Pennsylvania Car Accident Attorney
This discussion assumes that both you (the injured) and the person who caused the car accident have automobile insurance as required by Pennsylvania law. The lack of insurance by either party will create complications that are beyond the scope of this article. This article also assumes that the accident in question has not resulted in death or catastrophic injury. If your accident, or that of a loved one, has resulted in death or very severe injury we strongly recommend that you contact us immediately. Prompt, professional investigation of any accident is important, but the immediate investigation of catastrophic accidents is of paramount concern.
If you are involved in the more typical, non-catastrophic accident your first focus should, of course, be to obtain appropriate medical care. Your automobile insurance policy is required to provide a minimum of $5,000.00 in medical coverage. Depending on one's injuries, this coverage may go further than expected because automobile insurance companies make payment to medical providers at a reduced rate. The medical coverage provided by your automobile insurance policy will be backed up by your own health care insurance if you are lucky enough to have health insurance. If not, you may be in the situation where you need medical care and testing, but will have to pay for it out of your own pocket, or delay treatment, until the resolution of your claim against the negligent driver.
If you are facing limited access to medical care due to inadequate insurance we usually suggest that the available insurance be used to obtain appropriate medical testing so that we are at least able to demonstrate the nature of the injuries caused by the negligent driver. With that in hand, we would then be able to include claims for past and future medical expenses in the claim against the negligent driver.
An Injured Person Has Two Years From Time of Injury
Keep in mind that a driver injured by the negligence of another has two years to bring legal action in pursuit of that claim. In other words, aside from the need for prompt investigation of the accident, you need not do anything immediately in order to preserve your claim against the negligent driver. You have no obligation to speak with that driver's insurance company, investigator or attorney. In fact, we strongly recommend that you do not speak with such people. Their goal is to eliminate or minimize your claim against the negligent driver. Your claim against that driver is not harmed by your refusal to cooperate with him or his representatives, and in fact it is much more likely to be harmed by cooperating with them.
On the other hand, your own insurance company has the right under your policy to secure your cooperation in describing the accident and your injuries. In most cases you will be required to complete an application for benefits, and to provide medical and wage authorizations. Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong in doing so. However, there are instances in which your relationship with your own insurance company may become adversarial. An example would be if they suspect that you were operating your vehicle at a time during which you lacked valid insurance coverage. If you receive any reaction from your own insurance company other than that it is going to process your claim you may well want to speak with an attorney at that point. If your insurance carrier insists upon a taped statement, you may want to know why they are asking for that and use your best judgment as to whether you need to speak with an attorney before doing so.
Usually, the dealings with your own insurance company are administrative in nature, and do not lead to many problems. They will typically pay the medical expenses they owe, and wage loss if they owe it. They will also handle your auto damage on a routine basis. In some cases the negligent driver's insurance company may be involved early on the auto damage claim. Usually, this is kept separate from your personal injury claim
Nevertheless, you should be careful to avoid waiving your personal injury claim in the process of having your automobile damage reimbursed. The bigger issues arise once the initial, routine administrative matters are addressed. In other words, once the air has cleared with respect to your injuries and their impact on your life, it is time to begin the process of presenting that claim to the defendant's insurance company. If the accident related injuries are significant, and if your life has been materially affected by the accident, now is usually the time to obtain legal counsel if you have not done so already. While an individual is well capable of settling a very minor claim on his or her own, it is highly unlikely that a layperson will be able to deal with the professional claims adjusters and attorneys they are facing, and obtain a fair resolution of even a moderate claim, without an experienced attorney who has made a career of battling for his clients for his clients to obtain fair compensation.
This firm prefers to be contacted immediately after an accident so as to be sure that a proper investigation can be completed. Things do not always work that way, however, so we are nevertheless prepared to investigate a case thoroughly once we are retained. We will deal with the insurance companies representatives and the defense attorneys on your behalf. We do not necessarily file suit immediately, but, rather, in many cases we permit claim to ripen and attempt to resolve it without litigation so as to save time and money for the client. There are certain situations in which the immediate filing a lawsuit is recommended, and with your permission we will do that as well. Obviously, if the matter cannot be resolved amicably we will aggressively pursue the matter in court.
Please call us immediately, early or late in the process, and we will do our best to achieve a fair resolution of your personal injury claim.