Car accidents are so commonplace that most people you know have likely experienced an accident at some point. The outcome of an accident is unforeseeable and uncertain. Some accidents are extremely severe, while others are minor. After an accident, you need to consult with an experienced attorney. The insurance process can be complicated and frustrating to navigate on your own. If insurance does not cover you, a personal injury lawsuit might be necessary.
If you were involved in a car accident, our team of skilled and experienced lawyers can help. Schedule a free legal consultation with our Philadelphia car accident attorneys at the Reiff Law Firm. Call (215) 709-6940 to get started as soon as possible.
What to Do After a Car Accident in Philadelphia
Car accidents can be very stressful, and you might not know what to do when one happens. By following a simple checklist, you can save yourself a lot of headache later.
- Immediately pull your vehicle over.
- Call 911 and get the police and emergency medical responders dispatched to your accident.
- Exchange information with any other drivers.
- While waiting for emergency responders, take photos of the scene, but only if it is safe for you to walk around.
- Once the police arrive, calmly explain what happened.
- Identify any possible eyewitnesses.
- If you do not go to a hospital, see a doctor as soon as possible, even if you do not feel injured.
- Call a car accident lawyer for assistance.
Following your accident, look for anything that might be evidence of the accident and what caused it. If you notice surveillance cameras at a nearby storefront, make a mental note to get the footage. If you see anyone passing by on the street, try and get their name and phone number to use them as a witness.
Your injuries after an accident might be minimal, but many drivers are severely injured and need immediate medical attention. You should call for help right away. If you cannot get to your phone, have a passenger, passerby, or the other driver make the call for you. You cannot take care of your case until you take care of yourself.
If your injuries are serious, you might be taken from the scene by emergency responders. If your injuries are minor, see if you can exit your car and walk about the scene to take pictures of the accident. These photos will be immensely important for insurance purposes and possibly a lawsuit.
After the accident, you should keep thorough records of the expenses that you incur as a result of the crash – this can include medical treatment, lost income and/or wages, repairs, physical therapy and/or recovery costs, and any other costs that you think are related to the accident. It is better to have too many records than not have enough. These records will be important for calculating your damages.
Filing a Lawsuit for Injuries or Death that Occur in a Car Accident in Philadelphia
Car accidents happen for any number of reasons. Sometimes, your accident was due to forces beyond your control. Hydroplaning on the wet road or hitting a patch of black ice can cause serious accidents, but they do not necessarily lead to lawsuits. However, when another person caused your accident, you might have a personal injury case on your hands.
Every car accident case is unique, so it is important to talk to an attorney about what happened to determine if you have a valid case. Many car accident cases are based on the negligence of other drivers. If you believe your accident was caused by someone else’s unsafe behavior on the road, you might have a good case. In a negligence action, the defendant did not intend to cause the accident, but they must be held accountable for their behavior anyway.
A good case might be one in which you have ample evidence of the other person’s fault. Fault refers to blame or responsibility for a car collision. Accidents tend to happen very quickly, and many drivers have trouble accurately remembering how they happened. Also, accident scenes are cleared by law enforcement pretty quickly to keep the road safe for other drivers. Because of that, physical evidence may be scant.
Evidence of fault could include eyewitnesses who saw the accident, traffic tickets issued to the other driver for unsafe driving, and information about the damage to your vehicle and your physical injuries.
Compensation Available by Filing a Philadelphia Car Accident Claim
When filing a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident, you will need to prove damages. “Damages” is a legal term that refers to the injuries and losses, both financial and otherwise, encountered by the plaintiff. There are several types of damages that you may claim, each with its own limitations.
Most damages that car insurance claims will pay are known as “economic damages” because they have a clear monetary value associated with them. The main two areas of economic damages that car accident victims face are:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property Damage
- Lost Opportunity to Earn Future Income
Medical bills for emergency transportation to the hospital, emergency care and surgeries, follow-up appointments with your doctor, and ongoing physical therapy or mental health counseling are all included in the economic damages you can claim in your case. These damages will vary from case to case, depending on what injuries you faced and what kind of care you reasonably needed to treat them.
Lost wages are also a vital factor in your case. If your injuries are severe enough that you had to miss work, then you and your family could be without economic support when you need it most. If your injuries keep you from going back to work entirely or force you to go on disability, then you could be losing out on significant funds today and for the foreseeable future.
Economic damages can also include other costs and expenses you faced because of the accident, such as vehicle repairs, alternative transportation, childcare during medical appointments, payments for household services, and other damages linked to the crash.
If one area of damages is called “economic damages,” it makes sense that another is called “non-economic damages.” Where economic damages deal with bills, pay stubs, and other records of how much the damages cost you, non-economic damages pay you for things that do not have a clear monetary paper trail. The most common non-economic damages to claim in a car accident case in Philadelphia are pain and suffering damages. These types of damages can include:
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the experiences you faced, the physical pain of a bad injury, the emotional distress of the injury, the mental anguish associated with it, and more. One area of pain and suffering damages compensates victims for reduced enjoyment of various activities or an overall loss of enjoyment in their life. When injuries are especially severe and stop you from participating in fun activities like tennis or swimming – or when they prevent you from picking up your children or holding your spouse – these damages can be quite high.
Sometimes damages are awarded to victims in order to punish the at-fault parties. These damages are usually known as “punitive” or “exemplary” damages. They are not paid specifically to compensate damages like those for medical bills or pain and suffering, but rather to punish the at-fault parties for especially severe negligence or a pattern of negligence that continues to put others at risk.
Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in severe cases involving drunk driving, reckless driving, or road rage in order to punish a seriously dangerous driver. They are also sometimes awarded in cases against at-fault truck drivers and the dangerous companies that hire them.
If drivers repeatedly cause accidents and have a record of causing severe accidents, that could inspire the court to award their victims punitive damages as well. However, these damages are rare.
Our attorneys can help you determine whether punitive damages could be available in your case and how much we might be able to ask for.
How Long Do You Have (the Statute of Limitations) to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Philadelphia?
There are time limits on lawsuits known as “statutes of limitations” that prevent people from filing after a specific amount of time. The purpose of these statutes of limitations is to prevent people from filing lawsuits so far removed from the actual accident or event that resolving them would be almost impossible.
There may be different statutes of limitations for different types of cases. These statutes may also change depending on what state you are in. In Pennsylvania, according to 42 Pa. C.S. § 5524, a personal injury lawsuit for a car accident must be commenced within 2 years of the accident.
This 2-year time limit is usually a very hard deadline, but there may be circumstances under which the statute is tolled and your time is extended. For example, because minors are often unable to file lawsuits on their own, the statute of limitations on a minor plaintiff does not begin to run until they turn 18. Alternatively, if someone were so disabled that they could not file a lawsuit, the statute would be tolled until the plaintiff recovered.
How “Fault” Works in Philadelphia Car Accident Cases
After any car accident, you are likely going to deal with your insurance. All drivers are required to have insurance, and anyone caught driving while uninsured may face legal consequences. Pennsylvania is unique because it is a no-fault state that allows drivers to opt out of the no-fault system, depending on what kind of insurance they choose to carry. Your ability to file a personal injury lawsuit and what damages you can claim may depend on what kind of insurance you have.
No-Fault Insurance Laws
Under a no-fault insurance system, drivers injured in car accidents may be covered by their insurance no matter who caused the accident. This comes in handy when fault is not immediately apparent or if you caused your own accident. No-fault systems allow many drivers to get compensation for their accident faster than if they filed a lawsuit. It also prevents many lawsuits from being filed because drivers do not need to sue for damages. However, depending on what kind of insurance you have, you may opt out of the no-fault system.
Under the no-fault system, most of your medical bills and repair costs are covered by your insurance. However, your expenses are covered only up to a certain amount. If you have expenses beyond what is covered, you may have to cover them yourself if you are at fault. If you believe the other driver was at fault, you can file a lawsuit to claim damages from the other driver. The kind of insurance you have may determine what kind of damages you can claim in a lawsuit.
Full Tort vs. Limited Tort Insurance
Drivers may have the option of choosing full tort or limited tort insurance coverage. This difference is important to understand because it will influence the path your vase will take. According to 75 Pa. C.S. § 1705, limited tort coverage allows drivers to claim damages only for economic losses. This means out-of-pocket expenses like medical and repair bills are covered, but not non-economic losses like pain and suffering. On the other hand, full tort coverage does not limit drivers on what they may claim as damages. Under full tort coverage, you can claim any number of non-economic damages, including pain and suffering.
Full tort insurance may be beneficial if your accident was more serious and your injuries more long-term. Your pain and suffering should not be disregarded simply because they did not come with a price tag. However, bear in mind that full tort insurance is often more expensive than limited tort insurance.
Liability Issues for Different Types of Car Accidents that Commonly Occur in Philadelphia
Some of Philadelphia’s roads are among the busiest and most dangerous in the country. There are roads notorious for having dangerous intersections with faulty corners where sharp turns often end up in rollover accidents or where car collisions frequently end up in rollovers. There are also some streets in poor condition with slopes and ditches where bulky rollovers are common.
Rollover accidents are known for bringing about severe, life-threatening injuries and frequently end up with someone getting killed. Reports about these accidents frequently state that the causes are under investigation. When this happens, you can expect the reasons for the rollover accident to be debatable. Experienced legal representation in these rollover cases can be critical since the reasons are not often apparent.
There is a wide variety of causes for rollover accidents. Vehicles tend to turn over when the traction from tires combine with the force of a turn, though the reasons for this can depend on a number of factors.
If the rollover accident was caused by a tractor trailer, there are some common causes of why truck overturn:
Commercial drivers, and particularly those who are transporting hazardous materials, need to understand how the load in their vehicle will affect how they operate their vehicle. A driver who is transporting liquid will have to drive differently than a driver who is transporting solid cargo. A driver has to understand that depending on what there are hauling and how it is loaded in their vehicle they may have to adjust their driving.
Rollover crashes can often be attributed to factors on the highway such as curves, inclines, declines, and construction. In addition, drivers need to be aware of their surroundings in order to avoid rollovers.
By identifying common driver errors, truck drivers and other commercial drivers can learn how to avoid accidents. Studies of tractor trailer accidents, and their causes show that more than 78% of rollovers include driver error as a contributing or major factor. The FMCSA, PHMSA, and trucking industry partners responsible for producing the training video believe in the importance of driver education and awareness as a key factor in preventing cargo tank truck rollovers. This video is designed to increase awareness and understanding of the underlying causes that can result in rollovers.
Not every tractor trailer or commercial vehicle is the same or drives the same. Commercial drivers need to understand the variations in their vehicles as compared to others.
Accidents that Occur at Intersections
Nearly four out of every 10 Pennsylvania car accidents occur at intersections. Failing to yield the right-of-way or to obey traffic signals is a common mistake that can have devastating results.
There are a number of causes of intersection accidents that call for an injury victim to seek compensation from negligent parties. Drivers who are intoxicated, for example, are more likely to overlook a stop sign or run a red light. Drivers who are speeding may not have enough time to stop at an intersection. Motorists who are distractedly looking at their cell phone may not even notice the traffic control device until it is too late.
If a motorist failed to follow the below laws or any others, you have the right to seek compensation and file a claim.
Driver negligence is not the only possible cause of intersection accidents. Some accidents result from dangerous roadway conditions. For example, when the government fails to trim trees around traffic signs, it may be difficult to see the stop sign. Intersections that do not have effective lighting can be dangerous as well. In some cases, intersection accidents result from malfunctioning traffic lights. The way an intersection is designed may also affect important factors such as visibility.
Although some intersection accidents are the result of negligent drivers, some of these accidents occur for other reasons, such as:
- Defective road design
- Broken pavement or debris on the road
- Improperly placed traffic signs
- Poorly timed traffic signals
- Damaged traffic signs
Our Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers Can Help
You deserve to have all your expenses paid for by the person responsible for your injuries. Negligent and reckless drivers need to be held accountable if our roads are to remain safe. Schedule a free legal consultation with our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm. Call (215) 709-6940 to set up a meeting today.