Pittsburgh Car Accident Attorney
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that in 2018, a total of 36,560 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the United States.
Sixty-three percent of those deaths were passengers in the vehicle, 17 percent were pedestrians, 14 percent were motorcyclists, and 2 percent were bicyclists.
If you’ve been in an auto accident, you know how traumatic it can be. The injuries can affect you and your family for years and the medical expenses can be devastating.
The experienced Pittsburgh car accident lawyers at Chaffin Luhana represent individuals who are injured in auto accidents throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.
We understand how difficult and confusing it can be to try to negotiate a case with an insurance company after an accident. Chaffin Luhana offers dedicated legal representation for injured victims and their families.
Once we start working for you, we’ll be dedicated to maximizing your compensation while working to get you that compensation as quickly as possible. We are a plaintiffs-only law firm focused on representing injured victims in complex cases, and we’ve achieved extraordinary results for our clients in the area of personal injury litigation.
If you or someone you love were injured in an auto accident, we may be able to help you. To learn more, schedule a free no-obligation consultation or call us now at 1-888-480-1123.
Why You Should Choose Our Pittsburgh Car Injury Attorneys
When it comes to a car accident attorney, you have a lot of choices. It can be overwhelming trying to decide who will best represent you and your case.
The first question you probably have is: Do you have the experience I need?
Chaffin Luhana has extensive experience that is nationally recognized. To date, Mr. Chaffin and Ms. Luhana have been involved in recovering over $1 billion for their clients during the course of their careers, and the firm itself has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for individually injured plaintiffs.
Our hard-working team includes former federal and state prosecutors, former state and federal judicial law clerks, former large defense firm attorneys, court-appointed leaders in the national plaintiffs’ bar, and social workers—a team with unique and in-depth experience to guide you through your case.
The last thing you need is a law firm that leaves you in the dark. At Chaffin Luhana, we believe that regular and helpful communication is at the forefront of our responsibilities. We will be sure you know what’s going on with your case on an ongoing basis.
Whereas other firms tout press coverage of projects their attorneys have been involved in, at Chaffin Luhana, we are different. As national leaders in the plaintiffs’ bar and with our attorneys’ unique backgrounds, we are frequently invited speakers as experts by the national print, radio, and television press.
Our attorneys and our own cases have been featured in local and national media such as ABC World News, the Today Show, and Good Morning America.
- Founder Eric Chaffin has handled a wide array of cases against various types of manufacturers, with dozens of multimillion-dollar recoveries. In mass tort pharmaceutical and medical device litigation, Mr. Chaffin has been appointed by federal and state courts to various leadership positions, including the Denture Cream Product Liability Litigation in the Southern District of Florida that resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.
- Founder Roopal Luhana has served on committees in MDLs involving over-the-counter consumer products and defective pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Most recently, Ms. Luhana was appointed by U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) in re: Zantac (Ranitidine) Products Liability Litigation (S.D.FL.). Ms. Luhana is also one of six Chairs named in the Zantac MDL (ESI/Document Production Committee) and is one of 13 women named to leadership in the litigation.
- Partner Patrick Booth has a particular insight into how the insurance industry and large companies view and handle personal injury cases. He has successfully recovered tens of millions of dollars for accident victims. His past successes include multiple single case recoveries in the seven figures. His practice focuses on representing victims of auto accidents, commercial truck crashes, falls on negligently maintained properties, and injured workers.
Dedication to Community
At Chaffin Luhana LLP, we pride ourselves in Doing Good By Doing Right™. The founding partners created the Chaffin Luhana Foundation in 2010, and the firm has donated a substantial portion of its revenues—hundreds of thousands of dollars to date—to charitable causes and issues that impact our clients and local communities.
Our Foundation has funded scientific research, donated to dozens of charities, and given away numerous college scholarships. Our team has also donated hundreds of hours to teaching students about the dangers of distracted driving, feeding the homeless, and building homes for the needy. Here’s just a glimpse at a few of our activities:
- Scholarships: Each year, the Chaffin Luhana Foundation awards a scholarship, totaling $2,500, to a student who helps us in the fight against distracted driving by submitting an inspiring personal essay. The Foundation also awards periodic financial gifts to institutions of higher learning to support scientific research and funds educational scholarships to students.
- Stephanie Victor Legacy Award: Each year, the Chaffin Luhana Foundation awards a financial gift to one deserving individual who overcame significant challenges and achieved great milestones in his or her life or career.
- The Chaffin Luhana Foundation is partnering with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to launch the #CLFInnerReeveChallenge to benefit those living with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
- Najee Harris Partnership: We have partnered with Pittsburgh Running Back, Najee Harris, and his Da’ Bigger Picture Foundation to support those in need in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
What Our Clients Have to Say About Chaffin Luhana
Below is a small sampling of the testimonials we have received from our clients:
Over $4 Million Recovery
“I was very pleased with the representation that I received for my case. I had a positive experience with this firm and I would recommend your firm to my family and friends.”
– Judy R., Product Liability Injury Client
Nearly $3 Million Recovery
“I would tell prospective client[s of your firm] to be patient – trust your lawyers, trust that they know what they are doing, even though it is hard for people not in the business to understand all the legal wording and details.”
– Duane B, Product Liability Injury Client
$3 Million Recovery
“[The attorneys] were very thorough as well as informative. They contacted me and explained everything as the case progressed. Roopal was always so friendly and supportive. I felt she cared more about me personally than she did about the case. Because of that, I felt she had far more desire to win the case.”
– Jodie S., Product Liability Injury Client
Over $2 Million Recovery
“We called the number thinking nothing would happen but turned out to be the best move of our life. We are very grateful for the ad and the wonderful services of Chaffin Luhana LLP. [The attorneys and staff] made you feel very confident with the handling of the case – felt like they were long-time friends and explained things so we could understand.”
– Lawrence H., Product Liability Injury
Find more testimonials here.
Chaffin Luhana lawyers have been named to the prestigious “Super Lawyers” list several years in a row. The Super Lawyers research staff chooses only outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement to be named to their exclusive list, recognizing no more than five percent of attorneys in New York.
Managing and co-founding partner Eric Chaffin has received this honor several years in a row. A top-rated product liability and mass tort attorney, Chaffin co-founded the firm in 2010 and has been named to the Super Lawyers list every year since.
Co-founding partner Roopal Luhana was named as a Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2011 and 2012, an honor reserved to no more than two-and-a-half percent of lawyers in New York. Since then she has been named to the Super Lawyers list for many years in a row. She is also a top-rated product liability and mass torts attorney and has years of experience in litigation related to protecting women’s rights.
Many of our other team members have also been named Super Lawyers Rising Stars over the years.
The Super Lawyers research staff employs independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations in a multi-phase rating process to choose those attorneys who are best able to assist consumers. Attorneys who have attained certain honors are evaluated on professional achievements such as verdicts and settlements, experience, special licenses and certifications, pro bono and community service, scholarly lectures and writing, representative clients, and more.
Final candidates are grouped according to their primary areas of practice and are rated by panelists on a scale of one to ten. Those with the highest point totals from each category are selected for the final list, which is printed in the Super Lawyers magazine and leading city and regional magazines across the country as a guide for those individuals seeking quality representation.
Types of Car Accident Cases Handled
It’s easy to think that a car accident is a car accident, but each one is unique. You need an attorney that is experienced in the type of accident you have endured to understand the steps needed to win proper compensation.
In 2019, research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business revealed that ride-hailing services were associated with an increase of about three percent in the number of motor vehicle fatalities and fatal accidents.
Researchers examined data from 2001 to 2016 and found that the introduction of ride-hailing services increased auto deaths nationwide—to an additional 987 people per year.
If you were injured in an auto accident with an Uber, Lyft, or another rideshare vehicle, it can be confusing to determine who’s to blame and whose insurance will apply. You can file a claim against the driver’s insurance carrier, but when the other driver is driving for money, the situation can get complicated.
This is why you need the expertise of a car accident lawyer. Chaffin Luhana has the experience needed to navigate these types of complicated cases and will work hard to get the compensation you deserve.
According to a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), on average, 17 pedestrians died each day in 2018 as a result of vehicle crashes—up 43 percent from 2008. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that in 2017, nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes—about one death every 88 minutes.
Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed an 81 percent increase in single-vehicle pedestrian fatalities involving SUVs between 2009 and 2016. SUVs have higher front ends, which means they hit pedestrians higher up on their bodies, where more serious damage can be done. They are also more vertical than passenger cars, so their impact is more powerful.
The IIHS suggests that cities provide more options for pedestrians to safely cross roads, and use pedestrian-activated beacons to alert drivers to pedestrian crossings, along with other improvements meant to increase pedestrian safety.
Meanwhile, if you were injured in a car-pedestrian accident, it’s important to have someone on your side looking out for your interests. Our car accident attorneys will gather insurance information from the driver, get accurate contact information from the witnesses, and investigate the location of the accident and the vehicle itself for any evidence that may support your case.
If you get into an accident with a big truck, the results can be catastrophic. Big rigs weigh a lot more than passenger cars and trucks, and they can cause significant and life-changing damage. Chaffin Luhana attorneys have the expertise you need on your side. We have aggressively advocated for years on behalf of trucking accident victims to ensure they are appropriately compensated for their injuries.
Like truck accidents, bus accidents can be similarly traumatic because large buses often cause more damage in an accident than a passenger car or truck. The attorneys at Chaffin Luhana understand the importance of digging into the case to find out whether the company was properly maintaining its buses, whether it did its due diligence in hiring its drivers, and whether it may have been pushing drivers beyond reasonable expectations.
Motorcycles leave riders highly vulnerable to injury in an accident with an automobile. The IIHS notes that they are also often less visible to other drivers and pedestrians and are less stable than four-wheeled vehicles.
In 2019, over 5,000 motorcyclists died in motorcycle crashes. That year, as in many other years, motorcyclists were nearly 29 times more likely to die than passenger car occupants in a crash per vehicle miles traveled.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, it’s in your best interests to consult with an experienced car accident attorney who will watch out for your rights. According to a study by the National Transportation Safety Board, 64 percent of crashes involving motorcycles were caused by errors or failures on the part of the other driver.
Drunk Driving Accidents
Victims of drunk driving accidents often suffer serious injuries and even death. These accidents shatter lives, leaving families struggling to put the pieces back together.
If you or someone you love was injured or killed in a drunk driving accident, our Pittsburgh, PA drunk driving crash attorneys at Chaffin Luhana can help. Our car accident lawyers understand that drivers who get behind the wheel when they’re drunk can face criminal penalties and civil court lawsuits. We will help investigate the accident thoroughly to help you receive full and fair compensation for your injuries.
Distracted Driving Accidents
Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that 2016 was the deadliest year for vehicle accidents in a decade. With more than 40,000 fatalities, distracted driving continues to be a leading contributor to deadly accidents.
Pennsylvania established a texting-while-driving-ban in 2012, which prohibits drivers from using cell phones and other devices to send texts, instant messages, emails, or browsing the Internet while driving. It’s considered a primary offense and comes with a $50 fine.
In November 2016, Governor Tom Wolf also signed “Daniel’s Law,” which increased the penalties for an accident caused by texting while driving resulting in serious bodily injury or death. Now that this law is in effect, those who cause a fatality while texting and driving will receive a five-year jail sentence. Those who cause bodily injury while texting and driving will receive a two-year jail sentence.
If you suspect that another driver’s distracted driving caused or contributed to a car accident in which you sustained significant injuries, you should consult with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer sooner rather than later.
Identifying a lawyer who has extensive experience litigating distracted driving accidents can give you peace of mind that someone is fighting hard on your behalf. You should not leave it up to your insurance company to compensate you fairly.
Head-On Collision Accidents
A head-on collision occurs when cars driving in opposite directions crash front-to-front. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that in 2019, frontal impacts like these accounted for 57 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.
For victims who survive a head-on collision, the injuries can be catastrophic. At Chaffin Luhana, we will fully investigate the scene of your accident to properly uncover all the evidence needed to build a solid case against the negligent parties.
The most common causes of head-on collisions include distracted driving, drunk driving, drowsy driving, failing to yield, and speeding.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted in a report on rollover crashes that they are more likely to result in fatalities than other types of crashes. Unfortunately, the number of fatal SUV and van rollovers increased as the popularity of SUVs increased, with these crashes being “particularly violent in nature,” according to the NHTSA.
When victims are injured in rollover accidents, they can seek damages from the driver who caused the accident, and sometimes from the car company that made the vehicle, if that manufacturer failed to follow current safety protocols.
Many SUVs have been recalled because of rollover risks. In February 2021, for instance, Ford recalled some of its Bronco Sport vehicles for an incorrect lower control arm that could result in reduced vehicle stability and increased risk of a rollover crash.
Types of Serious Injuries
Serious injuries that may result from a car accident include the following:
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Broken Bones
- Neck and Back Injuries
- Knee Injuries
- Foot and Ankle Injuries
- Shoulder Injuries
- Wrist and Hand Injuries
- Crush Injuries
- Internal Injuries and Bleeding
- Disfiguring Facial Injuries and Scars
- Limb Loss and Amputations
- Burn Injuries
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The most important things to do after a car accident are—protect your safety, stay calm, call for help, and always call the police. Beyond that, you also need to do a few things to prepare for your car accident claim– such as exchange information with the other driver, take pictures of the scene of the accident (if you can), and write down what happened while it’s still fresh in your mind.
The process is the same if you’re in a leased or rental car. There may be a difference in who is responsible for the damages.
After the police clear you to leave the scene, and after you have sought medical attention, the next thing to do is to contact a Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer. During your free consultation, you can review your case and determine your options for recovering damages.
You should always report an auto accident as soon as possible. Failing to do so quickly can result in serious legal consequences. It can also endanger your ability to receive compensation for your injuries and damaged property.
It’s always in your best interests to have the police come to the scene of the accident, even if it was a minor accident. Police reports are important because of their evidentiary value. They include all of the available information relating to the crash, including details of the accident site, the vehicles involved, and the drivers.
A police report can support your version of the events and increase your odds of gaining the compensation you deserve from the insurance company or a judge or jury if you file a lawsuit.
Even though Pennsylvania is a "no-fault" car insurance state, there is still value in determining who is at fault in a car accident. If a person's car accident injuries exceed certain thresholds, that person can opt-out of the state's no-fault system and file a lawsuit directly against an at-fault driver and that driver's insurance company.
To prove who was at fault, refer to the following:
- The police report: If the other person broke traffic laws in the accident, that will be clear in the police report. This is why it’s so important to always call the police after an accident, even if the other driver seems to be cooperative in exchanging insurance information.
- Pictures: Take pictures of all cars involved, as well as the road where the accident occurred, any markings or debris on the road or the ground nearby, road signs in the area, weather conditions, and anything else that may help you prove what happened.
- An understanding of your state traffic laws: Your car accident attorney will know the rules that apply to your accident and use these when discussing your claim with the insurance company.
- Witness statements: Third-party witnesses who don’t know you can be powerful supporters in your case.
- Video footage: If there were cameras around, find out how you can access their recordings as soon as possible. Keep in mind that some may be owned by private businesses. Video evidence in your favor can be hard to dispute.
In addition to being a no-fault insurance state, Pennsylvania also applies a modified comparative negligence standard to injury cases. Under this standard, the damages that you can recover will be reduced by your own contributory fault for causing the accident.
If you are deemed to have been more than 50% responsible for the accident, you will have no right to collect damages from the other at-fault party. But you may believe you were solely at fault when that isn't true.
For that reason, you should never admit blame until you’ve spoken with a skilled Pittsburgh personal injury attorney from our firm. Often liability for an accident is spread out across multiple parties: Traffic lights malfunction, public safety hazards go unmarked, and automakers fail to catch safety defects during the inspection process. All of these factors can play a role.
Drivers should never bear the blame for an accident they didn’t cause. That’s why it’s essential to document as many facts about the accident as you can. That way, you’ll have the details you need to prove your side of the story.
Your information-gathering efforts should include:
- Getting an accident report: Police officers are trained to investigate collisions impartially. Their testimony can go a long way towards establishing your innocence.
- Talking to witnesses: Make sure to get their contact information at the time of the wreck.
- Writing down details: Human memory is faulty, especially during times of stress. Putting things down on paper or notating them on your mobile device can make all the difference to your case.
- Taking pictures and making videos: They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is undoubtedly true where auto accidents are concerned.
- Contacting a qualified attorney: Talking to a Pittsburgh car accident attorney is crucial for obtaining the best possible outcome from your auto collision.
In the majority of rear-end collisions, the driver striking the other vehicle from behind is at fault—but not always.
Sometimes other factors may be involved. This may occur if the front driver:
- was driving recklessly
- made sudden lane changes
- disregarded traffic signs
- failed to use turn signals
- had malfunctioning brake lights
- backed up in an improper or unsafe manner
- passed improperly
- failed to pull a faulty car over to the side of the road
- was under the influence
Whichever driver you were in the accident—the one in front or the one who hit the car in front—it’s important not to make any statements to the insurance company before obtaining legal advice.
In most cases, insurance companies will cover basic medical costs for the victim of a rear-end collision, but to recover funds for long-term medical care, disability, lost wages, reduced quality of life, and more, severely injured victims often have to turn to a rear-end accident lawsuit.
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident in Pennsylvania is two years. After that time, in most cases, a claim cannot go forward.
An attempt to bring a case after this will almost always mean the courts will dismiss it. This applies to anyone hurt in a car accident and pursuing a claim, even if that individual was a pedestrian or a cyclist.
Even though the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is two years, it is critical to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible. A Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer from our firm will protect your rights and start an investigation into the accident as quickly as possible.
There are exceptions to the two-year state statute of limitations:
- If a minor was injured in a car accident, they have until their 20th birthday to file. The idea behind this extension is that they are not legal adults until 18, so they have two years from that date. However, this does not apply if the car accident involved a government vehicle.
- If the accident involved any type of government vehicle—ranging from a public school bus, a municipal garbage truck, or any vehicle owned and operated by a local, county, state, or federal agency—the statute of limitations is much shorter. Claims against most government agencies require filing within six months. If the victim was so severely injured that they were incapable of filing a claim for 90 days, there is a six-month extension.
- If the car accident results in a fatality, the family of the deceased may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party. The statute of limitations is two years from the date of their death. If the death resulted from a collision with a government vehicle, the statute of limitations is limited to six months.
Once you send your information, documents, and evidence to the insurance company, they will investigate your case and if they accept your claim, make a settlement offer. After that, you can negotiate an agreement.
If an insurance company contacts you about a personal injury case in an attempt to settle, however, it is important to explore your options and request a free case review from a highly experienced attorney.
Do not negotiate with the insurance company on your own, and do not agree to their first offer before getting a second opinion. The insurance company rarely offers a fair settlement value at the start as they hope that an initial appeal of cash will get you to settle for far less than you deserve.
This is an agreement between the parties involved in a lawsuit or car accident claim. The parties may include the victim and the insurance company, or the victim and other parties that share liability in the accident. The settlement typically includes a payment amount to the victim to cover damages.
Settlements are typically resolved faster than cases that go to trial. They’re usually confidential, which allows all parties to keep their personal affairs private. The victim also knows exactly the amount they are getting before they sign the agreement.
A settlement agreement may be reached at any time. Even if the parties agree to go to court, if they continue to communicate, they may be able to settle outside of court before the trial begins.
If the parties cannot come to an agreement in a car accident case, the case may go to trial. That means it proceeds to court, where both parties make their case. Then a judge or jury is responsible for determining if damages are owed, in what amount, and who is liable.
A trial can be expensive and time-consuming. A judge or jury may grant you a larger reward, but a portion of it will have to go to litigation expenses. But it can be the right choice in situations where the injuries from the car accident are extensive, and when it’s important to ensure the defendant is held accountable.
A verdict is a decision made in your case by the judge or jury when your case goes to trial. Usually, the verdict will state the amount of damages, if any, that the defendant(s) must pay to the plaintiff.
Since every motor vehicle accident is unique, it is difficult to determine an “average” settlement. It usually depends on the extent of injuries and resulting disability. Those experiencing permanent disabilities, especially when they’re no longer able to hold a job, usually receive the highest awards.
A Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer from our firm will know a fair offer. Our dedicated attorneys have recovered over $1 billion in verdicts and settlements for their clients. We will work hard to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
The term “damages” refers to monetary compensation that a plaintiff may be awarded in a lawsuit. A court awards damages to help make an injured party “whole,” or to restore him or her to the position he or she was in (or as close as possible) before the injury occurred.
In general, there are three major types of damages:
- Compensatory:These are the most common and the most easily identifiable of the three damages, and are paid to “compensate” you for losses like medical expenses, lost wages, and property replacement.
- General:These are damages that cannot be readily tied to a dollar amount, and include pain and suffering, a shortened life expectancy, and mental anguish.
- Punitive:These are awarded for the sole purpose of punishing the defendant for their conduct.
Settlements consist of economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include:
- Medical expenses: If you have proof of your medical expenses, the court may order the defendant to pay those back. If you're expecting to have to pay for more surgeries, treatments, therapies, and prescriptions in the future, the court may figure out an estimated cost for these as well.
- Lost wages: If your injuries left you unable to work, the court may order you to be compensated for lost wages. If you can’t return to work in the future, your future lost wages may also be recoverable.
- Potential earnings: Similar to lost wages, this is a figure representing what you would have earned had not the accident taken place.
- Property damage: Most likely your vehicle was damaged in the car accident. These damages would help pay to restore or replace that vehicle. If you had other property in the car that was damaged, those costs may also be figured into this award.
- Out of pocket expenses relating to the accident: These may include travel expenses, if required during your medical treatments, mileage reimbursement, parking fees and expenses, car rental fees, and towing and storage fees. If your injury has made housekeeping or childcare difficult or impossible, you may be able to recover compensation for cleaning help, childcare, personal assistance, and other household services.
Also, if you have ongoing medical treatments relating to your injury, your attorney will help you estimate those figures.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering: This refers to any physical pain and discomfort that you suffered during and after the accident, but it may include emotional or psychological suffering as well, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Loss of consortium: This is a legal term used to describe the loss of a partner or spouse’s physical companionship, including a sexual relationship. If you or a passenger in your vehicle was injured in such a way that it affects your relationship, you could be eligible for these damages.
- Loss of enjoyment: A car accident can change your life. You may find that your injuries make it more difficult to enjoy the activities you once enjoyed, or to go about your life as you did before. If you can no longer take part in your day-to-day activities, you may be entitled to compensation for these losses.
Unlike many states, Pennsylvania does not impose a cap on damages, except for claims involving government agencies.
Every accident claim involves different circumstances, so there is no set time when it comes to how long it will take to get your settlement. The average time is around 8-16 months from the date the case is started, but some cases may settle faster and some slower.
Typically, if the victim’s injuries are more severe, the time frame will be longer. If the case goes to trial, that also adds more time—often up to two years or more.
The main factors affecting the time frame include:
- Medical treatment: Before the insurance company will make an offer, the patient must be at maximum medical improvement, meaning that the medical treatment is over.
- Medical records: All of the medical records and bills must be obtained as well as any doctor’s reports for future lost wages and medical bills.
- Insurance company’s response: Once the victim makes a settlement demand, it takes the insurance company time to evaluate the claim.
Experienced car accident attorneys who stay on top of your case can shorten the settlement time.
The short answer is “no.”
You don’t have to accept the settlement offer that your insurance company gives you. In fact, it’s often best to refuse the first offer from the insurance company as it may be lower than what you deserve. The insurance company will look out for its bottom line—not your well-being.
If you refuse the offer, expect that you will need to negotiate with the insurance company on another offer. Here's where an experienced car accident attorney can help. You will likely need to create a counteroffer, including a demand letter that tasks for more, along with supporting evidence that shows why you deserve more.
The insurance company adjuster may tell you that they are not able to increase the offer, but having an experienced car accident attorney on your side can increase your chances that you will be able to successfully negotiate a better offer.
The value of pain and suffering goes beyond economic damages. It takes into consideration how your injuries will affect your life. You may not only suffer from actual physical pain now and into the future, but your injuries may reduce your quality of life, require you to change careers, prevent you from doing the activities you used to enjoy, or even reduce your life expectancy.
A pain and suffering claim may also take into account how the injuries affect you emotionally. Permanent scarring, for instance, or paralysis can take a high toll on your mental and emotional health.
Though there is no hard and fast rule for how insurance companies may calculate pain and suffering, they typically use the following formulas:
- Portion of medical expenses: Insurance adjusters may multiply your economic damages (medical bills and loss of income) by a certain number, generally between 1 and 5 depending on the severity of the injuries. For example, if your economic bills total $10,000, your pain and suffering offer may be $10,000 to $50,000.
- Per diem approach: Under this method, a certain amount is assigned to every day from the day of the accident until the day the plaintiff reached maximum recovery. So if the amount is $100 and it took 30 days for the plaintiff to recover, the pain and suffering amount would be $3,000.
- Other: Insurance companies may use other methods to calculate pain and suffering, including computer programs designed to base the amount on the type of injury and the type of medical treatment applied and the companies own data and experience with similar cases.
Your car accident attorney can help you determine whether the insurance company’s offer for pain and suffering is fair, or if you should ask for more.
Depending on how damaged your vehicle is, your insurance company will either pay a mechanic to repair it or provide you with compensation to buy a new one. Whether or not they repair or replace your vehicle depends on if it is “totaled.” Totaled is the shorthand for a total loss– which means your car is too damaged to repair.
When your car insurance reviews your claim for damage to your vehicle, it will weigh two factors: the cost of repair versus the actual cash value. First, the insurance adjuster will determine the cost of repairing it. This is typically done with an estimate from a mechanic. The adjuster will then combine the estimate with any salvage value.
Next, the adjuster will determine the actual cash value of the car before the accident. Actual cash value, or ACV, is an estimate. It considers the make, model, and year of the vehicle. Additionally, the adjuster will tweak the value based on any add-ons or upgrades. Finally, the car’s physical condition and mileage are also relevant.
In the end, the adjuster will compare the cost of repair with the ACV. If the cost to repair is higher than the ACV, the insurance company will not repair it. For example, if your car has an estimated book value of $10,000, the adjuster will likely declare it totaled if the repair costs exceed $8,000.
The company will often decide against repairs even when the value is above the repair cost. Most insurance companies will only authorize repairs if the ACV is substantially higher.
You can always purchase insurance after a car accident, but it will not cover a past accident. It will only apply to future accidents. Even if you buy insurance the next day, it will not help you in an accident that has already occurred.
The penalty for driving without liability coverage varies by state. A car accident lawyer can guide you in a case like this.
If you are found to be at fault for the accident, you’ll have to pay for the damage out of pocket. You could also be sued by other people for damages.
If you were not at fault, state laws may still limit what kind of expenses you can recoup.
In most cases, “yes.”
This depends on your particular insurance policy, but most car insurance companies will cover drivers you've listed on your policy or anyone to whom you permit to drive your vehicle.
If a friend or family member takes your car without your permission, the rules change. If they caused an accident, you may not be held accountable for the damage. But you may have to file a claim to your insurer to cover your vehicle’s repairs.
It’s up to you whether you contact a car accident lawyer after an accident. Below are six reasons why you should:
- Peace of mind: Car accidents are stressful. Calling your lawyer provides you with the expert support of someone who is on your side. They can help answer your questions and guide you through the next steps, ensuring that you don’t do or say something that could hurt you down the line.
- Experience and knowledge: Most of us do not understand the law well enough to defend ourselves from companies who are reluctant to give us what we deserve after a crash.
- Even if an insurance company says you don't need to hire a lawyer, it is almost always better to consult with a qualified lawyer—one skilled in personal injury law and with years of experience—to review the release and, if necessary, pursue legal action for better compensation.
- Collecting evidence: Without evidence, car accidents are often reconstructed based on he-said, she-said statements, which don’t stand up well in a court of law. Your lawyer will guide you on how to collect evidence that can make a big difference in your case, often speeding up settlements or rulings and sometimes even increasing the amount you are awarded.
- Negotiating with the insurance company: Big insurance companies can be frustrating and difficult to deal with, which we aren’t afraid of taking on. When you hire a lawyer, you can defer any questions or inquiries from the insurance company to your experienced attorney.
- Filing a claim: Filing a lawsuit often involves filling out lengthy paperwork and sometimes following complex or confusing procedures. A car accident lawyer is experienced in such things, though, and can quickly and accurately assure that your claim is filed within the statute of limitations.
- No cost upfront: At Chaffin Luhana, we believe that you shouldn’t let the fear of legal fees hold you back from fighting for what you deserve. That is why we offer free consultations to all of our potential clients.
A typical car accident attorney will charge a “contingency fee” to take on your case—that means the firm will not get paid unless you recover money in your case. Then the lawyer or the law firm will receive a percentage of the money received from any settlement or verdict.
In addition to the contingency fee, law firms advance all of the expenses associates with bringing your case. These may include:
- Costs for obtaining documents like medical records and police reports
- Court reporter fees
- Court filing fees
- Expert witness fees
- Postage, copying, and mailing
When looking for a car accident attorney, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the attorney have the right experience? Look for one that has experience handling cases like yours. Ask for examples of past successes.
- Will my attorney be focused on my case? You don’t want your case lost in the shuffle. Make sure you know who will be working with you.
- What is the attorney’s reputation? The right attorney should have a good reputation. Check their online websites, social media, and other resources, and ask for references.
- Does my attorney communicate well? A good lawyer will make it easy for you to understand what’s going on with your case and what they are doing to help you. They will provide you with clear information about the process, their fees, your state’s laws, and more.
- Is the law firm organized? When you visit your attorney, pay attention to the entire office. Is it clean and organized? Are the other personnel friendly and professional? Do you feel like you and your case are valued?
- Do I feel comfortable with this attorney? Personality may be the last consideration, but it can be an important one. You want to feel comfortable dealing with this person, and like you can trust them.
It’s true that if you’re self-employed, it may be more difficult to prove lost wages than it would be for someone who is an employee. But that doesn’t mean you can do it.
The important thing is to keep accurate records. Support your claim by providing the following evidence:
- Documents: You can show how much you would have earned from the date of the accident to the time of full recovery by showing the insurance company (or court) documents like your 1099 forms, tax returns from previous years, business invoices, correspondence with clients, profit-and-loss statements, payroll and account records, and receipts.
- Letter from clients: If you provide regular services to a group of clients, getting letters from those clients about the hours of work you missed or projects that had to be assigned to others may add to your evidence of lost income.
A car accident attorney can help you determine other types of income, such as growing profits, benefits, and more. They can also help you get the compensation you deserve, as insurance companies often discount self-employed lost wages without significant proof.
When you make an insurance claim, your insurance company is likely to ask you to use an “approved mechanic” to get the repairs done on your vehicle.
This is a mechanic or body shop that is within the insurer’s network and already has a relationship with the insurer. The insurance company wants you to work with these approved mechanics and body shops because it’s cheaper and easier for them.
You are not legally required to use one of the approved shops, however. You have the option of using another service provider. Sometimes it's wise to do that, and sometimes not. The benefits of using an "approved" provider include:
- Faster service: Since your insurance company has a relationship with the shop, paperwork, repairs, and payment can be handled quickly.
- Warranty: Most “in-network” shops will guarantee their work on your vehicle. However, most “out-of-network” reputable shops will do this too.
- Accessible: There is likely to be an in-network shop near you.
The drawbacks of using an “approved” provider may include:
- Sub-par repairs: In some cases, since the auto shop has a relationship with the insurer, they may try to fix your car in the most cost-effective way possible. That could mean poorer quality repairs.
- Unfamiliar mechanic: If you already have a mechanic you trust and they’re not in your insurer’s network, you’ll be working with a mechanic you don’t know.
If you choose a shop outside of your insurer’s network, you may have to negotiate with them to approve it. Handling paperwork and verifying costs will take the insurance company more time, so they may be resistant. You may also need to get multiple estimates from different shops.
The short answer is “yes.”
If the insurance company decides to total your vehicle, they will then pay you the remaining salvage. But it’s up to you whether you keep your vehicle or not.
If you relinquish the vehicle, you’re done. You can take the cash from the insurance company and use it to buy a new vehicle.
If you decide to keep the vehicle, however, keep in mind that to use it again, you’ll have to request a new title. When an insurance company totals a car, the state will cancel the original title and issue a salvage title. You’ll have to repair the vehicle, then pass a safety inspection before the state will issue you a new “rebuilt” title.
You may also find it more difficult to obtain insurance on a vehicle that has been totaled. Some insurers will refuse to issue a policy for a salvaged vehicle unless you pay a higher deductible.
If you disagree with the insurance company’s total loss determination, you may be able to challenge it by providing additional evidence. Your car accident attorney can help.
The law provides ways for accident victims to seek compensation for their expenses. Under Pennsylvania's "no-fault" car insurance laws, your insurance is your first source of recovery. It should cover your medical bills— regardless of who caused the accident.
However, this becomes more complicated if your medical bills exceed the limits on your insurance coverage.
After the limits of your car insurance policy have been reached, your health insurance is the next source of payments. Pay close attention to insurance policy requirements that address how and when to file a claim.
Your automobile liability coverage and health insurance might deny coverage of certain medical bills as unreasonable, excessive, or unnecessary. You have a right to challenge these denials, but you will need to provide objective proof that the services you received were reasonable and necessary. A car accident lawyer is best equipped to assemble that proof and to negotiate with insurance carriers.
If your accident-related medical bills are sizeable, you may need to file a claim against the at-fault driver and that driver’s insurance for reimbursement of your losses and expenses. If the other driver disputes their liability, you will likely need to file a lawsuit.
Any damages payments that you receive from that lawsuit will not be paid until after the case is settled or tried. Your medical bills will continue to pile up while your lawsuit is pending. You can get the money you need– if you do not delay the filing of your lawsuit.
If your car accident caused injuries that made it difficult or impossible for you to work, you can recover damages for lost wages.
This includes both wages lost because you were unable to work and wages lost because you missed work while you were undergoing medical treatment. The term usually starts on the date of the accident and runs until you were able to return to work. Even if you were able to take sick or vacation pay for time missed from work, you’re still entitled to recover damages for that.
To prove a lost wages claim, you will need:
- A letter from your supervisor or boss including your name, position, number of hours you usually work, and the number of hours or days missed after the accident.
- Medical records showing the treatments you got and the time you needed for recovery.
- If you are self-employed, you’ll need to provide evidence that shows what you lost in terms of income. This may include documents that show a drop in billing or invoices, a calendar showing appointments that had to be canceled, or other documents showing projects you were unable to complete or conferences you were not able to attend.
If your accident causes injuries that prevent you from returning to work in the future, you can recover those damages as well.
If this happens to you, you would claim for “impaired earning capacity” or “loss of future earnings.” Your injuries may be permanent, for instance—such as being paralyzed—and might make it impossible for you to do the job that you have been trained to do.
To prove lost earning capacity, you typically need the following evidence:
- Evidence of past wages, including pay stubs, prior tax returns, and letters from your employer.
- Testimony from your employer, doctor, and other expert witnesses as to your inability to continue to do your job.
- Documentation and testimony detailing what you could reasonably have expected to earn in the future were it not for the accident.
Determining lost future earnings often depends on the following factors:
- Your occupation
- Whether you worked full-time or part-time
- Your age and life expectancy
- Whether you suffered a permanent injury
- Whether you’ll be able to return to work in some form
- Your education level
- Your professional goals
Though different states have different laws concerning lost future earnings, in general, settlement negotiators, judges, and juries will use the following formula to future out what compensation you deserve:
- Determine what you would have reasonably made, without the injury.
- Determine what you will be reasonably certain to make in the future, with the injury.
- Figure out the difference between the two—that is your lost earning capacity.
Even if you weren’t employed at the time of the accident, you may still recover for lost earning capacity if you are determined to have an ambition of future employment that is “reasonably certain” to occur.
The short answer is: It depends.
To drive the car, it has to be in safe operating condition. If yours is not after the accident and you want to keep driving it, you will need to get it repaired or face possible tickets and fines if an officer pulls you over.
The insurance company may also require that you get the vehicle repaired if you want to keep the vehicle’s insurance coverage. If you are involved in another accident with an unsafe vehicle, it can cause your insurance to be invalidated.
If the insurer determines that your vehicle is “totaled,” they will pay you the fair market value and take possession of the car. You have the option to keep the vehicle, but as noted above, you will have to get a new title on it before you can drive it again. (And the new title will require repairs to be completed.) This option can also affect your payout from the insurance company.
If you are leasing the vehicle, the terms and conditions of the lease may require you to have it repaired. Similarly, if there is a lien on the vehicle, the terms of the loan may require that you get it repaired. At the very least, you will be responsible for paying that lien no matter what you decide.
If you own the vehicle outright, you have more flexibility. Your insurance company may give you the option to repair it, total it out, or buy it back. If you choose to buy it back, that means the insurance company gives you the car back, plus the cash value of the car, minus the auction price the company believes it would have received from a salvage yard.
If you have negotiated a car accident claim settlement, you will not have to go to court to receive that payment. The insurance company will send you (or your car accident attorney) a check.
This is the way it goes for the majority of car accident claims in Pennsylvania—the case never has to go to court. The parties are able to reach an agreement without requiring a trial.
Even if your case went to trial and a judge or jury determined the verdict, you will not have to go back to court to receive your settlement. The damages will be sent to you or your attorney.
Hiring a car accident lawyer to help you manage your claim is always an option. Particularly if you have significant medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs, a lawyer is likely to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. He or she can also help you navigate the often complicated process of negotiating with the insurance company or even filing a personal injury claim.
Car accident attorneys are familiar with the tactics of insurance companies and can help make sure that they don't take advantage of you. They can also help you better estimate your potential expenses and future expenses. Having a lawyer levels the playing field with the insurance company making sure you have the same knowledge and experience with these claims on your side as the insurance company.
Remember that most car accident lawyers will provide you with a free initial consultation, so you have nothing to lose by talking to a lawyer about your case. That step may save you a lot of stress and lost damages.
Who pays for your rental car, after an accident, depends on who is at fault for the crash. If the other driver is responsible for the collision, their car insurance should pay for the rental, but if you are at fault, payments come out of your pocket or via your insurance policy.
Much depends on whether you purchased a car rental option with your policy. Your insurance agent will let you know whether you have such coverage, but you cannot add it after an accident.
To get the most money possible for your wrecked car after a car accident, follow these steps:
- Speak with a car accident attorney. He or she can tell you how much you should expect to receive in damages.
- Know the true value of your car, so that you aren’t fooled into accepting a lower amount by the insurance adjuster. You can check the value on websites such as Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds, but keep in mind that you’re looking for salvage value since the car is wrecked (or totaled). You can also ask your trusted mechanic, who can examine the vehicle and give you an estimate.
- If the initial offer from the insurance company is below your estimate, you can reject it and submit a counter-offer. A car accident attorney can help you do this.
Not knowing whether your injuries are severe enough to sue is one of the main reasons why most car accident victims decide to let it go. Your car and health insurance will likely help take care of your medical expenses, and you may feel that a car accident lawsuit would be more trouble than it’s worth.
Before you make that decision, however, understand one thing: it’s not only about the injury. It’s about the injury’s effect on your life.
Even a minor injury, for example, such as a sprained or strained wrist, may cause problems for you at work, resulting in you having to miss several days for which you may not receive payment. If you’re a musician, for example, you may have to sit out the next concert because of that injury, causing you significant financial as well as physical hardship.
There are other injuries as well that may seem mild at first, but become serious with time. Spinal injuries commonly fit into this category. They may not seem bad after the initial accident, but then as time goes by, they may begin to cause pain, tingling and numbness, or even weakness in your back, legs, or hands. Herniated discs, in particular, don’t tend to show up on X-rays, and may be missed even by your doctor. They can make it significantly more difficult for you to keep working, however, or to perform the other regular activities in your life.
A concussion is another example of what may seem to be a mild injury at first but then may get worse with time. Typically there is no outward sign of a concussion or other head/brain injury, but you may feel confused, dizzy, or sleepy afterward, and it could take you months to completely heal. During that time, you may require assistance or time off work, which could have a significant financial effect on you and your family.
When determining whether a lawsuit may be wise in your situation, it also helps to evaluate the cost of your injury. How much will you have to pay for medical treatment, therapy, at-home treatment, and any necessary home modifications? How much will you lose by not being able to work? How much pain, suffering, and anguish are you likely to suffer in the coming months or even years?
If these expenses may be high, a personal injury lawsuit may help you and your family to better recover from the effects of the accident.
If you are self-employed, lost income can be more difficult to prove, but not impossible. You will simply need to provide the evidence required to determine what you would have earned had the accident not occurred.
Support your claim by providing documents that show how much you would have earned from the date of the accident to the time of full recovery. These may include 1099 forms, tax returns from previous years, business invoices, correspondence with clients, profit-and-loss statements, payroll and account records, and receipts.
If you provide regular services to a group of clients, getting letters from those clients about the hours of work you missed or projects that had to be assigned to others may add to your evidence of lost income.
A car accident attorney can help you determine other types of income, such as growing profits, benefits, and more. They can also help you get the compensation you deserve, as insurance companies often discount self-employed lost wages without significant proof.
While the specifics vary, every state requires drivers involved in major collisions to stop and notify law enforcement. Those that instead flee the scene of the crash are known as hit-and-run drivers.
Hit-and-runs present serious issues for innocent victims in the crash. Without identifying the responsible driver in the accident, many motorists are on the hook for their damages, even if they were not at fault for the accident.
By following these steps, you could put yourself in the best position after a hit and run accident:
- Contact the police: No matter what, call the police. They may be able to track down the responsible party. At the very least, they can create a police report which will serve as important evidence in your claim.
- Check for injuries: Safety is the highest priority. Check on yourself and others to see if there are any serious injuries. If there are any injuries or you have reason to believe the other driver was drinking, call 911 immediately.
- Take pictures: If you can, take photos of the vehicles involved as well as the scene from every angle.
- Write down the details: After the accident, write down the details as soon as you can while the incident is still fresh in your memory. Try to include the other driver’s license plate number; the make, model, and color of the car; and a description of the driver if you got a look at them.
- Look for witnesses: Try to get the contact information of any witnesses that may have seen the hit-and-run accident.
- Notify your insurance company: Contact your insurance company as soon as possible and inform them of the accident. If you fail to do this, they could deny your claim.
- Contact a car accident attorney: This may be your most important step. If you have uninsured motorist coverage with your insurance policy, your attorney can help you file a claim. If you lack that coverage, your attorney could work to bring a lawsuit against the other driver.
Many factors usually contribute to a car accident. You may think you’re the sole person at fault for the collision, only to find out later that wasn’t true.
For that reason, you should never admit blame until you’ve spoken with a skilled Pittsburgh personal injury attorney from our firm.
Sometimes people rush to admit blame out of an admirable but misguided sense of personal responsibility. In many of these cases, the person who does this later regrets their actions.
Instead, follow these steps:
- Make sure a police officer fills out an accident report: Law enforcement personnel are specially trained in auto collision investigation. Their objectivity can play a significant role in ensuring that you receive fair treatment.
- Gather as much information about the wreck as you can: Including pictures, videos, and eyewitness testimony. You should also record any thoughts or observations you have at the time.
- Keep calm and avoid confrontations with the other driver: Even if they act aggressively or try to blame you for the wreck on you. Remain at the scene until police arrive and, once there, cooperate with them fully.
- Call your car accident attorney: They will help guide you on your next steps and serve as an advocate for you throughout the claim process.
When you are hit by an uninsured driver, the hurdles for getting fair compensation for your damages and losses are even higher. It could mean you end up paying the bulk of the medical expenses incurred, as well as losing the opportunity for lost wage reimbursement.
There are precautions you can take to protect yourself against an uninsured driver before an accident.
First, make sure you purchase at least the minimum amount of car insurance coverage. Pennsylvania requires this of all drivers. Currently, the state minimum requirements for car insurance are:
- Medical benefits – $5,000 per accident
- Property damage liability – $5,000 per accident
- Bodily injury liability (BIL) – $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident.
Then consider purchasing more than these amounts. Remember that even a relatively minor injury can cost more than $5,000 in medical expenses, and $5,000 in property damage is not going to replace a totaled vehicle.
Finally, protect yourself ahead of time by buying uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance from your insurer. Every insurance company selling auto insurance in Pennsylvania must offer these policies, and buying them can protect you in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
If you don’t have insurance that covers you in the case of an uninsured driver, you may be able to sue the driver in a car accident lawsuit. Keep in mind, however, that the driver must possess sufficient personal assets to make this step worthwhile. Drivers with significant personal assets generally do not drive without insurance, but there are exceptions.
It may prove possible to pursue a lawsuit against a third party that may have contributed to the accident. For example, if the crash occurred because the other driver’s brakes failed or a tire blew out, the manufacturer is potentially liable because the vehicle or product was defective.
First, you and your attorney will file a complaint or petition with the local court. It’s important not to delay this step as most states have laws limiting how much time you have to do this after the accident.
The complaint will include the allegations you’re making against the other driver as well as the damages you’re seeking. The other driver and his/her insurance company have a set amount of time to respond to this complaint. They must write up an “answer” in which they admit or deny the allegations, and include any potential counterclaims against you. They may say that you were partially responsible for the accident, for example.
Then you will have a set amount of time to respond to those counterclaims.
The Discovery and Deposition Phase
During the next phase of litigation, the parties seek documents, evidence, and other information in a process known as “discovery.” This stage may also involve interviewing witnesses and anyone else with information pertinent to the case and gathering additional documents that may be relevant.
Both sides also have the option at this point to gather “expert” opinions from experts that may be able to shed light on what happened in the accident.
Mediation and Settlement Negotiations
Both parties usually like to avoid the time and uncertainty of a court trial. For this reason, there is usually a period during a car accident lawsuit where the parties have settlement negotiations or go to mediation. Mediation is a type of dispute resolution where a neutral party (called a mediator) tries to help the parties find common ground and come to a settlement agreement.
If this stage of the process works, both parties will agree to a settlement amount and the case will come to a close. If it doesn’t work and the parties cannot agree, the case will likely go to trial.
The Trial Stage
During a trial, a jury listens to each side’s presentation of the evidence, then decides a verdict based on the facts presented and the law in that state. Trials can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks as both parties present their facts, documents, witness testimony, and expert testimony to the judge and jury.
If the jury decides in your favor, you win the verdict. If the jury decides in the other party’s favor, you may decide to file an appeal to a higher court. The appeal option is available only if you have grounds for an appeal, such as the court making a serious error. The appeals part of the process is typically long and arduous and can take a year or more to complete.
When you meet with your attorney, you should be prepared to answer questions such as:
- When did the accident occur?
- How many cars were involved in the accident?
- What happened?
- Were you treated at a hospital?
- When were you treated?
- What injuries are you suffering from?
- Did your injuries prevent you from working?
- If yes, how long were you out of work?
- Are you still suffering from symptoms?
- Have your injuries interrupted your normal everyday life?
In addition to documenting the accident, as described above, it’s also important for you to keep track of any medical documents given to you by your doctor as well as any receipts for prescriptions or other medical care.
If you contact your insurance company before calling an attorney, you should document the date and time of your conversation as well as the name of the person you speak with. And remember—before giving a statement to any insurance company, it’s always best to have legal representation.
Contact a Pittsburgh Auto Accident Lawyer
The most important thing you can do after you receive medical treatment is to contact an experienced auto accident lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA. The Pittsburgh personal injury attorney at Chaffin Luhana will help you recover the money you need to obtain the best medical care and to achieve the highest quality of life.
To find out if you qualify to file an auto accident claim, contact us today or call us 24/7 at 1-888-480-1123.
We represent individuals in auto accidents in West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. We also handle product liability cases nationwide.