It happened. You were driving on your commute to work when all of a sudden, a car ran a traffic light and slammed into your vehicle. The entire experience is a surreal mix of feelings that range from terror to anger to anxiety. In the aftermath of the accident, you will ultimately be forced to deal with the arduous paperwork elements of a traffic collision. Below are some tips that can help get you from the accident to recovering damages for your injuries and vehicle damage.
If you're able, try to take pictures or video of the scene of the accident, including vehicle damage as well as your injuries. Additionally, be sure to get information from the other driver such as their license plate, driver's license number, and insurance card. It is also a good idea to write down exactly what happened before your memory becomes cloudy. This way, when you later speak with the insurance companies you will be better able to recall the incident in a detailed way.
How to Report the Accident
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania the Department of Transportation requires that you report the auto accident within five (5) days of its occurrence if the following conditions are present:
- The accident was not investigated by the police.
- The accident resulted in death, injury or severe damage to a vehicle.
A failure to properly report an accident to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation may result in you having your license suspended. This may be true even in a situation where the at-fault driver offers to pay for any damage they caused.
In addition to potentially filing a report with Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation, you will also want to file a Personal Injury Protection claim against your insurance company which will start the process of obtaining compensation for the accident.
Car Insurance in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, you are required by law to hold an auto insurance policy if you drive within the state. The minimum requirement for insurance coverage is:
- $15,000 personal injury protection per person for third parties (passengers, pedestrians, and etc.)
- $30,000 personal injury protection in total per accident for third parties
- $5,000 property damages protection per occurrence
- $5,000 in no-fault personal injury protection coverage
When it comes to auto insurance in Pennsylvania, the law allows two types of policies; traditional tort liability or a no-fault policy.
Under the traditional tort liability policy, you are permitted to sue the driver who caused the accident for monetary damages. This option, while potentially beneficial, also allows you to be sued for any wrongdoing on your part.
Under the no-fault policy option, your insurance company will compensate you no matter who was technically at fault for the accident's occurrence and will cover items like car repairs, medical costs and lost work wages but you are generally unable to sue the at-fault driver for additional damages. However, in the event the accident was serious and caused severe disfigurement, you may be permitted to bring a lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations
The law in Pennsylvania allows for a civil lawsuit surrounding an auto accident to be filed within two years from the date of the collision. Any failure to file prior to the closure of the two-year window will result in the court refusing to hear your case which means that any hope for compensation is gone.
Say you file your lawsuit in a timely manner and are successful. Good news, right? The question then becomes, "how much money are you entitled to?"
The law in Pennsylvania states that you are permitted to recover for a personal injury caused by the negligent actions of another as long as you were found to have been 50% or less at fault for the injury. If this is the case, your damage award will be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault assigned by the court.
For example, if a court issued a damage award in your favor in the amount of $100,000 but attributed 20% of fault to you for your injury, you would be able to recover $80,000 of the $100,000 award. However, the downside is that if you are found to have been 51% or more at fault, you will be completely barred from recovering any money at all.
Insurance companies are well aware of this rule and they will often use it as a scare tactic during initial settlement negotiations. For example, they may say something along the lines of, "The offer we are presenting is a good one. In reviewing the records, it seems that you are partly to blame for the accident. If this were to go to trial you could end up with nothing."
It is important to note that, unlike some other states, Pennsylvania does not place a limit on the types of damages can receive if your case is ultimately successful.
Hire the Right Legal Counsel
Even if you come out unscathed, going through the experience of a car accident can be traumatic. Not only are you dealing with the mental anguish concerning your health and the destruction of your personal property, you likely also have insurance companies calling you on a consistent basis seeking to settle your case fast. Before making any decisions, it is imperative that you speak with a highly skilled and experienced lawyer. Your legal counsel will look at your case from beginning to end and come up with a game plan that fits your needs.
If you have been injured in an auto accident in the Pottstown, Pennsylvania area, the David J. Cohen Law Firm, LLC is here to help. Contact David J. Cohen Law Firm, LLC today.