Personal Injury FAQs
Answered by a Nationally Board-Certified Civil Trial Attorney
Thankfully for most people, serious injury accidents are a rare or one-time occurrence in their lives. This means, however, that most injury victims have little or no understanding about how the system works to file a claim for compensation, while the insurance companies on the other side do this everyday and know exactly how the system works. Below are answers to just a few of the most frequently asked questions about claims for compensation after a car accident or other injury accident in Pennsylvania. To truly have all the knowledge on your side, contact John P. Stengel in Lancaster, a board-certified personal injury attorney with 25 years of experience handling car accidents, falls and other injury accidents. Call 717-290-7971 for answers to all of your questions, and for strong, effective assistance in getting compensation from the negligent party responsible for your injuries.
The insurance company says I was partly to blame in causing the accident, so they won’t pay my claim. Can they do that?
Most states have some form of comparative negligence in place, so that if you are found partly to blame, the percentage of fault assigned to you will reduce any compensation you receive by that percent. So, if you were awarded $100,000 but found to be 40% at fault in the accident, then your award would be reduced by 40%, and you would receive $60,000.
Keep in mind that the other party’s insurance company does not have the final word on who was at fault in the accident. Just because they say you were to blame does not make it so. Your attorney can challenge or dispute the insurance company’s allegations about your role in causing the accident, and if the case goes to court, it is ultimately up to the jury to decide whether both parties are at fault and how much blame to assign to each party.
As a board-certified trial specialist with 25 years of courtroom experience, John P. Stengel knows how to prepare and present a convincing case that proves the other party’s liability while standing strong against insurance company claims that you were the one at fault, to help ensure you receive all of the compensation you are entitled to. This is especially important in Pennsylvania, where if you found to be more than 50% to blame, you will not be allowed to recover any money at all.
What happens if the driver who hit me was uninsured?
Pennsylvania law requires all drivers to carry liability insurance to cover $15,000 in medical expenses and $5,000 in property damage in the event of an accident, and most drivers comply with this law. Still, 6.5% of Pennsylvania drivers are uninsured, and in neighboring states such as Maryland and Delaware, the rate of uninsured drivers is twice as high. In New Jersey one in ten drivers lacks insurance.
In the event the driver who caused the accident was uninsured, they are still liable to you directly, but they may not have the financial resources to compensate you. In addition, you can make a claim with your own insurance company through your Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage is required by law to be offered to all policyholders, so you have this coverage unless you specifically rejected it. If making a UM claim with your insurance company, attorney John P. Stengel can represent you and make sure you get the full and appropriate amount of compensation.
A related question is, what happens if the negligent driver only carried the low minimum amount of coverage, and your damages exceed their policy limits? Here your Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage can come into play. If your UIM limits are higher than the other driver’s liability policy, you can make a UIM claim with your insurer to make up the difference. Again, you should have UIM coverage unless you rejected it, and our office can represent you in your UIM claim with your insurance company as well as your liability claim against the other driver. If you can afford it, purchase liability insurance along with UM/UIM coverage well above the minimum amount required, to protect you in the event of any accident.
If I was hit by a drunk driver, will the driver’s insurance company still cover my damages?
Most liability insurance policies won’t cover intentional acts, so you may think they would not cover a car accident caused by a driver who intentionally drove drunk. However, even though the drinking and driving may have been intentional, the accident itself was not. The driver and his or her insurer should still be liable to you for your damages.
The drunk driver may not be the only party liable to you, however. Pennsylvania recognizes liquor liability or dram shop laws. These laws make it illegal for a bar, restaurant or liquor store to sell to or serve a visibly intoxicated person, and these businesses can be liable for damages caused by a drunk person when they do so. This includes drunk driving car accidents. John Stengel is experienced in liquor liability and dram shop cases and pursues all parties who may be legally responsible for your injuries, to help you get the maximum compensation available.