I believe that it is important for all injury victims to understand the basics of personal injury law in Pennsylvania. Understanding these concepts can help you understand your case, legal options, and rights. In addition, some legal knowledge can help you determine whether you may need the assistance of a Philadelphia personal injury attorney. Below, I have answered a number of general questions about Pennsylvania personal injury law.
What is negligence?
Under Pennsylvania law, negligence is defined as: “Failure to use ordinary care, that is, failing to do that which a person of ordinary prudence would have done under the same or similar circumstances or doing that which a person of ordinary prudence would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.”
This means that if someone did not act reasonably, or did not show a reasonable amount of care, they were negligent. For example, if the stairwell in a building had no handrails, and someone falls down the stairs, they may be found negligent for having no handrails when they should have.
Do I still have a personal injury case if I was partially at fault for my accident?
If you were no more than than 50% at fault for your accident, you may still be able to collect damages from the other at-fault party or parties. However, the amount you collect will reflect your own involvement in your injury. For example, if someone else were found to be 60% responsible for your injuries, they would also be responsible for 60% of your medical expenses and lost wages. This legal concept is called comparative negligence.
What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are rewarded to the injury victim in order to punish the offending party and set an example for others. These damages, also known as exemplary damages, are only awarded in Pennsylvania injury cases where the at-fault party displayed “outrageous or wanton misconduct.” For example, punitive damages might be awarded if your car accident was caused by a trucking company that purposely retained a dangerous driver, or if a company continued to sell a defective product knowing that consumers would likely be seriously injured.
Can my healthcare insurer receive money from my personal injury settlement?
Yes, many health insurance policies contain clauses that require injury victims to pay back healthcare costs when they receive personal injury settlements. This is because the healthcare company initially paid for your medical expenses out of its own pocket and expects the responsible third party to pick up the bill in the future. This is called a healthcare lien.
As your personal injury attorney, I can both negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company and negotiate with your healthcare lien holder. Both of these negotiations are designed to put money in your pocket and get your medical expenses taken care of in a fair manner.
Can my personal injury lawyer settle my case without my express consent?
In some cases, if you have signed an agreement with your personal injury attorney, your lawyer can settle your case and sign the paperwork without your consent. However, I would like to make it clear that I will never settle your case without explaining the settlement to you, talking to you about other options, and reviewing the risks of not accepting the offer. At my law offices, I believe in fully partnering with my clients and making sure they are aware and educated at every step in the settlement process. You should be part of every decision, from beginning to end.
Schedule a Private Meeting with PA Personal Injury Attorney Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esquire
As you can see, personal injury law can be complicated and confusing. Meeting one-on-one with a Pennsylvania personal injury attorney can help you better understand your case and the legal system. I recommend that all injury victims and their families sit down with an experienced PA accident lawyer to discuss their case before making any big decisions. To schedule your consultation today, please call my offices at 1-800InjuryLaw (1-800-465-8795) or fill out the online contact form and I will get back to you within 24 hours.