What is a Frivolous Lawsuit?

For years, the insurance lobby has been spending millions of dollars to convince Americans that civil lawsuits are largely frivolous. This lobbying has been so successful, that most of our clients say things like, “I know most lawsuits are frivolous, but not mine—I’m really hurt.” The truth of the matter is, while there exist some silly lawsuits, most are legitimate and serve the greater purpose of protecting the public and compensating innocent victims.

Recently, the Trial Lawyers Association in DC released a simple video that helps dispel the myth of the “frivolous” lawsuit

Our Erie, PA personal injury attorneys have been helping innocent injury victims put their lives back together since 1985. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s nothing frivolous about asking insurance companies to pay fair value for your lost wages, lost loved ones, and disabling injuries. Don’t be fooled.

If you’ve been hurt by someone’s negligence, call our Erie law firm today for a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.

Car Accident Law Firm in Erie, PA

Great Firm with Very Caring Attorneys
See what our clients are saying on Google!

After being injured, it’s important to stay local and hire an attorney that understands Erie County Pennsylvania. Despite how difficult of a task it may seem, finding a car accident law firm in Erie, PA doesn’t have to be hard! If you’ve done your research, you’ll notice that Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager (also known as ErieInjury.com) consistently has five-star reviews across the board! We’re small enough that we’re able to give each of our clients extremely personalized attention, yet big enough that we spare no expense when it comes to handling your case. Need a top-dollar expert witness? We’ll pay for that. Need an expensive accident Reconstructionist to prove your case? We’ll front that expense, too. Is your case complex? Not a problem.

If you do your research and read our reviews, you’ll notice that our car accident law office is known for our personalized service: if you want to speak to your attorney, you’ll speak to your attorney—unlike some of the Pittsburgh firms that dabble in the Erie area, we do not simply have paralegals “work up” your case and act as your main points of contact! When you hire us, you’re hiring a personal injury lawyer to do 100% of your legal work. Excellent results require excellent representation.

Best Law Firm in Erie, PA

If you’re looking for the best law firm in Erie, PA, don’t take my word for it. Read our reviews and draw your own conclusions. If you speak to any of your prior clients, they’ll tell you to stop looking around and to give us a call.

Review of Matthew J. Lager: In summary, I would highly recommend Attorney Lager and His Firm

What do I do next?

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, stop stressing about how to handle the bills and the insurance companies. We’ll take care of that so you can take care of yourself and your loved one. We make it simple. Worries about how you’ll have time to meet with us? We’ll come to you whenever it’s convenient, even if it’s after hours or on a weekend. We want to help. Call us at 814-452-6232 for a free consultation.

PennDOT Reports Safest Year for Car Accidents since 1928

According to PennDOT Secretary, Leslie RichardsSafest year for car accident deaths, 2017 was the safest year for traffic-accident deaths in recorded Pennsylvania history, when PennDOT began record-keeping in 1928. Although fatalities from car accidents are on the rise nationwide, Pennsylvania has managed to reverse this trend.

Safer. But not safe.

Unfortunately, even though the road is generally safer, the Secretary’s report indicates that fatalities related to distracted driving are on the rise in Pennsylvania, up to 69 from 66 in 2015 and 55 in 2014. Even more troubling, PennDOT fears that this number actually under-represents cases of distracted driving, as people often fail to report that they were texting while driving.

People that drive distracted, e.g. texting while driving, can needlessly end lives and ruin families. This tragedy is entirely preventable and simply requires that we, as a society, make a conscious effort to put the phone away when getting behind the wheel. While we have long rejected the societal acceptance that used to accompany drunk driving, we still have a long way to go before we all reject and condemn those that text behind the wheel. If you have a friend or loved one that texts while driving, let him or her know that it’s not okay.

Have you been injured by a distracted driver?

If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver in Pennsylvania, you might be entitled to punitive damages in addition to compensation. Our law firm represents car accident victims of distracted drivers and people who text while driving. We can help you recover your lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and get back to worrying about what’s important—your family. Call our Pennsylvania Car Accident Law Firm for a free consultation at 814-452-6232.

Can my Car Insurance be Cancelled for a Late Payment?

Can they cancel my car insurance for a late payment?

Cancelled auto insurance for late paymentMost insurance companies typically offer options regarding the payment of premiums.  Almost all companies issue policies with a 6 month term.  The premium can be paid in one payment or multiple payments depending upon the selected payment plan.  Generally, the longer the payment period, the greater the premium actually paid.

Some of the insurance companies even offer monthly payments.  These carriers typically are an option for minimal coverage low cost options for coverage.  Unfortunately, people who select these options for coverage are the ones who typically run into problems with late premium payments because of tight budgets which forced the selection of a monthly payment option in the first place.

The Law

Pennsylvania law provides the consumer with some protection here.  Under Pennsylvania law, the insured is entitled to advance notice that his/her policy will be cancelled unless the premium payment is received by the carrier.  Typically, the insurer will send out this “notice of cancellation” a day or two after the premium’s due date.  Under regulations in PA Code, the cancellation date must be no earlier than 17 days after the date of the cancellation notice.  The actual form for this notice is included in the regulations.  The failure to provide a timely and adequate notice of cancellation can invalidate the purported cancellation of the policy.

The problem is especially complicated when the insured is on a monthly billing cycle.  In order to comply with the regulations, these carriers will actually try to combine the bill with a notice of cancellation.  There are many ways to challenge the cancellation notices under these circumstances and one of our car accident lawyers can help.

Jim Stuczynski, Pennsylvania Insurance Cancellation LawyerI recently had a case where a company sent out its bill/notice indicating the policy payment was due by June 29.  This was one day earlier than the previous month because of the fact there were 31 days in May.  On June 30, the insured’s payment was received, however, the insured was in an accident early on June 30.  The carrier denied coverage, indicating the policy was cancelled June 30 and reinstated on July 1.

There was no valid cancellation notice provided under the law and when threatened with bad faith, the carrier provided coverage and even paid reasonable attorney’s fees for forcing the insured to retain counsel to contest the denial of coverage.  If you should find yourself in such a situation, gather the last couple of months bills/notices and your policy and immediately schedule a free consultation with one of our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers.  You may still be entitled to coverage.

As a final word of advice, do not select the convenient monthly premium payment plan.  This option is not only the most expensive, but it is also the one which can most easily lead to an unwanted cancellation of your policy.

Not only is the cancellation of coverage extremely serious in itself, it means you will have limited tort status despite any full tort selection in your policy.  Also, if you are uninsured for 30 days or longer, your carrier can charge you “high risk premium rate,” which is the highest premium rate permissible by law.

Our lawyers can help.

If your car insurance company is saying your policy was cancelled after an auto accident, our personal injury attorneys can help. Call one of our Pennsylvania lawyers today for a free consultation: 814-452-6232.

Can you Sue the EMTA for Injuries?

Can you sue the EMTA for Injuries after a Bus Accident?

Can you sue the EMTA?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.

Five Things NOT to do after a Car Accident

Car Accident ChecklistCar 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?

Will Car Insurance Pay for a Chiropractor?

Whiplash Injury and ChiropractorsIf 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.

Automobile Safety Over the Years

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.

Annual US traffic fatalities per billion vehicle miles traveled (red) and miles traveled (blue) from 1921 to 2015.
Annual US traffic fatalities per billion vehicle miles traveled (red) and miles traveled (blue) from 1921 to 2015.

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 personal injury case on my own?

How do I settle a case on my own?

How to settle your own personal injury caseAs 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.

Car Accidents with No Police Report

Police Report for AccidentAfter 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.