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 begins 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 the responding officers to the accident.
- Have the name notated of anyone claiming responsibility for the accident.
- File a police report.
- Legal Overview of an Auto Accident
- Full Tort vs Limited Tort
- Uninsured and Underinsured
- First Party Benefits
- What You Can Win in an Accident Lawsuit
- The Claim Process
- Making a Claim While Receiving Workman's' Compensation
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
- Actions causing the injury must have been a breach of 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 vs Limited Tort
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, it is often the better option. 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 are a victim of a drunk driver.
- If the person at fault is driving a vehicle registered in a state other than Pennsylvania.
- If you are riding in a commercial vehicle, such as a bus or taxi.
Uninsured and Underinsured
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.
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, your 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, we 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; including past and future wages lost because of the injury.
- Damage to your property caused by the accident; including costs of a funeral for a wrongfully killed person.
- Any other costs that were caused by the accident; including scarring and disfigurement.
You may also collect emotional damages, such as:
- Loss of a deceased loved one’s care and companionship; pain and suffering, and 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.