Frequently Asked Questions
PERSONAL INJURY FAQS
Below are frequently asked questions often asked of our Personal Injury Attorneys:
Q: WHAT IS A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
A: A personal injury claim arises when an individual is injured as a result of the negligence of another individual or entity. Negligence occurs when an individual or entity fails to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in the circumstances presented. Negligent conduct may consist either of an act or a failure to act where there is a duty to do so, and as a result, an injury is suffered.
Q: WHY SHOULD I PURSUE A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
A: If it can be proven that an individual and/or entity was negligent and that negligence was a factual cause of the injury, then you may be able to recover monetary damages to compensate you for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. Pursuing a personal injury claim might also prompt the defendant(s) to change their behavior and spare others from suffering similar injuries.
Q: WHAT DO I DO IF I AM INJURED AS A RESULT OF SOMEONE ELSE’S NEGLIGENCE?
A: First, you should notify the responsible party that you have been hurt. For example, if you are injured in a store or supermarket, you should notify the management. It is important for you to note whom you spoke to about the incident and what, if any, response was given. If there are any witnesses to your injury, you should take their names and phone numbers, as their statements may become vital to your claim. If your injury was caused by an object (i.e., a shelving unit, door, etc.) or dangerous condition (i.e., an icy sidewalk, water in a supermarket aisle, etc.), you should take a photograph of the same, if possible. Finally, you should seek medical attention immediately for your injuries. Thereafter, you should bring all the information you gathered to your attorney who will be able to determine if you can recover from the individual or entity that caused your injury.
Q: IF I HAVE A VIABLE CLAIM, HOW WILL I BE COMPENSATED?
A: There are two types of damages that are recoverable in a personal injury case - compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages compensate you for the monetary losses you have incurred, such as past and future medical expenses; past lost wages if you missed work as a result of your injury; future lost wages if your injury has rendered you permanently disabled; and damages for past, present and future pain and suffering, embarrassment, and/or mental anguish resulting from your injury. If you are married at the time of your injury, your spouse may also be able to recover injuries for loss of companionship/consortium and/or loss of household services.
Punitive damages are a type of damages intended to punish the individual or entity that caused your injuries. These damages are only recoverable in rare and/or extraordinary cases where an individual or entity has engaged in outrageous or recklessly indifferent conduct.
Q: HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO BRING A CLAIM AFTER I AM INJURED?
A: The statute of limitations for bringing a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania is two years from the date of your injury. If you do not bring a claim within this time frame, you will be forever barred from recovering for your injuries.
Q: HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY TO LITIGATE MY PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
A: HKQ engages in a contingency fee agreement with clients who bring personal injury claims. This means, if we are successful in litigating your claim, we will be entitled to a portion of your recovery, plus any costs we expended pursuing your claim. If we are unsuccessful in litigating your claim, you pay nothing.
AUTO ACCIDENT FAQS
Q: WHY SHOULD I TALK TO AN ATTORNEY?
A: The lawyers at HKQ have decades of experience handling automobile accident claims. Automobile insurance - and how it applies when someone is injured in an accident - is governed by a complex scheme of statutes known as the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law. The law is complicated and constantly changing through many different interpretive decisions by the Pennsylvania courts. Even the simplest of motor vehicle accidents can involve complex legal issues, which can only be answered by skilled and experienced attorneys like the ones at Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn.
Q: WHAT SHOULD I DO AT THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT?
A: First of all, do not leave the scene. Make sure that the police have been notified and wait for their arrival. If anyone is injured, make sure an ambulance has been summoned. If possible, and if your vehicle is still operable, it is typically advisable to move it out of the lane of travel so as not to obstruct traffic. Activate your hazard lights. Try to get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any individuals involved, as well as any witnesses to the accident. If possible, try to obtain all parties’ insurance information. Generally speaking, you should not admit fault or responsibility for the accident. Judgment as to who is at fault for the accident should be reserved for a later time.
Q: I WAS IN AN ACCIDENT AND THE RESPONSIBLE PARTY’S INSURANCE COMPANY KEEPS CALLING ME. DO I HAVE TO CALL THEM BACK?
A: No. When you are in an accident, you have no obligation to speak to the other party’s insurance company. You may have a limited duty to speak to your own insurance carrier, but you certainly do not, and should not, speak with the other side’s insurance company. The best advice would be to consult with a competent lawyer prior to even speaking with your own insurance company.
Q: IF I BRING A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM, HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO RECOVER MONETARY DAMAGES?
A: This is always a very difficult question to answer because each case is unique and is dependent on many factors, not the least of which is your own physical recovery. Sometimes, it takes a significant amount of time for an attorney to evaluate the effects of an accident on you as you wind your way through the treatment course. There really is no easy answer as to when to expect a recovery for your personal injury case.
Q: WHO WILL PAY FOR MY MEDICAL BILLS IF I AM IN A CAR CRASH?
A: Under Pennsylvania law, your own auto insurance company will pay for your medical bills, regardless of who is at fault. This is because Pennsylvania has a so-called “no fault” system of auto insurance. To find out how much coverage you have in the event of an accident, check your auto insurance declarations page and look for the medical benefits portion. You are required by law to carry a minimum of $5,000. You can choose to carry much more than that depending on your budget. Of course, it is typically advisable to carry as much coverage as possible to cover your medical bills in the event you are severely injured. Generally speaking, if your medical bills exceed the amount covered by your auto insurance, you should check with your health insurer, which may pick up any remaining charges. However, your health insurer may later seek to be paid back out of any recovery you obtain through litigation from the responsible party. This is called “subrogation.”
AUTO INSURANCE FAQS
Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR IN PURCHASING AN AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE POLICY?
A: First and foremost, one of the things you must consider in purchasing auto insurance is the “full tort” option. If there is any way to stretch your budget to purchase full tort, as opposed to “limited tort,” do it. Limited tort really means limited ability to sue, when and if you are in an accident. Limited tort insurance could have a severe impact on you and your family. Full tort insurance allows you to recover all damages that could potentially be available to you when you are hurt in an accident. However, when you purchase limited tort, you are essentially giving up the right to sue for your pain and suffering damages, which can be significant. Does full tort insurance cost more? Yes, but whatever limited savings you might achieve could be wiped out many times over if you are in an accident while carrying limited tort insurance.
In addition to full tort coverage, you should purchase sufficient uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage. This is coverage that protects you in the event that the responsible party doesn’t have any, or not enough, insurance to adequately compensate you for your losses. The temptation when purchasing auto insurance is always to get the best deal or the cheapest premium. But you shouldn’t do so at the expense of coverage that could protect you when you need it.
Q: DOES MY TORT SELECTION APPLY TO UM/UIM COVERAGE?
A: Yes. If you purchase “limited tort,” it will apply to your UM/UIM coverage. Again, “limited tort” means you will only be able to recover for your economic damages - your out-of-pocket medical bills and income loss. Under limited tort, you cannot recover for any non-economic damages, or pain and suffering. Pain and suffering can be a significant component of damages in a motor vehicle collision case. Therefore, to fully protect you and your family, it is imperative that you purchase “full tort” coverage.
Q: IS THERE A LIMIT TO HOW MUCH UM/UIM COVERAGE I CAN PURCHASE?
A: Yes. You cannot purchase more UM/UIM coverage than what you purchase in bodily injury insurance. Therefore, when you are deciding how much bodily injury insurance to purchase, it is important to keep in mind how much UM/UIM coverage you would want available to protect you and your family in the unfortunate event of a motor vehicle crash.
Q: WHAT IS STACKING AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
A: Stacking is the right of an insured motorist to combine UM and UIM coverage on multiple vehicles in the same policy or to combine UM and UIM coverage purchased in different policies for the same insured. For instance, if you have an automobile insurance policy that insures three vehicles and carries $100,000 in UM/UIM coverage, it is a very good idea to elect stacking. In the event you or a family member are hurt in a crash, you can add $100,000 in UM/UIM coverage for each vehicle insured under the policy for a total of $300,000 in coverage.
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE FAQS
Q: WHAT IS A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?
A: Medical malpractice is a claim made for injury caused by a health-care professional’s failure to render the care that a reasonable health-care professional would provide. This can include failure to provide the care or initiating care that a reasonable health-care professional would not undertake.
Q: HOW COMMON ARE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASES?
A: Although numerous studies have shown a huge number of deaths caused every year by medical malpractice, as mentioned above, very few patients who are injured by medical malpractice actually file lawsuits. In fact, a 1991 article in the New England Journal of Medicine documented that only about 2 percent of patients injured by medical negligence ever seek compensation.
Q: DOES A BAD MEDICAL OUTCOME MEAN THAT I HAVE A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM?
A: No. A bad outcome does not necessarily mean that a health-care practitioner failed to provide appropriate treatment. When a case goes to trial, juries are instructed that they cannot infer negligence from a bad outcome.
Q: WHAT DO I HAVE TO PROVE TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM?
A: In order to recover monetary damages for medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, a plaintiff (the person or persons filing suit) must prove ALL of the following:
1) A breach of the standard of care (ie. The doctor(s) and/or hospital didn’t do what other reasonable health-care providers would have done.)
2) Factual causation (ie. The actions of the doctor(s) and/or hospital caused the injury.)
If a plaintiff (the injured party) fails to prove one or more of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence, he/she cannot recover monetary damages.
Q: HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE TO FILE A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM?
A: Although there are a few exceptions, generally speaking, a medical malpractice claim has to be filed within two years of the medical care that caused the injury. That is known as the statute of limitations. For minors, the two-year statute of limitations begins to run from his/her 18th birthday, and in wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations runs from the date of death. In cases where a plaintiff is initially unaware that he/she was injured as a result of medical malpractice, the two-year statute of limitations may be deemed to start running from the date the plaintiff knew or should have known of the connection between the medical care and the injury.
Q: CAN I PURSUE A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY?
A: Although “pro se” litigation of medical malpractice cases is not prohibited, it is not recommended. Medical malpractice cases are extremely complex and it is difficult to pursue such a case in Pennsylvania without an attorney given the peculiar procedure rules that have been enacted. For example, within 60 days of filing a complaint for professional negligence, a plaintiff must file “Certificates of Merit” indicating that an appropriately licensed professional has reviewed the matter and certified in writing that there is a reason to believe the care provided fell below the accepted standard of care and caused the injury.
Q: WHAT CAN I RECOVER IN A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM?
A: The amount and type of damages that can be recovered in a particular medical malpractice claim depend, to a large degree, on the facts presented. However, generally speaking, Pennsylvania law allows a plaintiff who proves that his/her injury was caused by medical malpractice to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include loss of earnings and medical expenses, whereas non-economic damages include items such as pain and suffering, emotional distress and disfigurement. In addition, the spouse of an individual injured by medical malpractice may recover loss of consortium damages for loss of society, comfort and companionship. In some instances, an individual who witnesses a close relative being injured by medical malpractice can recover for his/her emotional distress in a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. Finally, in very rare circumstances where a defendant’s conduct is deemed outrageous or recklessly indifferent by clear and convincing evidence, a plaintiff may be entitled to punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter him/her/others from similar conduct in the future.
When medical malpractice results in a patient’s death, a wrongful death and/or survival action claim can be filed by the deceased person’s survivors. The damages available in such cases differ slightly, but are substantially similar to, those outlined above.
Q: HOW MUCH WILL IT COST ME TO PURSUE A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM?
A: The vast majority of medical malpractice cases are handled on a contingency fee basis. That means HKQ receives a percentage of any recovery obtained. We pay for the costs of pursuing the claim up front until a recovery is obtained so that our clients do not have any “out-of-pocket” expenses associated with the case.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FAQS
Q: HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO NOTIFY MY EMPLOYER IF I’M INJURED ON THE JOB?
A: A work-related injury should be reported to your employer immediately. Failure to report the injury promptly could provide your employer or its insurance company with a reason to deny the claim and argue that the injury did not occur at work. By law, however, you have 120 days to advise your employer of any work-related injury. Understandably, some employees don’t immediately tell their employers about every single incident that occurs at work because they might think the injuries are minor. As long as your employer is notified that you were injured within 120 days of the date of the injury, you can still bring a claim for worker’s compensation benefits. You should document any and all work injuries either by requiring your employer to file a report of injury or providing them with some form of written notice.
Q: IF MY CLAIM IS DENIED OR IGNORED, HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO FILE A WORKER’S COMPENSATION CLAIM?
A: If your employer fails to properly recognize your claim, you must file a claim petition with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation within three years of your date of injury. Even if your employer has paid some medical bills or verbally indicated to you that they accepted your injury, you may still face time limitations unless your employer has filed the appropriate paperwork with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation accepting your injury. If you file a claim beyond three years from the date of your injury, and it has not been officially recognized on bureau documents, you will likely be barred from bringing that claim.
Q: AFTER I AM INJURED AT WORK, AM I REQUIRED TO TREAT WITH THE DOCTORS AND HEALTH-CARE PROVIDERS I AM DIRECTED TO BY MY EMPLOYER?
A: Your employer is required to post a list of health-care providers, which are approved as workers’ compensation providers. If your employer has that list posted, and provides it to you after your work-related injury, you are required to treat with the physicians and health-care providers on that list for a period of 90 days from the date of your injury. You are still allowed to see your own doctor during this period but must do so at your own expense. Seeing your own doctor will not in any way jeopardize your workers’ compensation claim. If you need treatment from a specialist and there are no specialists on the list, you are free to seek out other specialists. Failure to treat with the “company doctor” is not a basis to deny your claim. As a practical matter, however, it can be difficult to obtain medical treatment from unapproved providers within the first 90 days following your injury. Anyone with questions on this issue should contact an attorney.
Q: WHAT IF MY EMPLOYER WANTS ME TO GO BACK TO WORK AND I DO NOT FEEL CAPABLE OF RETURNING TO WORK?
A: Oftentimes employers attempt to return workers to modified duty shortly after their injury. Other employers may offer modified or light duty to an employee who has been off work for several months or even years. Failure to return to a job approved by your doctor, or even by a doctor chosen by your employer or its insurance company, can result in litigation seeking to stop your benefits. Additionally, if your claim was only accepted on a temporary basis, your employer may use failure to return to a light duty position as a basis to deny your claim. If you have concerns about returning to a position offered to you by your employer after your injury, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney. It is also imperative that you consult with an attorney if you are provided with anything to sign or any documentation upon returning to work. Signing these documents can significantly affect your rights to workers’ compensation benefits should you be unable to perform the job offered by your employer.
Q: CAN I SETTLE MY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASE?
A: It is possible to settle a workers’ compensation case. Typically, settlements occur in cases where individuals are unable to return to their pre-injury job or suffer permanent loss of use of a body part. However, many types of workers’ compensation claims can be resolved for a lump sum settlement. If you have a significant injury and are interested in trying to settle your workers’ compensation case, we recommend that you consult with us.
LIVING WILLS & POWERS OF ATTORNEY FAQS
Q: WHAT IS A LIVING WILL?
A: A living will allows you to indicate your current intentions relative to your receiving life-prolonging medical treatment if you are so going to die soon from a terminal illness or if you are permanently unconscious. This document indicates your desire to withhold or have withdrawn medical treatment, if the treatment is only prolonging the dying process or if there is no hope of recovery. Obviously, the document would only be effective after you are unable to make any decisions regarding your medical treatment on your own. Basically, a living will advises your loved ones, as well as your physicians and the hospital, of your intentions, thus relieving them of the burden of trying to figure out what you wanted. In some cases, organ donors will want to have additional language incorporated into their living wills to allow for organ harvesting. We recommend that after a living will is executed, photocopies be sent to each of your doctors and brought with you to the hospital in the event you require inpatient care.
Q: WHAT IS A DURABLE GENERAL POWER OF ATTORNEY?
A: A durable general power of attorney authorizes any person of your choosing to act on your behalf as your agent for matters specified in the document. The word “durable” indicates that the document is effective whether or not you are able to act on your own behalf due to disability or incompetence. Absent a power of attorney, should you become disabled to the extent that you are unable to conduct your own affairs, a loved one would be required to go to court to have a guardian appointed. A durable power of attorney can be either “non-springing” or “springing” in nature. A “springing” power of attorney does not take effect immediately upon execution, but rather will only take effect upon your incapacity with two doctors certifying your inability to handle your own affairs, while a non-springing power of attorney takes effect immediately. A durable power of attorney can also be limited in scope. We recommend generally that non-springing powers of attorney be provided to your banks, insurance agents, investment advisers, etc., at the time you wish to have your agent act on your behalf. We further generally recommend that springing powers of attorney be held by your agent until such time as they may be required after certification of incapacity by two doctors.
Q: WHAT IS A MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY?
A: A medical power of attorney authorizes an agent to act on your behalf to make medical decisions for you and access HIPAA-related private medical information from your medical providers. This document is similar to and has many of the same effects as the durable general power of attorney, but almost always is non-springing in nature and therefore takes effect immediately. We therefore suggest that copies of the executed medical power of attorney be sent to each of your doctors and brought with you to the hospital should you ever require inpatient care similar to the procedure for living wills.