1Q: How can I tell if I have a personal injury case?
A: Whether you have a right to recover in a personal injury lawsuit is based on three elements. First, someone has to do something wrong. For example, an act of negligence or a broken promise. Second, you must have suffered an injury, which was caused by that act of negligence, such as a broken leg in an auto accident. Finally, there has to be a fund, insurance, or financially viable defendant from which to collect those damages.
Stated another way, for you to have a claim worth pursuing, it is not enough that someone simply went through a red light and scared you. Someone has to have gone through a red light, collided with your car, and cause injury to you. That individual must have insurance or some other source of funds or else you must have previously purchased Uninsured Motorist coverage as part of your own automobile insurance policy in order to compensate you for your injury. All of these things are necessary to successfully pursue a personal injury case.
2Q: How much is my personal injury case worth?
A: A personal injury claim is evaluated based upon the seriousness of the damages sustained. If someone causes a collision and injures you, and as a result you miss relatively little time from work and only have a few weeks of physical therapy, then your personal injury case is worth relatively little. If on the other hand you are seriously injured, need surgery, have large medical bills, miss a great deal of time from work, or are unable to work again, your personal injury case is worth much more money.
The personal injury attorneys at Buzgon Davis Law Offices will not value your claim until we have had the opportunity to review all of your medical records, bills, and reports from your doctors. Also, the strength of your case must be factored into any valuation of a claim. The strength of your case involves the presence of three things: liability, insurance coverage, and damages. Liability refers to the fault of another, insurance coverage refers to the place from which funds can be collected, and damages are the extent of your injuries. Only at that time can our personal injury attorneys evaluate your case and attempt a settlement. Typically, our attorneys will not attempt to place a value on your case until you have completed all of your medical treatment and have reached maximum medical benefit from your treatment.
3Q: Can a health care insurer be repaid from a personal injury settlement?
A: Yes, this is quite common. Many health insurance policies now have language that allows the insurance company to be repaid for the amount paid out on medical bills if the insured person gets a personal injury settlement. This is clearly one element that is factored into placing a value on your case.
4Q: If I am injured, how long do I have to make a claim?
A: In Pennsylvania, the general rule for a personal injury case is that it must be started within two years of the date of the accident. If, however, the responsible party is a government agency or township, notice must be filed with that entity within six months. If a child is injured, they have a greater amount of time in which to take legal action. Children may bring claims up to two years after they turn the age of 18. The applicable statute of limitation governs issues such as these, and these issues can be fairly complicated. Your best course of action is to immediately contact an attorney as soon as possible after you have been injured so that your situation can be fully investigated and a proper determination can be made as to what type of action should be taken to preserve your legal rights.
5Q: What happens if I wait too long to make a claim for my injuries?
A: If a lawsuit has not been properly commenced within the time required under the law, you will lose your rights to make a claim for compensation for your injuries.
6Q: If I suffer an injury what should I do first?
A: Seek medical attention! If you are injured, your health must be your initial concern. Obtain medical treatment as soon as possible. Do not take any unnecessary risks to your health after an accident. A police officer at the accident scene may inquire whether or not you wish to immediately obtain medical treatment by taking an ambulance to a local hospital. Once your condition has been stabilized, you can contact our office for a free consultation.
7Q: My medical insurance has paid my medical bills. My auto insurance has already paid the damage to my car. What other claim for compensation can I make?
A: Under Pennsylvania law, you may make a claim for the pain and suffering that you have experienced due to your injuries in an accident. You may also be entitled to recover for lost wages and other expenses directly arising from the accident. If the accident leaves you permanently injured, or disfigured, you may be able to obtain additional compensation.
8Q: What's the first thing I should do?
A: There are a number of things you can do in the first few days and weeks after an accident to protect your right to compensation, such as:
1) write down as much as you can about the accident itself, your injuries and any other losses (such as wages) you’ve suffered as a result of the accident
2) make notes of conversations that you have with people involved in the accident or the injury claim;
3) preserve evidence of who caused the accident and what damage was done by collecting physical evidence and taking photographs;
4) locate people who witnessed the accident and who might be able to help you prove your case;
5) notify anyone you think might be responsible for the accident of your intention to file a claim for your injuries, especially if a government agency or employee may be involved;
6) contact a personal injury attorney to evaluate and pursue your claim.
9Q: What should I bring with me for my meeting with a lawyer?
A: You should provide a lawyer with any documents that might be relevant to your case. Police reports, for example, contain eyewitness information and details about the conditions surrounding auto accidents, fires, and assaults. Copies of medical reports and bills from doctors and hospitals will help demonstrate the extent and nature of your injuries. The declarations page of your automobile insurance policy should always be brought to the attorney in an auto accident case. Information about the insurer of the person who caused your injury is extremely helpful, as are any photographs you have of the accident scene, your property damage and your injury. The more information you are able to give your lawyer, the easier it will be for him or her to determine if your claim will be successful. If you haven’t collected any documents at the time of your first meeting, however, don’t worry; your lawyer will be able to obtain them in his/her investigation of your claim.
10Q: What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?
A: It depends on whether the person died as a result of injuries from the accident, or from unrelated causes. If a person injured in an accident subsequently dies because of those injuries, that person’s heirs may recover money through a lawsuit known as a wrongful death action. Also, even if a person with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the personal injury claim survives in most cases and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
11Q: Will the person who caused my injury be punished?
A: Not in the traditional sense of the word. Defendants in civil actions for personal injury do not receive jail terms or criminal fines as punishment. Those are criminal sentences and personal injury cases are civil actions. However, in some cases, the Commonwealth will bring criminal against the same person against whom you are bringing a civil action. Also, juries and courts can award what are called “punitive damages,” which are designed to punish defendants who have behaved recklessly or intentionally against the public’s interest. The goal in ordering the payment of punitive damages is to discourage such defendants from engaging in the same kind of harmful behavior in the future.
12Q: What can I receive if my personal injury lawsuit is successful?
A: Usually, a person who is liable for an injury and therefore his or her liability insurance company must pay an injured person for: medical care and related expenses; income lost because of the accident; permanent physical disability or disfigurement; loss of family, social and educational experiences; emotional damages, such as stress, embarrassment, depression or strains on family relationships; and damaged property. You will be awarded “damages,” which is money intended to restore you to the position you were in before your injury. This money is not considered income and is not taxable as income by the federal government or the states.
13Q: Is it a good idea to save money by purchasing Limited Tort automobile insurance?
A: No. While it is true you may save a tiny amount of money by electing limited tort rather than full tort, people never receive adequate compensation for injuries sustained in an automobile accident when they have elected limited tort. A person can recover non‑economic damages with limited tort if they are killed, sustain permanent serious disfigurement, or sustain serious impairment of body function. The problem is that the courts have construed the term “serious impairment of a body function” very narrowly so that it quite often would not cover broken bones, may not cover ruptured discs, concussions, contusions, abrasions, lacerations or any other of a number of physical injuries which might incapacitate a person for months and yet not result in a “serious impairment of bodily function.” Additionally, if you have limited tort, this creates a jury issue and a bargaining point for the insurance adjuster who would be handling your claim, and in today’s climate, when the public has been led to believe that there are too many lawsuits and too many claims, one does not want to give the insurance company any additional points to argue if that can be avoided.
14How much will it cost me?
At Buzgon Davis Law Offices:
- There is no charge for your first visit or telephone call. All your questions will be answered and there is no obligation.
- We never charge a fee unless we obtain a recovery for you. Our fee is a percentage of your recovery.
We may advance costs associated with obtaining the maximum recovery possible for your case.
15Q: What does full tort mean? What does limited tort mean?
A: This applies in car accident cases. Full tort coverage means that you and your family have unlimited access to the court system to seek compensation for personal injuries from a car wreck. Limited tort means that for a lower premium, usually about $100-$200 less per year, you and your family members have a very limited access to the court system if you are claiming compensation for personal injuries following a car wreck. In real terms, if a person who has purchased limited tort coverage does not have debilitating and disabling injuries, for instance, broken bones requiring surgical repair, herniated disks in the spine requiring surgical repair, then they have no claim. There are very few exceptions to limited tort. Full tort coverage is not limiting at all. Full tort coverage is far and away the better coverage and should be the only choice when purchasing auto insurance in Pennsylvania.
16Q: What is uninsured motorist coverage?
A: UM coverage protects you and your family in the event that an “uninsured motorist” injures you or your family in a car wreck. An uninsured motorist is defined as a driver who doesn’t carry his own coverage and also defined as a hit-and-run driver who flees the scene of an accident. Therefore, if the at fault driver is uninsured or leaves the scene, or in some cases a drunk driver, if you purchased uninsured motorist coverage on your auto insurance policy, your insurance company steps into the shoes of the at fault driver and you and your family can seek injury compensation up to the limits of the amount of coverage that you purchased.
17Q: What is underinsured motorist coverage?
A: UIM coverage protects you in the event that the fault driver did not carry enough insurance coverage. If the at fault driver had a minimal liability policy, in other words, a 15,000/$30,000 liability policy, and you and your family members all sustained injuries that exceeded $30,000 in value, you/your family members would be able to collect $30,000 in coverage from the at fault driver’s insurance policy ($15,000 maximum per person) and then you would be able to make a claim against your own insurance company for UIM benefits up to the amount that you purchased in UIM benefits.
18Q: If I have full coverage on my car insurance policy, am I protected?
A: No. Full coverage is a misnomer; it means nothing. All you can be assured of if you purchased full coverage is that your insurance agent sold you the cheapest coverage he could. It does not mean you purchased full tort coverage.
19Q: Does your firm work with my family attorney?
A: Yes. We will include your family attorney in whatever manner you prefer.
20Q: What is a lien?
A: A lien is a property interest that a health insurance company, or the state or federal government, has against the proceeds of a personal injury settlement or verdict. Various governmental entities can also assert liens for money previously paid to individuals who later obtain a settlement or verdict. Those entities can be, for instance, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare for child support, cash assistance, or medical assistance. Other entities can include Medicare and Medicaid. Workers compensation carriers always have a lien against the proceeds of a settlement or verdict. There are specific rules that apply to all liens, including how they can be asserted in a personal injury case, and how they can be resolved.
21Q: Will my insurance rates increase after a car accident?
A: Your insurance rates can only increase if you are “at fault” in a car accident case, or if you have a moving violation, such as a speeding ticket. Making a medical claim for injuries from a car accident cannot raise your rates. This is because Pennsylvania, like many states, requires a “no fault” form of car insurance. This also means that your own insurance company pays your medical bills no matter who is at fault in an accident.
22Q: Who will pay my wages if I’m in an accident and miss time from work?
A: In a car accident case, if you purchased income loss protection on your auto insurance policy you can get up to 80% of your gross wages reimbursed, typically up to $5,000. In an accident case that does not involve a car, and where you are not injured on the job and have a worker’s compensation case, you are not typically reimbursed for your wage loss until the end of the case. However, you should look for any disability policies that you have, either that you purchased individually, or through an employer, as these policies may provide income loss protection for you in the event you are injured in any type of accident.
23Q: What are potential “damages” in a Pennsylvania personal injury case?
A: To sue for “damages” is to attempt to recover compensation for a loss and/or injury. The injury can take many different forms such as physical injuries that are immediately noticeable (scarring, broken bones), as well as those that cannot be seen. These types of damages are typically “past” damages by the time your case goes to trial since they are damages that have already occurred. These non-visible injuries include:
- pain and suffering
- the inability to perform your usual work, social, and recreational activities
- physical pain and anguish
You are also entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, and lost wages.
24Q: Is my spouse entitled to part of my pension in the divorce?
A: He or she may be. A pension accrued by one spouse during the marriage is a marital asset to which both parties may be entitled to a portion thereof.
25Q. Who pays my medical bills?
A. Your own auto insurance company will pay your medical bills up to the limit of medical coverage on your auto policy. If your accident happened in the course of your employment, your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier will pay. Your private health insurance company may pay your bills after you have exhausted the limit of medical coverage under your own auto policy.
26Q. Who pays for my car damage?
A. Either your own insurance company if you have collision coverage, or the other party’s insurance company, if the other party was at fault. It doesn’t hurt to get estimates from both companies.
27Q. Can I get a rental car?
A. Yes, if you have rental car coverage under your own policy. The other party’s insurance company may agree to pay for a rental car if the accident was the other party’s fault.
28Q. Who pays for my income loss?
A. If you have income loss coverage under your own auto policy, your own insurance company will pay 80% of your income loss beginning on the sixth day of loss up to the limit of income loss coverage on your policy. If the accident happened in the course of your employment, your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier will pay 2/3 of your average weekly wage beginning on the eighth day of disability.
29Q. Do I have to talk to the other party's insurance adjuster?
A. No! You should tell the adjuster that you have contacted an attorney and promptly end the conversation.
30Q. Should I report the accident to my insurance company?
A. Yes! You have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company and provide information about the accident and your injuries according to the terms of your policy.
31Q. What should I tell the doctor?
A. Be honest and thorough in describing your injuries to your doctor. Never exaggerate or minimize your symptoms.
32Q. Should I take pictures?
A. Yes! Take pictures of all visible property damage and bodily injury.
33Q. How much will you charge me to discuss my accident?
34Q. Do I need full tort coverage under my auto policy?
A. Yes. Full Tort means that you have full rights to recover for your personal injuries. Full Tort has nothing to do with coverage on your car. Limited Tort means that you have limited your rights, even where the accident is not your fault.
35Q. Do I need uninsured and underinsured coverage?
A. Yes. Uninsured and Underinsured motorist coverage covers you in the event that the person who causes an accident does not have any insurance or does not have enough insurance to pay your damages.
36Q. Should I insist that the police come to the accident?
A. Yes. The police will provide a written report that provides important information about the accident. If you are experiencing pain when police arrive, say so. The police report will say if anyone was injured. Therefore, if you are feeling pain, it is important that you let the police know. Otherwise, the police report will say that you were not injured.
37Q. Should I agree to go to the hospital in an ambulance?
A. Yes. If you are feeling pain, it is important that you get checked out as soon as possible. Therefore, if an ambulance is offered, you should agree to go in order to get checked out.
38Q. Should I go to the doctor right away?
A. Yes. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to prove that you suffered an injury in the accident.
39Q. Should I call a lawyer?
A. Yes. Call Buzgon Davis Law at 717-274-1421. The call is FREE. We will answer your questions, deal with the insurance carriers, and fight to get you the compensation that you deserve.