Can you sue the EMTA for Injuries after a Bus Accident?
There is a common misconception among the people of Erie that the EMTA (Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority) cannot be sued for personal injuries after bus accidents because the EMTA is a “government entity.” This simply isn’t true. This misconception stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of “sovereign immunity” and Pennsylvania’s exceptions thereto. As will be explained in this article: Yes; you CAN sue the EMTA for injuries after a bus accident! However, there are limitations and requirements that must be met and you should hire an experienced car accident lawyer to help!
The doctrine of sovereign immunity is ancient and generally provides that you cannot sue a sovereign, such as a state or a local government, unless the state specifically waives its immunity. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8542, Pennsylvania waives its sovereign immunity for lawsuits arising out of motor vehicle collisions, like bus accidents, subject to a number of other conditions.
One important requirement is set forth under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5522, which generally requires a political subdivision to be put on notice of a lawsuit within six (6) months of the date of the incident. If this deadline is missed, an injured person may not be able to sue a government entity even though the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for such injuries is normally two (2) years! As such, it’s important to hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident!
Another important limitation that causes people to incorrectly think the EMTA cannot be sued is 42 Pa.C.S. § 8553, which places some significant limitations on damages that can be sought in a settlement or from a jury verdict against government entities. For example, one cannot recover for pain and suffering against the EMTA unless there is either a death involved or “in cases of permanent loss of a bodily function, permanent disfigurement or permanent dismemberment where the medical and dental expenses…are in excess of $ 1,500.” Unfortunately, this often precludes settlements when a person suffers “minor” injuries like whiplash. Our attorneys know how to help prove your injuries are permanent.
Call 814-452-6232 for a FREE Consultation!
Finally, when it comes to significant injuries, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8553 caps damages against government entities like the EMTA at $500,000.00. While this is more than many cases are worth, it places a significant limitation on people who have been killed or disabled as a result of the EMTA’s negligence. Unfortunately, these damage caps only hurt those have been injured the worst.
Our Erie Lawyers can help.
If you have been injured in a bus accident or are looking to make a claim against the EMTA, you should hire an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately to protect your rights and help build a case. Don’t let other lawyers tell you it cannot be done: it’s simply harder to do and requires the appropriate skill set. Our attorneys offer free consultations and only charge a fee if there’s a recovery. Call 814-452-6232 for an appointment today.
Matt Lager to serve on the ECBA Board of Directors
We’re proud to announce that one of our partners, Attorney Matthew Lager, has been nominated and approved to serve a three-year term on the Erie County Bar Association’s Board of Directors starting in 2018. Attorney Lager has long been committed to serving the ECBA in a number of capacities, acting as the 2017 Chair of the Solo/Small Firms Division, the 2016 Vice Chair of the Solo/Small Firms Division, and serving on the YLD Leadership Committee for multiple years.
Attorney Lager was nominated for this position by his peers, which was then approved by the ECBA nominating committee before being voted on at the 2017 Annual Membership Meeting.
Can I work a part-time job while on Social Security Disability?
Individuals who are currently on Social Security Disability often ask if they are able to work and earn money while remaining on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The general answer to this question is “yes, it is possible to earn some money while still retaining disability benefits.” But there are important conditions and rules that must be taken into account whenever an individual is considering whether or not to work while receiving disability benefits. One of the most important factors to take into account is whether the amount of earnings will be considered “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) by the Social Security Administration.
Substantial Gainful Activity
The Social Security Administration considers substantial gainful activity to generally be any work that results in earnings over a certain amount. For each year the dollar amount required to be considered substantial gainful activity will change. For 2017, the amount for substantial gainful activity is $1,170.00 for non-blind individuals and $1,950.00 for blind individuals. Because of this, if an individual who is not blind earns more than $1,170.00 per month, they will generally be considered to be participating in substantial gainful activity. And, if a person is participating in substantial gainful activity, they are generally considered to not be disabled by the Social Security Administration, as disability is defined as the inability to perform substantial gainful activity.
*The amount of money that qualifies as “substantial gainful activity” changes every year. This article was written in 2017 and provides 2017 numbers only. For an updated amount, please check the Social Security Administration’s website on Substantial Gainful Activity.
There are however many circumstances and conditions that may lead to the Social Security Administration to determine that a person making less than $1,170.00 is performing substantial gainful activity and there are circumstances that can lead the Social Security Administration to determine that a person making more than $1,170.00 is still not performing substantial gainful activity. For example, if a person is making less than $1,170.00 but is performing volunteer work that would normally be an activity that a person would be paid for, then Social Security may consider such activity to be substantial gainful activity. Or, a person who is earning more than $1,170.00 but was provided with special equipment to aid them in the job or given work specifically to accommodate the individual’s disability may not be considered to be performing substantial gainful activity if it can be shown that the person’s income would have been less but for those circumstances.
What about my specific circumstances?
Due to these factors, along with other exceptions that Social Security provides that may allow for an individual to earn more than $1,170.00 a month such as a trial work period or the ticket to work program, it is important to speak with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney prior to accepting a job while on Social Security Disability benefits. There are numerous rules, regulations and factors that must be considered in any individual case and it is important to understand all of your options before you make a decision. Call our office today for a free consultation to speak with one of our experienced Social Security Disability Attorneys.
Car Accidents occur suddenly and unexpectedly. They typically result in an individual to respond with their natural acute stress response of “flight or fight.” It is not uncommon for one to act instinctively after a motor vehicle collision without properly considering the future consequences of these initial actions. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision, there are some actions you should never take following a motor vehicle accident.
After a car crash, never do these five things:
1. Do NOT forget to call the police to the accident scene
Having a police report is critical to establishing fault for the car accident. Insurance companies rely heavily on police crash reports when making liability determinations. The police should always be called even if nobody appears to be injured.
2. Do NOT leave the scene of the car accident
No matter the circumstances of a crash, you should never leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident before the police arrive and say it’s okay to do so. Even if there appears to be no damage to the vehicles, do not simply drive away!
3. Do NOT admit fault for the car accident
Many people make the mistake of immediately exiting their car and beginning to apologize for the crash even if it was not their fault. It is always best to check if everyone is fine and call the police. Never admit fault after being involved in a collision: just report the facts of the accident to the police. It isn’t uncommon for other witnesses with better vantage points to come forward to demonstrate the accident was actually someone else’s fault.
4. Do NOT provide a recorded statement to any insurance company
You should never give a verbal or written statement to any insurance company, including your own. Insurance adjusters are trained to and experienced at questioning you in an effort to create a record favorable for them and unfavorable for you. The other driver’s insurance carrier will question you with the intent of demonstrating that you were at least partially responsible for the happening of the accident. Your own insurance company will question you with the intent of demonstrating that they should not have to provide insurance coverage for you as it relates to the motor vehicle accident due to a loophole found in the fine print of your motor vehicle insurance policy, typically referred to in your insurance policy as a “policy exclusion.”
5. Do NOT represent yourself in your personal injury claim
There are many complicated legal issues involved in the pursuit of a claim stemming form a motor vehicle collision. Attempting to represent yourself in a claim can result in irreparable harm to your case. We frequently see individuals contact our office after unsuccessfully trying to handle the matter themselves. Typically these individual have said and done things in their efforts that result in negative implications to their case. Some bells just cannot be unrung.
What you should do after a car accident:
Promptly contact one of our experienced car accident attorneys for a free, no obligation meeting to discuss your motor vehicle accident claim.
Will Car Insurance Pay for a Chiropractor?
If you have Pennsylvania Car Insurance and were injured in a car accident, under the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), you’re insured for at least $5,000.00 of medical treatment coverage for your accident. Whether or not you have health insurance, you are entitled to have car-accident-related medical treatment paid for by your auto insurance. Additionally, you’re given the freedom to direct your medical care as you see fit. This includes going to a chiropractor for your injuries if you so choose.
Under Pennsylvania law, you have the right to see a chiropractor if you hurt your neck or back in a car accident.
Many people don’t realize that their Pennsylvania Auto Insurance covers chiropractic treatment. While some people like chiropractics and others don’t, the important part is that you have the freedom to choose for yourself. You don’t need a referral from a family doctor, either. You’re allowed to call a chiropractor of your own choosing and make an appointment at your own discretion.
How do I open a medical claim in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, opening a medical claim under your auto insurance is as easy as calling your insurance company and completing an Application for First-Party Benefits. This is a simple form that tells in the insurance company you were injured and require medical treatment. After (or even before) this form is sent in, you should be provided with a claim number you can give to any medical provider, including a chiropractor, to render medical treatment. Best of all, with Pennsylvania auto insurance, there are no co-pays! You should speak with a lawyer before filling this form out.
Call 814-452-6232 for a Free Consultation with an Auto Accident Lawyer!
Do I need a lawyer to have my medical bills paid?
Although you don’t need a lawyer to have your medical bills paid after a Pennsylvania car accident, if you were injured, you should consult with a Pennsylvania car accident lawyer before filling out any paperwork or speaking with the insurance company! There is too much to go wrong and there is too much at stake. Our personal injury law firm offers free consultations and doesn’t charge a fee without a recovery, which makes it easy for anyone to afford a lawyer. Call one of our lawyers today at 814-452-6232.
Attorney Matt Lager Guest Lectures at Penn State Law
We at Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager are proud to announce that, last week, our own Attorney (and Penn State Alumni) Matthew Lager guest lectured at Penn State Law for 2L and 3L law students who were taking Professor Erickson’s Workers’ Compensation course. As a former student of Professor Erickson’s Workers’ Compensation class (who previously held the distinction of achieving the highest grade in this course among his peers when he was a student), Attorney Lager was delighted to head back to State College and share his practice experience representing injured workers in Pennsylvania.
Because the course focuses on an overview of workers’ compensation law nationally, Attorney Lager spoke about Pennsylvania-specific legal issues from the perspective of an injured worker, sharing practice tips for helping to fight insurance companies. Attorney Lager also spoke to students about how the workers’ compensation litigation process affects injured workers and their families.
Are you an injured worker looking for legal help?
If you have been injured at work and are looking for an attorney to help you in your workers’ compensation claim, call 814-452-6232 to book a free consultation with Attorney Matt Lager. He’s happy to help and doesn’t charge any fee without a recovery.
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.
We’ve been nominated for Erie’s Choice!
The voting for Erie’s Choice for Erie’s Favorite Law Firm has opened and we’re proud to announce that Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager, PLLC, has been nominated as a candidate for Erie’s Favorite Law Firm! If you’re one of the many individuals who have had stellar interactions with our attorneys and staff, please vote for us today!
Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager has been in business serving the people of Erie since 1985 and we’re committed to ensuring that each and every person in Erie has access to excellent representation. To help achieve that goal, two of our partners have recently been awarded Erie’s Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award for their dedication to providing free legal representation to those in Erie who cannot otherwise afford a lawyer: Adam Barnett in 2015 and Matt Lager in 2017. This award only given to a single attorney in the Erie County Bar Association every year.
Please cast your vote today!
Our team prides itself on excellent communication and working to help our clients achieve the best result possible under the law. We’re proud that we aren’t a mere “personal injury mill” and that each of our clients gets the individual attention he or she deserves. We succeed only because we truly believe that we can make a difference in people’s lives. Voting ends on August 25, 2017, so please Vote for us today!