Pittsburgh Car Accident Law Firm
While the safety and risk of driving or riding within a motor vehicle is probably not something that the average person spends much time thinking about, the truth is that getting inside a motor vehicle may be one of the most dangerous things that you can do. Every day, there are fatal and serious injury-causing car accidents, bus accidents, pedestrian crashes, bicycle accidents, and motorcycle accidents. When these crashes occur, a person’s or a family’s life can be altered immediately and dramatically.
At the law offices of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., we have extensive experience successfully representing individuals who have been injured or killed in all types of motor vehicle accidents. We work closely with our clients, handling all aspects of their claim from start to finish, and providing the strong personalized representation they need and deserve. Serving those in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, our team is available to review your case for free and start building your claim for compensation.
What Percentage of Car Accidents Are Caused by Human Error?
One of the saddest facts about car accidents is that most of them are preventable. A 2016 study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that human error accounts for anywhere between 94% to 96% of all auto accidents. Several other studies have produced similar results, and every study that we know of shows that the percentage of car accidents that are caused by human error is at least 90%.
Who Pays for a Car Accident in Pennsylvania?
A car accident can have a significant impact on your life. If you are seriously injured in the crash, you may be coping with high medical bills and medical debt, lost earnings as a result of being unable to go into work, financial strain on your family and anxiety about the future, severe and debilitating injuries that are painful and demoralizing, and property damage losses, among other things. For those who are dealing with the aftermath of a crash, one of the most confusing things may be figuring out who will pay compensate you for your losses.
Typically, drivers will turn to a source of motor vehicle insurance coverage for compensation after a crash. Types of insurance that are required in our Pennsylvania include:
- Medical benefits. Regardless of fault in a crash, your own auto insurance or the insurance covering the vehicle that you occupied is responsible for paying your medical benefits related to the accident up to the limits on that policy, which is required in our state.
- Property damage and bodily injury liability coverage. If the other driver was to blame for your crash, you may file a claim against their insurance coverage, under either their property damage liability coverage, bodily injury liability coverage, or both.
There may also be coverage available for uninsured/underinsured motorists, funeral benefit coverage, income loss coverage, collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, gap coverage, and more.
Third Parties That May Be Liable in a Car Accident
A vehicle passenger may cause a car accident by distracting the driver with their actions or interfering directly by meddling with the car controls. For instance, if a passenger on the front seat takes hold of the steering wheel and pulls it to make the car swerve suddenly while it is traveling at a high speed, it could cause the car to roll over or crash into oncoming traffic.
If a car owner allows an inexperienced or irresponsible individual to drive their car, they could be held culpable for negligent entrustment. Similarly, if a car owner were to lend their vehicle to an intoxicated person or one without a driver’s license, they could face third-party liability charges in the event of an accident.
Under Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws, an injured party is allowed to seek third-party damages from an alcohol vendor for selling liquor to a patron knowing who is “visibly intoxicated” or under 21 years of age if the patron subsequently causes an accident resulting in injuries and property damage.
Employers must keep in mind that allowing employees to operate company vehicles places the burden of responsibility for any mishaps during the employee’s working hours, on their door. This also applies when an employee is driving a personal motor vehicle in the course of their employment and performing official duties.
Repair and Maintenance Providers
If a mechanical malfunction or failure is found to be the reason behind a car crash, the auto repair shop or the mechanic may be held liable for third-party damages. Negligence in maintenance may be difficult to prove but can be used as the basis of a third-party lawsuit if a repair shop or mechanic fails to recognize and take appropriate remedial action for a needed repair or damages a component or the vehicle while carrying out a repair.
Vehicle & Spare Parts Manufacturers
In case of a car accident due to a faulty part or a defect in the vehicle, such as brake failure or a tire blowout, the car manufacturer, distributor, or any entity involved in the supply chain of the vehicle or the component, could be held liable.
How to Recover Full and Fair Compensation after a Car Accident
There are several steps that you should take at the scene of a car accident and shortly thereafter in order to help ensure that you recover full and fair compensation:
Call the Police
The police should be summoned whenever there is a vehicle accident with injuries. The police will help secure the accident scene, and they will produce an official accident report, which will be relied upon heavily during any subsequent legal claim for damages. Sometimes, the 911 operator who you have called to bring an ambulance will also contact the police for you. Otherwise, call them directly and get them to the scene.
Obtain Visual Evidence
Take multiple photos of the accident scene from various angles, showing how the collision occurred. If you are not physically able to do this, have someone else who is with you take the pictures (if possible). Also, if you have a dashboard camera, remember to capture any video footage of the accident as well.
Create your Own Report
Although there will be a police report, it is also a good idea to make your own report as well. If you have a pen and paper handy, right down in as much detail as possible everything that happened while it is still fresh in your mind. If you are unable to write, use the voice recorder on your smartphone to create an audible report.
Obtain Witness Statements
If there are any individuals nearby who saw the car accident, make sure to get statements from them at the scene if possible. Memories fade over time, and witnesses can be difficult to get a hold of later on. Try to get the witnesses to provide a statement right away if you can either by video or again by using the audio recorder on your smartphone.
Be Careful What you say About the Accident
When you are interacting with the other parties involved in the accident, the police, witnesses, and later when you talk to the insurance company, be polite, but NEVER admit any kind of fault for the accident. It can be tempting to apologize even when something happened that you did not cause, but if you imply any kind of fault, this could be used against you later on to reduce the amount of compensation you are entitled to.
Injuries From Auto Accidents can Linger
If you or a loved one have been in an accident, it is important to fully understand the possible side effects. You can review a few below.
In previous years, concussions amongst football players were a hot topic. As more people learned how common concussions are and their long-term effects, societal concern for the safety of players increased. However, other concussion victims may need that same level of concern. In fact, a UGA study shows that victims of concussions have difficulty driving. This lack of control can pose future harm for the driver, passengers and anyone else sharing the road.
An accident is a traumatic occurrence, which can have a serious mental and emotional impact. Not only can anxiety affect a person internally, but it can also begin to manifest externally, in nervous movements or even sickness. Though it may not be easy to prove in court, it may be possible to seek damages for those who choose to pursue claims. Having the proper evidence, such as records and the testimony of a psychologist, can be quite beneficial.
Some injuries do not fully manifest at the point of trauma. Some injuries may take days, weeks or even years to develop in a way parties can identify. While the statute of limitations may prohibit pursuing some cases, it may be beneficial to speak with an attorney to determine if it may be a special case. In some situations where the party does not become aware of the injury until after the statute of limitations passes, it is still possible to pursue restitution.
While these are a few of the common lingering effects, different individuals may experience various other ones. In the case where the accident was due to the negligence of another party, consider your options with a knowledgeable legal professional.
Drowsy driving is far more common than most people realize. A National Sleep Foundation study found that six out of every 10 Americans has driven when they were feeling sleepy, and 37% of those surveyed admit to having fallen asleep behind the wheel within the past year. It is not illegal to drive while drowsy or fatigued, but it is extremely dangerous, especially because many individuals do not know when they cross the threshold from being awake to falling asleep.
Falling asleep at the wheel can obviously result in disastrous consequences, but even if a tired or fatigued driver does not fall asleep, being in this state can still have an adverse effect on their driving. Drowsy driving slows reaction times, and because sleepy drivers need to focus all of their energy on staying awake, their peripheral vision is often highly impaired, causing them to miss important things that are happening on the road.
Who is Most Likely to Drive while Drowsy or Fatigued?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that drowsy driving causes more than 70,000 crashes each year, resulting in roughly 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths. But the CDC also says that these are most likely conservative estimates, and that the real number of fatal crashes caused by drowsiness is closer to 6,000. The reason for the underreporting is that tiredness and fatigue are often not listed as the cause of accident on a police report.
Most people have driven while being drowsy at some point in their lives – it generally happens when we are exhausted and/or have not gotten enough sleep before driving. For adults, this means getting at least six hours of sleep. Teens should have at least seven hours.
There are several groups that are more at risk of driving while drowsy or fatigued:
- Commercial Drivers: Individuals who operate commercial vehicles such as tractor-trailers, tow trucks, and buses.
- Shift Workers: Those who work long shifts, particularly during evening, overnight, and early morning hours.
- Sleep Disorder Sufferers: Individuals with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.
- Long-Distance Travelers: Individuals who travel for long distances and frequently change time zones.
Each year, thousands of individuals are killed and tens of thousands are injured because of distracted driving. The toll that these accidents take on those who are injured and the families of those were killed is hard to fully assess. There are the direct costs such as property damage, medical expenses, and lost earnings, but there are also the physical and emotional effects that can stick with victims and their families for years to come.
There are many forms of distracted driving, some the most common include:
- Eating and drinking;
- Tuning a car radio;
- Talking to or handling passengers;
- Staring too long at road signs and billboards;
- Reading a GPS navigation system;
- Searching or reaching for a lost object;
- Watching a video;
- Talking on a cell phone;
- Sending or receiving texts or other types of electronic messages.
These and other forms of driver distraction fall into one of four general categories:
- Visual Distractions
- Manual Distractions
- Cognitive Distractions
- Audio Distractions
Texting and other forms of electronic messaging are particularly dangerous, because they distract drivers in three ways; visually, manually, and cognitively. The end result is that a driver’s entire focus is directed onto their phone and away from the road. This can cause them to miss very important things that are happening, such as a motorcycle that enters their blind spot or a pedestrian that is crossing the road nearby.
Some motorists think that looking down at their phone real quick to send or read a text is not a big deal. But even looking at your phone and away from the road for just a few seconds can have disastrous consequences. As the CDC points out, if you take your eyes off of the road for only five seconds while driving at 55 mph, it is like driving the entire length of a football field blindfolded.
Pennsylvania Distracted Driving Laws
Pennsylvania has a law that prohibits vehicle drivers from using an “interactive wireless communication device” to type, send, or read text messages or other forms of electronic communication while driving, such as emails and instant messages. This means that drivers are prohibited from messaging not only on smartphones, but tablets and any other devices that are capable of electronic communication as well.
In Pennsylvania, texting while driving is a primary offense, meaning that you can be pulled over for violating the state’s distracted driving laws without committing another offense. If you receive a citation for distracted driving, you will be charged with a summary offense, which includes a fine of $50 and additional court fees and other charges that could bring the total cost to over $100.
In Pennsylvania, reckless driving is a serious offense that can result in stiff penalties for offenders. Unfortunately, these penalties do nothing to compensate for the damage a reckless driver causes to others when they cause a vehicle accident. This can only be done through a civil claim for monetary damages, which would be filed against the driver or his/her insurer.
If you or someone close to got hurt in a reckless driving accident, you might be contacted by an insurance company representative for the other driver’s insurer. They know that if their client caused the accident while driving carelessly or recklessly, they could be on the hook for extensive damages. In cases like these, they will often seek to settle the claim quickly and for as little as possible, so they can get it off their books.
Before dealing with the other driver’s insurance company, give our office a call for a free consultation. Their insurer does not have your best interests in mind, and they are not likely to give you a fair offer. We can meet with you to thoroughly assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options, so you can make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.
Pennsylvania Reckless Driving Laws
- Statute §75-3736 defines reckless driving as driving a vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”. The person driving recklessly drives in such an unsafe manner as to create a high probability of an accident occurring, and the driver is fully aware of the risks but disregards them.
Examples of reckless driving behaviors may include:
- Excessive speeding (driving 31 mph or more over the posted speed limit)
- Running Stop Signs or Red Lights
- Making Illegal Turns
- Weaving Between Lanes or Straddling the Center Line
- Making Illegal or Dangerous Passing Maneuvers
- Blocking Other Cars from Passing
- Cutting Other Cars Off
- Street Racing
- Playing “Chicken”
Reckless driving is generally a summary offense that is punishable with a fine of $200, a six-month driver’s license suspension, and up to 90 days in jail. However, if the reckless driver causes serious bodily injury to another individual, the charge can be upgraded to “aggravated assault by vehicle”, which could land the offender in prison for up to seven years.
Damages for Pain and Suffering
Your economic losses may be sizeable, but they surely will not be the only losses you suffer if you are seriously injured in a crash. Instead, you may also be coping with noneconomic damages as well, such as pain and suffering. Under Pennsylvania law, however, you may be barred from seeking compensation for pain and suffering damages unless you have purchased full tort coverage over limited tort coverage.
With full tort coverage, you will have an unlimited right to bring forth a civil action against the negligent party. If you only have limited tort coverage, however, you will only be able to file a lawsuit and seek compensation for pain and suffering if your injuries meet one of the exceptions found in law at 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1705(d), which include the following: The accident was caused by a drunk driver, an uninsured driver, a driver of a vehicle registered outside of Pa., if you are an occupant of a commercial vehicle, on a motorcycle, a bicycle, or if you are a pedestrian when injured limited tort does not apply and you can receive compensation for economic and non-economic damages caused by another person.
The statute also allows a person who has selected limited tort insurance to bring forth a lawsuit against a negligent party if their injuries are “serious.” A serious injury is one that results in death, impairment of a bodily function, or permanent or serious disfigurement. Or the collision is caused by a defect in the design, manufacturing, repair or maintenance of a vehicle.
We Know that a Motor Vehicle Crash Can Change Your Life
Our lawyers did not become personal injury lawyers because we are merely passionate about the law; we chose this field because we are passionate about people. We are all-too-familiar with the devastation that being involved in a motor vehicle crash can bring upon an individual or a family, and we truly want to help. We know that after a crash, you may be facing:
- High medical costs and future medical costs;
- Lost wages and a loss of earning capacity;
- Property damage costs; and
- Non-economic losses, including the value of your pain and suffering.
We know that these losses are not insignificant. We will work hard to improve your chances of recovering compensation for every penny you have lost as a result of another party’s negligence.
Why Work with Our Skilled Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys?
After you have been in a crash and are considering taking legal action to recover compensation, there are two primary things you should ask yourself: 1) Do I need a lawyer? and 2) Who should I hire to represent me?
If you have been in a crash and your injuries are serious, your economic costs high, and your pain and suffering severe, you should strongly consider working with an attorney. You should also consider legal representation if fault is disputed, you have been offered less than you think that you deserve by an insurer, or your claim has been denied.
As you think about who will represent you, consider that you want an attorney who is experienced, dedicated to your case, successful and has the case history to prove it, and who has a positive reputation. We believe that we meet all of these expectations and more. When you choose our law firm, you receive:
- We have been serving clients in Pittsburgh and surrounding region since 1972. We know the law and have developed relationships with those in the court system in the cities and towns in which we work.
- We know that as our client, you deserve the highest-quality legal service available. We will always act with professionalism, remaining available and accessible when you need us.
- Our primary goal is to help you achieve results – a goal to which we are strongly dedicated.
- Comprehensive service. When you hire our law firm, we won’t just file your claim or just investigate your case or just handle investigations. Instead, we will do everything that needs to be done to improve your case outcome, from start to finish. This includes litigating your case if necessary.
Call Our Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys Today for Your Free Consultation
It only takes a second for a motor vehicle accident to occur, leading to months, years, or a lifetime of suffering for the victim of that accident. You don’t deserve this, and you don’t deserve to be faced with the stress of paying for your damages out-of-pocket or worrying about how you’ll support yourself moving forward. We provide free consultations, and we take motor vehicle accident cases on a contingency fee basis – which means no out of pocket risk to you.
At the office of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., our team is here to support and fight for you. You can reach us for a free consultation today by calling (866) 466-5789, sending us a confidential message directly, or by visiting our Pittsburgh office in person.