Social Security Beneficiaries get a raise in 2018!
There is finally good news on the horizon for those who rely on Social Security Benefits: The Social Security Administration has announced a 2% Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) to take place in the beginning of 2018. This 2% raise will affect both Social Security and SSI recipients. Although this is the largest increase in Social Security benefits since 2012, it only comes out to about $25.00 per month for the average Social Security beneficiary.
For more information, take a look at the Social Security Administration’s cost-of-living adjustment website.
Automobile Safety Over the Years
Over the years, trial lawyers and personal injury lawyers have been instrumental to encouraging legislatures and automobile manufacturers into making safer cars. In fact, one of the most important functions of tort law in the United States is to encourage manufacturers into making safer products by creating a financial disincentive to releasing dangerous products. Because corporations tend to favor their shareholders more than the safety of their customers, the ongoing threat of multi-million-dollar lawsuits provides an economic incentive for releasing a safer product, even if a dangerous product is cheaper to manufacture and research.
In 1959, Automobile Insurance Carriers banded together and formed the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit organization that performs fantastic research to help make vehicles safer. While partly altruistic, the insurance companies funded this organization because they realize that safer cars equates to less money paid out in insurance claims to injured victims who hire attorneys to file suit for their injuries. Regardless of a reason, this is a great thing for everybody.
As personal injury attorneys, it’s inspiring to see the real-world effect that tort law and the resulting legislative changes have had on safety over the years. To celebrate their 50th Anniversary, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performed a crash test between a 2009 Chevy Malibu and a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air. This test demonstrated how far cars have come:
The results of the above video are staggering. Even more staggering, perhaps, is the data. As can be seen in the graph below, the number of deaths per mile driven have steadily and dramatically dropped nearly every year since the invention of the automobile.
The fight for highway safety is far from over.
Unfortunately, even with safer cars, the fight for safety is far from over. Even with top-of-the-line safety mechanisms, we are from from eliminating “the human factor,” which remains responsible for a staggering number of deaths and injuries per year. When it’s your loved one in the car, even one death is too many.
Our Lawyers fight for car accident victims.
At Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager, we continue the fight for safer vehicles and for safer drivers by protecting the innocent victims of car accidents caused by reckless and negligent drivers. We also take on the car manufacturers themselves when they create a dangerous vehicle. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, call one of our Pennsylvania Car Accident Lawyers for a free consultation. Because we understand lawyers can be expensive, we don’t charge a fee unless we obtain a recovery.
How do I settle a case on my own?
As Pennsylvania personal injury and car accident lawyers, we often get asked how to settle a car accident case on your own, without a lawyer. While we strongly advise against representing yourself (remember the old maxim, “he who represents himself has a fool for a client”), in some limited circumstances you may not need a lawyer (although it’s always advisable to at least have a free consultation with one).
Subrogation and Liens on a Personal Injury Settlement
If you’re looking at settling a case safely, you need to be intimately familiar with Pennsylvania subrogation law and how liens against your settlement are treated. The last thing you want to do is settle your case for $X.XX and then have a health insurance company, the Department of Human Services, or even Medicare come back at you demanding you pay them $X.XX long after the settlement money is long gone! To understand this, you’ll need to research the laws, research statutory liens, research equitable liens, and research contractual subrogation rights you may have agreed to when accepting health insurance. Subrogation and liens are the #1 thing that people trying to settle their own cases—and even general-practice attorneys that are dabbling in personal injury law—mess up.
Know the full extent of your injuries and don’t settle too soon!
After an accident, insurance adjusters will typically call you a couple days later offering settlements of $1,000 or $2,000. Don’t accept any offers to settle your case that soon after an accident! While it may seem like a good deal (and might even be a good deal if you have minimal or no injuries), it’s simply too soon to know if your injuries are minimal. It’s all too common to not realize your injuries are serious until months, or even years, later! I’ve had a number of clients who have rejected $1,000 offers before realizing things were more severe, coming to my office, and proving damages of one hundred times their initial offer.
Watch the statute of limitations for your personal injury case
This piece of advice goes hand-in-hand with the “don’t settle too soon” advice: don’t settle too late, either! If you wait too long, your claims might be forever barred by the “statute of limitations,” which is a law that every state passes that puts a time limit on how long after an accident you can bring a claim. In Pennsylvania, you typically need to settle your case (or file a lawsuit) within two years from the date of the accident. There are, however, many exceptions and caveats to this rule (e.g. certain parts of minor’s claims). If you want to know what the statute of limitations is for your individual case, do NOT rely on this paragraph or anything you read online—you NEED to call a personal injury lawyer, given them your facts, and ask!
Call a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation
I don’t mean to sound too facetious here, but there is no way to write a complete guide on how to properly or safely settle your case without a lawyer, because that guide would entail going to law school and spending years practicing personal injury law in the jurisdiction where you claim arises. While some minor cases that only involve property damage or bumps and bruises might safely be settled without a lawyer, any case with significant injuries requires a lawyer (in my professional, legal opinion). I’m not just saying that because I’m a lawyer, either. If I were injured in a car accident, I’d call a lawyer myself (as I said earlier, “he who represents himself has a fool for a client”). As such, if you’re considering settling your case, give a personal injury attorney a call and at least sit down for a free consultation to make sure you’re doing things correctly. If you’re in Erie or Smethport, or anywhere in Western Pennsylvania, give me a call at 814-452-6232. I’m happy to discuss your case for free. If you are interested in hiring me, I don’t charge a fee without a recovery.
It’s worth noting that a good personal injury lawyer almost always ends up paying for himself or herself.
After a car accident in Pennsylvania, it’s extremely important to call the police and ask for an officer to be sent out to prepare a police report or an accident report. The police will come out, interview witnesses, assess damage, and will give you what’s referred to as a “crash receipt.” This receipt isn’t always the full report, but it can be used to obtain the full report after it is prepared back at the station.
Why Police Reports are Important after a car accident
Police reports are important after an accident for a number of reasons. To begin, police officers are impartial witnesses who are skilled at conducting investigations and forcing drivers to disclose their car insurance information. Often times, without the police, the other driver will refuse to disclose his or her insurance information, making it difficult to recoup your losses. It’s rare for people to refuse disclosing their insurance information to police.
Second, police officers will obtain and record statements and contact information from witnesses who may have seen the accident. Years later, if your case ends up in court, this information makes it much easier to find witnesses to testify as to what happened. Although the police report itself probably won’t be admissible, the witnesses will be able to testify directly as to what they heard and saw.
What if there is no police report for my accident?
If you have been injured in an accident without a police report, you need to call our Pennsylvania attorneys immediately. Our office will work to gather the evidence and information that the police normally would have gotten had they been there to draft a police report. It’s important that we act fast, as evidence tends to disappear as time goes on. Additionally, witnesses become harder to find and at-fault drivers tend to move without leaving a trace of insurance information or even forwarding addresses.
After a hit-and-run, your insurance probably requires you to call the police
Not only is calling the police to get an accident report a good idea, sometimes your insurance requires it! For example, after a hit-and-run, most Pennsylvania auto insurance policies require you to call the police and make a report as soon as possible after the accident. The police will then come out and document that you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run and will preserve evidence. This report allows you to put your insurance company on notice of a potential uninsured motorist claim, which can allow you to recover damages even if the other driver’s identity is unknown. Failing to make a police report in a timely fashion can sometimes eliminate your ability to make a claim.
Do I need a police report if nobody was injured?
Even if you weren’t injured, calling the police to get a police report is still a good idea. Frequently, although the at-fault driver admits fault on the scene, his or her story changes after getting home and talking to the insurance company. After that happens, without the police to have documented their admission of guilt, it’s your word against theirs and now your insurance rates are going up for an accident that wasn’t your fault. For the same reasons, never let someone talk you into “handling the accident outside insurance.” More often than not, you’ll end up getting burned for trying to be nice.
How do I get the police report after an accident?
At the scene of the accident, the police will typically hand you a “crash receipt.” If one of the cars was badly damaged or if someone was injured, this ordinarily isn’t the full report. You can obtain local reports by contacting your local police station, or you can request the Pennsylvania State Police Report using their form SP7-0015. That said, if you’ve been involved in a car accident in Pennsylvania, our accident lawyers will get the full police report and protect your rights. We offer free consultations and don’t charge a fee unless we get a recovery, so we’ll be happy to obtain and review the report with you and your family.
Can volunteer firefighters get workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania?
When volunteer firefighters are injured in the line of duty in Pennsylvania, they are potentially entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under Section 601 (a)(1) of the Workers’ Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 1031 (a)(1), even though they are volunteering without pay:
(a) In addition to those persons included within the definition of the word “employe” as defined in section 104,1 “employe” shall also include…(1) members of volunteer fire departments or volunteer fire companies…
How much workers’ compensation is a volunteer firefighter paid?
Ordinarily, when receiving workers’ compensation benefits, an injured worker is entitled to a portion of his or her average weekly wage (averaging wages from all of his or her concurrent jobs combined). Interestingly, when a volunteer firefighter is receiving workers’ compensation and is unable to work, he or she is presumed to be earning wages equal to at least the “state-wide average weekly wage” for the purposed of calculating the amount of his or her wage-loss benefits.
This means that, whether or not a volunteer firefighter’s actual wages are equal to the state-wide average weekly wage, his or her wage-loss benefits will be paid as if he or she were earning at least the state-wide average weekly wage. As such, a volunteer firefighter will receive wage-loss benefits even if he or she is otherwise unemployed or even retired.
Should an injured volunteer firefighter hire an attorney?
If you or a loved one is a volunteer firefighter who was injured in the line of duty, you should hire a skilled Erie workers’ compensation lawyer to protect your rights. Insurance companies, unfortunately, rarely do the right thing. Our law firm offers free consultations to injured firefighters and does not charge a fee unless we obtain a recovery. With offices in both Erie and Smethport, our lawyers represent first-responders throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania. Call today to set up an in-person meeting with one of our Erie Lawyers at 814-452-6232.
Workers’ Compensation From The Injured Worker’s Perspective: Thoughts From A Claimant’s Attorney
On April 19, 2017, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Attorney Matt Lager will be giving a seminar on Workers’ Compensation (for non-attorneys!) at Advanced Rehabilitation at 3347 W 12th St., Erie, PA, 16505. Advanced Rehabilitation is a premier Erie, PA Physical Therapy facility that provides state-of-the-art rehabilitation techniques and prides itself on helping injured workers recover from injuries so they can safely get back to work and return to their normal lives! Advanced Rehabilitation also provides useful services, such as Functional Capacity Evaluations, which help injured workers return to work in such a capacity that they will not re-injure themselves.
These informational seminars are free to attend, include lunch, and also serve as valuable networking luncheons to those who regularly interact with the workers’ compensation system. Past speakers have included orthopedic surgeons and nurses on a variety of topics, from back surgeries to Medicare Set Asides (MSAs).
What will be covered in this seminar?
Attorney Lager’s speaking topics are likely to include the following:
- Types of Workers’ Compensation Claims
- Medical Treatment for an Injured Worker
- Billing problems under the Workers’ Compensation Act
- How workers’ compensation interacts with the ADA
- An injured worker’s choice of medical providers
- Functional Capacity Evaluations
- Employee’s and Employer’s Rights
- Modified Duty
- How Social Security Disability interacts with Workers’ Compensation
- HIPAA and Workers’ Compensation
After the seminar, there will be an open Q & A where you will be free to ask general workers’ compensation questions (but nothing case specific!). This will be an open-ended discussion where those in attendance can get a claimant’s attorney’s perspective on the workers’ compensation system.
What if I have questions but can’t attend the seminar?
If you have any questions regarding any of the above topics, or are in injured worker looking for legal representation, call our office today for a free consultation at 814-452-6232!
How do I find a lawyer in Erie that charges no fee unless they settle my case?
When watching TV, you’ll see that many lawyers advertise No recovery, No Fee payment structures, wherein the lawyer won’t charge a fee for your personal injury case unless he or she gets you money by way of a lump-sum settlement or a verdict. During our free consultations, this is often the first question we get when meeting with a new client. Like all personal injury law firms in Erie, PA, we do not charge a fee unless we obtain a recovery for our client.
What is a contingent fee?
This sort of “no recovery no fee” arrangement is referred to as a “contingent fee,” and it is the standard practice for nearly all attorneys in Erie, PA that handle car accidents and other personal injury claims. When you see some of the heavy-advertisers focus on this structure in their commercials, don’t be fooled into thinking they’re the only ones that don’t charge hourly fees and don’t charge big retainers; they’re simply the only ones that shout about it on television. Knowing that this is standard practice for nearly all lawyers, you’re free to do your research and pick the best attorney for you without having to worry about draining your savings account.
Are contingent fees fair? Should I pay hourly instead?
Contingent no-recovery-no-fee arrangements give great power to personal injury victims who are looking for a lawyer: instead of being stuck with the cheapest option out there and operating on a shoestring budget, he or she can hire the best attorney in Erie to fight the insurance company on his or her behalf. Insurance companies hate paying out a fair value for claims and hire good lawyers to help minimize their exposure: our contingent-fee arrangements allow you to even the playing field and fight for fair compensation.
Who pays for the expenses in a lawsuit?
In addition to charging no fee unless we obtain a recovery, our firm also fronts all litigation expenses: what this means is that you don’t have to worry about coming up with thousands of dollars for expert reports, medical depositions, records, expert witnesses, et cetera. Because insurance companies spare no expense when it comes to building their case, we front the money for whatever it takes to prove the significance and extent of your injuries. Our firm doesn’t let insurance companies win by simply outspending us. We ensure things are fair.
What should I do?
If you have been injured in a car accident or have a workers’ compensation claim, don’t think that you can’t afford a good lawyer. Give our Erie, PA Lawyers a call and we’ll arrange a free consultation. If, after meeting us, you want to move forward—feel safe knowing that we don’t charge a fee unless there’s a recovery.
Many injured workers in Pennsylvania are worried that their boss will either fire them or retaliate against them for filing a workers’ compensation claim after a work injury. Although not unheard of, such an event is illegal and should not dissuade you from filing a workers’ compensation claim after getting hurt at work.
It is illegal for an employer to fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Employers propagate this notion that injured workers should “tough it out” after an injury and “keep quiet” in order to keep their insurance premiums down. This is why many workplaces have environments where employees appear to look down on their injured coworkers. This sort of environment is inappropriate and is designed to take advantage of you.
Unfortunately for injured workers, failing to report injuries or failing to make workers’ compensation claims can potentially prevent them from being compensated for their missed work or having their medical bills paid. If you fail to take appropriate steps after an injury, you could find yourself without a job, without health insurance, and with a disabling injury that prevents you from returning to work. Although it might seem frightening, you cannot let that happen. Fortunately, you don’t have to be alone in this fight. With our low percentage-based fees, anybody can afford to have a lawyer on their side.
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, after an injured worker hires a workers’ compensation lawyer, employers are typically on their best behavior. And if they aren’t, you at least have a lawyer on your side to help protect your rights.
What are your rights under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law?
After getting hurt at work in Pennsylvania, you’re entitled to have your injury-related medical bills paid and you’re entitled to be compensated while you’re unable to work because of your injury. While it seems simple, it often isn’t. Don’t let your boss or the insurance company tell you that you aren’t entitled to workers’ compensation or pressure you into not filing. If your injury ends up more serious than you expect sometime down the road, and now you’re missing work and need a surgery you can’t afford, you very well could find yourself out of luck with nobody to help.
I want to know more.
If you have questions about the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation system or your case, please do not hesitate to give me a call. I don’t charge for consultations and, if you need to hire me, we only work on a contingent, recovery-based fee. Anybody can afford our law firm.
What should I do if I injured my neck and back in a car accident?
Injuring your neck and back in a car accident can be devastating. Although neck and back injuries are the most common injuries after a crash, they can be the hardest to prove and the hardest for which to get fair settlements from the insurance company. Your claim will be denied because it’s preexisting, because you can’t prove it’s related, or because you have “limited tort.” If you’ve injured your neck and back in a car accident, here’s how to maximize your settlement:
Make sure the paramedics and emergency room doctors know if you’re experiencing neck and back pain.
The human neck and back are fragile, so it’s no surprise that neck and back injuries are often pre-existing (to some extent) and have causes other than car accidents. That’s why, after a car wreck, if your neck and back are in pain, it’s important that you tell your doctor! If an ambulance responds to your accident, be sure to let the paramedics know your neck and back are hurting if they’re in pain—don’t assume it’s temporary! It’s common for insurance adjusters to deny claims for neck and back injuries because the pain wasn’t immediately reported to paramedics or emergency room staff!
If your neck and back don’t start hurting until a few days after the car accident, make an appointment with a doctor or a chiropractor
It’s common for neck and back pain to start several days after a collision. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that, once the pain starts, many people don’t start treating until months later when the pain doesn’t get better on its own. If your injury ends up being more serious than the sprain/strain you thought it was, the insurance company will say that this “treatment gap” indicates you must have hurt your neck and back somewhere else—not in the car accident! Without any doctor having seen you for months, it’s almost impossible to prove you actually hurt your neck and back in the accident. If your neck and back start hurting a few days later, make an appointment with your family doctor or chiropractor to get things looked at. In Pennsylvania, your car insurance is required to pay for medical treatment related to the accident; most people have at least $5,000.00 in medical coverage for accident related treatment (which includes chiropractors!).
How do I make the insurance company pay fair settlement value for my neck and back injury?
How to get the insurance company to pay you a fair settlement for your neck and back injury is a simple answer: get a lawyer. Because you do not have the ability to file a lawsuit and work your case up properly, the insurance adjuster will not pay you fair value for your neck and back injury. They know that, whatever they offer, you have no choice but to take it. Call our Erie, PA car accident lawyers for a free consultation; if we don’t think we can get you a better offer and more than pay for ourselves, we’ll let you know.
How do I file a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Claim?
As workers’ compensation lawyers, injured workers frequently ask us “how do I file a workers’ compensation claim?” Normally, the reason they’re asking is because either their employer failed to report the injury to their insurance company or because the insurance company denied their claim, asserting that the injury wasn’t “work related.” If this happened to you, you need a lawyer.
You need a lawyer to help file your workers’ compensation claim.
It’s important to realize that “making a workers’ compensation claim” isn’t as simple as, for example, reporting a fallen branch on your roof to your homeowner’s insurance carrier. Making a workers’ compensation claim is more similar to litigating a personal injury claim in real court, as it involves multiple hearings, cross-examination of witnesses, and medical depositions. This is neither cheap nor simple and it is not something you should try to do without an experienced lawyer.
When I get involved in a situation where a claim needs to be filed, I file what’s called a “Claim Petition” with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. This is just the beginning of the process. Soon thereafter, I am required to pay for and submit expert narrative reports, medical records, and conduct depositions of the treating doctors. This is both time consuming and expensive. It is not unusual to spend $4,000.00 litigating a workers’ compensation claim petition from start to finish.
We can help file your workers’ compensation claim.
When our office represents an injured worker, we work on a contingent basis and we pay all litigation expenses. We know that, when you’re out of work, you can’t afford to pay a lawyer’s retainer or be expected to spend $3,000.00 on a medical deposition. Importantly, in workers’ compensation claims, we never charge these expenses to our clients—we either get paid back by the employer or we don’t get paid back at all. We take the risk so you don’t have to.
If you’re wondering how to file a workers’ compensation claim in Erie, PA, Bradford, Smethport, or in Northwestern Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact our office for a free consultation. If we can’t help you, we can at least point you in the right direction.