Will I have to pay a lawyer upfront?
A: Most injury lawyers today offer a contingent fee agreement to injury clients, which means that not only does the client not have to pay a lawyer’s fee at the start of an injury case, but also that the client will never pay a fee unless the case results in the recovery of money. At Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C., we offer a contingent fee to all of our Pennsylvania personal injury clients and, when appropriate, we offer discounts for cases that do not require as much work as others or which are likely to produce a very large recovery.
What is 'subrogation' and how does it figure into a Pennsylvania injury case?
A: Subrogation is a process by which someone who pays another’s debts may recover their money from a third party who was responsible for the debt in the first place. It’s most commonly employed by insurance companies and public assistance agencies (like DPW or Medicare) who pay medical bills for injuries caused by someone other than the insured.
For example, assume that you have health insurance with Blue Diamond Health Insurance Company. Assume also that you break your ankle in a Pennsylvania slip and fall accident because the store you were visiting (Gigantic Raptor Grocery Store) neglected to warn you that they’d just put down a super-slippery wax on the floor. Blue Diamond will pay all of your medical bills, but they will also have a right to recover the money from Gigantic Raptor Grocery Store.
Understand? Good. Because that’s the easy part. From here, subrogation gets downright difficult.
The right to subrogation flows through the injured person. Consider our Blue Diamond/Gigantic Raptor scenario. Blue Diamond acquires your right to recover the portion of the money that you are entitled to legally recover, with that portion representing the medical bills paid by Blue Diamond. So, let’s assume that you bring a lawsuit against Gigantic Raptor for your injuries. You recover $15,000 in medical bills (which had been paid by Blue Diamond); $10,000 in lost wages; and $20,000 in pain and suffering for a total recovery of $45,000. Blue Diamond may be entitled to take $15,000 of your recovery (less their share of fees and costs). Further, you may have an obligation to protect Blue Diamond’s subrogation rights. So you probably can’t just enter into a settlement agreement for the parts of your claim that you are entitled to recover without also making sure that you’ve protected Blue Diamond’s right to recover the bills they paid on your behalf.
Further complicating matters: not all payors have the same subrogation rights. Medicare, DPW, and worker’s compensation insurers, for example, have “super” rights because state or federal laws give them rights beyond what an ordinary insurance company would have. Further, Pennsylvania laws limit subrogation rights in some particular kinds of Pennsylvania injury lawsuits, including Pennsylvania car accident cases and Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases. Even in those cases, however, there are exceptions. For example, insurers subject to federal regulation (like certain ERISA-qualified plans) may not be subject to state laws because federal law preempts state law.
Pennsylvania subrogation law is a complicated backwater of Pennsylvania injury law and it is one that presents hidden dangers to people who would represent themselves, or to the lawyer who does not routinely handle Pennsylvania personal injury cases.
How long will my Pennsylvania injury case take?
A: The amount of time necessary to resolve a car accident case or truck accident case in Pennsylvania varies greatly from case to case, literally ranging from a few weeks to a few years. The reasons why one case might take longer than another include the complexity of the issues in the case, the degree of injury relative to the available insurance coverage, or the time that it takes to fully appreciate the impact that some injuries have on your life and on the lives of your spouse and children. If you ask a lawyer about how long your case should take, you shouldn’t get an answer that defines the time in months and you certainly shouldn’t get any guarantees. But a lawyer ought to be able to tell whether your case is likely to be one that can be quickly resolved or is more likely to be one that will take more time. (And, of course, the lawyer should explain why.)
How many spinal cord injuries occur in the United States every year?
A: There are no comprehensive national studies on the rate of spinal cord injuries in the United States, but statewide studies suggest that there are approximately 12,000 accidents every year in which someone suffers a spinal cord injury.
Should I keep using Facebook during my Pennsylvania personal injury case?
A: In a word: no. We’d really prefer it if you would stop using social media while your personal injury case is pending. Social media is literally an engine for recording remarks, photos, and video that are taken out of context. Insurance companies and defense lawyers love these sites and make increasingly effective use of the information they find on them to deprive injured people of the compensation to which they would otherwise be entitled. So, no, it’s not a good idea to use social media while your personal injury case is pending.
But we know that this advice may not be practical for many people. We recognize that social media is a growing and increasingly important facet of many of our clients’ lives. So, we’ve posted detailed information explaining how what you’re doing on Facebook (or on some other social media site) right now can be damaging to your case. We’ve also provided five tips to avoid, or at least minimize, the damage.
What are the judge's 'chambers'?
A: A judge’s “chambers” are his or her office within the Courthouse.
What do Erie Injury Lawyers mean when they refer to 'case law'?
A: “Case law” (also known as common law) is the law created by judges when deciding individual disputes.
What if I'm not happy with my Pennsylvania injury lawyer?
A: A good personal injury lawyer will be honest with you about the possible outcomes and options available to you in your case. The lawyer should be on time with deadlines and he or she should keep you informed about what’s happening in your case. If you need to speak with your lawyer, he or she should be available to you within a reasonable amount of time and should return your phone calls in a reasonably prompt manner. Also, while personal injury litigation can take a long time, the lawyer should consistently be moving your case forward.
If you’ve hired a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer but are unhappy and want to change lawyers for any reason, you should know that the process is fairly easy. First, you should find another lawyer with whom you are comfortable. Second, you should notify the first lawyer that you’ve hired another lawyer and are terminating your relationship. Your new lawyer will also contact the first lawyer and arrange for the file materials to be transferred.
Changing lawyers should not cost you extra. While there may be minor fee differences between lawyers, you will not have to pay both fees. Instead, your new lawyer should make arrangements to pay the first lawyer’s costs and, if appropriate, arrange to pay the first lawyer a portion of the fee recovered that fairly compensates the first lawyer for whatever work was performed.
What is a 'civil lawsuit' in Pennsylvania?
A: A “civil lawsuit” is a formal proceeding, filed in a court of law, in which one seeks to right a wrong. In a civil lawsuit, one does not need to prove criminal wrongdoing. One also does not need to prove that the harm was intentionally caused. Civil lawsuits can arise from claims of negligence (or carelessness), breach of contract, and a host of other legal questions. Most civil lawsuits involve the question of paying money damages.
What is Joint and Several Liability?
A: Joint and Several Liability in Pennsylvania is a centuries-old legal doctrine that encourages safety and responsibility. Here is how it works: When two or more people injure someone through negligence, each of them is responsible to pay for his share of the harm caused. However, if one of the wrongdoers can’t pay, then the other must pay the full amount.
Consider this real-life scenario. Two drivers approach an intersection. One of them goes through a red light. The other is drunk and speeding and, if he’d been sober and going the speed limit, could have avoided the collision. Because the drunk is speeding (and drunk), and because the other driver went through the red light, a collision occurs in the intersection. A jury determines that each driver is 50% negligent (50% at fault).
An innocent passenger in the car that went through the red light is injured. The innocent passenger has medical bills that total $100,000. The driver who went through the red light only has $15,000 in coverage and that’s all he can pay. The drunk driver has $100,000 in insurance coverage. Even though the drunk driver was only 50% at fault in the accident, the law requires him to make sure that the innocent injured patient is made whole, so he has to make up the difference and his insurance company will pay $85,000.
Because of joint and several liability, innocent injured people are more likely to recover compensation from people who are responsible for having caused the harm. Without joint and several liability, innocent injured people are more likely to recover less than full compensation and they (or their families or taxpayers or the health care system) are more likely to have to bear the burden of the harm caused by a wrongdoer.
Who or what is a 'defendant' in a Pennsylvania injury lawsuit?
A: A “defendant” is the person against whom a claim is made or suit is filed in a court of law. In some cases, a defendant is a business, like a trucking company or an insurance company.
Who or what is a 'plaintiff' in a Pennsylvania personal injury suit?
A: A “plaintiff” is the person who brings a claim or files suit in a court of law in an effort to right a wrong caused by another person or business.
Will I have to go to court to settle my Pennsylvania injury claim?
A. Almost every Pennsylvania injury case settles without a trial. Many can even be resolved without filing a lawsuit. But if the insurance company denies your claim or refuses to offer a fair settlement, then you may need to file a Pennsylvania injury lawsuit.
A Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit is something best handled with help from an Erie injury lawyer. Even in the early stages of your Pennsylvania injury claim, even when you are just providing information to an insurance company, you will probably be better off with an experienced Pennsylvania injury attorney to help build your case. Your Erie injury attorney will know how best to position your case with the insurance company and, if a lawsuit proves necessary, will be better prepared for having handled your injury case from the beginning.
If the insurance company wrongfully denies your claim or refuses to make you a fair offer, then your only option will be to file a Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit. When you choose your Erie County injury lawyer, make sure that you ask them about their trial experience and the potential that your case has for going to trial. Some lawyers refuse to take cases that end up going to trial, and many have never actually had a Pennsylvania injury trial!