During 2017, there were 15 reportable crashes on a Pennsylvania roadway every hour, many of them in the state’s population center of Philadelphia. During this time, there were nine injuries every hour, with one out of every 44 people being involved in an accident, and one out of every 159 injured. These numbers should worry all of us, because it demonstrates the risk we are taking every day on the road. Because of the emotional and physical trauma associated with a car accident, you should know what steps you should take immediately following a car accident. A trusted auto accident attorney can help you determine what the best course of actions to receive compensation.
Address Safety Issues
When a car accident occurs in traffic, whenever possible, the vehicles involved should get out of the road and pull over to the shoulder. Make sure before you exit your car that it is safe to do so, and to make a mental note of where on the roadway the accident occurred. Further impeding traffic at the scene of a car accident can result in additional cars being involved.
Verify Everyone Involved Is In Good Condition
If your own injuries allow it, check on the status of all passengers and drivers involved in the accident. When doing this, do not apologize for the accident, make any statement that might indicate you are at fault, or verbally attack the other drivers. Contact law enforcement and EMS immediately, but remain cautious about any statement that would indicate you are partially responsible for the accident. Remember, the insurance company could later use this information against you.
Obtain Contact Information
You should obtain as much contact information as witnesses and passengers are willing to share with you while you are waiting for law enforcement officers to arrive on the scene. Insurance adjusters or law enforcement officers may be contacting them for statements for their perspective on the accident. Additionally, you should obtain from any drivers involved in the accident their driver’s license information, insurance information, and the make and model of their vehicle. This information will need to be provided to your insurance company or used to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company.
Documenting The Scene Of Accident
The accident scene should be carefully documented. If you have a cell phone capable of taking photographs, and you are physically able to do so, you should snap photos including damage to any involved vehicles, traffic signals, nearest intersection photographs, weather conditions, and any skid marks or debris left in the road (glass, etc.) from the accident. This information may be valuable later to your insurance company, or to a car accident attorney. You may also wish to document any injuries which you notice at the scene, for example, if a passenger or driver is visibly injured it may be helpful later to have this information.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Assuming you did not suffer a serious injury, which would likely mean you were unable to attend to the prior steps, you should seek medical attention. You may be seen by a local emergency room physician or contact your own doctor and be seen as soon after the accident as possible. This step is crucial since oftentimes after an accident you may not be fully aware of potential injuries. This is a result of the fact that your body has an automatic response to trauma and floods your system with adrenaline, making it harder to recognize pain or injury. When you see a physician, let them know you were involved in a car accident so they can thoroughly examine you. Doctors know what signs to look for which may indicate you have an internal injury or soft tissue damage that is not readily evident.
Contact A Car Accident Attorney
Once a physician sees you, contact a Philadelphia attorney who has experience dealing with victims of car accidents. While your initial instinct may be to contact your insurance company, a personal injury attorney should be contacted first to ensure your rights are protected through the remainder of the accident process. An insurance company adjuster is going to ask you several questions which could ultimately result in your receiving a smaller financial settlement than you might otherwise be entitled to based on the severity of your injuries. Some of the matters an attorney can advise you about include:
- Advising you regarding what to say to the insurance company
- Advising you of what questions to avoid answering when speaking with an adjuster
- Advising you of your rights when answering law enforcement questions about the accident
Keep in mind, if you are a victim of a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Negligence is established in the event the other driver was not following rules of the road, or they were distracted, which contributed to the accident occurring. A personal injury attorney can help establish certain facts, including the other driver’s negligence, contributed to the accident, the injuries you suffered were as a result of the accident, and the driver at fault had an obligation, known as a duty of care, to keep you and others on the road safe while traveling on the road.
File An Accident Report
Per Pennsylvania statute Pa.C.S.A. Vehicles § 3747 law enforcement officers may not respond to the scene of a minor accident. However, this means the burden of filing a proper accident report falls upon the drivers of the vehicles involved in the accident. After a Philadelphia car accident, drivers have a maximum of five days to report the incident to the Pennsylvania DOT, Bureau of Highway Safety and Traffic Engineering. The official accident form should be used and as much information as possible should be provided on this form. You should maintain a copy of the form you submit for your records.
Importance Of Recording Information After An Accident
Victims of car accidents often believe after they have seen a physician and filed an accident report, they do not need to document any further information. This is inaccurate since there may be situations which require you to document additional items. Some of these may include interactions with insurance company adjusters, follow up medical care, and time lost from work. Keep in mind, if you have hired a personal injury attorney, you should consider having them speak with any insurance company on your behalf. Otherwise, the insurance company may try to obtain information, which on the surface seems innocent enough, to reduce the potential benefits you are entitled to receive as a result of your injuries.
You should also consider documenting any incidents which seem out of the ordinary after your accident. For example, if you suddenly begin having headaches, dizzy spells, or are unusually tired, these could be symptoms of injuries which were sustained in a car accident which have been masked. Any physical or emotional changes should be carefully noted and shared with your physician immediately.
Choice No-Fault Car Insurance
In Pennsylvania, all drivers are required to maintain a minimum level of automobile insurance. Failure to maintain proper insurance could result in steep fines, as well as the loss of driving privileges. Drivers are required to have at least $15,000 in liability insurance which covers injuries to one person and a minimum of $30,000 per accident. Many drivers carry more liability insurance, but this is the minimum they may carry.
No-fault insurance means that when you are in an accident on Philadelphia roadways, you will file your claim with your own insurance company. However, keep in mind that some drivers may opt out of no-fault coverage since Pennsylvania is one of three states which offer “choice no-fault.”
Drivers who elect may carry tort liability which means a person who is injured by a negligent driver may file a lawsuit without filing a claim with their own insurance agency first. If the at-fault driver has no-fault coverage, the victim of a car accident would file their claim with their own insurance company, and they would be subject to the limitations on that policy. Should expenses including medical, lost wages, damage to your vehicle, and other monetary and non-monetary losses be larger than the maximum coverage amount, you could then file a personal injury lawsuit.
Filing A Personal Injury Lawsuit
The statutes of limitations prevent victims of a Philadelphia car accident from filing a lawsuit once two years have elapsed from the time of the accident except under very specific circumstances. If you were seriously injured, you may still be out of work, or still receiving treatment for your injuries but since time is of the essence, your attorney may begin the paperwork to file a lawsuit. In general, victims of a car accident may be eligible for compensation for both monetary and non-monetary damages.
Non-monetary damages, also known as non-economic damages, can include money for mental anguish, a diminished quality of life, disfigurement or impairment, as well as pain and suffering. Your Philadelphia personal injury attorney can explain to you how these damages will be calculated so you understand the possible outcome of a personal injury lawsuit.
Monetary damages, also known as economic damages, are easier to calculate in most cases. For example, the costs associated with your medical treatment after a car accident would be calculated based on charges incurred as a result of doctor’s visits, costs associated with tests and treatment, and costs associated with medications you may have been prescribed as a result of the pain you suffered due to the injury.
Other monetary damages may include lost wages, both current and future, the direct costs associated with any type of rehabilitation therapy you may require to recover from your injury and any costs which you would not have had to deal with associated with your recovery, such as the hiring of a nurse, housekeeper, or babysitter. Costs associated with the repair or placement of your vehicle as a result of the accident are generally also recoverable.
Car accidents can be devastating for a victim resulting in injuries which can lead to long-term health issues. Victims often are unaware of their rights following an accident, and many drivers on Philadelphia roadways are unfamiliar with what steps they should take to ensure they can present clear and undeniable evidence of the damage to their vehicle, physical trauma and injury, and their lack of involvement in the cause of the accident.
Unfortunately, too often, victims simply contact their insurance company and hope for the best. Remember, insurance companies do collect premiums from you as payment towards your insurance coverage. However, that does not mean they are always interested in protecting your best interests since their bottom line is damaged when they pay an auto accident claim. Therefore, you should contact a personal injury lawyer anytime you are involved in a car accident on Philadelphia roadways.
If you are one of the hundreds of accident victims who sustained an injury in a Philadelphia car accident, you can make sure your rights are protected by contacting a Philadelphia car accident attorney as soon as possible after the accident.