Automobile Accident FAQ
Why do I need a lawyer?
Insurance companies are in business to make money – not to pay out claims to victims of accidents. Their chief goal is to maximize profits. Insurance adjusters are trained to settle your injury claim for the lowest possible amount. Most injury victims have no idea of the value of their claim and so they may agree to a low settlement amount offered by the insurance company. If you have a highly experienced and trained personal injury lawyer working for you, you can prevent this problem, maximize your compensation and get what you deserve.
The insurance adjuster says I do not need a lawyer. Is that correct?
The insurance company is in the business of ensuring the minimum possible payout to victims of accidents. Remember that their goal is to make money and not to pay victims of accidents what they deserve. As an accident victim you are like David in the biblical story of David and Goliath. The insurance adjuster may seem kind and caring. He may try to provide legal advice or information which is actually illegal for a non-lawyer to do. No matter how much information or how helpful the adjuster seems to be, his primary goal is to pay you as little as possible. Sometimes an adjuster will offer to make a payment immediately. The adjuster may put pressure on you to sign documents or give recorded statements. You have zero obligation to sign anything for the other driver's insurance company and should not allow the adjuster to bully you into giving a recorded statement. Also, you have a right to an attorney and there is no reason for you to make any rushed decision about a settlement offer from an insurance company. Do not face the insurance company alone. Worthington Law Group can make sure that the insurance company actually pays the full value of your claim, taking all of your past and future losses into account.Call us for a free, no pressure, no-strings-attached case evaluation.
How do I pay for a lawyer's services in an accident case?
Most personal injury lawyers work on what is called a "contingent fee basis". This means that you owe no fees or costs up-front. You pay nothing to us unless we win your case. The amount you would pay as a client at the conclusion of your case is equal to a percentage of your total recovery minus costs that are advanced by the lawyer which can include the price of ordering medical records, taking video depositions of doctors or for the drafting of reports from experts and investigators.Most people could not afford to fund the costs involved in pursuing a personal injury claim. The costs we pay for you in advance are like an interest free loan which we only reimburse ourselves if we win. There is no down side for the client and the client does not have to advance any of the costs to our office.
What is my case worth?
It is not easy for plaintiffs' lawyer to answer this question because there are many factors involved. These factors include the severity of your injuries, the limits on the insurance policies that apply, witness statements, discrepancies in the accident facts between the two parties and many other factors which make it impossible for a lawyer to determine at the beginning of the case what the case is worth. Any lawyer who tells you what he thinks your case is worth before you have even finished your medical treatment for your injuries is not the kind of lawyer you should hire. Sometimes a lawyer will tell you that you have a large case (before he can possibly know) to get you to sign up with his office. This is improper, unethical and misleading and should be a "red flag" for you to go elsewhere for representation.
Do I have a case that is big enough for a lawyer to handle?
At Worthington Law Group we handle all sizes of claims. Our cases range from minor soft tissue injuries to catastrophic injuries and wrongful death cases. We are always happy to review any case for you at no charge to you. We have the resources and staff to handle all types of personal injury matters. If we determine that your case does not warrant an attorney we will tell you that as well! But you won't know unless you call us.And at Worthington Law Group you will be treated with respect and compassion, no matter what the size of your case.
Who will pay the medical bills from my auto accident?
In PA, by law, your own medical coverage on your auto policy covers at least $5000 of your medical bills from a car accident. You can choose any hospital or doctor to treat you up to your limit. You can have more than $5000 (which I recommend) but after you use up whatever is your limit on your policy, your health insurance would cover the excess bills up to whatever limit you may have and subject to your deductibles and co-pays. I advise my clients to make sure the doctors and facilities you are using are within your network in the event you exceed the limit on your auto policy so that you don't have to change doctors in the middle of your care. At the conclusion of your case, in addition to your claim for pain and suffering, we seek reimbursement of out of pocket costs such as your co-pays, deductibles out of network providers from the at fault-driver's insurance.
Is there still a claim to pursue if my insurance has paid my medical bills?
Absolutely. You may be entitled to not only full compensation for your medical treatment but also for what we call "pain and suffering". Many times, insurance carriers try to reduce an injured victim's damages by simply offering to pay the "out-of-pocket" expenses which leaves the injured person less than whole. Besides your past medical bills you are entitled to compensation for other damages including future medical treatment, lost wages and the above-mentioned pain and suffering.
Is the information I share with you confidential?
Of course. Since your communications with our office are privileged, it is critical that you make full disclosure of all pertinent facts regarding your personal injury claim, including prior injuries from other incidents. That is the only way we can fully evaluate your claim. Any information you share with us is protected by what is known as the "attorney-client privilege" and will remain confidential. This is true even if our legal representation of you ends or you do not retain Worthington Law Group for your case.
I would rather not go to court – can you still help me?
Certainly. It is very common for clients to tell us that they are too busy or nervous about going to court.Some are afraid to testify even though we prepare our clients incredibly well. Although we stand ready to file suit in your case we understand that many people would rather settle for a reasonable figure before filing a lawsuit. We are a team with our clients. Accordingly, a lawsuit is only filed with your full consent and cooperation and when necessary to get the best possible result in your case.
How long do I have after an accident to file a lawsuit?
As an accident victim you have a limited time period to file a lawsuit. In Pennsylvania the statute of limitations in most cases is 2 years from the date of accident. This means if you have not settled your case or filed a lawsuit and made an effort to serve it on the defendant (usually by sheriff) before the 2-year period has ended, you will lose all rights to pain and suffering and out-of-pocket loss in your claim. In addition, if one of the defendants in your case happens to be a governmental entity such as the state or township, you may have a very limited time period to file as there are specific, shorter statutes of limitations in cases like that. Therefore you should contact an attorney immediately after your accident. Sorting out all the defendants in your case is critical in the beginning stages of your case. We use investigators to assist us and sometimes forensic engineers to determine whether there has been some negligence by a governmental entity that contributed to your accident.
How long will my case take from start to finish?
It is impossible to say how long your case will take to resolve either by settlement or litigation. Each case is completely unique. A personal injury case resulting in minor injury will often take less time than a case involving very serious or catastrophic injuries. Sometimes the clients in our cases are under medical treatment for years. We need to put some of those cases into suit to protect the rights of the injured parties and allow them to complete their treatment or for their doctor to project future medical treatment costs. Obviously we make every effort to resolve your case as efficiently and quickly as is possible without sacrificing any value. But you have to remember we are here to protect your rights and your financial future in relation to your injuries and out-of-pocket loss.
Should I sign the papers the insurance adjuster has given me?
Never sign anything without an attorney's prior review. You should consult with a highly experienced personal injury attorney before touching pen to paper or any document for the insurance company. Often times the insurance company will try to rush you or bully you into signing documents at the beginning of your case. If you sign a release with the insurance company your case is over even though you may not have received the monies you deserve for your injuries. Therefore you should never sign any document for the insurance company nor give any recorded statements to the at-fault driver's insurance company without your attorney's approval and participation. Sometimes insurance adjusters will offer a quick and early settlement figure which is not nearly enough to compensate you. Many people are at a disadvantage worrying about how they will replace their car or pay their bills and make the mistake of signing a release. Do not do this – call us for guidance.
How long will it take before I receive my settlement money?
While the time period can vary, most settlement checks are received from the insurance company within a few weeks of settlement. It is unusual to receive funds more than 2 or 3 weeks after the signing of a release. However, in cases involving the government, substantial settlement amounts, private individuals and insurance companies from outside your geographic area, it can take months to receive the check, although this is unusual.
What is a letter of protection and why does my doctor want me to sign it?
Your doctor's office is concerned about being paid. The billing staff there is normally trained to list any insurance that may cover the accident. In Pennsylvania your own medical coverage on your auto insurance policy is primary under our "no-fault" system, but the minimum limits in Pennsylvania are very low ($5,000.00). After that, if your provider accepts your health insurance, the bills may be paid by your health insurance for additional services. However not everyone has insurance and some people have very high deductibles and co-pays these days. Many doctors' offices will ask you to sign a letter of protection to make sure that they receive payment even if your insurance lapses or runs out. At Worthington Law Group we like to review any letter of protection presented by your doctor prior to your signing it. Sometimes we can minimize what you will owe at the end of your case by doing this and negotiating with the medical office. However, once you sign a letter of protection it's a contract between you and the medical provider and normally, any amounts owed on your bill at the conclusion of your case are owed to the doctor out of any monies you win or out of your pocket.Having an experienced personal injury lawyer is the way to prevent billing "surprises" at the end of your case.
Who would handle the claims for my children who were passengers at the time of my accident?
At Worthington Law Group, we would handle the minors' cases in conjunction with the handling of your claim. At the conclusion of the cases for the minors, we must file a petition with the court to get approval from a judge in most counties. Any funds for the minor are placed in a trust to protect the funds until the minor is at least 18 years of age. Sometimes in larger or serious injury cases, with the client's consent, we place the funds in a structured settlement. We only recommend this arrangement when we feel it will benefit the minor. When this type of arrangement is set up for a minor, it can fund a college education and be disbursed each of the 4 years at commencement of the school term if the settlement is substantial enough. In any case, the claims are protected for the benefit of the minor until age 18.
Why do I need "Full Tort" on my auto insurance policy? It is more expensive and my agent says I still have the right to sue if I am seriously injured with "Limited Tort".
You need full tort because with limited tort you sacrifice the ability to file a claim for pain and suffering unless you have suffered a "serious impairment to body function". What is that? The courts can't even sort it out consistently. Some cases in PA state that you don't have a "serious impairment of body function" if you are not out of work for SIX MONTHS! Thus, even if you have had a minor knee surgery directly related to an auto accident, if you have a very sedentary job and can fumble your way through your activities during the day despite being in pain or having limited range of motion, the court will probably say you do NOT have a serious impairment. In that set of circumstances you will have NO CLAIM for pain and suffering. If you have Full Tort, you won't have to get into the question at all of whether what you have suffered is a "serious impairment of body function". Another example: What if you have a neck injury which causes you pain such that you can work at your job but cannot play the guitar or cannot play tennis, which is your lifelong hobby? This would be a serious impairment right? WRONG. You will not get past your limited tort in this scenario unless you play tennis or guitar for a living and your doctor says you cannot do these things at all for a period of six months or longer. If I were in that situation and couldn't participate in a beloved hobby, I would consider that a serious impairment, but you will not get past your limited tort coverage with those facts. Get Full Tort and eliminate these types of situations. It is worth the money.
I was hit by a drunk driver who had no insurance. Who will pay for my injuries?
If you purchased UNINSURED motorist coverage on your auto policy, you would have a claim. However, once again, if you have limited tort, your injuries would have to be VERY serious to get you past that to be able to use your uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is very inexpensive and everyone in PA should have it. There are a lot of drivers who are uninsured and motoring around placing you at risk. We have found that a lot of drunk defendants have either very low liability limits or no insurance at all. It is worth the money to buy all the un and underinsured motorist coverage you can afford in PA. If you have been hit by a drunk driver or even if you just have questions about the need for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, call us
Dog Bite FAQ
There is a very frightening dog at the local dog park. The owner allows him off leash. I am afraid my son or I could be bitten or attacked. Should I report this to the police?
Absolutely, if you feel you are in danger. And if you or your son do suffer a bite or other attack, make sure you get the information from the dog owner before you leave for medical treatment. Get name, address, phone number. Also obtain any names, addresses and phone numbers for witnesses. If possible, assign someone else at the scene that you know to take care of these details so that you can get yourselves to necessary medical treatment without delay. Call the police and give them all the information to investigate. This type of incident must be reported by the doctor, hospital or police to the Department of Health as well. If possible, have someone take photos of the attacking dog for identification purposes.
My neighbor's dog bit my son yesterday requiring 22 stitches in his face. They have offered to pay his medical bills if I cooperate with their insurance company. Should I talk to them?
No. Do not talk to them. Regardless of what your neighbor has said, the insurance company is not going to offer you a cent toward medical bills unless you sign a blanket HIPAA form and give a recorded statement. The insurance company may have what is called "premises medical coverage" on the neighbor's policy but the limit may be as low as $1000. That certainly isn't going to cover treatment involving 22 facial stitches and possible permanent scarring. They are trying to lure you into cooperating so that they can find some way to blame your son for the dog attack and minimize the claim.
Who pays my medical bills for a dog bite?
Your own health insurance pays initially. If you have no health insurance try to treat at a clinic at a hospital that will charge you less than private providers would charge. If the owner of the attacking dog has homeowner's or renter's insurance that covers dog bites, you could get reimbursed later but as there are no guarantees there is insurance and you need treatment immediately, seek the necessary treatment but ask for a payment plan if you have no insurance. If there is insurance to cover the bite, it would not be offered until months (or sometimes years) down the road in most circumstances.
Do I have to pay my health insurance back if they have paid my bills for a dog bite injury?
Under most circumstances, yes. But don't worry about that now. You need to seek all necessary treatment to minimize scarring and prevent infection. The situation is too complicated for you to handle on your own and you need a lawyer to help protect your credit and make sure all efforts are made to get your insurance company (or medicaid if applicable) reimbursed. We can usually negotiate a reduction in the amount owed back, which is called a "lien".
I was scratched in the eye by a cat owned by my sister in law. Afterward, I developed an infection in the eye. I don't have a claim for a cat attack, do I?
If your sister in law's cat had a known habit of attacking people you probably have a claim against her homeowner's insurance. I have successfully handled such a case on behalf of a pet sitter who developed a systemic infection from such an attack. We settled for five figures in that case.
My neighbor's dog broke down the gate around her property. The gate was in poor repair for years. Her dog attacked and killed my cat. Do I have a claim for my cat. Do I have a claim for emotional damage since I am devastated?
Unfortunately, the only claim you might have would be against the homeowner who owned the dog for the actual value of the cat. If it was a very expensive or exotic breed and you can prove you paid $1500 for the cat, you would be entitled to that under PA law, but sadly, a pet is considered a "chattel" under PA law. This means it is treated as a piece of personal property rather than a dear, valued family member. There is no provision under PA law for emotional distress for the owner of a cat or other pet who witnesses such a terrible event so you do not have a claim for emotional distress even though you are no doubt experiencing that and terrible grief.
What is the deadline for filing a claim against my ex-son in law for his pit bull attacking my daughter? This happened two and one half years ago.
If you daughter is a minor, the deadline is not until two years after her 18th birthday (her 20th birthday) but you should not wait as the longer a time that goes by, the harder it is to find witnesses, obtain medical records and locate the homeowner's insurance information for the owner of the dog. However, the statute of limitations in PA for the medical bills for which you, as parent, are responsible, is TWO YEARS, which means you have probably already lost the ability to seek reimbursement for those from the homeowner or his insurance company, if any. This means if it is two and one half years later, it is already too late for you to obtain reimbursement. You should contact us or another experienced dog bite lawyer immediately to consult for free.
Who will pay for future plastic surgery for a child that was bitten by a dog last month?
The dog owner or his insurance company should pay, but the best approach would be to call an EXPERIENCED dog bite attorney to handle this because the projected future plastic surgery would have to be recommended by a doctor. Usually, as dog bite lawyers, we order a narrative report from a plastic surgeon at about the one year mark after the accident (at which point most scarring is considered to have matured) to describe the incident, the treatment and prognosis plus any surgical recommendations.Many times, plastic surgeons will not recommend any drastic cosmetic procedures until teen age years, so the cost must be projected out or estimated based upon that consideration. As a lay person, you will not be able to handle all the pitfalls of this kind of case and the stakes are too high to take a chance on pursuing the claim on your own. You need a lawyer with years of expertise to ensure your child gets what he or she deserves.
Slips, Trips, and Falls FAQ
I fell on a sidewalk in Philadelphia and broke my leg. Do I have a case?
The answer is not simple and depends on many factors such as what CAUSED you to fall, whether you were watching where you were going, whether the owner of the property where you fell was NEGLIGENT in any way and that negligence caused you to fall. If you suffered only some bruising or a few abrasions but no serious injury, many lawyers will tell you they cannot accept your case because it is too small. However, a broken leg is a serious injury and sometimes requires surgery and a long period of physical therapy. If you fell due to the property owner's negligence you may have a valid claim. For example, if you were walking past the property owner's house on their sidewalk and trees caused the sidewalk to be upheaved a few inches, that is the something the property owner should have maintained and repaired. It is very likely the property owner would be considered liable for your injuries and you may have a quite substantial claim in Philadelphia for the injuries.
Where are some of the most common places to slip or trip and fall?
Slip and fall accidents can occur anywhere. From parking lots to sidewalks, grocery stores to playgrounds, and everything in between, unsafe property conditions can lead to quite serious injuries which we see every day.
Many times people erroneously assume is that their fall was their fault. That's often not the case. In fact, business owners, homeowners, and landlords have specific legal responsibility to maintain property conditions at all times. This type of case is also called a "premises liability" case.
What kinds of conditions cause slip and falls?"
- Defects in pavement
- Snow and ice accumulation
- Torn, raised, or worn carpeting
- Broken handrails
- Poor or non-existent lighting conditions
- Holes and depressions in the ground
- Upheaved or broken sidewalks
- Spilled food or drinks
- Stray electrical cords and wires
What are some immediate steps I should take after a slip and fall?
Knowing what to do after a slip and fall accident is critical to developing your case. We've put together a simple guide to explain what to do if you have slipped and fallen which is listed in our books and guides. First and foremost is getting the medical treatment you need and explaining to the ER doctor or other treating professional EXACTLY what caused you to fall. Getting names and phone numbers for witnesses is CRUCIAL-if you have no witnesses and there was no video camera recording the fall, it will be your word against the property owner which makes a case monumentally more difficult.Taking photos of what caused you to fall is extremely important. If you can't take the photos because you are heading out in an ambulance, have a witness, friend or family member take a photo because sometimes the property owner will try to make quick repairs to hide the defect. That makes it nearly impossible to prove exactly what you fell on.
Knowing what to do today can help if you're in an accident tomorrow, so check out our guide.
How much is my slip and fall case worth?
It's a question that we often hear from our clients, and it's not unreasonable to wonder how much you could recover, especially as your lost wages and medical bills pile up.However, there's a simple answer and a not-so-simple answer. The simple answer is to speak with our office for a free, no-strings-attached case consultation. We will be able to answer your questions and explain the important details that come into play to determine the value of your case.We are happy to do this for you -we love what we do!
The not-so-simple answer is that "it depends"- your case's value is constantly changing depending on the amount of losses you've suffered. This means that as dollar figure of medical bills and lost wages change, so does the value of your case.
Some cases are worth more than others. Some injuries are more severe than others and require extensive medical treatment or surgery after an accident. No one wants to trade their health for any amount of money; but if you're injured, our law firm will fight to recover everything you deserve after your accident.
I don't want to sue my friend/family member, but my medical bills are piling up!
What happens if you fall on a family member's or friend's front step? You are in a spot because you don't want to sue them, which would possibly damage your relationship. That's a common misconception when it comes to slip and fall claims. You don't immediately sue the property owner, you pursue a claim against their insurance company. It's as simple as that.Over 90% of cases eventually settle, and while we try to resolve our cases amicably with the insurance company for the best possible dollar figure, sometimes we can't get that for you without filing a lawsuit. However, that never happens without your consent and full understanding.
Purchasing insurance is meant to financially protect the property owner in the event of an accident. In fact, the sole purpose of insurance is to regularly pay money (premiums) in order to protect your assets.
Your friend or loved one won't be stuck paying your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering out of pocket. Their homeowner's insurance, if they own their property and have insurance, will take care of those costs.In many of our cases, family members are more than happy to help a loved one recover from their insurance because they feel badly about the accident on their property.
I fell on my neighbor's front step. She lives in a rental property. Who will be responsible for paying my medical bills and lost wages during my time off from work?
That is a great question. It demonstrates just how complicated a slip and fall accident can be when it comes to fault or "liability". There's a legal phrase called "premises liability" that basically states a property owner, landlord, or business owner can be held responsible for injuries that take place on their property.
In this situation, it's possible that the renter is responsible for maintaining the safety of the steps. Or the landlord could be responsible, depending what it says in the lease agreement. Sometimes, a third party – like a maintenance or property management company or snow removal service hired by the landlord – might even be held responsible if they didn't fulfill their duties.
The best way to determine who's at fault for an accident would be to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer in our office.
If You're Injured in an Accident, Give Us a Call: 215-576-5150
We're standing by to help with your slip and fall accident. We have a 24 hour call center and almost 35 years of experience. It's free to speak with us, and there's never an obligation to hire our firm after you call. We'll answer your legal questions, and help you determine your best course of action.
And remember, there's never a fee unless we win your slip and fall case.