Pennsylvania Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions
Have you been hurt or injured?
In Pennsylvania, individuals are entitled to recover money if the accident or injury was caused by the intentional action, or negligence of another party. Step 1 is always asking whether the plaintiff has actually been hurt or injured. You can have a bad accident, but unless the plaintiff has been physically and/or financially harmed, then there may or may not be a case. Under Pennsylvania law, injured victims of personal injury are entitled to recover for physical, emotional and/or financial harm including the following:
- physical pain,
- emotional pain,
- stress, embarrassment and/or humility;
- past and future medical bills,
- past and future lost wages,
- any other reasonable ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses, and
- loss of the enjoyment of life’s pleasures.
It is up to a jury to determine what is fair compensation for physical and emotional pain. In Pennsylvania, lawyers are not allowed to ask for specific amounts for pain and suffering, and instead jurors are free to use their own life experiences when issuing verdicts and awards.
Was the accident somebody else’s fault?
You can only receive money if someone else caused the injury or accident. To win, you must prove that the other party acted either:
- intentionally, and/or
Negligence is defined as failure to exercise due care. This means that someone else acted carelessly or without adequate caution. Under the law, people are expected to exercise reasonable care around other people. When someone is careless and causes harm, the injured party may sue the responsible party for all of the harm and damage suffered. Proving that another party was negligent is not always easy. The responsible party may not admit fault, and the injured victim will be left having to prove in court that another party was responsible for their damages.
Preponderance of the Evidence
In Pennsylvania personal injury cases, the injured victim must prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” each element of their case. The burden in personal injury cases is less than in criminal cases, where the burden of proof is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. In civil cases, the plaintiff does not have to prove ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. They must only prove their case by a ‘preponderance of the evidence’. The “preponderance of the evidence” test is synonymous with ‘more likely than not’. The jury will basically be asked, was the defendant ‘more likely than not’ negligent? If the jury believes that any element was more probable than not (even ever so slightly), then the plaintiff should prevail.
How do you find the right Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer?
Choosing the right lawyer can mean winning or losing your case. Even in strong cases, it may affect the amount of settlement or award. Injured victims should know that they only receive one chance at a settlement or award, and that they cannot come back later if their condition worsens. It is an undisputed fact that insurance companies pay more money to injured people represented by lawyers than they do to an unrepresented party. Therefore, once it has been determined that someone was injured, and it appears ‘more likely than not’ that another party was responsible, injured victims should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Finding the right lawyer can take time and effort. We strongly encourage injured victims and their families to interview several lawyers before hiring one. We have included here a link to the Top 10 questions to ask before hiring your Pennsylvania personal injury attorney.
At the very least, you should interview and research several lawyers, both online and through family and friends. You should conduct internet research and read as many reviews as possible. You will only get one chance and finding the right lawyer, who is highly competent and motivated to help you, will usually mean a great difference in the outcome of your case.
Should I Settle or Sue?
Settle or sue? It is often is the first important decision in any personal injury case. If liability is strong, the insurance company may want to settle, and there can be benefits to an early settlement. A bird in the hand is a common phrase, which means do not get greedy. Almost all of Pennsylvania is very conservative with the exception of maybe Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and if presented properly, insurance companies will pay prior to filing a lawsuit.
However, while a settlement may sound nice and allow the recovery of money sooner, it is not always the best option. The settlement needs to fully compensate the injured victim for the rest of their life. We believe the best settlements are made through force.
We typically prefer to file suit sooner than later. Lawsuits take a long time. Even fast simple lawsuits can take 18 to 24 months to get to court. Two to three years is the average time most cases in Pennsylvania take before they have a trial. Therefore, unless the insurance company is willing to be fair, in a very short period of time, we prefer to file suit and then grant an extension, if necessary, while we negotiate.
The decision to settle or sue needs to be thoroughly dependent upon the risk versus reward for the client. The only result that matters is the amount of money that the client actually puts into their pocket. Lawsuits can take a long time and costs a lot of money. Considerations should be made of the amount of costs necessary to take the case to trial when considering to settle or not.
There can be advantages to early settlements and it is important in interviewing lawyers to ask what strategies they will use to attempt to settle the case. At the same time, the best settlements are typically obtained when the insurance companies know that the lawyers involved are willing to take the case to trial. You should also always ask how much trial experience any potential lawyer has?
How much money will I keep at the end of my lawsuit?
The last step of the personal injury process is actually getting paid. The good news is that all payments for pain and suffering in personal injury cases are not considered income for tax purposes. Thus, many personal injury settlements are completely tax free in terms of payments to injured victims with limited exception.
The bad news is that the injured victim typically has significant expenses that will need to be paid out of any award or settlement received. All costs need to be fully considered before accepting any settlement. The lawyer will typically be paid their 40%. In addition, injured victims will be responsible for reimbursing the lawyer for any out of pocket expenses the lawyer incurred.
Therefore, it is VERY important for plaintiffs to keep up to date with any costs your lawyer is advancing on their behalf and to question the costs if necessary. Injured victims need to remember that any monies the lawyer is advancing is actually the clients money being spent. Injured victims also need to know whether there are any medical liens or other subrogation claims against the settlement or award.
In most personal injury or medical malpractice cases, there are monies that the plaintiff will owe for reimbursement of medical bills paid. Most health insurance agreements provide that if a 3rd party causes harm, and the injured victim is later compensated, then the insurance company is allowed to seek reimbursement for the medical bills they paid. In the end, the amount the injured victim actually receives can be a much smaller percentage than the total amount actually recovered. Therefore, it is important that if an injured person has a serious personal injury that they very carefully select the lawyer representing their interests, and only hire lawyers that they trust.
What Should I Do After a Personal Injury or Accident?
- First and foremost, seek proper medical attention. You should never make a medical decision based upon a lawsuit. Most personal injury cases are valued based on the medical documentation and treatment records. Docuementing the injuries suffered in a personal injury case can substantially increase the amount of damages obtained.
- Make sure that the accident is reported to the authorities. You should call 911 if involved in an accident so that a police report can be potentially generated. Police reports are an excellent way to document what happened in the accident and to confirm the identity and location of potential witnesses and available insurance coverage.
- If a police report is not possible, you should ask for an incident report to be completed if in fact the accident happens at a commercial location, such as a store or otherwise.
- Take pictures and/or video is appropriate. Pictures may include the accident scene, vehicles and or identity of potential defendants.
- Try to record any and all witnesses’ names and contact information.
- Stay focused on complying with any medical orders. Defendants will often try to mitigate damages by alleging a plaintiff was not complaint with treatment.
- Do not speak to or communicate with the defendants insurance company as the defendant is not entitled to a statement unless from their own insured.
- Consult an experienced personal injury lawyer for a free consultation before speaking to anyone about the accident other than your health care providers as necessary.
Do You Offer Free Consultations on Personal Injury Cases?
Yes. We offer free consultations on all personal injury cases. Please feel free to call or text Managing Attorney Noah Fardo on his cell phone at 412.855.5511 for any personal injury or medical malpractice cases.
How Much Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
The value of your personal injury case depends upon multiple factors including:
- The level of negligence involved;
- The amount of insurance available;
- The long term harm and damages to the Plaintiff.
The value of your personal injury case can vary dramatically from person to person and from case to case. If liability is proven, then under the law, the plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for a variety of damages including:
- past medical bills,
- future medical bills,
- lost wages,
- lost earning capacity, and/or
- other ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses.
Pennsylvania law also allows monetary recovery for pain and suffering, which may include:
- physical pain,
- permanent disfigurement and scarring,
- emotional pain,
- mental anguish,
- humility, and/or
- reduction in the likelihood of marriage.
What Should I Be Asking Personal Injury Lawyers Before Hiring Them?
- What is your contingency fee?
- Will I be responsible for any advanced case costs if we lose?
- Have you tried these types of personal injury cases before?
- Do you have the time necessary to actually work on my case now?
- When will my lawsuit be filed?
- Will my case actually go to trial? And if so, when?
- What is my case worth?
- Will you be the actual attorney handling my case?
- What will my participation in the lawsuit be?
- Will you get me more money than other attorneys and why?
To read more analysis of these questions, please see: “Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Pennsylvania Personal Injury Attorney“.
Should I Talk To The Defendant's Insurance Company?
No. If you are injured, and suspect that another party may be responsible, you should NOT talk to the defendants insurance company directly. Insurance companies against you will attempt to obtain verbal or written statements which you are not required to give. You should hire an attorney to handle all of the verbal and written communications with a defendant's insurance company.
Should I Sign Any Forms With the Defendant's Insurance Company?
Do NOT sign any insurance forms without having them first reviewed by your lawyer. The risks outweigh the benefits. Most often, insurance companies will want you to sign release forms so that they may settle your case or they may try to obtain copies of your medical records. If you need to communicate with an insurance company representing the defendant's interests, it is better to have an attorney handle all of the communications so as not to jeopardize your legal rights.
Is Settlement Possible Or Do I Have To Sue?
It depends. We will always explore settlement options early if we believe it is in the best interests of the client. Many times it will be necessary to file a lawsuit. Even if a lawsuit is filed, a majority of meritorious claims do settle prior to an actual trial. However, we believe the best settlements are obtained by being fully prepared for trial and we treat each case as though a trial will be necessary. This often helps lead to successfully resolving the case without having to go to court.
How Long Will My Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
A typical lawsuit in Pennsylvania typically takes one (1) to two (2) years from the time of filing the complaint. Of course, there are numerous factors including the complexity of the legal issues and the amount of discovery necessary. We try to expedite all Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuits to the best of our ability and try to timely resolve lawsuits to the extent possible.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Pennsylvania?
The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for personal injury cases is two (2) years from when the accident occurred. However, the statute can be extended limited circumstances, such as in injury cases involving minors, (under age 18). In personal injury cases involving minors, the statute of limitations is tolled until two (2) years after the minor's 18th birthday. The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania can also be tolled or extended in certain cases where the plaintiff was unable to be aware of the defendants’ negligence at the time of the accident. In those scenarios, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the plaintiff knew, had reason to know, or should have known of the defendants’ negligence. If you are unsure whether your case is within the Pennsylvania statute of limitations, you should take action immediately.
What Does a Tort Mean?
A “tort” means a wrong by definition. A civil tort can be done negligently or intentionally. Both types of torts allow wronged individuals in Pennsylvania to file a lawsuit and to recover monetary damages for these wrongs.
What Is An Intentional Tort?
An intentional tort in Pennsylvania simply means that a wrong was caused intentionally (with the specific intent of causing harm or damage to another). Intentional torts sometimes can include the addition of punitive damages (which are damages aimed at punishing defendants).
What Does Negligence Mean?
Negligence is the breach of a duty of care to another. It has a legal definition that is similar to being careless. In Pennsylvania, for a party to be liable for negligence, there must be a breach of a duty which directly and proximately causes harm or damage to another party. When a party is negligent in violating a Pennsylvania statute or law, it can be known as negligence per se.
What is Negligent Entrustment?
Section 308 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts defines Negligent Entrustment and this definition is as follows:
“It is negligence to permit a third person to use a thing or to engage in an activity which is under the control of the actor, if the actor knows or should know that such person intends or is likely to use the thing or to conduct himself in the activity in such a manner as to create an unreasonable risk of harm to others.”
Negligent entrustment can be pled in a variety of scenarios and a situation in which you will often see it applied is in the case of a car accident.
For a negligent entrustment claim to prevail in a car accident claim, the following criteria must be met:
- The owner of a vehicle permitted a person to use the vehicle.
- This person who was permitted to use the vehicle was incompetent and/or unfit to drive. What does “incompetent to drive” mean? There is not a clear definition, but this could mean that the driver was underage, the driver was unlicensed, or the driver was intoxicated, the driver was ill or disabled. It could also mean someone who has a past history of causing car accidents or who has been cited pursuant to the motor vehicle code previously.
- The owner of the vehicle knew or should have known this person was incompetent to drive.
- The person was actually negligent on such occasion in which they were permitted to drive the vehicle; and
- The person’s negligence actually caused the accident.
A Negligent Entrustment is a separate cause of action than the Negligence action against the actual driver who caused the car accident. In a Complaint in Civil Action, these will be listed as two separate counts.
If you have any reason to believe that Negligent Entrustment is applicable in your car accident case, you should plead it in your Complaint along with the Negligence count against the driver as the statute of limitation is two (2) years from the date of the accident.
Is There Really No Fee Unless We Win?
Yes. Our representation for all personal injury cases is based on a contingent fee structure. There is absolutely no fee unless we obtain recovery for you. We advance 100% of the litigation costs, including experts, filings, and depositions and are only reimbursed from the client’s share if we are successful.
Can I get an Immediate Consultation for My Personal Injury or Accident Case?
Yes. Simply text or call Managing Attorney Noah Fardo on his cell phone at 412.855.5511 for a confidential no obligation consultation.
What Is The Standard Contingency Agreement?
Almost all personal injury lawyers, if there is merit to a case, will offer representation on a contingency fee agreement. The contingency fee means that the lawyers payment or fee is contingent upon an actual recovery. In the contingent fee agreement, there is no risk to injured clients of owning any monies even if the case is not successful. Contingent fee agreements should motivate lawyers to obtain maximum compensation as the lawyer fee is directly tied to the outcome of the case.
How Are Costs Calculated In Personal Injury Cases?
We have all heard that there is no fee unless there is recovery in a personal injury case. What most people do not know is that the costs of the case are deducted from the clients’ money. This is the reason why some personal injury lawyers actually receive more money than their clients in settlements and verdicts.
- EXAMPLE: Case settles for $100,000.00 Lawyer Charges 40%: (or $40,000.00) Client’s portion is 60%: (or $60,000.00). However, what you do not know is the costs. You never hear lawyers explain in advertising how the costs are then deducted. For example, if the lawyers spent $11,000.00 on costs, then the client would only receive $49,000.00 (their share $60,000.00 minus the costs $11,000.00 = $49,000.00), and the lawyer would receive $51,000.00 (atty fee $40,000.00 + costs $11,000.00 = $51,000.00).
The lawyer received more than the client? Though it is absolutely necessary for personal injury lawyers to spend money on case costs, lawyers have a lot of discretion in how exactly this money is spent. Clients are rarely ever told their options about the costs of experts or other various costs associated with litigating their case. Lawyers can very easily spend excessively to pursue a case, knowing that the money will ultimately be paid back by the client. For example, is your lawyer flying first class or coach? What hotel is your lawyer staying at?
We always recommend that our clients stay involved with the costs as the case progresses. Ask your lawyer to always send you a copy of every check spent on costs. This will save you money, because lawyers will be more cognizant of the spending.
Why Should I Choose Flaherty Fardo as My Personal Injury Attorneys?
- Over 25 Years Experience
- Millions and Millions Recovered For our Injured Clients
- Hundreds of 5 Star Reviews
- Passionate and Dedicated Representation
- We Treat Each and Every Case as Unique
- We Develop Relationships That Last Decades and Focus on Client Satisfaction
In serious personal injury cases, it is important that clients feel comfortable with the personal injury lawyers chosen. There needs to be teamwork between the lawyers and the client. We understand that a financial award can never fully compensate an individual for a significant injury or for the loss of a loved one when a serious personal injury or accident occurs. However, monetary compensation can help to make the burden of injury or loss, at the very least, economically bearable.
Our goal is to maximize monetary recovery. Serious personal injuries and accidents are never planned and can wreak financial disaster in a family’s life. Our work cannot lessen the emotional and/or physical trauma that loved ones suffer. However, we attempt to mitigate the financial hardships and bring justice for the negligence and/or malpractice of others.
What Do Your Personal In jury Past Clients Say?
“Noah Fardo is a 5-star lawyer. I underwent a medical procedure that unfortunately went wrong. Reluctantly, I took a chance and found Noah through the Yellow Pages. When Noah took my case, my experience in working with him exceeded far beyond my expectations. He respected and reciprocated with me on my personal viewpoints of the case, yet dealt with me realistically on possible outcomes. He kept in touch with me through every step of the process, alleviating much of the anxiety associated with a lawsuit. He responded to my ongoing questions, comments and concerns almost immediately. I felt like we were a team and when the case finally came to execution, he left no stone un-turned. Most importantly, he fought for me equipped with total knowledge, vigor and professionalism.” Mary, Pittsburgh, PA
“3 years ago, I sustained an injury which I believed I needed an attorney. After countless phone conversations with many law firms that said, no, I did not have a case based on our phone conversation, I finally was able to get at least a personal interview with the law firm Flaherty and Fardo to determine if indeed I had a case. I met with Noah Fardo and he was very professional. After our meeting it was determined that his law firm would help me. The entire staff, from legal secretaries and lawyers, were very professional, compassionate and thorough. The law firm of Flaherty and Fardo made me feel like I was their only client. They kept me informed weekly with the progress of my case. They were able to win my case and I was awarded a monetary value beyond my expectations. I highly recommend them if you want it done right. Even to date they call me to see how I am doing. Flaherty and Fardo were truly a godsend to me and my family.” D.L., Pittsburgh, PA
“I’d never been involved in a lawsuit concerning a death before. But, when my uncle died unexpectedly in his apartment after the local utility company shut off his heat, I decided to ask several lawyers if they felt that the company was negligent. Attorney Noah Fardo was the only one who looked deeply into the details of the case and then decided a wrong had indeed occurred. Hands down, I’m glad that he was so thorough in his investigations. Attorney Fardo walked me through the entire case, basically, hand-in-hand. He’d call to update me through every stage of litigation, and when he had any news at all to report. I was never in the dark… or lost and confused about anything. I appreciated, so much, the personal touch he had with my case. I have to say, if there was an attorney who was ever so determined, and unrelenting, it’s Noah Fardo. Now my case has been successfully won and the estate received a large settlement. I can leave the trauma in the past. Thank you, Noah!!” Peter, Pittsburgh, PA
“Hi Noah and Shawn, Thank you. I had no idea what to expect filing my first lawsuit. I really didn’t even want to file it. You guys did a phenomenal job and me and my family can’t thank you enough. I hope I never need you again, but if I, or anyone I know does, I absolutely will recommend you.” Thanks again guys, we really appreciate it!” Robert, Pittsburgh, PA
If you or a loved one has been injured and would like to discuss your case, please feel free to call Managing Attorney Noah Fardo directly at (412) 855-5511
Free Consultations: (412) 855-5511