Personal Injury FAQs

Get the Personal Injury Answers You Need

The personal injury department of the Caribbean Law Group represents and assists individuals who have been injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident, a dangerous condition of property that caused one to slip/trip or fall; and various other incidents that lead to injury. Our attorneys and paralegals will assist you in reporting accidents to the applicable parties and insurers, ensuring that your medical bills are properly processed and paid, and making claims against the appropriate individuals and companies who are responsible for causing your injuries. The following is a list of frequently asked questions by clients and useful information in response.

What things are important in determining who is responsible for causing my injuries (whether a motor vehicle accident or slip/trip and fall)?

Many factors are relevant in determining who is responsible and why. In a premises liability action, you must first determine who owns or leases the property, whether any other entities, individuals, or contractors performed any work or services on the property that resulted in a dangerous condition, and if a government agency has any legal responsibilities for the subject area. Factors that affect liability in any action include weather conditions, lighting, proper signage or notices regarding a dangerous condition, and precautionary measures and policies.

In a motor vehicle accident, it is important to ascertain the identity of the drivers of other vehicles involved in the motor vehicle accident, the identities of other drivers not involved in the collision but who perhaps caused the collision to occur, and the identity of any other individuals or entities who were responsible for dangerous conditions of the roadway that led to the collision.

 

What things can I do to protect my rights, and what information should I obtain in the event that I am injured as a result of another’s conduct or a dangerous condition on property?

It is always important to take photographs of the subject property and dangerous condition involved; damage to vehicles; lacerations, bleeding, scars, and bruising; and casts, surgical dressings, and orthopedic appliances utilized as part of one’s medical treatment. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, obtain license plate and insurance information, and write down the police report number if one is made. Additionally, in any kind of case, obtain the relevant identities of any potentially responsible parties as described above.

 

What do I do if an insurance company for the responsible party contacts me before I contact an attorney?

Politely request the name of the insurance company and representative, his phone number, and the claim number for the matter. Explain that you will be meeting with an attorney, and you prefer to not have any further discussion with the insurer until you have obtained legal advice as to your rights. Then provide that information to the attorney who can follow up on your behalf. Additionally, it is not wise to provide a recorded or written statement without first consulting with an attorney.

 

Are photos important in any case?

It is always important to take photographs of the subject property and dangerous condition involved; damage to vehicles; lacerations, bleeding, scars, and bruising; and casts, surgical dressings, and orthopedic appliances utilized as part of one's medical treatment. This information is utilized not only in proving your own injuries, but also by insurance companies as well.

 

If I am injured, how long should I wait to contact an attorney?

Sooner is better. If you contact an attorney early on, he can take care of the legal aspects of your case so that you are free to obtain any necessary medical treatment.

 

Is it important to go to the emergency room after an incident?

Early treatment at the emergency room certainly helps to prove injury, and provides medical personnel with the opportunity to identify any medical emergencies, and refer you for appropriate further treatment. It is important to obtain the necessary medical treatment and inform your physicians of any symptoms that you have so that this information is properly documented. If you are unable to get to an emergency room, then call your family doctor and notify the office of your injuries.

 

How can I prove I am injured if it is not something obvious like a loss of limb?

An injury is usually proven with medical testimony and opinions provided by treating physicians, medical test and lab results, and testimony of lay witnesses who can describe the effect and changes that your injuries have had on your life. For example, a neighbor might testify that prior to the accident, you were always actively involved in gardening outside of your house in the summer. However, since the accident, you hired a landscaper to do the gardening, and you appear to walk more slowly with pain, and sometimes with a cane. This is just one example of evidence that may be used to prove the extent of your injuries.

 

What kind of doctors should I treat with for my injuries?

The type of doctor that you should treat with depends on the nature of your injury. Most people will first go to the emergency room, or visit their family doctor. If necessary, you can obtain a referral to, or a consultation with, a specialist who can provide additional treatment for your injuries.

 

How will my medical bills be paid (whether a motor vehicle accident or slip/trip and fall)?

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, the law provides for a "pecking order" of who is responsible for medical bills depending on whether you own a vehicle and are insured, or a family member in your household owns an insured vehicle, or you were a passenger in a vehicle involved in the accident, or you were a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle. Your status in this regard determines which insurance company may be responsible for at least an initial portion of your medical bills.

If you are involved in any other type of incident where an injury occurs, your medical bills may be covered by health insurance or governmental medical insurance. Additionally, no matter what type of incident you are involved in, if it occurred during the course and scope of your employment, then your employer may be responsible for the payment of medical bills through a worker's compensation insurance policy.

 

If I am involved in a motor vehicle accident, should I talk to the police, other driver, or my insurance company?

It is your legal duty to speak with the police and provide your version of the accident. As to the other driver(s), try to stay calm and avoid engaging in any argument. Regardless of who is at fault, the most important thing to do is to tend to any medical emergencies, and then gather all other relevant information. Additionally, it is important to notify your own insurance company that an accident has occurred. If you were driving the automobile of another owner, then that individual's insurance company should be notified as well.

 

What medical benefits do I have under my motor vehicle insurance policy?

If you own an insured motor vehicle, then you may be entitled to first-party medical benefits, also known as Personal Injury Protection or "PIP," is a mandatory, no-fault type of medical insurance for your own medical bills incurred as a result of injuries sustained in an accident. Regardless of who is at fault for an accident, your medical bills will be paid through PIP coverage by your automobile insurance company until that amount is exhausted. Excess medical bills would then be covered by your health insurance if available. You are automatically entitled to PIP coverage, and using it will not affect your premiums.

 

How do I recover lost wages if I am unable to work because of my injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident?

In Pennsylvania, if you do not have coverage for wage loss benefits under your motor vehicle insurance policy, then your wage loss becomes a part of your damages which are recoverable against the other party who is at fault in causing the accident. Additionally, if your accident occurred during the course and scope of your employment, then your employer may be responsible for the payment of lost wages through a worker's compensation insurance policy.

 

What is the difference between "limited tort" and "full tort," and which option should I choose?

In many areas, when you choose the "full tort" option, you pay a slightly higher premium. However, you can seek recovery for both economic (wage loss, out-of-pocket expenses, outstanding medical bills) and non-economic (pain and suffering) damages no matter what type of injury is sustained in a motor vehicle accident that is not your fault.

When you choose the "limited tort" option, you pay a slightly lower premium. However, you cannot seek recovery for non-economic damages (i.e., pain and suffering) sustained in a motor vehicle accident unless your injuries constitute a "serious injury" which is defined as a "personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement." Most sprain/strain type issues, (often referred to as "whiplash"), or injuries that have healed and no longer cause pain, generally will not meet the requirements to overcome the limited tort option. Due to the way in which insurance companies vigorously defend limited tort cases, it is strongly suggested that full tort insurance be purchased. Please contact our office to discuss your motor vehicle coverage options.

There are exceptions to the limited tort exclusion. In some circumstances, an individual otherwise bound by the limited tort option who sustains injuries in a motor vehicle accident may recover as if he had the full tort option when the person at fault:

Is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance; or was operating a motor vehicle registered in another state.

Additionally, if you are otherwise bound by the limited tort option, you may retain full tort rights if you are injured while an occupant of a motor vehicle that is not a private passenger motor vehicle (ex: bus, taxi, or commercial truck), or if you are struck by another vehicle as a pedestrian or while on a bicycle.

 

What if I am seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident and the responsible party does not have enough insurance coverage?

Most laws requires an automobile owner to maintain "financial responsibility" by purchasing liability coverage which protects you from claims by others. If an accident is your fault, and you cause property damage or injury to another, liability insurance will compensate the injured party.

In the event that you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and the other individual does not have sufficient liability coverage to compensate you for your damages, you may look to your own policy for supplemental coverage. Specifically, there are two other types of coverage that are very important, uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage. They can be purchased in amounts equal to or less than your liability coverage. An insurer is required to inform the named insured that such coverage's are available, and that they may be rejected by signing separate rejection forms set forth within the statute. When the insurer fails to comply with these requirements, the remedy is to permit the claimant to recover said benefits in amounts equal to your liability coverage. It is very important to have this type of coverage because it will protect you and your occupants if you are injured by a careless driver who is uninsured or underinsured (does not have sufficient liability coverage to provide fair compensation for your losses). Please contact our office to discuss your motor vehicle coverage options.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage ("UM" coverage) protects you in case you are injured by a driver and/or vehicle that is uninsured. An "uninsured motor vehicle" is defined as a motor vehicle for which there is no liability insurance at the time of the accident, a motor vehicle for which the insurer denies coverage, or an unidentified motor vehicle causing an accident provided that the accident is reported to the police.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage ("UIM") coverage applies if you are injured, the accident was not your fault, and the other party did not carry enough insurance to adequately compensate you for your injuries.

 

What does stacking mean in a motor vehicle insurance policy?

Stacking is a relatively inexpensive option and should be purchased if you have more than one vehicle in your household. It means that the UM and UIM benefits for each vehicle can be added together in order to provide greater coverage for you when an accident occurs. For example, if you have $100,000.00 in UM coverage, and three cars with the stacking option, then your UM coverage would be $300,000.00 in the event of an accident.

 

What if my motor vehicle is damaged in an accident–who is responsible for the repairs?

If you have collision coverage, which is optional, it pays you for any damage sustained by your vehicle. It usually requires that you pay a deductible first, and the insurer pays the remainder. If an accident is not your fault, the insurer should demand your deductible back from the responsible party's insurance company and return it to you. Alternatively, if the other insurance company agrees from the onset that you are not at fault, they may offer to pay you for your damage. If you make your claim that way, you will not have to make a claim with your own company and there will be no deducible. You cannot, however, make a claim against both insurance companies. That is against the law.

If you do not have collision coverage under your motor vehicle insurance policy, then the expense involved with repairing your damaged vehicle, or the blue book value if the vehicle is totaled, becomes a part of your damages which are recoverable against the other party who is at fault in causing the accident.

 

What elements make up "damages?"

In most areas, damages consist of pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliation, enjoyment of life, and disfigurement associated with your injuries; wage loss; loss of earning capacity; outstanding medical bills; medical bills subject to a lien; future medical bills; expenses associated with property damage; and other miscellaneous out-of-pocket expenses. Note that you are entitled to be compensated if you were suffering from a pre-existing medical condition that was exacerbated as a result of an accident. Additionally, your spouse may recover damages for "loss of consortium" which is compensation for the loss of services, support, comfort, companionship, and affection resulting from your injuries.

 

Will my case be settled or will I have to go to court?

There is no clear answer as to whether a case will be settled or will proceed to court for trial. When the issue of liability and who is at fault is clear, and/or you have recovered quickly or are no longer treating, and/or your treating physicians can provide a prognosis regarding future pain and limitations, then you are more likely to be in a position where the case can be settled.

 

How do I know if I have the right attorney?

Do not believe everything that you see and hear on TV or in a print advertisement. There is a lot of hard work that goes into preparing a case, and nothing is a guarantee. The only promise that an attorney should make is that he/she will do the best job possible to protect your rights, obtain all of the necessary evidence to maximize the value of your case, and keep you informed as to its status in a timely and easily understood manner. Ask your friends, colleagues, and family about their experiences with attorneys. Often this is the best way to obtain referrals to competent and compassionate attorneys who will protect your important interests and work hard for you.

If an attorney does not answer your phone calls, or does not treat you like your case is important every step of the way, then you probably do not have the right attorney working for you. Please note that you have the legal right to fire your attorney and hire a new one at any time during the duration of your case.

 

How do I determine how much my case is worth?

In most instances, your attorney will not be able to tell you exactly at the onset how much your case is worth. A number of factors is relevant in determining the value of your case. Such factors include the nature, extent and permanency of your injuries; length and type of medical treatment; number and type of medical procedures and hospitalizations; future medical treatment and expenses; prognosis; degree and duration of pain; existence of scarring, deformity, or loss of motion; changes in lifestyle and daily living activities; restrictions on physical abilities; wage loss; future loss of earning capacity; and out-of-pocket costs. All of these factors must be assessed over time. Additionally, the credibility of witnesses, the county in which a claim is brought, and any responsibility on your part that contributed to an accident are also factors that affect the value of your case.