As the fifth most populated city in Pennsylvania, Reading has its fair share of car accidents. When it’s you who is in one, though, it is a centrally important event. From the moment of impact, there is so much to deal with—calls to your insurance company, visits to the hospital, interruptions to your work schedule. And there is the worry. How serious is my injury? Who caused the accident? What does my car insurance cover? Will I be able to work? Will I need long-term medical care? It is easy to feel scared and overwhelmed.
Many people do not want to get involved in any legal proceedings following a car accident. They mistakenly believe that an insurance company is working in their best interests. For some people, any settlement offer is an attractive offer. However, once you accept any insurance settlement, you are prohibited from seeking further compensation – even if your injuries are worse than you thought or you are out of work longer than you anticipated. Insurance providers will often offer an accident victim a quick check to avoid further and significantly greater liability in the future. You should not accept a settlement without understanding your legal rights.
The wisest thing you can do is contact a qualified Reading car accident lawyer and find out what your options are. The Reading car accident attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm have been helping accident victims for three decades. They will give you the support, advice, and expertise that you need, and they will make sure you are properly compensated for negligence on the part of any and all responsible parties. Call our office at (215) 709-6940.
Most Traveled Roadways in Reading, Pennsylvania
The seat of Berks County, today’s Reading is a city that struggles with poverty. The New York Times referred to it as “the nation’s poorest city.” This fact has an undoubted impact on driving conditions. Many of the vehicles on the road are in substandard condition, and there is a good deal of traffic congestion.
U.S. Route 222 and U.S. Route 422 are the main roads leading in and out of Reading. Both have several different names, which can be confusing. U.S. Route 222 is variously called Lancaster Avenue, Bingaman Street, South 4th Street, and 5th Street. U.S. 422 Business is named Penn Street, Washington Street (westbound), Franklin Street (eastbound), and Perkiomen Avenue. Route 422, known as the West Shore Bypass, circles the city’s western edge and serves as the major east-west artery. It is at the point where the West Shore Bypass, Franklin and Perkiomen Streets, and Route 183 come together that the most serious accidents—some involving fatalities—have occurred. Some of the most traveled roads in the area are listed below.
- Route 222 Business
- Route 422 Business
- Route 422 (The West Shore Bypass)
- PA Route 12 (The Warren Street Bypass)
- PA Route 10 (Morgantown Road)
- Route 183
Common Causes of Accidents in Reading
Accidents in Reading, as elsewhere, can be caused by a variety of factors, such as roadway, weather, and traffic conditions, defective vehicle design, or poor vehicle maintenance. Most often, they are the result of simple driver error—often made worse by distracted driving or intoxication. Whatever the case, those who are negligent need to be held accountable.
One of the primary reasons car accidents occur in Reading and throughout Pennsylvania is distracted driving. There are three types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. Any time a driver takes their eyes from the road, they are visually distracted. A typical example of this is looking down at a GPS. A manual distraction occurs when you physically remove your hands from the wheel, such as tuning a radio station. Cognitive distractions are when a driver’s mind wanders, perhaps a conversation with another driver. Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it involves all three types of distractions.
Reckless driving is a catch-all category that includes any conduct that falls outside of what could be considered “safe driving.” Speeding is a common form of reckless driving that endangers others on the road. A car becomes more difficult to control, stop, or otherwise react to changing traffic conditions. The speed a vehicle is traveling also impacts the severity of injuries in an accident. Other reckless behaviors include tailgating, improper lane changes, and otherwise ignoring traffic rules and regulations.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is especially hazardous and is usually coupled with other reckless behavior. When a person is drunk or high, their cognitive and physical abilities are impaired, often resulting in poor and delayed decisions.
While driving when angry could be considered reckless, it is often something more. An enraged driver is liable to make decisions or drive in a manner to intimidate or scare another driver. Unlike reckless driving, which is usually careless, a driver experiencing road rage makes intentional decisions that could potentially cause an accident.
Driving While Fatigued
Many single-car accidents are caused by fatigue. A tired driver is liable to fall asleep at the wheel and drift off the road. Not only could they drift into oncoming traffic, they are also unlikely to take any action to mitigate the effects of an accident.
Many things could go wrong in a car that results in a loss of control and an accident. A steering wheel could lock up, a tire could blow, or the brakes could fail. Whenever a catastrophic malfunction occurs, several parties could be liable. Sometimes the car has a defect that happened during the manufacturing process or there is an inherent design flaw. Other times, the vehicle owner could neglect to have their car inspected or maintained, allowing their vehicle to fail into dangerous disrepair.
Fog, rain, and snow all contribute to accidents in the Reading area. In many cases, poor weather causes an unavoidable accident. However, if a driver is not cautious or is otherwise engaged in reckless behavior, inclement weather will increase the chances of an accident.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Reading
Car accidents are often horrific and traumatic events. If you are involved in a crash, your first instinct would likely be to check on the well-being of yourself and any passengers. This is always advisable – ensuring that you and your passengers receive the necessary medical treatment should always be your first priority. However, the actions you take following an accident could significantly impact a lawsuit or insurance settlement. Below, we discuss what steps you should take to start building your personal injury claim in the immediate aftermath of a car accident.
As stated above, your health and welfare and that of your passengers should be your first concern. If necessary, wait for emergency personnel to arrive before trying to move or moving a seriously injured crash victim. Do not refuse treatment at the scene of the crash. If you believe you escaped the crash unscathed, you should still see your doctor within the next 24 or 48 hours. Many serious injuries are not readily apparent, especially if you were experiencing an adrenaline rush during the moments following a crash.
Prevailing in a personal injury case, or receiving a reasonable insurance settlement, requires proving that your injuries resulted from the accident. You want to document your injuries as soon as possible. If you wait days or weeks to see a doctor, it will become much more difficult to prove that your injuries are related to the accident.
If you want to receive any compensation for your injuries after an accident, you will have to prove that another driver or party was negligent. Part of this process is piecing together how the accident occurred. One way to do this is to document the accident scene. By seeing where cars are positioned, the damage they sustained, and examining any skid marks on the road surface, an accident investigator can often recreate the events that led to the accident. However, once the scene is cleared, much of that information is lost. By taking photographs of the site, you can provide our Reading personal injury attorneys with valuable information to use in your case.
Talk to Witnesses
You will have to give your account of what occurred. Additionally, other drivers involved in the accident will tell their version. In each case, there is an implicit bias in the testimony provided. Therefore, having uninterested third parties corroborating your version of events is often vital in a car accident case. When you are involved in a car crash, it is likely you did not see everything that occurred. A witness who saw the entire chain of events could offer critical information. Our office will want to talk to anyone who saw the crash as soon as possible. If you gather any witnesses’ names and contact information, we will be able to question them while the accident is fresh in their minds. Witness information should be included in the police report, but there is no guarantee that all witnesses will stay at the scene until the police arrive.
Obtain a Copy of the Police Report
Many pieces of evidence will help you in a personal injury case. A valuable one is the police report compiled after a crash. This document will usually include a diagram of the accident, important information from all parties involved in the accident, statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses, and the responding officer’s preliminary conclusions of what occurred. The report will list all citations that were issued, such as a speeding ticket or if one of the drivers was operating their vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Our Reading car accident lawyers could use this information to help establish that another party was negligent. Be sure to ask how you could obtain a copy of the police report.
Be Careful About What You Say
You could hurt your chances of success in a personal injury claim by what you say after an accident. You should not admit fault or offer an opinion as to what occurred. If you are questioned by law enforcement, stick to the facts. Also, do not downplay your injuries. Claiming that you “feel fine” could be used to deny or lower an insurance claim. It could also be used as evidence that your injuries were not serious. While you should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible, you should not engage in any long conversations without speaking with legal counsel first. Under no circumstances should you speak with another driver’s insurance company without consulting our Reading car accident lawyers beforehand.
Call Our Experienced Reading, PA Attorney
After seeing your doctor, you should contact our experienced Reading, PA car accident lawyer. A successful personal injury case requires a significant amount of work. The sooner our team of lawyers can get started, the better your odds are of maximizing your potential compensation. Some critical evidence is only available in the few days following an accident, for example, surveillance video. If you miss your window of opportunity to collect this valuable evidence, it will not open again.
Holding Another Driver Liable for Your Injuries in a Reading Car Accident
When another person causes a car accident in Reading, an injured victim has the right to seek compensation for their damages through a civil lawsuit. Our Reading car accident attorney will investigate a crash and gather evidence that could be used to prove another party was at fault. To hold another person liable, an injured plaintiff will have to prove the four elements of negligence.
Duty of Care
Every person who drives along Reading roads owes every other driver and pedestrian an obligation to drive so that it will not result in any harm. This simply means that a driver should be paying attention, cautious, and be following the rules of the road.
Violation of the Duty of Care
When a driver decides to ignore a traffic law, such as a posted speed limit or to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they violate the obligation they owe other drivers. Our Reading car accident attorney will have to prove that the defendant’s conduct failed to adhere to what a reasonable driver would have done under similar circumstances.
The defendant’s conduct must have caused the accident and the plaintiff’s injury. If another driver falls asleep and drifts into an oncoming vehicle, it is not difficult to determine that their behavior caused the accident and any injuries passengers in the other car suffered. However, there are times, where the exact cause of an accident is unclear or there are multiple possible liable parties. In these situations, a thorough examination of the available evidence is required to piece together what happened.
The final element in proving that another party was negligent is demonstrating that the plaintiff suffered quantifiable damages. If you were in a car accident and were not injured, you might not have the grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. However, if you required any medical treatment, medication, or lost time at your job, you have experienced actual damages. In addition to your monetary losses, you could have experienced more intangible damages, such as anxiety and mental anguish.
When to File an Injury Lawsuit After a Reading Car Accident
If you were in a car accident in Reading, you do not have an unlimited amount of time to file a lawsuit. Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations that governs when a civil or criminal case needs to be filed. For a car accident claim based on negligence, an injured plaintiff has two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you file a lawsuit beyond this deadline, it will likely be immediately dismissed and you will be prohibited from seeking compensation for your injuries.
While two years might sound like a long time, it is important that you do not hesitate to contact our experienced Reading car accident lawyer. The more time that passes, the more challenging a case becomes. Crucial evidence could be lost or unavailable, witnesses might not recall what occurred, and if you waited to seek medical treatment as well, it could be impossible to link your injury to the accident. In most cases, the best evidence available is immediately after or shortly following an accident. Having access to the accident site and the damaged vehicles is often necessary for reconstructing an accident. Your chances of prevailing in a personal injury case continue to decrease the longer you wait.
Contact Our Experienced Reading Car Accident Lawyers If You Have Been Injured
You cannot always avoid getting into an accident, but you can take steps to protect yourself when one has occurred. Whether the accident was caused by driver error, road conditions, or vehicle defects, you deserve high-quality legal support and appropriate compensation. Contact one of our experienced Philadelphia car accident attorneys from the Reiff Law Firm to handle your Reading car crash at (215) 709-6940 for a free, confidential consultation. By trusting in our expertise and experience, you can put your energy into what counts most—recovering.