5 Steps To Take If You Have Been Injured In A Bicycle Accident
This guide contains five critical steps to take if you have suffered injuries in a bike accident in Pennsylvania.
1. Report The Accident Accurately And In DetailCall the police from the accident scene if you are able to do so. Do NOT allow the driver who hit you to convince you not to report the incident to the police or their insurance company. Sometimes, injuries and damage to your bicycle are not immediately apparent. If you are injured you may be too distracted to focus and should have the police there to do a proper investigation, plus get valid ID and insurance information from the driver who hit you. Get the names of any witnesses (including phone numbers!) and make sure the police have access to those names and numbers.
Also, be sure to report the accident to each insurance company involved, both your household auto insurance and the other driver's auto insurance company. Do not make the mistake of assuming that the other driver will report the incident because many times, even in very serious accidents, they do not. In PA, your automobile insurance (if you have any) will pay your medical bills up to the limit of your coverage under the PA No-Fault (PIP). You will need to get a medical claim number from your auto insurance company and provide that to all medical providers treating you for your injuries. If you do not have auto insurance, the other driver's auto insurance will pay your medical bills. In this scenario, you will need a claim number from the other driver's insurance company for medical billing.
2. Seek Necessary Medical Treatment ImmediatelyBe sure to seek medical care promptly because failure to do this can greatly damage your case. In addition, sometimes head injuries that initially seem minor can turn out to be life threatening. If you have struck your head, even if you were wearing a helmet, go to the ER for a full evaluation immediately. Don't worry about the ER bill, as auto insurance will normally cover the initial bills, after which your health insurance or Medicaid will kick in if you have either. Be sure to tell the doctor that you were hit by a car while riding your bike so that the doctor is clear that you didn't simply fall off.
3. Diagram, Document and Photograph The Scene As Well As Your InjuriesNote the exact location of the point of impact with your bike and the direction of movement of any other vehicle involved in the accident. Note any debris and any marks caused by tires on the roadway from the accident. If you are incapacitated, ask a witness or family member at the scene to do this for you and make sure it is given to the police because they arrive after the collision and will not have actually seen the accident under normal circumstances. Take or have another person take photos with a cell phone or camera of all debris, the positions of the vehicles after the collision, the license plate of the car that hit you and, if possible, the driver of the car that hit you. Once you are in a safe location, have a family member or friend take photos of your visible injuries.
4. Preserve EvidenceMake sure the damage to your bike is documented by a reputable bike repair shop and photographed to preserve evidence of the damage. Consult with your lawyer to determine whether you can authorize repairs to begin or should wait until all the insurance companies are able to see the bike first. Be certain to preserve any damaged items of apparel/equipment you were wearing or using on your bike at the time of the accident such as helmet, gloves, boots, pants, jacket, glasses, backpack. Do not wash any of it or throw it away. Put all of your clothing/equipment in storage in plastic bags and do not launder any of it. Photograph all of it so that you have pictures to show your attorney to avoid carrying all of it to your initial consultation.
5. Consult With An Experienced Personal Injury LawyerAs soon as your immediate medical needs are under control, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Do not speak to someone who is a "jack of all trades"-make sure it is someone who comes highly recommended, with great reviews who practices exclusively in the area of personal injury cases and has many years of experience. Remember that the insurance adjuster will try to convince you he is trying to help you to prevent you from hiring a lawyer because his only goal is to save money for the insurance company. They have years of experience trying to quickly railroad a settlement from inexperienced accident victims and you will be at a complete disadvantage which they will exploit if you are not represented. Consult with a lawyer BEFORE you speak to the adjuster or sign any forms. You are under no obligation to return the call of the other driver's insurance company who will bully you into saying and doing things contrary to your interest. A consultation with a personal injury lawyer is FREE, and you will owe no advance fees. Personal Injury lawyers are paid on a contingent fee basis, meaning you do not pay a cent until the lawyer wins or settles your case. We are here to protect you!
Written by attorney Sandra B. Worthington | October 18, 2020
How To Know Whether You Need A Lawyer For Your Car Accident Case
Some cases clearly require the representation of a lawyer for a successful result, but some may not. The following factors would make it fairly clear you should have a lawyer.
- If you were taken away in an ambulance, you probably need a lawyer
Were your injuries so severe that you needed an ambulance to take you to the ER or trauma center for immediate medical treatment? Normally, the need for an ambulance indicates that your medical bills are going to be high enough that you will need a lawyer for your case.
- If you missed more than a week of time at work, you probably need a lawyer
Wage loss is recoverable in a car accident case IF you have the right coverage on your own policy. If you didn't have wage loss coverage in your policy (it is optional in PA), then you would need to seek your lost pay from the defendant driver's policy, assuming the accident was the other person's fault. If you lost a week or more of work due to the accident, you should speak to an attorney about your auto accident case. If you have a disability note from your doctor taking you out of work for that period, a lawyer would help in getting reimbursement.
- If the insurance adjuster is acting strangely you probably need a lawyer
If the insurance company is delaying your claim, not returning phone calls, requesting odd information, requiring you to sign forms, bullying you into giving a recorded statement, telling you you must meet with them to discuss and/or photograph your injuries in person or disputing your medical care, they may be preparing to fight your claim. You definitely would benefit by hiring a lawyer if this is happening.
- If the accident resulted in a permanent disability, you definitely need an experienced lawyer
Injuries from an accident which result in a physical disability can affect your ability to earn wages, participate in your hobbies and sometimes even affect your ability to live independently. An example of this might be a severe head injury or concussion, or a fractured spine. It is critical that you are compensated fairly for injuries with possible lifelong implications. You need to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately if your accident injuries resulted in a physical disability. Keep in mind you do not have to find a lawyer from your hospital bed-your statute of limitations on your PA accident case is normally two years from the date of accident. However, the sooner you get a good lawyer involved in your case, the better the lawyer can thoroughly investigate and prepare to get you the best possible result in your case. Remember that witnesses can be hard to find and, often, the longer you wait the more difficult it can be to find them and convince them to cooperate.
Written by attorney Sandra B. Worthington | October 15, 2020
How to Determine Whether You Can Trust the Defendant's Insurance Adjuster
Many accident victims believe they will be treated fairly by the Defendant's insurance adjuster when the accident is clearly the other driver's fault. Don't believe that for a second.
- Three critical questions to ask
Here are three critical questions to ask before you give a recorded statement to the other guy's insurance company: 1. Ask the defendant's adjuster whether if you give him a recorded statement, he will give you a copy of the statement he took from his insured (the guy that caused the accident). If he says he can't do that, he is being deceitful. Of course, he could do that! It isn't against any law. He just doesn't want you to have it because it could HELP your case against them. Why is it fair for him to try to strong-arm you into giving a recorded statement, then keep his insured's secret? That just isn't fair and you cannot trust him. 2. Ask the defendant's adjuster whether if you give a recorded statement to help him, will he pay all your accident-related lost wages and unpaid medical bills. If he says no -- ask "why not"? He will tell you the insurance company "cannot" pay any of that until you agree to a settlement or until the end of the case. He will say they are not allowed to pay any of that due to company policy and procedure. What is he really trying to do? He is trying to put you in DIRE financial circumstances so you are desperate to settle and will accept any money they throw your way just to protect your good credit and keep a roof over your head. He cannot be trusted. 3. Ask the defendant's adjuster whether if you give a recorded statement he will agree to tell you now what policy limits his insured (the defendant) has on his insurance policy. He will tell you he cannot do that as it is against procedure or he cannot do that and his "hands are tied" unless his insured (the guy who caused the accident) gives consent for him to divulge it. That is, simply put. "B.S." There is no law that says he cannot disclose the policy limit to you. And, wouldn't it give you peace of mind to know whether you might be made whole after his driver caused you to lose months of work and suffer months or years of pain? Of course, but he doesn't care -- because he works for the insurance company and insurance companies are in business to make money, not to compensate you for your out-of-pocket loss and your pain and suffering.
- About Insurance Adjusters...
You are Thinking: "The insurance adjuster sounds so warm and caring. He wants to help me." NO, NO, NO. He is trained by the insurance company to sound that way. He is trying to get a recorded statement to find weaknesses in your case, to prove you were not injured, or that you somehow contributed to your own injuries or caused the accident. The insurance adjuster will also try to get you to sign documents, including blanket HIPAA forms to allow the insurance company to retrieve all your medical and psychological records since you emerged from the womb. DO NOT sign a blanket, all encompassing HIPAA form for the insurance company. The adjuster will tell you he cannot pay your medical bills unless he has all the records and bills to make sure they are accident-related. The truth? He isn't going to pay those bills right now anyway -- he is fishing for your past medical and psychological conditions to destroy your case. How do I know all this? I worked for a huge insurance company and an independent adjusting company before I was a lawyer -- I know their tactics, and they are not meant to help injured accident victims. They are meant to destroy or diminish your claim.
How to Choose the Best Personal Injury Lawyer for YOUR Case
This short guide will help you to pick a lawyer who will be best suited to win your case.
1. How NOT to Pick a Lawyer
These are methods you should NOT use to pick your lawyer but are common mistakes. The number one method by which you should NOT select an attorney is that he has sent you a solicitation by mail or has called upon you without your request. As sad as I am to say this, there are attorneys who will "ambulance chase" even in this day and age. I have had clients come to me with a stack of letters received from attorneys who have somehow determined the client was in an accident and are soliciting the case. One such client told me that her car accident had not even been in the local newspaper police blotter yet. She had no idea HOW the lawyer got her name and address. While a lawyer is allowed to send solicitation letters to potential clients, you should probably run and hide from such a lawyer. If he has received your accident information from a source like a towing company or a dispatcher, he is probably paying for that service. THAT is unethical. If a lawyer would do that, what ethical boundaries will he transcend in your case. You do not want an unethical lawyer, no matter how cheap his contingent fee may be or how pretty his business card or web site may be.
2. These are lawyers you should avoid at all costs
This section describes the type of attorney you should run from.... fast. As stated previously, you should never hire a lawyer who contacted you first. Also, you should shy away from choosing a lawyer who has the biggest ad in the phone book. All that means is that he has paid a boat load of money for a gigantic ad. It says nothing about the quality of his skills or how much he will care about your case. In fact, often, the lawyer with the biggest, most expensive ads are the ones that have hundreds of cases they funnel through as if on a conveyor belt-You don't want to be on that conveyor belt. Your case deserves the individual attention of the lawyer you hired. Your case should not be passed off to an inexperienced associate in the office. The lawyer you HIRED is the one who should be handling the important aspects of your case unless he has told you an associate would be taking over. If you have not met the associate, you basically will not know who is handling your case!
3. This is the Way You SHOULD Evaluate a Lawyer's Capability to Win your case
These are the best steps to use to find the right attorney for your case. Start by asking family members if they have had a good experience with a personal injury lawyer whom they would highly recommend. If nobody in your family has had an accident case in which they highly recommend their attorney, go to the lawyer search tool of Avvo.com. You can not only find a lawyer in the specific geographical area in which you wish, but also see that lawyer's experience and what clients say about him or her. You can also see what other lawyers have said about the lawyer you are interested in. Focus on the reviews and attorney endorsements, but also on the number of years of experience the lawyer has and whether your type of case involves a type of case in which the lawyer has a LOT of experience . If you have a dog bite case, you should not be hiring a lawyer who has not handled many of these. Don't be shy-call and ask if the information is not clear. You need a lawyer with LOTS of experience in the type of case you have-not a jack of all trades who handles Estates, Landlord Tenant disputes and other matters totally unrelated to accidents. The more experience, the better!
4. Other Methods of Selecting an Attorney if All Else Fails, or if No Lawyer is Willing to Discuss your Case for Free
If you cannot find a lawyer you like, these are additional methods of picking counsel for your case. Call your local bar association. They will be able to give you the names of attorneys signed up for the Lawyer Referral Service in that county. Most counties offer this service and you will either get a free consultation or a very cheap one, if it turns out your case is one a lawyer cannot accept on a contingent fee basis. If you have little or no income, the County Legal Aid department may be able to give you guidance.
Written by attorney Sandra B. Worthington | October 16, 2020
Dog Bite Injury: Do's and Don'ts
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, there are certain steps you should or should not take to protect your claim.
- Seek Medical Help Immediately
The very first thing you need to do if you are bitten or attacked by a dog is to seek medical care immediately. If the injury appears serious, go to your local emergency room for care. Be sure to give the staff any information you have regarding the dog and its owners as the doctor will have to report the incident to the local board of health for public safety reasons (i.e. to prevent spread of rabies). Use your health insurance for this visit if you have any. If you do not have health insurance, you may qualify for a reduced scale payment on your bill as a "self-paying" patient.
- Do Not Get into a Verbal Dispute with the Dog Owner
It will not help in any way to get into an altercation with the dog owner about fault for the incident. This will be sorted out later by your lawyer. Plus,you may, understandably, say or do things out of anger which will be harmful to the case.
- Write Down Names and Telephone Numbers of Witnesses
At some point it will be critical to prove how the dog bite or attack occurred. There is no better way to do this than with a clear description by a disinterested witness (who has no vested interest in the outcome of the case) but even a friend or relative is a better witness than no witness!
- Photograph EVERYTHING Related to the Bite or Attack
You cannot have too many photos of your injuries as they progress through the healing process. In addition, photos of the attacking dog, any fence enclosing it, any signs on the owner's house or fence indicating a warning about the dog will be very helpful to your lawyer in proving who was at fault for the injury and the extent of the injuries. The photos taken over time of the healing injuries and eventual scarring will help your lawyer to prove your pain and suffering.
- Do Not Sign Any Document or Speak or Meet with Any Representative from the Attacking Dog's Owner's I
There is nothing the dog owner's insurance company would rather do than to get a chance to discuss the incident with you at length and try to persuade you to deal directly with them rather than a lawyer who would protect your rights. The insurance company adjuster or investigator will make you promises to the moon and back about paying your medical bills. You will want to believe this is true but it usually is NOT true. First, they would ask you to sign a blanket medical record release form which would enable them to review all your medical and psychological records since birth. The great majority of your medical and psychological history is and should be confidential, but you may be tempted to sign because you are afraid of all the medical bills which will be coming in and the cost of possible future plastic surgery. The adjuster will be charming and make promises that will not be kept. Do not speak to or sign anything for the insurance company unless your lawyer tells you to do so.
- Hire a Lawyer You Trust and Believe In
You need a lawyer who handle a lot of dog bite and animal attack cases as this type of case is very different than others. Do not hire a lawyer who has a "general" practice, listing Wills, landlord tenant disputes, real estate law and personal injury cases. This type of lawyer is often a jack of all trades, but master of none. You need a lawyer who has a lot of experience but also one you can trust. Many cases involve bites or attacks on children. You want a lawyer who you believe will leaving no stone unturned in obtaining the best possible result for your child or loved one. Review client reviews and testimonials on Avvo or other legal sites or contact your local bar association for a referral.
- Get a Free Copy of the PA Dog Bite Book
Worthington Law Group offers a free copy of the PA Dog Bite Book published as a guide for dog bite victims. The book is available for $16.95 on Amazon, but you can get a free copy, no questions asked and no strings attached by contacting Worthington Law Group by phone or on their website at www.WorthingtonLawGroup.com
Do I have a good slip and fall case?
By Sandra Worthington, Esq.
The law varies from state to state regarding requirements an accident victim must meet to successfully pursue a slip and fall claim. This guide deals specifically with Pennsylvania law.
- I slipped and badly injured myself-don't I get money no matter how it happened?
Not every case is a good case. There are numerous elements that must be proved by the accident victim to win such a case. Cases involving ice and snow are some of the most complicated from a legal standpoint due to something called the "hills and ridges doctrine". This doctrine is so complex many lawyers do not fully understand it. For this reason, it is critical to have a lawyer who is experienced in this type of case. If you do not prove the necessary elements you will lose the case.
- What must I prove to win my case?
In short, you must prove the business or property owner was negligent and his negligence caused your accident and your injury. There are four specific elements you must prove and most non-lawyers would not understand how to do that to win a case.
- Do I need a lawyer or can I just handle it myself to avoid paying legal fees?
Most cases are too complicated for a lay person to handle successfully, but not always. You certainly don't want to "wing it" hoping to save legal fees and then end up getting nothing at all. That is penny wise and pound foolish! In addition, most people have no idea that in PA you must REPAY your health insurance carrier for the bills they paid relating to your injury IF and only if you pursued a claim against the property or business owner and received some kind of settlement or financial award. Your health insurance carrier will file a lawsuit against you if you do not protect their interest which is contained in the policy of insurance (that noboby ever reads!). A good and experienced personal injury lawyer will know this and make sure you do not get sued by your own health insurance company.
- How do I find a good lawyer for my slip and fall case?
Methods of picking just the right lawyer for your case include searching for someone on Avvo.com, asking a family member or friend who had a similar case and was pleased with the lawyer, calling your local bar association to request a referral to an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Firing Your Personal Injury Lawyer
by Sandra Worthington, Esq.
Not all personal injury lawyers are created equally. I often receive complaints from clients that their lawyers are not returning their calls or answering their questions. Some lawyers are involved in law practices that are like conveyor belts, channeling in tons of new cases by using TV ads. Some lawyers use an unethical approach we call using "runners" to find accident cases and refer them to a particular lawyer or firm. This is in complete violation of the Canons of Ethics in PA and most jurisdictions. Often these lawyers will pay a towing firm or someone else involved in the initial phase after an accident to obtain information regarding an accident victim to solicit the case. Of course, aside from being unethical, this practice gives a terrible impression of the legal profession. Keep in mind, you should never hire an attorney who has suddenly contacted you without telling you how they got your name and contact information. This being said, sometimes a lawyer you have chosen by appropriate means will fail to meet your expectations by not returning calls, not dealing with critical issues relating to your case, or not properly preparing for court.
If this type of behavior is repeatedly occurring in your relationship with your lawyer, it may be time to find a new lawyer who will offer you prompt, courteous and aggressive representation. All you need to do is find the lawyer you wish to hire and ask for assistance in how to transfer your file to the new lawyer. Usually, the new lawyer will help you draft a letter to the prior firm to dismiss them. The fact that you signed a fee agreement or contract with the prior lawyer does NOT mean you cannot change lawyers. A lot of people erroneously believe that they cannot discharge their lawyer because they signed a "contract". It may be true that your new lawyer would owe a portion of his or her fee on your case to the prior lawyer if the case is won or favorably resolved, but that will not involve any payment out of your pocket! It will simply reduce the fee of the new lawyer. The end result will be that you will have a new lawyer who will meet your needs.
How do you choose a new lawyer? Look at the credentials of the new lawyers you are considering. Look for a lot of experience exclusively in the area of law your case would fall into. In this case, we are discussing personal injury cases, so you would want a lawyer who practices exclusively in that area of expertise. You do not want a "jack of all trades, master of none" or you may be in the same boat you were in with the first lawyer. Also, look at any client testimonials and read on Avvo what other lawyers say about your new prospective lawyer. This is too important a decision to risk picking someone from a TV ad or billboard. Research your lawyer!
And do NOT fire your first lawyer until your next one has agreed to take your case. You need continuous representation to avoid missing any deadlines on your case. Good luck!
What Auto Insurance Coverages are Necessary to Protect Me in Pennsylvania?
By Sandra B. Worthington, Esq.
- There is no such thing as "Full Coverage" under the PA Motor Vehicle Code-don't confuse this term with the term "Full Tort"!
Many times a client injured in a car accident will come into my office and tell me they are fully protected and have "full coverage". I look at their insurance policy and see that they have liability coverage and collision coverage but also "Limited Tort", as opposed to "Full Tort" coverage. They say their agent told them they have full coverage but this is quite misleading. Do not make the mistake of signing away your Full Tort coverage or you may not be able to file a claim for your injuries AT ALL. If you want further information and details about the meaning of "Full Tort" call (215) 576-5150 or go to www.WorthingtonLawGroup.com and request a copy of our free book called "The PA Accident Book: Five Deadly Sins that can Wreck your Injury Claim" The book explains the reasons you DO NOT WANT to purchase Limited Tort regardless of the fact that it is less expensive. It just isn't worth the risk!
- You need Uninsured AND Underinsured motorist coverage even though they are not required by law!
Many people in PA and elsewhere are driving vehicles with NO INSURANCE or too little insurance to protect you if they hit and injure you. You need UNINSURED and UNDERINSURED Motorist Coverage. Of course it is illegal to drive without insurance, but many feel that if they don't get caught (or in an accident) why purchase it? There is very little enforcement of the law requiring drivers to have insurance. Why take a chance? Others purchase the cheapest auto policy they possibly can. You know what the mimimum coverage is in PA? $15,000 per person/ $30,000 per incident. If you were seriously injured by an underinsured driver with a $15,000 policy, would you be "made whole"? I don't think so. You need to protect yourself and your family by purchasing Underinsured Motorist coverage. Both of these coverages are very inexpensive compared to the basic liability coverage. Call your agent today and ask to buy these two critical coverages.
- More than one in thirteen vehicles that you encounter on the highways of PA are uninsured!
This is a fact cited in a report on "Affordability and Availability of Auto Insurance in Southeastern PA", as reported by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. Are you shocked by this? I certainly was. I have the highest Uninsured Motorist Coverage policy limit my company will sell me. I do not ever want to be the victim of the one out of thirteen! You need to call your agent and purchase the following immediately:
1. Full Tort
2. Uninsured Motorist Coverage (the highest limit you can afford)
3. Underinsured Motorist Coverage (the highest limit you can afford)
Every week we hear from clients we CAN"T represent because they did not purchase these critical insurance coverages. Don't be foolish-call your agent today.
Additional resources provided by the author
For additional information, check "The PA Accident Book: Five Deadly Sins that can Wreck your Injury Claim" or go online to www. WorthingtonLawGroup.com. or just call us for a free, no-strings-attached consultation regarding your case-215-576-5150