You should hire a personal injury lawyer when you need a knowledgeable legal professional’s skills, knowledge, and experience after an accident or injury.
Some cases might require a lawyer early in the process. For example, if someone has accused you of contributing to a car accident or faking your injuries, you might need a lawyer right away.
Other cases might not require a lawyer until the end of the process. For example, an insurance company might make a fair settlement offer after your accident. You might just want a lawyer to review the settlement agreement to make sure it contains the terms you negotiated.
Here are some of the signs that you should hire a personal injury lawyer after your accident.
The At-Fault Party Lacks Insurance
Most injury claims in Pennsylvania begin and end with the at-fault party’s insurer. This includes injuries sustained due to medical malpractice, a slip and fall accident, or defective products. One main exception is when it comes to vehicle accidents, which we’ll discuss in just a moment.
In most cases, you will notify the person or business responsible for causing your injury. They will, in turn, notify their liability insurer. From that point forward, you will deal with the insurer for the at-fault party to try to settle your claim. If you cannot settle your claim, you must file a lawsuit to pursue a damage award.
When the at-fault party lacks insurance, you might need to skip straight to the lawsuit. For example, shopping centers usually require their tenants to carry liability insurance against slip and fall accidents. But if a shop owns a building outright, it might not feel pressured into getting liability insurance.
When customers slip and fall in an uninsured shop, they will face a choice between paying for their medical treatment out-of-pocket or suing the shop.
You Elected “Full Tort” Auto Insurance
Pennsylvania uses a no-fault auto insurance system. This means that your insurer will pay up to $5,000 for medical treatment for your car accident injuries. You do not need to pursue the insurer for the driver who caused the accident. Your insurer does not care whether you caused the accident. Your insurer pays these medical benefits without regard to fault.
When you buy auto insurance in Pennsylvania, your insurer will ask if you want “full tort” or “limited tort” insurance. The insurer can offer a lower price for limited tort insurance because you will surrender the right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver except when:
- Your medical expenses exceed your no-fault insurance limits
- You suffer death, serious impairment of a body function, or serious disfigurement
On the other hand, full tort insurance leaves you free to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. This means that you can speak to a lawyer immediately after a car accident to begin the legal process to hold the at-fault driver responsible.
You Opted for “Limited Tort” Auto Insurance But You Qualify for an Exception
As mentioned previously, limited tort does not prevent you from filing lawsuits. Instead, it limits the situations in which courts will allow your lawsuit to proceed.
If your case falls into one of the two exceptions, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In the case of the first exception, you can file for any medical expenses or income losses that your insurer did not reimburse.
In Pennsylvania, your benefits with a no-fault insurance policy include your medical expenses and 80% of your lost income (up to your policy limits).
The lowest policy limit offered under Pennsylvania law is $5,000. If you buy a policy with the minimum policy limit, you can file a lawsuit after your insurer pays $5,000 in medical and wage benefits.
If your case falls under the second exception, you could recover substantially more compensation. The “serious injury” exception allows you to sue for your expenses and pain and suffering.
Equally importantly, you do not need to exceed your policy limit to sue under the second exception. When you suffer a “serious injury,” you can sue immediately.
You might need legal assistance to determine whether you can pursue a lawsuit under Pennsylvania’s no-fault system. An injury lawyer can interpret the “serious injury” statute as it applies to your accident injuries.
An Insurer Denies Your Claim
If an insurer denies your claim, you need to act before the insurer closes your claim. In many cases, an attorney can negotiate with the insurer or present additional documentation that will persuade the insurer to pay the claim.
After the insurer closes your claim, you’ll need to file a lawsuit to continue your pursuit of compensation. In the case of accidents that do not involve a vehicle, you can file a lawsuit without precondition.
But in the case of car accidents, Pennsylvania’s no-fault insurance system can limit your legal options.
An Insurer or At-Fault Party Blames You for Your Injuries
One common defense to an injury claim is to blame the victim. Under Pennsylvania law, your share of the blame for your injuries can reduce the at-fault party’s damages.
For example, suppose that you slipped and fell on a spill in a grocery store. Security video shows that the store’s employees saw the spill but failed to put up a warning sign. The same video shows that you were playing and chasing your children when you slipped.
If a jury allocates 15% of the fault for your injuries to you, the judge can only award you 85% of your damages. If a jury allocates more than 50% of the fault to you, the judge will award you nothing due to Pennsylvania’s 51% bar.
You should consult a lawyer when an insurer or at-fault party alleges that you contributed to your accident. The lawyer can analyze your role in your accident and determine whether a judge can reduce your damage award.
The Role of the Injury Lawyer
An injury lawyer can play an indispensable role in your injury claim. Your lawyer will provide advice and counsel about your legal options. Your lawyer will negotiate with insurers and litigate against those who caused your injuries. They will always represent your best interests and seek to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
To learn what an experienced personal injury lawyer can do in your case, contact our lawyers at Marzzacco Niven & Associates at (717) 231-1640 for a free consultation. We’ll review the circumstances of your injury and help you to determine your next steps.