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Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About PA Auto Accidents

Q) Will I meet with a lawyer?

Yes. At the initial consultation, a lawyer from Schmidt Kramer will meet with you. Throughout the remainder of our representation of you, a lawyer and a legal assistant will be involved in the handling of your claim.

Q) What if I am not able to come to your office?

In the event your injury prevents you from traveling to our office, a lawyer from Schmidt Kramer will meet with you at your house, the hospital, or any meeting place you designate.

Q) Are you available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Yes. Our law firm is staffed in such a way that a Schmidt Kramer employee can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If appropriate, this employee can contact a firm attorney 7 days a week at any time. We are ready, willing, and able to discuss a claim with you 24/7.

Q) Will I have to go to court?

No. If the insurance company for the person who caused the injury is willing to volunteer a fair settlement, you do not have to bring a lawsuit in order to obtain a recovery. We are skilled at negotiating settlements without filing a lawsuit. In the event the insurance company is not willing to negotiate fairly, we will then proceed with filing a lawsuit if you so desire.

Q) How much money is my case worth?

Your case is worth either what we tell the insurance company it is worth or the amount of an award granted by a judge and jury. We examine all of the conditions surrounding your case in order to arrive at a figure that we believe the insurance company must pay for your injuries.

These conditions include how the accident happened, what injuries you suffered, future medical problems, the amount of medical expenses and lost income, as well as future medical costs and future loss of income. We study every detail so that we can get you the money you deserve for your injuries.

Q) Can I change my lawyer?

You have the right to change lawyers, however your initial attorney will usually be entitled to payment for services rendered up to the time of dismissal. The lawyer will be paid from the fee earned at the conclusion of the case. Your new lawyer will usually work out an arrangement whereby the fee is split between the two lawyers.

Q) Should I get a second opinion if an attorney thinks I do not have a case?

Yes. Different lawyers will see a potential case differently. Some lawyers may not be familiar with the type of case you have. If a lawyer rejects your case, it is always a good idea to seek a second opinion.

Q) An insurance adjuster wants to settle and says I do not need lawyer. Should I get one?

Remember that adjusters work for insurance companies. They have one goal—to settle your case for the least amount of money possible. What may seem like a fair offer to you could fall far short of any amount of money settled through a lawyer. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney at Schmidt Kramer before accepting any offer made to you by an insurance company.

Q) Will my insurance rates go up if I pursue a claim or obtain a recovery?

No. Based on the information insurance agents and insurance carriers provide to us, simply because an injured person pursues a claim does not mean that their insurance premium will be increased.

Q) Who may bring an action for damages in a car accident case?

A competent adult, who is over the age of 18 and injured, must bring the lawsuit in his or her name. A minor or an incompetent adult must have a suit brought by either his or her parents or a court-appointed guardian.

Q) How long do I have to bring a case in Pennsylvania?

You must file your case within the statute of limitations—a fixed period of time dictated by the law. In many injury cases you are required to bring your case within two or three years from the date of the event that caused the injury. For an explanation of these time limits, always consult with a lawyer experienced in these matters.

Q) I was injured in a crash but may have been partly at fault. Can I still sue?

Yes. Under Pennsylvania's comparative negligence rules, you may still have a case even though you were partly at fault in causing an accident. These cases are very fact-specific, and you should consult with a lawyer.

Q) I was injured in a car crash with a driver from another state. Is the other driver still liable?

No. The statute only has an automatic exception if the driver who causes the accident is operating a vehicle "registered" in another state. 75 Pa. C.S.A. 1705 (d)(1)(ii). Since this driver was only a resident of Maryland and the vehicle was registered in Pennsylvania, unless there is another exception, limited tort would still apply.

Q) I represent the owner of a registered but uninsured vehicle, and under the law I have limited tort. Her five-year-old daughter was injured in a car accident while a passenger in her friend's mother's car. Is there anything I can do if she does not have a serious injury?

Yes. Under a Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion, the daughter is actually full tort. The Court held that the provision in Section 1705(a)(5) does not apply to the children of the uninsured motorist. Holland v. Marcy, 883 A.2d 449 (Pa. 2005).

Q) If a limited tort selection has been made, but the selection does not contain the actual amounts of the differences in premiums, is the election valid?

Yes. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that if the premiums are not included on the tort selection form, there is technically non-compliance with the statute. However, the Court also has held that the statute does not provide a remedy as long as the form in the statute is given to the insured and signed. Then the limited tort selection will be valid, subject to an exception. Donnelly v. Bauer, 720 A.2d 447 (Pa. 1998). Therefore, until there is any legislative action, the insurance company can enforce the limited tort option even if the statutory compliance is not met.

Q) If a client has selected limited tort and is injured in a car accident with another driver, who is intoxicated, are they able to sue for pain and suffering?

Generally yes, but the other driver MUST still be actually convicted of the alcohol related offense or accept ARD for the alcohol-related offense. Thus, if the other driver pleads his case to some other offense or the case is dismissed, then the automatic exception will most likely not apply. 75 Pa. C.S.A. Section 1705 (d)(1)(i).

Q) If a client has made a valid limited tort selection and is hit by a car as a pedestrian, can they still bring a claim for non-economic damages?

Yes, in fact, in Pennsylvania the Commonwealth Supreme Court has held that your selection of limited tort does not even apply if you are injured in a car accident as a pedestrian. L.S. v. Eschbach, 874 A.2d 1150 (Pa. 2005).

Q) What does my credit rating have to do with purchasing insurance?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, credit scores are based on an analysis of an individual’s credit history. These scores are used for many purposes, such as securing a loan, finding a place to live, getting a telephone and buying insurance. Insurers often generate a numerical ranking based on a person’s credit history, known as an “insurance score,” when underwriting and setting the rates for insurance policies. Actuarial studies show that how a person manages his or her financial affairs, which is what an insurance score indicates, is a good predictor of insurance claims. Insurance scores are used to help insurers differentiate between lower and higher insurance risks and thus charge a premium equal to the risk they are assuming. Statistically, people who have a poor insurance score are more likely to file a claim.

As a result, establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need, and keep the balances on your credit cards as low as possible—ideally, try to pay off the bill in full each month. Also, check your credit record regularly, and request that any errors be corrected immediately so that your record remains accurate.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. For more information, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Free annual credit reports can be ordered from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Q) What does a dram shop case mean in Pennsylvania?

A dram shop claim is an allegation that a bar over-served alcohol to a person who usually ends up causing an injury on or off the premises. Most of the time, these cases arise after a person, who has been served alcohol, leaves the bar and causes a car accident which results in an injury to another person. In very rare instances, the claim may even be the person who was served the alcohol making a claim against the bar.

In Pennsylvania, this claim is based upon a statute which says that a bar cannot serve a "visibly intoxicated" person. Pennsylvania is one of 43 states with Dram Shop laws.

Q) What steps can I take to combat aggressive driving and reduce the risk of being involved in a PA car accident?

The following are some driving tips you can use to help prevent other drivers from becoming aggressive on the road:

  • Be a courteous driver and do not drive aggressively yourself.
  • Give other drivers the benefit of the doubt. Do not take their driving mistakes personally.
  • Leave yourself plenty of room when merging or changing lanes so that you do not cut another driver off. If you accidentally cut someone off, give the driver an apologetic wave. If someone cuts you off, slow down and give them room to merge.
  • Travel in the right lane and use the left lane for passing. Driving too slowly in the left lane may anger other drivers and prompt them to drive aggressively.
  • Do not tailgate—follow another driver closelyeven if you feel the other car is moving too slowly. If another car is following you too closely, signal and pull over to allow them to pass.
  • Use your turn signal every time you merge or change lanes.
  • Avoid using gestures that can anger another driver.
  • Use your horn sparingly.

Aggressive driving is a contributing factor in nearly 56 percent of the fatal car accidents in the United States. Driving courteously and giving others the benefit of the doubt is one way to combat aggressive driving. It will help ensure you arrive safely at your destination. If you encounter an aggressive driver, the safest thing to do is to get out of the way and avoid conflict. Have you have been seriously injured in a car accident due to the aggressive or negligent behavior of another driver?

Q) What is auto insurance?

Auto insurance protects you against financial loss if you have an accident. It is a contract between you and the insurance company. You agree to pay the premium, and the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as defined in your policy. Auto insurance provides property, liability, and medical coverage:

  • Property coverage pays for damage to, or theft of, your car.
  • Liability coverage pays for your legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage.
  • Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation, and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses.

Most states require you to buy some, but not all, of coverages offered. If you are financing a car, your lender may also have requirements. Most auto policies are for six months to a year. Your insurance company should notify you by mail when it is time to renew the policy and to pay your premium.

In Pennsylvania, there is a mandatory minimum that an owner of a registered motor vehicle have minimum insurance for liability of $15,000 per person, up to $30,000 per accident, and $5,000 in property damage coverage.

Q) Can I obtain a free ID from PennDot?

Yes. Implemented in August 28, 2012, voters who lack verification documents needed to get a non-drivers license identification card will be able to obtain a new Department of State voter identification card. According to a news release from the state Department of Transportation, there is no charge for this card.

Voters can get one by visiting a PennDOT Driver License Center. The Department of State Voter ID is valid for voting purposes only.

Residents who want this new ID will need to provide their name, address, Social Security number, proof of residency, and previous name and/or address if either has changed in the past 12 months.

For more information, visit www.votespa.com or www.dos.state.pa.us.

Have Questions About a Claim?

Knowing who to contact after a crash can be an important decision to make. At Schmidt Kramer, we have many years of experience successfully representing auto accident victims. We welcome the opportunity to review the details of your specific incident.

To learn more about your potential legal options, contact a car accident lawyer at our firm today for a free consultation. There are no upfront fees if you have a case and decide to hire us, and we only get paid when we obtain a recovery.

Schmidt Kramer. Ph: (717) 888-8888.