Auto and Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents occur frequently and countless individuals suffer injuries. Whether you are the passenger, driver, or pedestrian that has been injured, there are steps you can take which begin with contacting a personal injury attorney.

Steps to take after a motor vehicle accident:

  • Request the names and contact information for the drivers, registered vehicle owners, and other passengers, as well as any witnesses of the accident.
  • Get the policy numbers and insurance company names from the drivers
  • Get medical care for your injury
  • Take pictures of any vehicle damage
  • Write down the names of patrol officers and police officers responding to the accident
  • Have the name notated of anyone claiming responsibility for the accident
  • File a police report

Legal Overview of an Auto Accident

At Swartz Culleton, PC, we are here to assist accident victims and their families with obtaining the financial compensation they are entitled to for their injuries. This is done when a lawsuit is filed against the responsible parties. In order to file a lawsuit, negligence must be proven and the following three things must be demonstrated:

  • You must have a valid injury
  • The party being sued must have caused the injury
  • The actions causing the injury must have been a breach of legal duty to you

If these points can be proven, you can prove your case, however you need to establish the amount of compensation you are owed and the extent of your injuries.

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Unfortunately, every day individuals sustain serious injuries in car accidents. Whether you are a driver, passenger or pedestrian injured in a motor vehicle accident, there are several steps that you must take when involved in an auto accident, including contacting a personal injury lawyer.

What to Do if You Are in a Motor Vehicle Accident

Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Pennsylvania
  • Collect the names and addresses of the drivers, passengers, and registered owners of the vehicles, along with names of any witnesses to the accident;
  • Collect the policy numbers and names of the insurance companies for all drivers involved;
  • Seek treatment for any injury;
  • Photograph or note any damage to the vehicles;
  • Note the names of the police officers or highway patrol officers that responded to the accident;
  • Record the name of anyone who claimed responsibility for the accident
  • File a police report

In addition to these things, you must inform your insurance company and, if seriously injured, make sure that you receive regular medical care. The attorneys at Swartz SC Culleton PC can help you accomplish these things.

Auto Accident Legal Overview

Auto Accident Lawyer Philadelphia

The lawyers at Swartz SC Culleton PC help accident victims and their families get financial compensation for the injuries, deaths or damage the accident caused.  They do this by filing lawsuits against the people or organizations they believe are responsible for causing the accidents.  To file and win an accident lawsuit, you must be able to show that the person you are suing caused your accident through negligence, which means carelessness, or illegal behavior.

To have a valid claim, you must be able to show the following three things:

  • you were injured;
  • the person or company you are suing caused your injuries.
  • the actions that caused your injuries breached a legal duty to you.

If you can show all of these things, you have proven your case. However, you must still establish the extent of your injuries and the amount of compensation you should receive. Swartz SC Culleton PC will do this by using medical reports, police reports and other documentation, and may ask experts to testify about your injuries.

Full Tort v. Limited Tort

Motor Vehicle Insurance Pennsylvania

When you purchase your motor vehicle insurance, you will be asked whether you want the full tort or limited tort option.  Although, the full tort option has a higher premium, the lawyers at Swartz SC Culleton PC strongly recommend you purchase the full tort option because, under the limited tort, you may be signing away your right to be compensated for pain and suffering caused to you by another driver’s carelessness.

With the full tort option, an accident victim may sue the driver or company at fault in the accident for compensation for pain and suffering regardless of the amount of damage to the vehicle or the severity of the injury. With limited tort, the victim may recover for pain and suffering only is he or she sustained an injury of a substantial and permanent nature.  Even if the victim has excruciating back or neck pain lasting for months or years, under the limited tort option that person could not recover pain and suffering compensation for their injury.

The tort option you pick does not just cover you, but also covers all relatives living with you, including your children.  If you own no vehicle and you do not live with a resident who has limited tort, then you are deemed to have full tort.

Under Pennsylvania law, there are some situations that permit a victim with limited tort coverage to have a full tort claim.

  • If you a victim of a drunk driver;
  • If the person at fault is driving a vehicle registered in a state other than Pennsylvania; or
  • If you are riding in a commercial vehicle, such as a bus or taxi.    

Uninsured and Underinsured

Insurance Lawyer Pennsylvania

Uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage allows you to make a claim against your own policy in the event the person who caused the accident has no insurance. Underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage allows you to make a claim against your own policy in the event the person who caused the accident has insufficient insurance coverage.  In Pennsylvania, many drivers carry only the minimum liability coverage required by law, which is $15,000 per individual claim and $30,000 per accident.  That will not be enough coverage for a serious injury.  The attorneys at Swartz SC Culleton PC recommend drivers purchase Uninsured and Underinsured coverage.  If you are injured by a driver who has inadequate insurance coverage and have UM/UIM coverage, the attorneys at Swartz SC Culleton PC can bring a UM/UIM claim or law suit to get you the compensation you deserve.

First Party Benefits

If you are injured in an accident, your own motor vehicle insurance policy will pay for your medical treatment up to at least 5,000, which is the minimum coverage required by Pennsylvania law.  This benefit is a First Party Benefits, which are benefits available to you under your own policy regardless of who caused the accident.  Some policies have higher medical benefits.

If you do not own a car, you medical bills will be paid by the policy covering any cars owned by a relative with whom you live.  If you and no relative in your home own a vehicle, the first party benefits on the policy covering the car in which you were riding will apply. Once your medical benefits exhaust, your medical care will be paid by your health insurance.  If you have no health insurance, the lawyers at Swartz SC Culleton PC can help find you a doctor willing to treat you on credit.  Any excess medical bills, whether already paid by health insurance or still owed to the doctor, become part of your claim against the driver responsible for your injuries.

What you can win in an accident lawsuit

State law allows you to collect the following financial and physical damages:

  • Excess medical bills;
  • Future medical costs;
  • Past and future wages lost because of the injury
  • Damage to your property caused by the accident;
  • Costs of a funeral for a wrongfully killed person;
  • Any other costs that were caused by the accident;
  • Scarring and disfigurement; and
  • Compensation for a permanent disability.

You may also collect emotional damages, such as:

  • Loss of a deceased loved one’s care and companionship;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Mental anguish;
  • Emotional distress; and
  • Loss of the pleasures of life.

The Claim Process

Lawsuits vary in length, depending on the circumstances and the people involved. If the claim is resolved without a law suit, the process may take four months to a year after the victim has completed treatment.  A lawsuit takes one to three years from filing to a completed trial or settlement. Once the case is settled, the final paper work usually takes six to ten weeks.  A settlement involving an Estate may take considerably longer.

Making a Claim While Receiving Workman's Compensation

If you are injured while driving as part of your job, your employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance may pay your medical bills and lost wages.  If the person responsible for the accident is not your boss or co-worker, you may have a claim against that person’s motor vehicle insurance for all of your injuries, including the damages not covered by Workers’ compensation, such as pain and suffering.  If you recover in your motor vehicle case lost wages and medical bills that were already paid by Workers Compensation, your employer’s carrier will have a right to recover some of those amounts.