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Car Accident FAQs

To help you better understand your legal rights if you are involved in a car accident, here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

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 lawyer at HKQ 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.”

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 by choosing limited tort could be wiped out many times over if you are in an accident.

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.