A Philadelphia woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against a driver and two Bethlehem business establishments that served the driver alcohol before a September auto crash that left her seriously injured. According to the lawsuit, the 30-year-old woman was thrown from her car after the other driver caused the accident by crashing into it.
It was discovered that the driver was served alcohol at the establishment before the crash occurred and was visibly intoxicated and exhibiting dangerous behavior. He then went to another business establishment that also served him alcohol. The woman suffered severe injuries in the crash, including broken ribs, a punctured lung, deep lacerations on her head and body, a broken nose, internal damage to her liver and kidney, a serious leg wound, and road rash.
According to PennDOT, one out of every 164 Pennsylvania residents sustained injuries in a car accident in 2018. This equals about nine car accident injuries every hour resulting from the 352 crashes that occur each day of the year (on average). Many of those injured individuals were likely eligible to receive compensation from the parties who caused their accidents. However, a lot of confusion exists as to who is eligible to file a personal injury claim and when is the appropriate time to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Here are some answers to questions Pennsylvania car accident victims and their families often have about hiring a lawyer.
When Should You Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident?
Insurance company attorneys and claims adjusters begin working on claims right away after an accident. In accidents where their insured may have been liable, they may try to shift that liability onto the other driver to minimize their own financial exposure. Speaking to an attorney as soon as possible after an accident offers you answers to your legal questions and guidance in dealing with the insurance representatives who may contact you.
You should hire an attorney to represent you after a car accident in these situations:
- You suffered injuries and/or significant damage to your car. If you were involved in a minor fender-bender that did not cause serious injuries, you may not need the assistance of a car accident injury attorney. But in all other circumstances, speaking with an experienced car accident injury attorney is the best way to protect your legal rights to recover compensation.
- It is obvious, or even just possible, that someone else’s actions contributed to causing the accident. Speak with an attorney about any car accident in which someone else’s actions may have played a role, including any accident involving more than one vehicle, and any accident involving a sudden, unexpected loss of control of your car.
- You’ve been offered a low-ball settlement by the other driver’s insurance carrier. It is important to speak to an attorney before ever agreeing to a settlement or making an official statement to a third-party insurance provider. Early after an accident, it is difficult, if not impossible, for you to have a clear and thorough understanding of the costs accident injuries might inflict on your life. Until an experienced attorney has helped you analyze the extent of the damages you have sustained, you risk accepting a settlement in your case that is much too low and will not fully cover the expenses you face now and in the future. Once you’ve accepted a settlement, you generally will not have the opportunity to go back and ask for more money.
- Your injuries are severe and permanent. Permanent injuries inflict a lifetime of expenses, including future surgeries, hospitalizations for complications, modifications to your home, and a decline in your earning capacity. Let an attorney help you obtain the money you need to pay for them.
- Your accident was caused by the negligence of a governmental agency. It takes skill and know-how to recover compensation from a local or state government entity as damages for the wrongful actions of its employees. Ask an experienced attorney who understands the complications of taking legal action against a government entity to help you.
- A loved one died from injuries sustained in the accident. If you lost a loved one due to an accident that was caused by another driver’s negligence or recklessness, you may have the right to obtain compensation through a wrongful death claim. For example, a family in West Pittsburgh filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver and the company he worked for after an accident claimed the life of a 19-year-old young woman. The accident occurred when the tractor-trailer that the truck driver was operating struck a parked vehicle while the 19-year-old was inside. The truck driver did not stop after the accident took place, failing to check on the victim, offer assistance to her family members who witnessed the accident, or to call for medical help or otherwise render aid to the young woman. She succumbed to her injuries in the hospital two days after the accident occurred. The lawsuit contends that the truck that struck the woman’s car was used by the company for deliveries even after the accident took place. If you need more information about who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim, an attorney can give you the details about this process and may be able to assist you in recovering damages caused by the loss.
Can You Seek Compensation for Damages Caused by a Car Accident on Your Own?
In theory, yes. In reality, no way.
Car accident injury lawyers spend their days helping car accident victims recover compensation from at-fault parties. It takes years of training and experience to learn the ins-and-outs of obtaining maximum payouts from insurance companies and top-dollar awards from Pennsylvania juries.
In short, lawyers know how to get you all of the money you deserve. You, in all likelihood, don’t have the experience or resources to seek compensation, especially if you’re having trouble physically recovering from the accident.
What can lawyers do for you that you almost certainly cannot do on your own?
- Plan a legal strategy for obtaining maximum compensation. There are lots of laws and rules that can affect when, how, and against whom you can take legal action for damages after a car accident, and whether and how much money someone might have to pay. Lawyers know how to navigate those laws and rules to your advantage. You do not.
- Identify all parties with potential legal liability to you. Lawyers with experience representing car accident victims know where to look and what to look for to identify all parties who have potential legal liability to you for damages. The more parties they identify who have the resources to pay a claim to you, the better your chances of recovering the money you deserve.
- Determine the value of your claim. Putting a dollar value on the harm you sustained in a car accident is not always a straightforward process. It entails not just adding up the out-of-pocket costs you have already incurred as a result of the accident, but also estimating those costs into the future. Additionally, it requires placing a value on the harm you suffered that does not come with a price tag, such as your pain and suffering, and damage done to your personal relationships. Lawyers have years of experience accurately valuing those items of damages. If you try to tally them up on your own, you will likely leave money on the table.
- Assemble the evidence you need to prove your claim. Experienced car accident injury lawyers have training in gathering together diverse pieces of evidence about your accident and in compiling them into a clear and compelling narrative to prove someone has legal liability to you for damages. This is a skill that most people do not have. It is what sets lawyers apart.
- Negotiate with insurance carriers. Most lawsuits arising from car accidents settle out of court. Typically, the insurance company for the party with legal liability pays money to the injured party in exchange for the injured party giving up a legal claim. Just because lawsuits normally settle, however, does not mean that it is easy to achieve the largest settlement available. Only a skilled lawyer with years of experience interacting with insurance adjusters can navigate the give-and-take of a settlement negotiation to a client’s maximum advantage. Non-lawyers who attempt to negotiate their own claims with insurance companies virtually always end up getting steamrolled.
- File and litigate a lawsuit. Yes, it is possible to file a lawsuit for damages arising from a car accident on your own (known as filing pro se), but it is always, (we repeat) always, a terrible idea. Acting as your own lawyer is a fool’s errand. No one will take your legal claim seriously, in or out of court. No opposing attorney or insurance adjuster will negotiate with you on-the-level. You will, without a doubt, make basic mistakes that shoot your own claim in the foot. If you manage to make it to a trial, the jury will dismiss you as a crackpot. Trust a lawyer to file a lawsuit on your behalf. Never attempt it on your own.
- Collect the money owed to you. Even when a legal claim for damages arising from a car accident settles or results in a jury award, it is not over until the money is in your bank account. Do you know how to collect an award when the party with liability fails to step up and write a check? Lawyers do.
We do not mean to sound harsh, but the fact of the matter is, injured car accident victims should never, ever, try to pursue legal claims for damages on their own. The only way to protect and enforce your legal rights, and to obtain the compensation you deserve, is to put your case in the hands of an experienced car accident injury attorney.
How Do You Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
Most people give no thought to hiring a personal injury attorney until they need one. At that point, however, they are unsure of where to turn to or what to look for in legal counsel. Here are some tips when it comes time to hire an attorney:
- Find personal injury attorneys who are licensed to practice in your state and are working in your region by performing an internet search, looking at review sites, contacting the state bar association or asking a friend or acquaintance for recommendations. Visit the websites of those you find through your search. When you decide on a few attorneys you would like to know more about, schedule an appointment to meet with them.
- Many attorneys provide a free consultation. This is a time in which you can share the details of your case, as well as ask questions regarding your legal options and the experience of the attorney in working with cases like yours. Be sure to prepare a list of questions to take with you, so that you do not forget to ask questions that matter to you. Some of the information you will want to know from the attorney you meet with includes how many cases he or she has settled, how many cases he or she has litigated, and how many cases he or she has worked on that were similar to yours. You will also want to hear the attorney’s preliminary thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of your case and receive guidance on how you wish to proceed. It is acceptable for you to ask for references from past clients who have used the attorney’s services and most attorneys are happy to supply this information.
- When you and the attorney agree to begin work together, you will likely be provided with some documents to sign. Be sure to read these documents fully and to sign them only when you are satisfied that you understand them and are comfortable with doing so.
If you were injured in a car accident, contact an experienced car accident injury attorney today.