Car Accident FAQBy Gabriel Levin on August 22nd, 2019
If you or a loved one were involved in a car accident in Pennsylvania, you may have suffered devastating physical and emotional injuries. Countless victims across the country each year find themselves with life-threatening and altering injuries after a car accident. Hospital visits, communicating with insurance companies, and the struggle to return to everyday life can quickly take a toll on a person’s quality of life.
That’s why it’s critical that car accident victims need information about their rights. Understanding what circumstances and behaviors lead to accidents may help drivers avoid additional car accidents in the future. Knowledge about the steps to take immediately following an accident can offer tremendous peace of mind and play a key role in how much compensation a victim receives to help them recover from the accident.
Consult a lawyer in the days that follow a car accident. Speaking with a legal professional will improve your ability to protect yourself and your rights. Should a law firm elect to take on your case, you’ll receive your attorney’s support and guidance as you undergo medical care and deal with the likes of employers and insurance companies.
What Are the Leading Causes of Car Accidents?
Distracted, drowsy, and drunk driving all account for a large percentage of vehicle crashes each year. Busy commuters trying to get down a meal behind the wheel, young drivers peeking at their texts on the road, and drivers who drank too much or are impaired by some other substance are at the root of thousands of crashes each year.
A sizable percentage of car accidents are also traceable to speeding and aggressive driving. In these cases, at-fault driver may behave erratically and aggressively, regardless of their surroundings. They may intentionally target those around them, but also can cause damage accidentally.
Poor weather and road conditions give many drivers trouble, too, and bring about numerous car accidents every year. Drivers who are unfamiliar with conditions like ice and fog may panic in less than desirable weather, and even their more experienced counterparts may struggle on exceptionally low-visibility or slippery days.
How Common Are Car Accidents in Pennsylvania?
Car accidents in Pennsylvania occur with staggering frequency. While not every crash leads to an injury or death, it’s critical to acknowledge how frequently vehicle crashes occur. Crash victims should understand that they aren’t alone in their battle to return to everyday life and receive compensation for their losses.
2017 saw an average of just over 350 car accidents per day across the state of Pennsylvania. That translates to roughly fifteen crashes on an hourly basis statewide. Each day, an average of three people were killed in these crashes and another 221 were injured.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced that these figures indicate that one in every forty-four members of the state’s population was involved in a reportable car accident during the year. And in that year one out of every 159 individuals were injured during a crash.
What Are the Common Types of Car Accidents?
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation describes seven typical kinds of car accidents:
- Non-collisions occur when a harmful event takes place but no collision happens. This means that the car accident does not involve a vehicle colliding with any other object—fixed or otherwise. Examples of this type of car accident include accidents caused by fire, explosion, overturns, immersion, and so on.
- Sideswipe car accidents involve two vehicles. If the sides of the vehicles collide, regardless of driving direction, the car accident is classified as a sideswipe.
- Head-on car accidents involve vehicles traveling in opposite directions. During head-on car accidents, two vehicles collide front-to-front.
- Rear-end car accidents are, essentially, equal and opposite to head-on car accidents. A car accident is classified as a rear-end collision if one vehicle’s front end collides with another vehicle’s rear end while they are traveling in the same direction on the same road.
- Angle car accidents are defined as vehicle collisions between two cars that collide when traveling opposite directions at a junction in the road, such as road intersections, entrance ramps, or driveways.
- Hit fixed object car accidents occur when a vehicle collides with any stationary object adjacent to or along a roadway. These objects may be structural—like bridge piers—or simply be large objects within the road’s vicinity, like trees, walls, or fences.
- Hit pedestrian car accidents involve collisions between vehicles and a person (or people) not inside a vehicle.
What Are Common Car Accident Injuries?
Victims can sustain a vast array of injuries in virtually any car accident. High-speed accidents and those involving two vehicles tend to be especially dangerous. Some of the most common categories of injuries that victims of car accidents may receive include:
- Bone fractures
- Internal organ damage
- Permanent disfigurement
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
What Should Victims Do in the Days Following a Car Accident?
In the days that follow your car accident, you can make recovering compensation for your injuries easier. It can be difficult to know what to prioritize, which steps to take, and what information to record while you grapple with the emotional and physical toll of your accident. You can make your job much easier by breaking the steps down into two simple categories: things to obtain and things to record.
What to Obtain
If you were in a car accident, there are a handful of documents that you should obtain as soon as possible. One of these is the police report that the responding officer filled out at the scene of the car accident. All you’ll need to do to get this report is to contact the police department that responded to your accident and submit a request.
Victims should also partner with their insurance companies and obtain a property damage valuation. This, in addition to keeping copies of any and all relevant medical documentation, will help improve the strength of your case. Pertinent medical documents may include test results, doctor’s notes, referral forms, prescriptions, etc.
What to Record
Keeping a journal of any physical and medical symptoms you experienced after the crash is a good way to help establish a timeline of events. You should also make a note of each visit you pay to any sort of medical provider.
Record the days of work or other activities that you missed after the accident. Tracking out-of-pocket expenses is a good idea, too, which should include virtually anything you may need to pay for as a result of the car accident.
In addition to gathering and recording the above information, car accident victims should also consult a trustworthy attorney in the days following their crash. This is the best way to ensure that you’re well-supported in the time following your accident. Most lawyers offer free consultations and only collect payment if your case turns out favorably.
Should You Get a Lawyer Following a Car Accident?
The short answer: yes.
It’s never a bad idea to consult a personal injury attorney after a car accident. You’ll likely receive a settlement offer from the at-fault driver’s insurance company and may think it’s fair—but a lawyer may be able to point out additional opportunities for compensation you hadn’t considered.
Perhaps the settlement offer is enough to cover the damage to your vehicle and take care of your medical bills, but have you considered the value of your time and well-being? An experienced and empathetic attorney may be able to help you pursue the compensation you deserve for mental anguish caused by your car accident.
How Long After an Accident Can Victims Pursue Legal Recourse?
Car accident victims in Pennsylvania have a limited time from the date of their car accident to pursue legal action. State law establishes the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury case. If a victim fails to file their claim before this deadline passes, a court will find that they have relinquished their claim under the law.
What Damages Can a Car Accident Victim Claim?
If a court or insurance company determines that one of the motorists involved in a car accident was driving negligently or recklessly and that behavior led to the car accident, victims of that accident may be eligible to seek damages. In Pennsylvania, car accident victims have the option to pursue two varieties of damages: compensatory and non-compensatory damages.
Non-compensatory damages are compensation for injuries for which it is difficult to calculate a monetary amount. They serve to prove a point or teach the negligent driver a lesson, rather than to compensate a victim in a case, although they do come in the form of monetary compensation. Judges often award damages like these when the at-fault driver was extremely reckless and the judge is hoping to deter them from behaving that way again in the future.
Compensatory damages are the types of damages that the general public tends to be more familiar with. These include monetary compensation to offset or cover the cost of the accident victim’s:
- Medical costs: which may include any previous, current, and future appointments, hospitalizations, surgical costs, doctor fees, or medication costs necessary to treat any injuries suffered in the car accident.
- Intangible losses: such as loss of enjoyment of life, or pain and suffering.
- Lost earnings: including any lost wages, delayed disability or other similar payments.
Is It Possible to Recover Compensation Even if I Was Partially at Fault?
Yes, you may recover compensation for damages caused by your car accident even if you were found partially at fault. Always contact a legal professional if you were a victim of a car accident—they’ll work towards clarifying confusing concepts and requirements like how to recover compensation if you contributed somehow to your own accident.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident?
Fortunately, most personal injury attorneys work on a contingent-fee basis and offer free consultations. That means you’ll get the chance to speak to a legal professional for free about your case’s chances in court before agreeing to work together. It also means that if the attorney takes your case, they will only collect payment if they win or settle your claim.
The price of legal representation following your car accident will vary. Generally speaking, firms set their fees based on how much work an individual case requires. Lawyers should clearly lay out their fee structures to potential clients before they enter into any agreements for legal representation.
Can I Still Hire an Attorney if the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company Made a Settlement Offer?
If the insurance company has made a settlement offer and you have not accepted it verbally or signed release documents which bind you to accept the settlement, yes, you can still hire an attorney. In an ideal scenario, you should speak to a qualified attorney immediately following your car accident. This will ensure that you have access to legal counsel before a settlement offer is ever even made.
Partnering With a Car Accident Law Firm
The above only provides general information. The real answers—the ones that apply directly to you—depend largely on the specific facts in your case. You will need to consult with an experienced car accident attorney to know for certain whether you have a case to pursue.