Should I Give a Recorded Statement to an Insurance Company?

If you have been injured in an auto accident, you might get a call from the other drivers’ insurance company within a few days after the crash to check up on you and ask how you are doing. The insurance company representative will most likely be friendly and courteous, and they will reassure you that you will be taken care of.

Once the insurance adjuster or representative believes that they have gained your trust, they might request that you give them a recorded statement about the accident. This might seem like a routine request, and they might tell you that a statement is needed in order to process your claim.

Many people wonder if they are obligated to give the insurance company a recorded statement, and if they are not obligated, should they give them a statement. The short answer to these questions is “no” and “no”.

To the first question, you are under no obligation to provide a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. There may be some confusion about this point, because you have probably been told that you must cooperate with your own insurance company, otherwise you might be denied coverage if you caused an auto accident in Pennsylvania.

All this is true, but there is a big difference between your insurance company and another driver’s insurer. When you took out auto insurance, you agreed to the terms and conditions within the policy, one of which is to cooperate with them in the event of an accident. However, you are under no contractual duty to speak with the other driver’s insurance company, and it is not recommended that you do so without first speaking to a lawyer.

Why Should I Refuse to Give a Recorded Statement to the Other Driver’s Insurer?

People give recorded statements to insurance adjusters every day, so you might be wondering why we recommend that you refuse this request without consulting an attorney first. Here are some of the reasons:

  • The insurance adjuster is not looking out for your best interests. The first reason you should decline to provide a recorded statement is because of this fundamental truth; the insurance adjuster is not on your side. This does not necessarily make him/her a bad person, it is just part of their job. Their loyalty is to the company that pays their salary, and insurance company’s goal is to pay as little as possible for your claim. They might talk nicely to you on the phone, but you must remember that their interests are not aligned with yours.
  • A recorded statement can only be used to harm your claim. The insurance adjuster might tell you that a recorded statement is your opportunity to tell your side of the story and give your version of events. And you might think that there is no harm in giving this to them, as long as you are honest and transparent. But what if you forget an important detail? Or what if you admit some fault even if you are not to blame because you were being overly cautious in how you characterize the events? The insurance company already has the police report and statements from any witnesses, so they have no need to record you. The recording will only be used to look for inconsistencies in your story and other reasons to diminish or deny your claim.
  • Early after the accident is not a good time to go on the record. Think about this, why does the insurance company want a recorded statement right away after an accident? At this point, you are probably still a bit confused and disoriented, and there is a good chance that you do not even know the full extent of your injuries. This is the worst possible time to go on the record with definitive statements that an insurance company might use against you later on.

What to Do If You Are Asked to Give a Recorded Statement

If an insurance company representative asks you to give them a recorded statement, the best response is to politely decline and tell them that you want to speak with a lawyer first. Next, get in touch with an experienced auto accident lawyer to assess your case and find out what your legal rights and options are.

If you suffered moderate to severe injuries and/or there is a question of fault or any other complications in your case, you are probably going to want to hire an attorney to help ensure that you recover full and fair compensation. Once this is done, your attorney will deal directly with the insurance company regarding recorded statements and other legal matters.

Injured in an Auto Accident in Pennsylvania? Contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for Assistance

If you were injured in a car accident in Pittsburgh or anywhere in Pennsylvania, Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman is here to help. Before giving any statements to the other driver’s insurance company, call us at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment. We look forward to serving you!

 

How to Prevent Slipping on Snow and Ice During the Winter

Pennsylvania is known for severe winter weather. Each year, several storms blow through the Northeast, leaving several feet of snow and ice in their wake. Navigating winter weather conditions is a part of life in the Pittsburgh area, and this is a treacherous time especially for pedestrians.

There are tens of thousands of slip and fall accidents involving ice every year, and many of them result in moderate to severe injuries. Young children and the elderly are most vulnerable to slipping on snow and ice during the winter, and it also happens frequently in outdoor work settings such as construction or utilities.

With icy streets, parking lots, and sidewalks to deal with for the next few months, it is important to be prepared and take steps to prevent slipping on snow and ice:

Put on the Right Footwear

Treading safely on snow and ice starts with wearing the right shoes or boots. The best footwear for icy conditions is slip resistant boots ideally with nonskid rubber treads that provide better traction on ice. If you do not already have a suitable pair of winter boots that are slip resistant, you should be able to find one at a local sporting goods store.

Exit Vehicles Carefully

One of the most difficult transitions during winter travel is stepping out of a vehicle and onto the outside ground. The reason being that you may not know whether or not you are stepping onto a slippery surface. For example, when you pull into a parking lot that was recently plowed, there might still be a thin layer of snow with ice underneath. Be especially careful when you get into and out of your vehicle.

Walk Slowly

As you proceed, walk slowly and carefully to your destination. Give yourself plenty of extra time to get where you are going and do not be in a rush. You never know when you might run into a slippery spot, so the best way to deal with this is to walk slower and wider (penguin style) and use your arms for greater stability. Also make sure to use handrails when available and bring along a cane or walker if you have dulled foot sensation (from diabetes) or other balancing problems.

Keep your Hands Free

It should go without saying that you should not be looking at your phone sending texts or doing other types of electronic activity while you are trying to walk through snowy and icy conditions. But beyond that, you should put your phone and any other items you may have away in either your pocket or a backpack (except for a cane or walker as mentioned earlier). This will free up your hands and arms to help you stay balanced.

Watch for Problem Areas

Be on the lookout for icy patches including uneven surfaces and icy ground that are hidden underneath the snow. Watch out for slick black ice in particular as this catches many pedestrians off guard and causes a lot of nasty falls. Black ice is formed when wet pavement re-freezes, and it often appears to be just a wet surface when in reality it is solid ice. Check for potentially slippery areas ahead by tapping them with your foot or cane.

Avoid Alcohol

The dangers of drinking and driving are talked about often, but the problems that can come from walking while intoxicated are sometimes overlooked. In the wintertime especially, you should avoid alcohol as much as possible when you are walking on snow and ice. Intoxication can cause major balancing problems and make you more susceptible to a slip and fall accident.

Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident Involving Ice? Contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for Legal Help

Even when we follow all of the best safety practices, slipping on snow and ice can still happen in spite of our best efforts. When this happens, get immediate medical attention, even if you do not feel like you are hurt all that bad. Sometimes, the cold and freezing temperatures can make it difficult to detect an injury right away, but the symptoms could show up later. It is always best to get checked out and be on the safe side.

If the slip and fall injury happened at work or any public place, report the accident to the appropriate person or entity and contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. If your injury resulted from someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Before speaking with a representative for the responsible party, talk to a lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options.

For skilled legal guidance with personal injuries in Pittsburgh and throughout Pennsylvania,

contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman. Message us online or call our office today at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We look forward to serving you!

 

Are Independent Contractors Eligible for Workers’ Compensation in Pennsylvania?

Most employees in the state of Pennsylvania are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. This means that if an employee suffers a work-related injury or illness, their employer’s workers’ comp policy should cover their medical expenses, a percentage of their lost wages, and some other costs. But what if you are an independent contractor?

Are independent contractors eligible for workers’ comp benefits in Pennsylvania? The short answer to this question is “no”. But this does not mean that there are no legal remedies available for those who fall into this category. Additionally, some workers are misclassified and designated as independent contractors when in fact they meet the definition of an employee.

When is Someone an Independent Contractor in Pennsylvania?

A worker is not an independent contractor simply because the company that hires them says that this is the case. This question is answered largely by the type of working relationship the individual has with the company as well as some other factors.

In 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court clarified the criteria that must be met for a worker to be considered an independent contractor. In A Special Touch v. Commonwealth of Pa., the court ruled that in order to overcome the presumption that a worker that was providing services to a company is an employee, the company must show:

  • The individual is regularly engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business; and
  • The individual is free from the company’s direction and control.

The first point has to do with the type of work that the individual performs, and the industry in which they are in. In general, independent contractors are highly skilled workers that are hired to perform specialized tasks for a company. Examples would include electricians, plumbers, installers, and other skilled trades.

One good indication that someone might fall into the category of an independent contractor is if they use their own tools and equipment to do their work. These individuals would usually also be free to work for other companies, even if they chose to work for one company exclusively. They typically have business cards and they often advertise their services to the public.

The second point has to do with how an individual performs their work. With an independent contractor, the company hires them to obtain a desired result, but they do not direct and control how they will do the work that is needed to get the result. Employees, on the other hand, usually have managers or supervisors who oversee their work, keep track of their hours, etc.

Legal Options When an Independent Contractor Gets Injured

When someone is injured in the workplace and the company defines them as an independent contractor, the first thing to do is check and see if they are misclassified. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can review the case and the work relationship to help in determining this. If the worker is truly an employee, then your lawyer can help you pursue a workers’ comp claim.

If your status as an independent contractor is correct, this does not mean that you are left out in the cold. Although you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you might be able to file a personal injury claim if someone else was responsible for your injury.

For example, if you were making a delivery for the company and another vehicle crashed into yours, then you can file an accident injury claim against the at fault driver. Or if the injury happened because of some machinery that malfunctioned, you may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of the faulty product.

If it turns out that you have a viable personal injury case, you can pursue damages not only for direct monetary losses such as medical bills and lost earnings, but also for non-economic losses such as physical and emotional pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, and permanent injury.

Contact an Experienced Pittsburgh Workplace Injury Attorney

If you got injured while working as an independent contractor, it is best to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options. If the injury happened in Pennsylvania, contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for skilled legal guidance. Call our office today at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys.

Who is At Fault for a Multi Car Accident?

Most auto accidents involve two vehicles that collide with each other, or one vehicle that crashes into another object or person. There are some accidents, however, in which there are more than two vehicles involved, and this can create a very complicated situation. While determining fault in a standard two vehicle accident is typically a fairly straightforward process, determining who is at fault for a multi-car accident can be far more challenging.

In a multi-vehicle accident, there are usually a number of different contributing factors. Each situation involves a unique set of circumstances, and fault is ultimately determined on a case-by-case basis. In cases like these, there may also be several injured individuals, and those who file claims for compensation risk running up against the liability limits of the responsible party’s insurance policy.

What is a Multi-Car Accident?

As we stated earlier, a multi-car accident is a crash that involves more than two vehicles. This type of event is sometimes referred to as a multi-car pileup or a chain reaction crash. The most common type of multi-car accident is a rear end crash that triggers a series of subsequent rear end accidents. This is where the term “chain reaction” comes from. The impact of the initial crash creates a domino effect in which several other cars rear end the vehicles in front of them.

Depending on the speed that the triggering vehicle is traveling at when they initially make impact and the distance between each vehicle, a chain reaction rear end crash could involve three or four cars, or it could be as many as 10 or more. When this type of crash happens on a highway where the vehicles are traveling at high speeds and there is a sudden slowdown, this is when a greater number of vehicles tend to be involved.

Multi-car pileups are not as common as chain reaction crashes, but when they happen, they tend to result in more serious and catastrophic injuries. One way a multi-vehicle pileup can happen is when one car suddenly crosses several lanes of traffic on a highway and collides with multiple vehicles along the way. This could happen when a driver falls asleep at the wheel or suffers a seizure or another serious medical event.

Semi-trucks have been involved in some of the most severe multi-vehicle pileups. This typically happens when the truck jackknifes after hitting a sheet of ice, blowing out a tire, or experiencing another type of adverse event on a busy highway. The trailer portion of the big rig truck is long enough to block several lanes of traffic, and it is often nearly impossible for oncoming cars to slow down in time to avoid a collision.

Determining Liability in Multi-Car Accidents

As mentioned previously, it can be very challenging to determine who is at fault for a multi-car accident. And oftentimes, several different parties could share responsibility. In a chain reaction crash, the driver of the first car to rear end another car is usually looked at as the one at fault, at least initially. However, it could turn out that another driver is partially at fault as well, because they did not have functional brake lights to adequately warn the first driver that they were slowing down, or because they were violating the law by sending a text at the time of the crash.

When a multi-car pileup occurs because of a commercial truck jackknifing, the driver of the truck could be at fault, but there could also be several outside parties that are liable; such as the truck driver’s employer, the cargo/shipping company that may have overloaded or unevenly loaded the truck, or the manufacturer or seller of a set of defective tires or other faulty vehicle parts.

If a multi-car accident occurs in Pennsylvania, an injured party can still recover compensation if they are partially at fault, as long as they are less than 51% liable for the accident. However, any damages they are entitled to would be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault they share.

Because of all the complicating factors, it is extremely important for someone who was injured in a multi-car accident to get an experienced personal injury attorney involved as early as possible. Your attorney will go to work immediately to thoroughly investigate the case and explore every potential legal option. The sooner you obtain skilled legal counsel, the better your chances of recovering maximum compensation for your injuries.

Injured in a Multi-Car Accident in Pennsylvania? Contact our Seasoned Auto Accident Attorneys

If you or a loved one got injured in a multi-vehicle accident in the Pittsburgh area or anywhere in Pennsylvania, Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman is here to help. Call our office today at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys. We look forward to serving you!

 

eBike Safety Tips: Staying Safe While Riding Around Town

Electric bikes (a.k.a. e-bikes) have become increasingly popular in recent years. E-bikes are similar in design to regular bicycles while providing extra motorized power when the rider needs it.

A typical e-bike has several different speeds, which allows riders to tackle obstacles like steep hills and strong headwinds without nearly as much effort. At the same time, riders can always turn the motorized function off and pedal under their own power if they want to realize the health benefits of exercising on a bicycle.

E-bikes are especially popular with Baby Boomers and other aging riders who may have trouble peddling a regular bicycle because of joint problems and other health concerns. They are also widely used by persons with various types of disabilities who might otherwise be hesitant to jump on a regular bike.

Those who would not be comfortable using a conventional bicycle for whatever reason are finding e-bikes to be a major breakthrough in the way they are able to get around town. They also appreciate the ability to enjoy fresh air and get some exercise in when they ride around. But although e-bikes provide numerous potential benefits, there are some safety concerns as well.

One issue is that e-bikes are significantly heavier than regular bicycles because of the motorized functionality. This makes them harder to handle and more difficult to navigate tight corners and other obstacles that would be much more manageable on a regular bike.

Another concern is the speed which riders are able to travel on an e-bike. The 20 mph speed might be perfect for overcoming a steep hill, but there is also a risk of going much faster than the rider intended. When this happens, the disc brakes might be able to stop the bike just fine, but the momentum that was already built up might throw the rider forward and cause them to fall off the bike.

Important Tips for Riding an E-bike Safely

Understand How to Operate the Bike

The first thing that should be done before you go riding around town in a new e-bike is to learn and understand how to operate it. Read the directions carefully, and go over the different functions so that you know what each one does. It would also be a good idea for you to practice riding around for a while in an empty parking lot or someplace where there is no other traffic.

Always Wear a Helmet

Pennsylvania law requires all bicycle riders ages 12 and under to wear a helmet. But even though you may be past the age when it is required by law, you should still wear a helmet if you are riding on an e-bike. As we have talked about earlier, the potential for higher speeds and falling off the bike make it all the more important to protect yourself.

Stay Visible

Whether riding an e-bike or any other kind of bicycle, you should always wear clothing that will make it easier for motorists, other bicyclists, and pedestrians to see you. Wear light, bright, and reflective clothing that will make you visible in both the daytime hours and after dark. In addition, it would be a good idea to outfit your bike with lights and a bell to alert pedestrians.

Be Especially Careful around Traffic

Whatever type of bike you are riding, you should always obey all of the traffic laws, such as stopping at stop signs and red lights, refraining from unnecessary distractions such as texting on your phone, and not riding against the flow of traffic. With an e-bike, you need to be even more careful when you encounter traffic. A lot of motorists do not realize that there are motorized bikes that can travel up to 20 mph, and this could make it more difficult for them to judge your actions.

Closely Monitor your Speed

As we have talked about earlier, speed is a major potential hazard with e-bikes. For this reason, one of the most important things you will need to learn is how fast you need to go for various situations and how to keep a close eye on your speed. When you are in doubt about your speed, the best rule of thumb is to err on the side of caution and travel a little slower. You can always up your speed if needed later on, but it might be more difficult to slow down if you find yourself going too fast.

Apply the Brakes Gradually

Because of the speed issue, applying the brake safely will be another important task for you to learn. For example, because of the extra speed and power you have behind you, you will need to begin braking earlier when you see stop signs and road crossings in the distance. Get to know your bike and the stopping distance you will need at the speeds you will be traveling.

Be Careful Stepping On and Off your E-bike

Because e-bikes are heavier and they tend to be used more by older and disabled riders, it is important to exercise extra caution when mounting and dismounting from the bike. Step on and off your e-bike at a pace that is safe for you, and be sure the bike is secured and not in danger of tipping over.

What to Do if You are Injured in an E-bike Accident

Even if you follow all of the best safety practices, accidents still happen. In some cases, they may be caused by motorists or others on the road. In other cases, they could happen because of a product defect that causes an electronic malfunction or something else to go wrong.

If you have auto insurance, your own insurer may cover some of the damages that result from the accident. In addition, you may be able to file a claim against the driver of another vehicle that caused the accident, or against another responsible party such as a faulty product maker.

The first step after an e-bike accident is to get immediate medical attention for any injuries you may have suffered. Many e-bike injuries can be very serious, and the sooner you get medical help, the better your chances of recovering.

After getting medical attention, the next step is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. With each e-bike accident, there are always unique circumstances and specific factors that may have contributed to the crash. By having your case assessed by a seasoned attorney, you will be fully informed of your legal rights and options and what avenues may be available for recovering compensation.

Contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for Skilled Legal Help with E-Bike Accidents

If you or a someone close to suffered injury in any type of bicycle accident, Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman is here to help. Call our office today at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 or message us online for a free consultation and case evaluation. We look forward to serving you!

The Impact of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Cases

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our everyday life.  Some things have been put on hold or delayed.  While we continue to navigate the difficult circumstances and delays caused by precautions in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, people are continuing to suffer injuries in car accidents, in pedestrian and bicycle accidents, due to slip-and-falls, due to defective products as well as many other accidents caused by the fault of another.

Injured parties can bring personal-injury claims to seek compensation for their injuries even during the COVID-19 outbreak. After a period of closure, the Pennsylvania courts have re-opened. As part of a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, courts, insurance entities and attorneys are practicing social distancing and conducting their work by telephone, video conferences and emails.

Tips to remember if you sustain an injury due to the fault of another

COVID-19 has changed the environment for handling personal injury claims from the scene of the accident to the courtroom.  At the injury scene, it is still essential you gather information to assist with your claim, but because of social distancing and the risk of catching the virus, this is more difficult.

Fortunately, cell phones make it possible to capture details on the camera while maintaining social distancing. If you are involved in an accident and need urgent medical attention, it is important that you do not delay seeking treatment.  It may be possible to have your injuries assessed by a medical professional through a telehealth visit.

Holding a virtual consultation by videoconference with your medical professional will allow you to obtain an injury report and a treatment plan.  However, if you have been seriously injured, it is imperative that in person medical help is sought.  Although we are living in unusual times, the basics of making a successful claim for personal injury have not changed.  You should remember the following tips:

  • Document and gather as much evidence as possible at the accident scene.

Unless you need immediate medical attention, you should still try to gather the information you will need to pursue a claim when your accident happens. If you are in a car accident and do not need immediate medical attention for your injures, use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident location and the damage to the vehicles involved. Take pictures of the other driver’s contact information and insurance details or write this information down.

If there are witnesses to the accident or people who stopped to help, have them provide you with their names and phone numbers via a text message or email.  Gathering this type of information is not just important for automobile accidents, but also when you suffer injuries from a slip or trip-and-fall, a pedestrian or bicycle accident, motorcycle accident, or due to a defective product.

  • Seek medical attention quickly.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be hesitant to go to the emergency room or seek treatment from a healthcare professional. Failing to seek treatment could have a long-term impact on your health. When you seek treatment, you should keep a list of the medical facilities and medical providers you have seen and the treatment that has being recommended. While you might have gone to an Emergency Room for an acute injury your PCP may be able to see you the same day due there being less urgent appointments any given day for a doctor’s office due to Pandemic.

  • Discuss your case with an experienced lawyer.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to assess the impact of your injury on your life and work.  He or she will be able to investigate all sources of potential recovery to compensate you for the injuries you have sustained.  Retaining an experienced lawyer will ensure that your case is presented in the best possible way and that you obtain full value for your claim.

  • Do not delay in pursuing your claim.

It is still important to not delay seeking legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney if you sustain an injury due to the fault of another.  Delaying a consultation with an attorney can have a detrimental effect on the outcome of your case.

The dedicated and experienced attorneys at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman are committed to helping you with your personal injury claim during these trying times.  The personal injury attorneys at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman are available conduct a virtual consultation to discuss your claim over the phone, by a video-based call or by email.  We are committed to complying with all state guidelines and taking precautionary steps to protect our clients and our staff.

COVID-19 and the restrictions that are currently in place due to this pandemic should not affect your right to claim compensation for personal injuries which may be an integral part of maintaining your financial stability during these uncertain times.  The attorneys at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman are committed to working with you to obtain a successful outcome. Contact our firm today at (866) 466-5789 or through our website contact form.

Pittsburgh Attorney Kelly Enders Discusses Legal Concerns with COVID-19 Reopenings

Although all counties in Pennsylvania are currently under the green stage of reopening phases, Governor Wolf, on July 15, 2020, imposed additional restrictions on bars and restaurants and has requested that businesses require workers to telework unless it is impossible to do so. For those that cannot telework, returning to the workplace may create an increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

If you are someone who has returned to the workplace you may have questions about what might happened if you need to take time away from work due to COVID-19. Are there benefits available if you have to miss time from work because you contracted COVID-19? If you believe you contracted COVID-19 at your workplace, can you make a claim for workers’ compensation? Will you be eligible for any benefits if you miss time from work to care for a relative who has COVID-19 or because you need to stay home to look after a minor child whose school or daycare is closed? These are all important concerns for individuals as they return to work.

There are certain programs in place already to help workers who have to miss time from work due to COVID-19.  These include:

Family First Coronavirus Response Act

Under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), most employers with 500 or less employees must provide 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees sick or quarantined due to COVID-19. The FFCRA provides:

  • full pay for sick or quarantined employees for 80 hours;
  • 2/3 pay if caring for another;
  • paid sick leave is capped at $511.00 per day, and $5,110.00 total per employee;
  • sick leave caps at $200.00 per day and a total of $2000.00 per employee when leave is taken to care for a family member in quarantine or to care for child while that child’s school or daycare is closed.

The benefits will only be payable if the employee:

  • is subject to a government quarantine or isolation order;
  • has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine;
  • has symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • is caring for a relative who is quarantined or in isolation; or
  • is unable to work because his/her child’s school or childcare is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.

An additional 10 weeks of paid family medical leave at two thirds (2/3) of the employee’s regular pay can be available if the employee cannot work because his/her minor child’s school or childcare is closed due to COVID-19 precautions.  To be eligible for this benefit, the employee must have been on the payroll for 30 days.  An employee who was laid off after March 1, 2020 but returns to work is eligible for the emergency family leave under the FFCRA without having to again meet the 30 days requirement after returning to work. The benefit is paid at 66% of the regular earnings but is capped at $200.00/day and $12,000.00 total.

Sick leave benefits are available until December 31, 2020.

 Unemployment Benefits

If you use your 80 hours in sick leave and do not qualify for the emergency family leave then you can apply for assistance under coronavirus unemployment laws.  Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA), employees will receive a minimum benefit that is equal to one half (1/2) of their state’s averaged weekly unemployment benefits.  They will also be able to receive an additional six hundred dollars ($600.00) a week until the week ending July 26, 2020 through the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) part of the law.  The U.S. Congress is currently working another package that will replace the PUC part of the law.

Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation

Employees who contracted COVID-19 on the job would also have the ability to file a Workers’ Compensation claim because the workers’ compensation system provides medical treatment and wage loss benefits for employees who suffer a work-related injury or disease.  A work-related COVID-19 injury could be regarded as a traumatic injury or as an occupational disease under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act.

There are steps that a worker will need to take in order to seek workers’ compensation benefits if exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.  The employee must notify the employer to file an injury claim and that will require the employee to provide medical evidence that they were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.  Potentially employees who contract COVID-19 in the workplace could file an occupational disease claim which would require the employee to establish that COVID-19 is occurring more in his/her occupation and industry than in the general population.

The Pennsylvania Legislature has passed laws which provide automatic entitlement to benefits for law enforcement officers diagnosed and quarantined due to COVID-19 regardless of the source of the COVID-19 infection.  The Legislature has also considered creating a presumption of a work-related hazard for employees in life sustaining businesses and occupations such those in the medical field, restaurant industry and retail fields.  To date this legislation has not been enacted into law.

Talk to a Knowledgeable Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

Kelly Enders is an attorney at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman, and she is available to discuss and assist employees who are faced with workplace injuries due to COVID-19.  An initial consultation can occur over the phone or by a video-call. We have decades of experience handling routine and complex work-related injury and disease cases. Contact one of our experienced Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation attorneys at (866) 466-5789 or through our website contact form.

How Will a Personal Injury Settlement Impact my Social Security Benefits?

It is difficult enough to have a debilitating injury in which you cannot work or only do limited work. Getting Social Security disability benefits helps, but the approval process is complicated and frustrating, and there are countless hoops that you have to jump through in order to start receiving benefits. On top of all this, getting injured in an accident adds another layer of complexity to the situation.

If the accident was someone else’s fault, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. The problem of course is – you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the disability benefits that you went through so much trouble to get approved for in the first place. A large monetary award to compensate you for your injuries is nice, but you depend on your Social Security disability benefits to make ends meet.

If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who also has in-depth knowledge of the Social Security disability program. Not every personal injury lawyer out there handles disability claims, you need to work with someone that thoroughly understands both of these areas of the law and how the two intersect in cases like yours.

Will I Lose my Social Security Disability Benefits if I Recover a Personal Injury Settlement?

As with most legal questions, the answer always starts with – it depends on the unique circumstances of your case. With this question specifically, it depends largely on which program you are receiving your Social Security benefits under; SSDI or SSI.

If you are receiving benefits through the regular Social Security Disability insurance program (SSDI), then your personal injury settlement will generally not affect your benefits – even if you receive a large amount. There are a couple side issues that you should be aware of, however, which we will cover shortly.

If you are receiving benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, then it is possible that your benefits could be jeopardized by a personal injury settlement. There are some things you can do to address this issue, however, which we will also cover in a little while.

Personal Injury Settlements and SSDI

SSDI (or sometimes referred to as SSD) benefits are funded through the Social Security Trust Fund, and eligibility is determined based on the number of work credits that the disabled person has accumulated. If you have a qualifying disability and you have worked the required length of time and paid into the program through taxes, then you will qualify for benefits. Therefore, receiving a large monetary award does not impact your eligibility.

Now, there are a couple separate issues that you should be aware of as you prepare to pursue a personal injury claim. First of all, your settlement award will probably not be as much as a lot of people with the same type of injury as you because you are not working or only doing a limited amount of work. Those who are working full-time when they get injured can usually collect compensation for lost wages and lost future earning capacity, but these damages may not be available in your case if you were receiving SSDI benefits when the accident occurred.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the defendant (in your personal injury case) is likely to bring up the fact that you have a pre-existing health condition (the one you are collecting benefits for) as a way of undermining your claim. They might try to argue that your injuries would not have been as bad if you did not already have a health condition, which could result in a lower award.

To effectively address this possibility, be sure to seek immediate medical attention after your accident, keep all of your subsequent appointments, and follow the advice of your doctor and attorney. As long as you got treated for your injuries right away and fully document everything, you should be able to minimize the effectiveness of the defendant’s argument.

Personal Injury Settlements and SSI

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate program that is funded by general tax revenues rather than through Social Security taxes. This is a needs-based program in which qualification does not depend on work credits, but rather on the income and assets of the recipient.

If you were to receive a fairly significant personal injury settlement, it could put you over the asset threshold that is necessary to qualify for SSI benefits. This could mean the suspension of your benefits, which would be catastrophic.

It is unfair to have to choose between receiving the full and fair compensation you deserve for an injury you sustained through no fault of your own and receiving the monthly benefits you need to survive. But unfortunately, this is how the program is set up.

Thankfully, there are some ways to protect your SSI benefits and still receive your personal injury settlement. One possibility is to do a “spend down”, which means spending enough of the settlement funds on exempt resources and that the items purchased are solely for the benefit of the disabled recipient to put you back under the allowable threshold.

You could use the funds to pay off your home mortgage, make modifications to your home to help accommodate your disabilities, pay off your existing debts, or a number of other things. The problem of course is that once you have spent the money, you no longer have it available for future emergencies and other important expenses that may come up.

Another possibility is to set up a special needs trust (SNT). With this option, the proceeds from the settlement are placed directly into the trust without affecting your SSI benefits. The funds within the trust can be used for expenditures that are not covered by SSI, such as transportation, certain therapies, and nursing care.

Contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for Further Help with Social Security Benefits and Personal Injury Claims

If you are receiving Social Security benefits and you got hurt through no fault of your own, you should not have to choose between keeping your benefits and obtaining the just compensation you deserve. At Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, we understand the dilemma you are facing, and we are here to help you successfully navigate the complexities of these two areas of the law.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at 412-391-9860 or toll-free at 866-466-5789. We look forward to serving you!

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

A wrongful death is one that was preventable and results from the negligent, reckless, or unlawful actions or omissions of another person or entity. There are a number of different types of accidents or events in which a wrongful death may occur, such as motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, swimming pool accidents, and many others. When someone loses a loved one in an untimely death that was caused by another party, they may be able to file a lawsuit against the responsible party for monetary damages.

Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Laws

The state of Pennsylvania defines wrongful death as a death that is “caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another” (Title 42, Chapter 83 of the Pennsylvania General Statutes, Section 8301). It is important to note that a wrongful death may or may not result from a criminal act, and a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action that is completely separate from any criminal charge that may result from the act that caused the death.

A criminal charge is brought by the state if they believe there is enough evidence to convict, and the penalties typically include fines and jail time, and in some cases (such as a fatal DUI accident), the loss of driving privileges. Although a surviving family member may feel some sense of satisfaction and closure if the person responsible for their loved one’s death is convicted, a criminal conviction does nothing to compensate the surviving loved ones for the deep loss that they have suffered. Monetary compensation must be recovered through a wrongful death civil lawsuit.

Although no amount of money can ever make up for the loss of someone close to you, the best legal remedy the system can provide is a monetary damage award. Damages can be recovered for losses suffered by survivors because of their loved one’s death, such as the loss of comfort, care, guidance, and support that the decedent provided as well as the emotional and psychological loss that family members suffered after losing someone close to them.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Action in Pennsylvania?

A wrongful death claim is filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate on behalf of the decedent’s beneficiaries. If the personal representative does not bring the lawsuit within six months after the decedent’s death, then a claim can be filed by any of the beneficiaries on behalf of all beneficiaries.

Pennsylvania law specifies that only spouses, children, and parents of the decedent can qualify as beneficiaries. The allocation of damage proceeds is determined by the state’s intestacy law, which is generally as follows:

  • When there is a surviving spouse and surviving children, the spouse receives the first $30,000 in proceeds, and the remaining amount is split evenly between the spouse and the children.
  • If there are surviving children of the decedent one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate estate to the children and one-half to the surviving spouse.
  • When there are no surviving children and a surviving spouse, then the remaining proceeds (after the first 30,000) are split evenly between the spouse and the surviving parent(s).
  • When there is no surviving spouse, then the proceeds are split evenly among the surviving children. If there is no surviving spouse or surviving children, then all of the proceeds go to the surviving parent(s).
  • If an individual dies without any surviving spouse, children, or parents, then no wrongful death claim can be brought on their behalf in Pennsylvania.

Wrongful Death Actions vs. Survival Actions in Pennsylvania

A survival action is one that is brought separately from a wrongful death claim, and in many cases, the two are brought simultaneously. A survival action is a slightly different type of legal action, and it can only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.

While a wrongful death claim deals with the losses that have been suffered by surviving family members, a survival claim deals more with the losses that the decedent would have personally sustained had he/she survived the accident or event that caused their death.

The best way to look at a survival action is as a personal injury claim in which the decedent’s estate is standing in the shoes of the decedent. The damages recoverable from a survival claim will be for losses such as medical expenses (to treat the injuries or illness that led to the death while the decedent was still alive), past and future lost earnings, and the decedent’s pain and suffering.

The decedent’s estate is the sole beneficiary of the proceeds from a survival action, and they pass through probate like the rest of the estate. If the decedent died with a will, the proceeds are used to cover any final expenses, then the remaining amount is distributed according to the terms and conditions of the will. In the absence of a will, remaining proceeds (after final expenses are covered) are distributed according to Pennsylvania intestacy laws.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you lost someone close to you and the death was the fault of another party, you may have a valid wrongful death claim. At Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, we offer our condolences for your loss, and we understand that this was a very tough time for you. We would also caution, however, not to wait too long before addressing the legal aspects of your loved one’s death. Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations of two years from the date of death to file wrongful death and survival claims, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to gather the important facts and pieces of evidence necessary to substantiate your claim.

At your earliest convenience, we invite you to contact our office for a free, no obligation consultation. We will meet with you (either in person or remotely depending on what you are comfortable with in the midst of COVID-19) to thoroughly assess your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. This way, you can make the most informed decision on whether or not you should bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of your deceased loved one.

Message us online or call our office today at 412-391-9860 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 to schedule your complimentary consultation and case assessment. We look forward to serving you!

How Social Media Use Can Impact Your Personal Injury Claim

In today’s world, social media has become a large part of our everyday life. Before even thinking twice, it is commonplace to let family, friends, and even strangers know what is going on in your corner of the world through status updates, photos, videos, and tweets.

But if you have been injured in an accident and are pursuing a personal injury claim, social media can pose some hidden dangers. It might be tempting to share the details of a car accident, slip and fall, or other traumatic event on social media, but doing so could have negative consequences for your case. There are also other ways that using social platforms can impact your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.

How Social Media Can Mess Up Your Claim

Let us say you were involved in an accident with a large truck and sustained a back and neck injury. You decide to pursue a personal injury claim against both the truck driver and the trucking company since your injuries require medical treatment, and you are unable to work.

You are determined to get better and decide to see how much this injury has limited your movement by heading over to the gym. You post about your efforts on social media and even give everyone another update later when you go out to dinner with your family.

Even if your injuries and pain are legitimate, and you are unable to work, your social media updates tend to contradict this and could undermine your claim. An insurance company will use any evidence it can get its hands on to downplay your injuries and even allege outright fraud.

Many personal injury cases are challenging enough without the injury victim giving the defendant justification to deny a claim or offer much less than your case is worth. In short, social media can significantly impact the outcome of your case.

Why You Should Not Share on Social Media

When you file an injury claim, the primary objective of the insurance company and defense attorney is to diminish your claim as much as possible so they can limit the defendant’s liability. These parties, therefore, will look for any and all evidence that either proves the accident did not happen as you claim or that your injuries are not severe enough to justify a fair settlement.

Even though you believe your social media posts are meant to update friends and family, they might be used as evidence against you. A large part of many personal injury cases is non-economic damages for things like pain and suffering and mental anguish. It will be difficult to justify these damages if you are posting updates on social media of yourself socializing with friends and family, even if you were in physical and emotional pain at the time.

Even when you believe you are being cautious, you might still post something that can be used against you. Check-ins, photos that you take, and comments from friends and family all have the potential to contradict your claim and undermine the efforts of your legal team.

Who Can See Your Social Media Activity?

Every social media platform allows you to control who sees your activity through its privacy settings. Often, these settings are difficult to access, and many people are unaware that they have the option to make such adjustments.

Even if you do not have an active personal injury case, it is simply a good practice to lock down your privacy settings to protect your personal information. Why do you want people you do not know looking at your photos and status updates?

When you adjust your settings, be sure to turn off access to your content to anyone that is not a connection. Likewise, you can disallow “friends” from sharing your content. But even this will not prevent someone from taking a screenshot of your content and reposting it or forwarding it to someone else if they felt compelled to do so.

It is vital to remember that even adjusting your privacy settings on social media will not necessarily protect what you post from people who are interested. The best plan of action is to simply not post anything that can be used to undermine your case.

Tips on Social Media Use When Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim

To protect your rights and get the best outcome possible for your personal injury case, we recommend that clients follow these social media guidelines:

  • Avoid posting about your case – at all – and ask friends and family not to post about your accident or injury as well.
  • Limit all activity on social media until your personal injury case has been resolved.
  • If you must post on social media, review the content thoroughly before doing so, and consider the potential consequences.
  • Before using social media, check your privacy settings to make sure that no one outside of your direct connections can see your activity.
  • Avoid accepting new friend requests or adding new connections while your case is ongoing. It is certainly possible that someone from the insurance company, defense counsel’s firm, or a person connected with the defendant will try to gain access to your information.
  • Avoid posting any frustrations about your case on social media.

Your personal injury attorney’s job is to build the strongest case possible so that you can get the compensation you deserve after a serious accident. Unfortunately, posting on social media is rarely going to help your case.

Call an Experienced Pittsburgh Personal Injury Law Firm

The best way to prevent insurance companies from using information against you is to keep the details of your personal life private. Avoid speaking with anyone about your accident. Do not share information or allow family or friends to discuss your life on social media. Insurance companies are known for trying to convince accident victims that they are not injured or that someone else is responsible.

The seasoned personal injury attorneys at Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman understand the tactics that insurers use to avoid paying what they owe, including attempting to collect information on social media. We will put our extensive experience and knowledge to work on your behalf to fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact our office today at 412-391-9860, toll-free at 866-466-5789, or message us online to schedule a free case evaluation.