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Everything You Need to Know After a Philadelphia Car Accident

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As a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer, I often get asked for advice, usually when it's too late, about what people should and should not do after an accident.

I wrote this blog with the hope of having an informative FAQ of some of the most common questions I get. So here is what you should know after a Philadelphia car accident, including how to deal with the insurance company and get the compensation you deserve. Keep reading to learn more.

What Happens When the Police Arrive?

Generally, the drivers will be asked for their driver's license, registration for your motor vehicle and, proof of insurance. You should answer the questions the police officer asks and try your best to remain calm.

What Should I Do if the Other Driver Has Been Drinking?

If you notice the other driver appears drunk has the smell of alcohol on them, tell the investigating officer.

Do I Need to Prove That I Was Wearing My Seat Belt at the Time of the Accident?

Usually, this is a question that the officer will ask as part of their information-gathering process. However, even the police miss things sometimes. Make sure the police officer notes in the report that you were wearing your seat belt.

What Information Should I Get From the Police Report at the Scene?

Write down the investigating officer's name, badge number, and whether they are city police, highway patrol, or county sheriff deputy. The officer will often provide you with a report, or a case number, in Philadelphia called the D.C. number.

Is There Anything I Shouldn't Do?

  • DO NOT admit fault for the accident to anyone.
  • DO NOT speak to any insurance companies before consulting a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer.
  • DO NOT tell anyone how much insurance you carry.
  • DO NOT sign anything – except you will have to sign a citation if you are issued a traffic ticket by the investigating officer.
  • Remember, your signature is NOT an admission of guilt, just that you acknowledge that you physically received the ticket.

If the other driver gets a ticket, does that mean they are at fault and have to pay for the accident?

No. A citation to the other driver does not assign blame for the accident. The investigating officer is only giving their opinion, most times after the fact, on what happened and whose fault they believe it was. The officer still has to convince a judge or jury that the ticket was justified if the driver does not plead guilty.

How soon do I need to tell my insurance company that I was in an accident?

You should tell your insurance company as soon as you can. Be prepared to tell them the investigating officer's name and badge number, the report number, and your side of the accident story.

When should I speak with a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer?

You should contact us IMMEDIATELY. There are many pitfalls in dealing with insurance companies, including you're own, that we can help you avoid. We help people deal with car accidents (among other accidents) on a daily basis. The Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Firm of KaplunMarx is here 24/7. Give us a call, and let's talk!

10 Key Points To Remember If You're Involved In A Car Accident

When you are involved in a car accident, it can feel as if your world has turned upside down in a matter of seconds. Here is a list of 10 key points to remember if you are involved in a car accident, provided by the Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at KaplunMarx:

  1. Call the police at the scene. Unless an officer witnesses an accident, his opinion is just that– an after-the-fact opinion. Nonetheless, there are good reasons to call 911: 
    1. Your Insurance policy may require you to call.
    2. An officer can get information the other guy might refuse to give to you.
    3. A police report formally documents the accident scene. A policeman's opinion on fault holds more weight than yours.
    4. Police documentation will come in handy if your minor accident becomes a major lawsuit someday.
  2. Do not move your car until the police get there — unless it's necessary for safety! The position of the vehicles may illustrate who is telling the truth if there is a discrepancy in stories.
  3. Seek medical attention immediately if you are hurt. If you don't know the severity of your injuries, stay in your car until medical help arrives.
  4. Take pictures of the accident scene and the damage to both vehicles – if you can. These days most people have cameras on their cell phones, use them as these photos can be invaluable evidence.
  5. Get all witnesses' names and contact information, if possible. Tell the police if there were witnesses. A second, third, or fourth set of eyes that saw the accident will provide useful information as to the circumstances of the car accident.
  6. A driver in Pennsylvania must provide information and render aid. Provide only your name, insurance company information, license number, and contact information. Get the other driver's information, or let the police obtain the information if you are hurt.
  7. Do NOT admit fault at the scene. Spontaneous statements– "I'm sorry." "It's all my fault."- could come back to haunt you in a courtroom someday.
  8. Keep a diary related to your injuries. Write down what pain you feel and for how long. Write down all the activities you can't participate in or daily tasks you need help with because of your injuries. Many symptoms develop over days and even weeks. Serious longer-term effects can be caused by what appears to be a mild impact and may not be apparent immediately. Months later, when the pain is gone (hopefully), it is easy to forget about these frustrating moments.
  9. Speak to a lawyer BEFORE talking to any insurance companies. Do NOT talk to the other driver's insurance company, or your own. They may send you information or call you to take a recorded statement. They do this to try to trick you into saying something that will ruin your injury case so that they can pay you less money. Do not sign any papers that the other insurance company sends you - it could be a trap to get them off the hook for your medical bills. Remember, the other driver's insurance company is not working in your best interest.
  10. Your lawyer is the only person who is actually and legally completely on your side after an accident. A win for you is a win for them. Send all correspondence related to the accident (including from your own insurance company) to your lawyer right away.

Unfortunately, insurance companies rarely stand behind their insured. An injured party may find themselves fighting for compensation from the other driver's insurance company and battling their carrier for coverage they paid premiums to have in case an accident happened.

The above ten key points to remember if you are involved in a car accident are just the beginning of the complex process. Contact the Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at KaplunMarx as soon as possible (after seeking medical treatment) to discuss your case. The lawyers at KaplunMarx are on your side and will help you through the process.

What Are The Most Common Causes of Philadelphia Car Accidents?

Tens of thousands of people are killed in the United States each year as a result of car accidents, and even more are injured. It is important to note that most causes of car accidents are human errors. Suppose you are injured in a Philadelphia car accident caused by someone else's negligence or wrongdoing. In that case, you may be able to claim compensation for the injuries, damages, and losses you have suffered.

In a car accident case, the burden of proof, as with all personal injury cases, is on the plaintiff and their car accident attorneys. This means that the plaintiff or the injured victim must prove that another's negligence or wrongdoing injured him or her.

Common Causes of Car Accidents Caused by Driver Error or Negligence:

Drunk Driving

Car accidents that occur as a result of driver impairment are, unfortunately, tragically common. When a driver is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, he or she puts not only himself or herself but also passengers and other commuters in grave danger. Drunk driving incidents often result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. Impaired driving is illegal and often results in criminal prosecution. In addition to facing charges and criminal penalties, drunk or drugged drivers can be held financially responsible for the injuries and losses they cause.

Distracted Driving

In our high-tech world today, there is no shortage of distractions, particularly when we drive. Any act that takes your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, or attention from driving, counts as distraction. Distracted drivers are inattentive and can cause serious damage to other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Drowsy Driving

It is a fact that few of us get the full eight hours of sleep that is recommended. As a result, fatigued driving is extremely common on our roadways. Fatigued drivers who fall asleep at the wheel could drive into opposing lanes of traffic and cause head-on collisions. We've also seen a number of collisions where exhausted drivers crash into homes, plow into pedestrians or workers on a highway. Drowsy driving is as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than drunk driving.

Reckless Vehicle Operation

Recklessness on the roadway can take many forms. Drivers who run red lights or stop signs. Motorists who fail to yield the right of way to other vehicles or pedestrians. Drivers who operate their vehicles at an excessive rate of speed (over the speed limit) or at a speed that is dangerous given the current conditions. Motorists who make reckless and dangerous lane changes. These are all violations of the rules of the road and dangerous behaviors that can put others in danger

What Is My Philadelphia Car Accident Case Worth?

One of the most common questions I get as a personal injury lawyer is:

How Much is My Car Accident Case Worth? 

This is certainly a fair question to ask, but the reality is no car accident lawyer in Philadelphia can accurately give you the value of your car accident case. The reason is, there are so many factors that need to be looked at before a value for the case can be set – right after a car accident, there is no way to be able to reasonably quantify these factors. The next question is always, What's your best guess for how much my car accident case is worth?

Let me repeat: NO PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER CAN ACCURATELY "GUESS" HOW MUCH YOUR CAR ACCIDENT CASE WILL BE WORTH. If they give you a number, they are probably making it up. That is not a lawyer you want to hire.

Why can't a lawyer give me an accurate case value? The answer is simple – every car accident case, injury, and the situation is unique and different.

Let me illustrate by example:

Mr. A is rear-ended by a small car slamming into his SUV. There is minimal damage to Mr. A's car, but he has had three prior back surgeries, and his back is killing him. On the other hand, Mr. Z is rear-ended by a large SUV into his tiny smart car, the damage to the car is immense, but Mr. Z gets medical care for three weeks and is completely better. These two examples are on different ends of the spectrum for damage to the vehicles and damage to the people inside – but Mr. A's car accident case is likely worth significantly more money because of his pain and suffering.

But wait, there is more – every car accident case's value hinges not only upon the injury and treatment thereof but also what type of insurance. For example, limited tort or full tort. Additionally, we will need to determine the amount of coverage the person that hit you may have. Then we need to examine your car insurance policy for Uninsured/Under-insured coverage.

These are just a few of the complex aspects of every car accident case that we examine before coming up with a value.

The Takeaway

There is no secret car accident value formula, and any personal injury lawyer who gives you an early 'ballpark' figure value of your case is full of it. At best, they are guessing a number, and at worst, they are outright lying to you. Many personal injury lawyers give clients value because they are trying to lure you into going with their law firm. They are essentially promising a value they cannot possibly know (and likely cannot deliver). So if you have a meeting with a car accident lawyer and they tell you something like, "your car accident case is worth at least $$$…." Don't walk out of their office - RUN!

At KaplunMarx, we are upfront with all of our clients – our reputation is important to us, and misleading clients is not what we do. We will tell you that no personal injury law firm will work harder to get you maximum value for your car accident case – and that statement is not a guess, but a fact.

How Does Driving Negligence Affect a Philadelphia Car Accident?

To receive compensation for a Philadelphia car accident, an injury victim must prove that another driver was negligent and that the driving negligence caused the accident. The car accident lawyers at KaplunMarx have the skill and experience required to convince juries and insurance companies when another person's negligent driving caused an accident.

Liability for Philadelphia Car Accidents

Negligence means carelessness. In the words of the law, every driver has a duty to use reasonable care to avoid harming other persons. A driver who fails to exercise reasonable care is negligent. Negligence can involve an affirmative act of careless driving (such as racing or driving too fast for road conditions) or a passive failure to drive carefully (such as failing to look for oncoming traffic when entering an intersection). Either kind of negligence can create liability for the negligent driver. Liability refers to responsibility for negligent conduct. A negligent driver is liable when the driver's negligence causes another person's injuries. Drivers who are liable for injuries may be required to pay compensation to the injury victim.

Common Examples of Driving Negligence

Drivers who violate traffic safety laws are nearly always found to be negligent when the violation causes or contributes to an accident. Examples of negligent driving that may violate a traffic safety law include:

  • Speeding
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Texting while driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Straying outside of lane markers
  • Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Failing to signal a turn

Other acts of driving negligence may not violate any specific law. For example, many instances of distracted driving do not violate a traffic safety law, but a driver may be negligent while engaging in those acts. Unwrapping a drive-through meal, putting on makeup in the rearview mirror, and talking on a cellphone are examples of conduct that may not violate traffic safety laws but may be the kind of carelessness that causes an accident. Commercial drivers are required to limit their driving hours so that they are not fatigued when they are behind the wheel, but no such laws restrict the conduct of ordinary drivers—driving while fatigued can nevertheless be negligent if it reduces alertness. Failing to check blind spots before changing lanes, failing to look to the rear while backing, and turning into the path of an oncoming motorcycle are additional examples of negligent driving that can create liability for an accident.

Comparative Negligence

In many cases, an accident is caused by the combined negligence of two drivers. For instance, an injury victim with the right of way might enter an intersection despite the fact that an oncoming car does not appear to be slowing down.

If the injury victim is T-boned in the accident, both the oncoming driver and the victim might share responsibility for the accident. Pennsylvania has a comparative negligence law that allows an injured driver to recover compensation from another driver, even when the injury victim was negligent.

However, the injured driver can only recover compensation if he or she was less negligent than the other driver. The law is known as "comparative negligence" because the negligence of both drivers (or all drivers, if more than two drivers were negligent) is compared to determine how much of the fault for an accident rests on each driver. In the example above, the driver who failed to yield the right of way might be 80% at fault for the resulting accident, while the injured driver might be 20% at fault for entering the intersection despite knowing that the other driver was not slowing down.

Compensation is proportionate to the comparative negligence of the drivers. In the example above, if fair compensation for the driver's injuries would be $20,000 without considering fault, that amount would be reduced by 20% to account for the driver's own negligence. The injured driver would therefore receive compensation of $16,000.

Negligence in Multiple-Car Accidents

Comparative negligence can be more complicated when more than two drivers share responsibility for the accident. That sometimes happens in multiple-car accidents. Under Pennsylvania law, when a driver is at least 60% negligent, the driver can be made to pay all damages caused by all drivers who are more responsible for the accident than the injury victim. For example, assume that four drivers all enter an intersection and contribute to a multiple-vehicle crash. The injury victim was 5% at fault, two other drivers are each 10% at fault, while the last driver is 75% at fault. The victim can recover 95% of full compensation from the driver who was 75% at fault. That makes it easier for the victim to collect compensation.

How Can You Prove Driving Negligence?

Personal injury lawyers prove driving negligence in many ways. When a driver violates a law that promotes traffic safety, the violation may be sufficient proof of negligence. Negligence can be established by:

  • The driver's admissions to an investigating officer
  • The driver's admissions while testifying in a deposition
  • Statements or testimony from witnesses who saw the accident
  • Statements or testimony from the injury victim
  • Video evidence
  • Physical evidence (such as debris at the accident site or vehicle damage)
  • Expert evidence (for example, the testimony of an accident reconstruction expert)

In some cases, a jury will need to decide whether a driver was negligent. In most cases, however, negligence is sufficiently clear that the responsible driver's insurance company will agree to settle. The injury attorneys at KaplanMarx use all our skills and experience to help our clients prove the negligence of the drivers who cause their Pennsylvania accident injuries. We can settle most cases, but when insurance companies refuse to be reasonable, we aren't afraid to prove negligence to a jury to maximize the compensation our clients receive.

In a Philadelphia Car Accident, No Health Insurance – What Do I Do?

A question our Pennsylvania car accident law firm gets often is, I was in a car accident, no health insurance – what do I do? See a doctor if you are injured because likely you are covered for medical expenses. How? Through the automobile insurance policy in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are called "No-Fault Car Insurance States" (along with Washington D.C., Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, and Utah).

What that means is that all auto insurance policies come with something called Personal Injury Protection or PIP which covers your medical bills. So if you are in a car accident but have no health insurance, it does not matter. Through PIP, you will have some level of medical coverage from your own auto policy.

Wait, The Auto Insurance Policy Is Not Mine

You likely still have medical coverage under PIP. How it works is if the auto insurance policy is not yours, you will next look at any auto insurance policy held by a relative that lives with you in the household for PIP. If you have no resident relative with auto insurance coverage, then you look to the car you were in at the time of the accident's policy for PIP coverage.

If you were hit as a pedestrian or riding a bike, you might be covered by the driver's PIP insurance. It can certainly get confusing but don't worry. We deal with these types of issues daily, and the exact reason you should use our car accident expertise is to help ensure your medical bills get paid.

How Much Medical Coverage Does PIP Provide?

The answer is it varies from State to State. In Pennsylvania, the minimum PIP coverage is $5,000.00, but for a small price in your premium, you can get much more coverage. We always suggest at least pricing out a higher level of PIP coverage through your auto insurance company, and you should certainly do so if you don't have health insurance – remember, you should get as much PIP as you can afford.

Why Am I Getting Medical Bills and Collections Notices?

This often happens with ambulance and hospital services because they are big entities that deal with a lot of car accidents on a daily basis. They screw up when billing. Think about it, the ambulance is there at the scene of the car accident, bringing you to the hospital, but most time has yet to be reported to any insurance carriers – so there is no claim number to the bill yet. The billing department can be less than diligent and send a bill directly to the person involved in the accident, rather than finding out the claim number under which it should be billed. We advise all of our car accident clients to forward any bills they receive to our office immediately so that we can help to sort them out, try to avoid collections calls and marks against your credit.

What Happens If My Medical Bills Are More Than PIP

Even with no health insurance, many doctors will continue to treat you and will provide a bill for excess medical expenses to your lawyer at the completion of your treatment. Doctors who are familiar with treating people involved in a car accident are familiar with this process and will not turn away an injured patient just because PIP has run out. These excess medicals are recoverable in an action against the at-fault party for your car accident. Additionally, any out of pocket or unreimbursed medical expenses can be recovered in a suit against the negligent party.

The Bottom Line

If you were injured in a Philadelphia car accident, you can and should see a doctor, regardless of whether you have health insurance or not. You will in most instances be covered under PIP, but it gets confusing, so your best bet is always to call a top car accident law firm to help you get the medical care you need and get you maximum dollar recovery for your injury case.

Texting While Driving – Car Accidents and Criminal Charges

I drive to the car accident law firm of KaplunMarx every day, usually via Roosevelt Boulevard, and every day without fail I see other drivers texting while driving. I don't mean just texting, this includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the countless other apps that are available to us. I am truly astonished at how many people are involved in such a dangerous and stupid activity, which can result in car accidents and possible criminal charges.

Take a look at the statistics of texting and driving

  • In 2011, 23% of automobile crashes involved the use of cell phones in the U.S., that number, along with our access to new apps and faster phones is bound to rise
  • texting and driving means you are 23 times more likely to be involved in an auto accident,
  • 5 seconds is the minimal amount of time that you attention is taken from the road while texting and driving,
  • During those 5 seconds, if you are driving 55 mph you would have driven the length of a football field.

So why do people engage in this risky activity? The answer is because many people overestimate their multi-tasking ability, thinking that they can confidently text and drive – plain and simple, they are wrong. The statistics show it, and we have real-life examples such as the landmark case in Massachusetts that treats distracted drivers like criminals.

In Pennsylvania & New Jersey, States that we practice law in (among the majority of States in this county), it is illegal to use your cell phone while driving to send or receive texts, emails, or messages of any kind. Liability in a personal injury lawsuit becomes a great deal more obvious if the other driver was texting, and criminal charges can be brought against them as well. The bottom line, if you text and drive – STOP! It is never worth the risk. I am sure your text, tweet, or status update can wait until your safety at your destination. If you're injured by a driver who was texting and driving, contact the Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at KaplunMarx – we can help.

Can I File a Car Accident Claim if I Was a Passenger?

If you were a passenger involved in a Pennsylvania car accident, you might have a number of questions about how to seek and receive compensation for the injuries, damages, and losses you may have sustained. Generally speaking, passengers don't have as tough a case to prove as drivers might because passengers are not active participants. One of the drivers involved in the incident would probably be found liable for the accident.

However, a majority of cases involving passengers are not as straightforward. Passengers may be hesitant to file a claim because they may have been riding with a friend or family member. Individuals don't want to sue their loved one or dear friend. But, when you are injured and are in need of compensation to cover medical expenses and wages lost while healing from your injuries, filing a claim becomes inevitable.

It Depends on the Type of Incident

If you are injured in a single-car accident, you may have a claim against the driver's insurance to seek compensation. Pennsylvania is a "Choice No-Fault" state. This means that drivers can either opt-in or opt-out of "no-fault" rules. However, drivers must make this choice at the time of purchasing the insurance. You cannot do it after an accident has happened. If your driver has no-fault insurance, you could file a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or No-Fault claim against the driver for your medical bills and lost earnings. Once you have been treated for your injuries, you may wish to enter a settlement with the driver's insurance company.

If the incident involved two vehicles, there might be some conflict regarding who was at fault. This usually plays out between the insurance companies that are involved. When the incident is a multi-vehicle accident, things could become even more complex because each of the injured parties will file claims against the negligent driver. Such cases usually involve several insurance companies, multiple eyewitness accounts, and even defense counsel, which could make matters really complicated.

What Should Passengers Do?

If you have been injured in a car accident, there are a number of steps you can take in order to protect your rights. First, make sure your name is on the police report so there is no question you were there and you were injured in the accident. Try to collect as much evidence as possible from the scene of the crash, including names, driver's license information, auto insurance, and contact information for all parties involved.

If there were eyewitnesses who saw the events unfold, be sure to get their names and contact information as well. Get prompt medical attention, treatment, and care for your injuries. Save all receipts, invoices, and medical records connected to the incident. Do not rush into a settlement with the insurance company. Doing so could jeopardize your claim and prevent you from seeking compensation for any future medical expenses you may incur as a result of the injuries you suffered.

Why You Need an Experienced Lawyer

Contact an experienced Pennsylvania car accident lawyer who will remain on your side, fight for your rights and help ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your injuries and losses. Car accident claims involving passengers could become complex and challenging. A knowledgeable attorney can help you through the process and help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Give the team at KaplunMarx a call today for a FREE consultation with an experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyer: 215-939-4895

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