If You’re Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident…
- Notify police and make sure a report is filed. The police should be provided with a brief description of the accident, the names and addresses of all the individuals involved, and the names and addresses of all witnesses.
- Personally secure the full names, addresses and telephone numbers of all witnesses who have any information regarding the accident.
- Take photographs of your car and any evidence from the scene of the accident which is disposable, such as skid marks and property damage to other vehicles and property.
- Report your accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Your attorney may assist you in this matter.
- If you car was damaged, drive it or have it towed to a reliable body shop. (See section on Property Damage).
- Review your insurance policy to find out what benefits are available.
- Immediately make arrangements to have an adjuster from the appropriate insurance company examine the damage to your vehicle. Your attorney can assist you in this matter.
- If you are injured and intend to seek medical attention as a result of the injuries which you sustained, provide your doctor with a complete medical history and tell him all of your current complaints. Make sure your doctor knows that you were injured as a result of an automobile accident.
- It is best to immediately seek the assistance if an attorney whose practice emphasizes Personal Injury Law.
If you intend to retain an attorney
- DO NOT sign any papers concerning your claim for your insurance company, any other insurance company, or investigator other than your own attorney.
- DO NOT answer any questions for your insurance company other than initially reporting your automobile accident.
- DO NOT answer any question or speak to any other insurance company, investigator or attorney other than your own attorney. You should reply to all questions about your claim as follows:
“I have a lawyer, call my lawyer”
- DO NOT talk to anyone other than your doctor and lawyer about your claim.
What benefits are available to me under my automobile insurance policy?
Every policy of motor vehicle insurance issued in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provides the following minimum benefits:
- Medical benefits of at least $5000.00
- Bodily injury liability of at least $15000.00 per person, $30000.00 per accident.
- Property damage liability of at least $5000.00
By law, your insurance company is required to offer you a certain optional benefits and indeed your present policy may have such benefits. The optional benefits which may be available under your policy include the following:
- Medical benefits to a maximum of 1.1 million.
- Income loess benefits up to $2500.00 per month, to a sum total of $50000.00.
- Accidental death benefits to a maximum of $25000.00.
- Funeral benefits to a maximum of $2500.00.
- Uninsured and underinsured coverage in same amount as bodily injury liability coverage.
- Increased bodily injury liability coverage.
- Stacking benefits.
- Increased property damage liability coverage.
- Collision coverage.
- Reimbursement of towing charges and labor.
- Reimbursement for rental vehicles.
- Theft, fire, and vandalism.
Note: Not all of these benefits are required to be offered by your company. Combined packages of certain benefits are also available.
In addition to the recovery of medical bills, lost income, property damage to your vehicle and some of those benefits previously listed, you may be entitled to receive a lump sum of money for pain and suffering among other things. To do this, you or an attorney must prove to the insurance company (or a court if necessary) the following:
- The accident was caused by the negligence of another person.
- You were injured as a result of the accident.
Note: The amount of money which you can recover will vary from case-to-case and depends upon many circumstances which include, among other things, the extent of your injuries and the amount of insurance or other resources which the owner or driver of the vehicle responsible for the accident possesses, as well as your degree of fault, if any, in causing the accident. The type of motor vehicle insurance policy which you have chosen may affect your right to recover third party benefits. Consult an attorney for details.
Uninsured Motorist Benefits
If the owner and/or driver of the vehicle responsible for you injuries is uninsured, then you may be able to recover your money for pain and suffering (among other things) under your own insurance policy. Uninsured motorist coverage in the same amount as your liability coverage is an optional benefit available on the date of purchase or renewal of every insurance policy written in Pennsylvania.
Underinsured Motorist Benefits
If the insurance which the owner and/or driver of the vehicle is responsible for your accident has less than the value of your claim, then you may be able to obtain underinsured motorist benefits through your own insurance policy. For example, if your claim is worth $100,000.00 and the insurance policy for the striking vehicle only provides $15000.00, then you may be able to obtain the excess $85000.00 to which you are entitled through your own insurance company. Underinsured motorist coverage in the same amount as your liability coverage is an optional benefit available on the date of purchase or renewal of every insurance policy written in Pennsylvania.
Note: We encourage you to contact us if you are having difficulty in determining your available benefits.
When I’m involved in a motor vehicle accident, who will pay my medical bills?
Your medical bills will be paid by one of the following sources:
- Look to yourself
Your primary source of medical benefits is any motor vehicle insurance policy in which you are the named insured that is an automobile insurance policy which identifies you by name. This policy is the source of your benefits, even if you are injured while a pedestrian, on a bicycle or in a vehicle not owned by you at the time of the accident.
- Look to your relatives
If you are not identified by name under an automobile insurance policy, then your medical bills will be paid under the insurance policy of a spouse or other relative in your household. Children of names insured, or a relative of the named insured, in their household, are entitled to benefits under that policy.
- Look to the vehicle you occupy
If you are the occupant of a motor vehicle at the time of the accident and you are not covered under the Paragraphs 1 or 2 above, then you will be entitled to benefits under the policy of the vehicle which you occupied. This includes buses and trackless trolleys.
- Look to the other vehicle
Pedestrians, bicyclists and certain other individuals who do not fit under Paragraphs 1 and 2 above may recover their medical benefits from the insurance policy of any vehicle involved in the accident, except vehicles which are properly parked.
- A last resort
Even if you are not covered under any of the above categories, still you may be entitled to medical benefits through a special fund, called the Pennsylvania Financial Responsibility Assigned Claims Plan.
What types of medical benefits am I entitled to receive?
- Your insurance policy will cover all reasonable and necessary medical treatment and rehabilitation services related to your accident. This includes, but is not limited to, hospitalization, dental, surgical, psychiatric, psychological, osteopathic, chiropractic, licensed physical therapy, ambulances, nursing services, vocational rehabilitation and occupational therapy, speech pathology and audiology, optometric services, medications, medical supplies and prosthetic devices. Benefits may also include non medical remedial care and treatment, such as recognized religious methods of healing.
- Your coverage will pay for treatment for any injury directly related to your accident as well as any aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
How much medical coverage do I have?
- At a minimum, you have $5,000.00 in medical coverage, although your policy may provide additional benefits. Any health insurance you have will pay for the excess after your automobile medical insurance benefits have been exhausted. Additionally, the insurance company covering the driver of the vehicle which caused the accident may be required to pay your medical bills in excess of $5,000.00.
How soon will my medical bills be paid?
- The law provides that your medical provider be paid within 30 days after the insurance company has received reasonable proof to justify your treatment.
- If your insurance company does not pay your medical bills in a timely manner or has refused to pay them, consult an attorney.
Note: If you are injured in an automobile accident while you are working, then your medical bills will be paid through your Employer’s Workers’ Compensation Carrier. To determine your actual benefits, consult your Workers’ Compensation Carrier or an attorney.
What entitles me to receive lost income benefits?
- If you have selected this option you are entitled to receive lost income benefits.
- If you are physically or psychologically unable to work as a result of your accident and this is verified in writing by your treating physician; and,
- If you can show a loss of income as a result of your disability.
Who pays for my lost income?
- If you are entitled to receive lost income benefits, the insurance company that pays your medical benefits will be the same company that pays your lost income benefits.
How much will I receive in lost income benefits?
- Beginning on the sixth working day of your disability, you will be paid 80% of your actual loss of gross income up to the monthly maximum available under your policy.
- If you are self-employed, you will be entitled to reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred for hiring a substitute to perform self-employment services. All wages which are not recovered under your insurance policy may be reimbursed to you at a later juncture from the insurance policy for the driver or owner of the motor vehicle which caused the accident.
When am I entitled to receive my lost income?
- The law requires the insurance company to pay your lost wages 30 days after it has received reasonable proof to justify your loss of income. If you are out of work for an extended period of time, you do not have to wait until after you return to work to receive benefits. If you are not reimbursed in a timely or satisfactory manner, you should consult an attorney.
Note: If you are injured in an automobile accident while you are working, then your income loss benefits will be paid through your Employer’s Workers’ Compensation Carrier. The amount of reimbursement will differ from the above schedule. To determine your actual benefits, consult your Workers’ Compensation Carrier or an attorney.
What benefits are available to me if I’m not eligible for benefits under any Insurance Policy?
- The Pennsylvania Financial Responsibility Assigned Claims Plan has been established to provide certain benefits to residents of Pennsylvania involved in motor vehicle accidents which occur within the Commonwealth who are not eligible under any insurance policy and who do not own an uninsured vehicle. Those benefits are as follows:
- Medical benefits up to $5,000.00. This benefit must be coordinated with private health insurance, if any.
- Uninsured pedestrians struck by uninsured vehicles are eligible for $15,000.00 of uninsured motorist benefits, less the amount of the medical bills paid or payable. Owners, operators or passengers of uninsured vehicles may not be eligible for uninsured motorist benefits.
Note: No wage benefits are available. This benefit is available only through the insurance policy of the striking vehicle or a private disability plan.
- If you fall within one of the categories below, you will not be eligible to receive benefits from the Pennsylvania Financial Responsibility Assigned Claims Plan or any insurance policy.
Ineligible claimants are as follows
- Recreational vehicles not intended for highway use;
- Motorcycles, motor driven cycles, motorized pedacycles or like types of vehicles required to be registered;
- Injuries which are self-inflicted or the result of intentional acts; and,
- Injuries which occur while evading apprehension from police officers or while in the process of committing a felony.
Note: If you find that you are an ineligible claimant, you should consult an attorney. He or she may still be able to pursue a claim for you.
Who pays to fix my car?
- It will either be the collision coverage under your own insurance policy or the coverage from the driver and/or owner of the car which caused the accident. (The choice and amount of coverage will vary from case-to-case. You should seek the advice of an attorney to determine the right choice.)
How do I get my car fixed?
- A representative from your body shop should arrange for an adjuster from the insurance company to examine your vehicle and reach a fair price for its repair.
How do I ensure the proper repair of my car?
- Getting your vehicle repaired can be a frustrating experience. Your vehicle may not be returned when promised. When it is returned, the work may be inadequate or there may be hidden charges of which you were previously unaware. Unfortunately, you can’t be guaranteed that your car will be repaired properly. However, you can minimize problems of repair by following these simple rules:
- Find a reputable body shop. Speak to your friends and neighbors and ask for recommendations. If they are of no help, a lawyer may be able to assist you.
- Clarify all costs for your car. Before you leave your vehicle with a body shop, clarify all costs such as those for storage, towing or related services. Ask the manager what costs, if any, will be charged if your vehicle is not ultimately repaired at the shop. Put your agreement in writing. If your car is declared a total loss, or you plan to have it repaired at another shop, remove it from the first body shop as soon as possible in order to minimize storage charges.
- Determine rental car fees. Find out if the body shop provides rental vehicles to you during the period that your vehicle is disabled. If so, ascertain the charges. You may find that your insurance policy has a clause providing you with coverage for such a rental vehicle.
- Get proper appraisal. Generally, the appraiser from your insurance company, or the insurance company of the striking vehicle, will meet with a representative of the body shop in order to appraise the damage to your vehicle. A property damage appraisal must be prepared by a representative of the insurance company prior to the repair of your vehicle. You should request a copy of this appraisal. An appraisal should include all charges for labor and material and indicate whether new or used parts are to be used. Your insurance policy may specify whether new or used parts are to be used. You are entitled to request a second appraisal, if, after the vehicle is disassembled, additional damage is discovered.
- Be careful what you sign. The insurance company should pay you directly for the property damage to your vehicle. Do not sign a form called an Assignment. If you do, this directs your insurance company to forward its check directly to the body shop. Under no circumstances should you release the check to the body shop, or sign a Certificate of Satisfaction, until you are completely satisfied that your vehicle has been repaired in a workmanlike and quality manner.
- Be certain the body shop has proper equipment. Many cars today are of unitized construction. In some cases, the repair shop may need special equipment to properly repair your car. You should determine if the shop you have selected is properly equipped.
- Get a promise to pay. Do not allow the body shop to begin repair until you receive the appropriate authorization from the insurance company that all repair charges will be covered.
- Have your vehicle re-inspected before you pay. If you question the quality of work, you may request your insurance company to re-inspect the vehicle before you release your check. If the vehicle is financed, you may request the finance company to appraise the quality of the work before the check is released. You should also inspect your vehicle and test drive it before you release the check to the body shop.
- Contact an attorney. If you have any trouble or need any assistance with repair of your vehicle, consult an attorney.
Note: Merely because the insurance company for the striking vehicle examines your car does not mean that they will, in fact, voluntarily make the payment for the necessary repairs.
What should I know when I renew or purchase automobile insurance in the future?
What are my options?
- When you apply for automobile insurance, you must make the following choices:
- “Limited Tort” Option vs. “Full Tort” Option. If you choose the “Full Tort” Option, you and your family will retain the right to sue for any painful injury caused by the negligence of another in the operation of a motor vehicle. If you choose the “Limited Tort” Option, in most situations, neither you nor your family can recover damages for the negligence of another, unless the injuries suffered fall within the definition of a “Serious Injury”. “Serious Injury” is defined as an injury resulting in death, serious impairment of a bodily function or permanent serious disfigurement. Whether or not an injury is “serious” may have to be decided in the Courts.
- “Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Protection”. Uninsured and underinsured motorist protection will be included on your policy unless you exercise the option to reject the coverage. These benefits protect you and your family from the negligence of other drivers who have either no insurance or inadequate insurance. Most automobiles currently being driven in Pennsylvania, have either no insurance or the minimal insurance required by law.
- “Stacking”. The amount of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage available is determined by combining the coverages for each vehicle in your home. For example, if you owned two vehicles and each was insured for $300,000.00, you would have a total of $600,000.00 uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. This is called “Stacking”. “Stacking” Protection will be included on your policy unless you exercise the option to reject the coverage.
What are our recommendations?
- “Full Tort” Option
- “Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Protection”
- “Stacking Protection”
- Select the highest limits which you can afford for liability insurance coverage.
- Select the same limits for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as you have selected for liability coverage.
- Increase your medical insurance coverage if you do not have adequate health insurance coverage. Medical costs can be staggering.
- If you or a member of your family is employed, include coverage for wage loss. Your coverage should be sufficient to fully reimburse your family for any loss of income.
- You may reduce your insurance premium by increasing the deductible on your collision and comprehensive coverage. Use your available funds to protect yourself and your family rather than your vehicle.
- The costs for these coverages are minimal when compared to the available benefits in the even you or a member of your family are injured in an accident.
How do I obtain these benefits?
- Read your insurance application. Be aware of the coverages on your policy.
- In most instances, your insurance application will be completed by your insurance company or your insurance agent. You have the option to purchase all the recommended coverages. Do not sign your application until you are satisfied that you understand the application and that you and your family are protected in the event of an accident.
- You have the option to change your coverages at any time by calling your insurance agent. You do not have to wait for the renewal date on your policy.
- We encourage you to contact this office for assistance in completing your insurance application or to answer any of your questions.
- Always consult more than one insurance company or insurance agent in order to compare price and benefits.
- If you deal with an insurance agency, be certain that the company is not a fly-by-night operation. Some unscrupulous insurance agencies have been known to allegedly write insurance policies for individuals and never actually obtain the insurance coverage. It is often best to seek the advice of an attorney or friends or relatives in order to find a reputable insurance agency.
Pennsylvania Assigned Risk Plan
- Motorists who are unable to obtain insurance on their own through private carriers may apply to the Pennsylvania Assigned Risk Plan and obtain insurance through a special fund which has been set up for individuals in this situation. If you are having difficulties obtaining insurance, contact your insurance agent or an attorney.