free Case Evaluation Today
The Pennsylvania car accident lawyers at Accident & Injury Law Group want to help. We know what you and your family are going through. Car accidents are frightening experiences, and in your time of need, the last thing you and your family need to worry about is fighting with insurance companies.
Call us today for a free case evaluation. Our legal experts are standing by to provide assistance to you and your family.
About the Author
An experienced civil and criminal defense attorney, in 2011 Attorney Paul Giuffre left a partnership at a Downtown Pittsburgh firm to return to the Fox Chapel area to practice law. In 2013 Paul formed the Giuffre Law Office on the simple principle that everyone should have access to quality, legal representation. The attorneys at the Giuffre Law Office know that finding the right solution to each client’s problem requires a client-centered, personalized approach. Giuffre Law Office is located in Aspinwall on Commercial Avenue to better serve Aspinwall, Blawnox, Fox Chapel, Indiana Township, O’Hara and Sharpsburg residents. Located minutes from Route 8, Route 28 and the Highland Park Bridge, the office is convenient to the City of Pittsburgh, the east suburbs and the North Hills.