How Can I Win a Car Accident Lawsuit in Philadelphia?
Auto accidents range from minor fender-benders to major events that cost people their lives. However, in all accidents, there’s the chance for injury. Even the most minor traffic accident can lead to pain and suffering, and if that accident isn’t your fault, the other driver should be held accountable for their actions and decisions. That usually means taking them to court, but how do you ensure you can win a car accident lawsuit in Philadelphia?
Traffic Accidents: Understanding the Reality
In 2022, almost 1,200 people lost their lives on Pennsylvania's roadways. That number was even higher in 2021. This figure only accounts for traffic accident fatalities; many more were injured in auto accidents. PennDOT points out that of the 115,938 reported traffic accidents in the state, 67,012 resulted in some injury, ranging from minor to severe.
Of those, 29.9% involved a single vehicle hitting a fixed object, such as a tree or a guard rail) and 14.5% involved a vehicle and a pedestrian. The remainder involved at least two vehicles, with at least one “at fault” driver whose negligence or inattention was responsible for the accident. If you or a loved one were injured in an auto accident, don’t assume that the insurance company will meet its obligations. It may be necessary to file a lawsuit.
How to Win a Car Accident Lawsuit in Philadelphia
Every day, thousands of Pennsylvanians head to court to fight for their rights and to hold insurance companies and negligent drivers responsible. While there is no way to guarantee a positive outcome to your lawsuit, there are many things you can do to help improve the chances of a beneficial verdict. Below, we’ll walk you through the most essential tips to help win a car accident lawsuit in Philadelphia.
Understanding Pennsylvania Law
One of the most important things to understand regarding your accident and any lawsuit you might file is that Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. What this means for you is not easy to understand. While the no-fault system was supposed to simplify matters for state residents, it did the opposite.
Under Pennsylvania law, your insurer must cover the damages from the accident, even if the other driver was at fault. Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage will apply to the initial medical bills associated with treatment for injuries you sustained during the accident.
What Is PIP Coverage?
PIP coverage is a specific part of your auto insurance policy. All Pennsylvania drivers are required to carry PIP coverage under state law. This requirement is supposed to ensure that you have support no matter who was at fault in the accident or the amount of insurance coverage they carried. On the surface, this should have done away with issues related to drivers not carrying auto insurance or those who were underinsured.
What happens if you sustain injuries beyond your PIP coverage? In that case, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the other driver even in a no-fault state like Pennsylvania. When you factor in the state’s minimum coverage requirements, it quickly becomes apparent that moving forward with a lawsuit will be required in many cases. For instance, the state only requires $15,000 coverage per person and a minimum of $30,000 per accident. Given the cost of medical care, it’s all too easy to exceed those limits.
Given the fact that even moderate injuries may exceed your PIP coverage, you’ll need to know a few additional tips to help you win a car accident lawsuit in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania’s Statute of Limitations for Auto Accidents
Another complicating factor in your decision to file a lawsuit is that Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations. You have only two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit against the other driver.
This may seem like a long time, but given that it can take a great deal of time for injuries to become observable and that long-term injuries can rack up immense medical bills over the years, it’s essential to understand. Once this statute of limitations is up, you cannot sue the other driver.
Note that there are exceptions to the state’s statute of limitations. However, most residents cannot take advantage of them. An experienced Philadelphia car accident attorney can help you understand your situation and whether the state’s filing deadline applies to your situation.
Call the Police
Success in the courtroom requires that you do everything right from the very beginning. That means calling the police immediately after the accident occurs. The police will investigate the scene, determine the chain of events, and create a report. You’ll need that report for your own insurance claim, but you’ll also need it should you choose to pursue a lawsuit against the other driver.
Note that if your vehicle is movable, state law also requires that you move it out of the travel lane as quickly as possible. Our recommendation? Take pictures of the scene right after checking yourself and your passengers for injuries and checking on the safety of people in the other car. Once you’ve taken pictures, go ahead and move your vehicle to the side of the road.
Get a Full Medical Evaluation
Another important step is to get a full medical evaluation. Your first reaction may be to demur, particularly if you feel fine. Understand that it can take hours, days, and sometimes even weeks after an accident for signs of injuries to manifest. During the initial hours, you’re buoyed up by adrenaline, which can mask all but the most significant injuries.
Our recommendation is to have an evaluation at the scene of the accident. EMTs/paramedics can assess you for injuries that you might not notice. They can also document the severity of those injuries, which is an essential baseline if you decide to move forward with a lawsuit later on.
Collect Evidence and Get Witness Statements
You will need to document the accident and gather any evidence available to support your claim. That includes photos of the vehicles involved, as well as any skid marks on the roadway, police reports, and more.
If witnesses are present, try to get their statements. This is particularly important if the other driver attempts to implicate you or place the blame for the accident elsewhere during the lawsuit. If the other driver claims one thing, but you have neutral witnesses who back up your version of events, you’re more likely to win the lawsuit. In addition to witness statements and photos of the accident scene, you’ll also want to collect:
- Medical Records: If you decide to proceed with a car accident lawsuit, you’ll need your medical records to make the most compelling case possible. This should include medical records from your evaluation at the accident scene, as well as any records detailing imaging or treatment after the accident related to injuries sustained at the time.
- Police Report: Your police report will play a central role in any lawsuit should you decide to move forward with one. It will describe the situation, the weather, and other pertinent details, as well as the officer’s determination of causality and chain of events.
Consider Other Factors
Too often, drivers assume that if their PIP coverage is enough to cover the initial treatment of their injuries, then there is no point in filing a car accident lawsuit. However, that’s not the entirety of the situation. Complicating factors will play a role in the total true cost of the injuries you sustained, including the following:
- Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering can be difficult to quantify, but it certainly plays a role in determining the real impacts of an auto accident. Your attorney can help you make sense of this by explaining the pain multiplier approach and illustrating how it applies to your situation.
- Injury Severity: If the severity of your injuries goes beyond the PIP amount you carry, you will need to pursue a lawsuit against the other driver so you can cover those costs.
- Effects of Injuries: Too often, we think of injuries as being things that go away after treatment. That’s not accurate. The truth is that even seemingly minor injuries can have long-lasting impacts that affect you for years to come. A broken bone might cause difficulty walking or using your arm for years after an auto accident, for instance. These effects must also be calculated into the total cost of the accident before you decide whether to pursue a lawsuit.
Hire the Right Attorney in Philadelphia
Finally, it’s essential to choose the right auto accident attorney. A lot rides on your decision here, so it’s important to know what separates one accident attorney from another.
Experience is a critical factor. How many auto accidents has the attorney represented? Do they have experience in Philadelphia County, or do they primarily serve other areas of the state?
You also need to consider the results the attorney has achieved for other clients. What is the law firm’s win record? Did other clients receive the amount of compensation they sought?
Reach Out to Mattiacci Law for the Help You Need in Philadelphia
Don’t deal with the lingering effects of an auto accident alone. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Philadelphia, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn how our car accident attorneys can help you find the closure you need and the damages you’re owed.