Auto and Truck Accidents



The American Red Cross estimates that auto accidents account for 500,000 deaths and 15 million injuries  worldwide each year. With these numbers, it’s no wonder that motor vehicle accidents are the most common source of personal injury claims.

In a motor vehicle claim, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff. He or she must prove that the defendant driver was negligent and caused the accident. The plaintiff must also show that he or she suffered real injury from the accident. To prove negligence, the law uses the “reasonable person” standard. A reasonable person is someone who uses due care and takes reasonable steps to avoid creating a situation where an accident could occur.

Liability Of The Vehicle Owner

In Pennsylvania, the owner of a car involved in an accident may be held liable under some circumstances. “Vicarious responsibility” can hold owners of a vehicle involved in an accident responsible for the negligence of the operator if the driver is on an errand for the owner. In this case the owner (many times a corporation) may also be at fault for the accident. The owner may also be independently negligent, particularly if the vehicle is leased or loaned to a person who should not be driving. Similarly, businesses are sometimes held responsible for an accident that occurs while an employee is driving while on business.

Whether or not you are at fault for an accident affects your ability to recover damages, your liability for damages of others and your insurance rates. Having your own automobile insurance coverage protects you from claims of others if you are at fault, and can provide limited coverage for your own injuries. Consulting a lawyer after an accident can help you sort this out, even if you do not pursue a claim.

In cases where damages exceed insurance coverage, a lawyer may be able to help drivers uncover other causes for an accident including highway design defects, automobile design, reckless drivers or even product defects such as tire failures.

Insurance: How Can I Protect Myself?

First of all, have adequate liability insurance coverage to protect you if you are sued by another driver. Talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate limits of coverage.

No-fault insurance guarantees the payment of certain expenses by your own insurance company for certain damages and losses. This may include payment for your medical bills and wage losses up to the coverage limits that you select.

Pennsylvania requires motorists to have auto insurance or to show proof of their financial ability to pay another person if an accident occurs. However, one-half to two-thirds of all drivers are underinsured or uninsured motorists. What can you do to protect yourself from these motorists?

Consider buying uninsured motorist coverage. Insurance companies are required by law to offer this coverage when you purchase insurance. This coverage pays you or any other person covered under your policy for bodily injuries caused by either a hit-and-run driver or an uninsured driver. Uninsured motorist insurance also may cover any passengers in your car. You should also consider purchasing underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage pays you for any damages caused by a motorist who doesn’t have enough liability insurance to cover your damages. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage provide protection for you and your family for situations where the responsible driver failed to obtain proper insurance coverage. You should strongly consider purchasing high limits of each.

Many people don’t realize that their own right to bring a claim against another driver responsible for their personal injuries is governed by the selection of their tort option on their insurance policy. If you select the limited tort option, for which you will pay a lesser premium, your right to bring a claim for personal injuries may be limited or restricted to situations where you are seriously injured. There are limited exceptions. If you select the full tort option, you are able to bring a claim for any injury that you may suffer, even if not serious. Many long-lasting, debilitating, painful injuries may not qualify as serious. Therefore it is important to consider this issue when you purchase insurance. Select the full tort option if possible. Even if you have the limited tort option, you still may have a claim, but only a consultation with a lawyer will tell you.

Insurance protects you in the event of an accident. Your best bet for avoiding an accident is to drive cautiously. Consider factors such as lighting (can drivers see you?), erratic driving by other motorists (allow extra space between cars) and weather and road conditions (slow down in rainy or icy conditions), and adjust your driving accordingly.

Even if you drive with care you still may be involved in an accident. If this happens, get as much information as you can from the other driver and call your insurance company and your lawyer as soon as possible.

Truck Accidents

Truck accident cases contain many of the same issues as auto accident cases; however, the existence and applicability of trucking regulations, policies and procedures often make these matters more complicated than they first appear. It helps to have an attorney with experience in this area. We have handled many truck accident matters over the years and can provide the guidance and advice that you will need.

Comparative Negligence: A Common Defense

To dispute your claim, defense lawyers may try to prove that you contributed to causing the accident. This is known as “comparative negligence.” Comparative negligence reduces the amount of damages you may recover based on the percentage of fault assigned to you. Even if you are at fault for an accident, comparative negligence laws may enable you to recover some damages. Under Pennsylvania law, if you are negligent, your damages may be reduced by the percentage of negligence assigned to you. If comparative negligence can be proven, you may not be able to collect any damages if your negligence exceeds the negligence of the defendant. 

If your claim is successful you may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering, loss of past earnings, future loss of earnings, current and future medical expenses, loss of life’s pleasures, any restrictions on your usual activities, pursuits and pleasures and loss of consortium (loss of comfort, loss of companionship, damage caused to marital relationship).

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