Since 1997 | Your Pittsburgh Law Firm
Your Pittsburgh Law Firm
Flaherty | Fardo | Rogel | Amick

Frequently Asked Questions

While every case is different, we try to answer basic questions common to many cases.
You should not rely on these answers for your specific case without having a formal consultation with us first.

Injuries & Accidents

Have you been hurt or injured?

In Pennsylvania, individuals are entitled to recover money if the accident or injury was caused by the intentional action, or negligence of another party. Step 1 is always asking whether the plaintiff has actually been hurt or injured. You can have a bad accident, but unless the plaintiff has been physically and/or financially harmed, then there may or may not be a case. Under Pennsylvania law, injured victims of personal injury are entitled to recover for physical, emotional and/or financial harm including the following:

  • physical pain,
  • scarring,
  • emotional pain,
  • stress, embarrassment and/or humility;
  • past and future medical bills,
  • past and future lost wages,
  • any other reasonable ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses, and
  • loss of the enjoyment of life’s pleasures.

It is up to a jury to determine what is fair compensation for physical and emotional pain. In Pennsylvania, lawyers are not allowed to ask for specific amounts for pain and suffering, and instead jurors are free to use their own life experiences when issuing verdicts and awards.

Was the accident somebody else’s fault?

You can only receive money if someone else caused the injury or accident. To win, you must prove that the other party acted either:

  1. intentionally, and/or
  2. negligently.

Negligence is defined as failure to exercise due care. This means that someone else acted carelessly or without adequate caution. Under the law, people are expected to exercise reasonable care around other people. When someone is careless and causes harm, the injured party may sue the responsible party for all of the harm and damage suffered. Proving that another party was negligent is not always easy. The responsible party may not admit fault, and the injured victim will be left having to prove in court that another party was responsible for their damages.

Preponderance of the Evidence

In Pennsylvania personal injury cases, the injured victim must prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” each element of their case. The burden in personal injury cases is less than in criminal cases, where the burden of proof is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. In civil cases, the plaintiff does not have to prove ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. They must only prove their case by a ‘preponderance of the evidence’. The “preponderance of the evidence” test is synonymous with ‘more likely than not’. The jury will basically be asked, was the defendant ‘more likely than not’ negligent? If the jury believes that any element was more probable than not (even ever so slightly), then the plaintiff should prevail.

How do you find the right Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer?

Choosing the right lawyer can mean winning or losing your case. Even in strong cases, it may affect the amount of settlement or award. Injured victims should know that they only receive one chance at a settlement or award, and that they cannot come back later if their condition worsens. It is an undisputed fact that insurance companies pay more money to injured people represented by lawyers than they do to an unrepresented party. Therefore, once it has been determined that someone was injured, and it appears ‘more likely than not’ that another party was responsible, injured victims should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Finding the right lawyer can take time and effort. We strongly encourage injured victims and their families to interview several lawyers before hiring one. We have included here a link to the Top 10 questions to ask before hiring your Pennsylvania personal injury attorney.

At the very least, you should interview and research several lawyers, both online and through family and friends. You should conduct internet research and read as many reviews as possible. You will only get one chance and finding the right lawyer, who is highly competent and motivated to help you, will usually mean a great difference in the outcome of your case.

Should I Settle or Sue?

Settle or sue? It is often is the first important decision in any personal injury case. If liability is strong, the insurance company may want to settle, and there can be benefits to an early settlement. A bird in the hand is a common phrase, which means do not get greedy. Almost all of Pennsylvania is very conservative with the exception of maybe Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and if presented properly, insurance companies will pay prior to filing a lawsuit.

However, while a settlement may sound nice and allow the recovery of money sooner, it is not always the best option. The settlement needs to fully compensate the injured victim for the rest of their life. We believe the best settlements are made through force.

We typically prefer to file suit sooner than later. Lawsuits take a long time. Even fast simple lawsuits can take 18 to 24 months to get to court. Two to three years is the average time most cases in Pennsylvania take before they have a trial. Therefore, unless the insurance company is willing to be fair, in a very short period of time, we prefer to file suit and then grant an extension, if necessary, while we negotiate.

The decision to settle or sue needs to be thoroughly dependent upon the risk versus reward for the client. The only result that matters is the amount of money that the client actually puts into their pocket. Lawsuits can take a long time and costs a lot of money. Considerations should be made of the amount of costs necessary to take the case to trial when considering to settle or not.

There can be advantages to early settlements and it is important in interviewing lawyers to ask what strategies they will use to attempt to settle the case. At the same time, the best settlements are typically obtained when the insurance companies know that the lawyers involved are willing to take the case to trial. You should also always ask how much trial experience any potential lawyer has?

How much money will I keep at the end of my lawsuit?

The last step of the personal injury process is actually getting paid. The good news is that all payments for pain and suffering in personal injury cases are not considered income for tax purposes. Thus, many personal injury settlements are completely tax free in terms of payments to injured victims with limited exception.

The bad news is that the injured victim typically has significant expenses that will need to be paid out of any award or settlement received. All costs need to be fully considered before accepting any settlement. The lawyer will typically be paid their 40%. In addition, injured victims will be responsible for reimbursing the lawyer for any out of pocket expenses the lawyer incurred.

Therefore, it is VERY important for plaintiffs to keep up to date with any costs your lawyer is advancing on their behalf and to question the costs if necessary. Injured victims need to remember that any monies the lawyer is advancing is actually the clients money being spent. Injured victims also need to know whether there are any medical liens or other subrogation claims against the settlement or award.

In most personal injury or medical malpractice cases, there are monies that the plaintiff will owe for reimbursement of medical bills paid. Most health insurance agreements provide that if a 3rd party causes harm, and the injured victim is later compensated, then the insurance company is allowed to seek reimbursement for the medical bills they paid. In the end, the amount the injured victim actually receives can be a much smaller percentage than the total amount actually recovered. Therefore, it is important that if an injured person has a serious personal injury that they very carefully select the lawyer representing their interests, and only hire lawyers that they trust.

What Should I Do After a Personal Injury or Accident?
  1. First and foremost, seek proper medical attention. You should never make a medical decision based upon a lawsuit. Most personal injury cases are valued based on the medical documentation and treatment records. Docuementing the injuries suffered in a personal injury case can substantially increase the amount of damages obtained.
  2. Make sure that the accident is reported to the authorities. You should call 911 if involved in an accident so that a police report can be potentially generated. Police reports are an excellent way to document what happened in the accident and to confirm the identity and location of potential witnesses and available insurance coverage.
  3. If a police report is not possible, you should ask for an incident report to be completed if in fact the accident happens at a commercial location, such as a store or otherwise.
  4. Take pictures and/or video is appropriate. Pictures may include the accident scene, vehicles and or identity of potential defendants.
  5. Try to record any and all witnesses’ names and contact information.
  6. Stay focused on complying with any medical orders. Defendants will often try to mitigate damages by alleging a plaintiff was not complaint with treatment.
  7. Do not speak to or communicate with the defendants insurance company as the defendant is not entitled to a statement unless from their own insured.
  8. Consult an experienced personal injury lawyer for a free consultation before speaking to anyone about the accident other than your health care providers as necessary.
Do You Offer Free Consultations on Personal Injury Cases?

Yes. We offer free consultations on all personal injury cases. Please feel free to call or text Managing Attorney Noah Fardo on his cell phone at 412.855.5511 for any personal injury or medical malpractice cases.

How Much Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

The value of your personal injury case depends upon multiple factors including:

  • The level of negligence involved;
  • The amount of insurance available;
  • The long term harm and damages to the Plaintiff.

The value of your personal injury case can vary dramatically from person to person and from case to case.  If liability is proven, then under the law, the plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for a variety of damages including:

  • past medical bills,
  • future medical bills,
  • lost wages,
  • lost earning capacity, and/or
  • other ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses.

Pennsylvania law also allows monetary recovery for pain and suffering, which may include:

  • physical pain,
  • permanent disfigurement and scarring,
  • emotional pain,
  • stress,
  • mental anguish,
  • embarrassment,
  • humility, and/or
  • reduction in the likelihood of marriage.
What Should I Be Asking Personal Injury Lawyers Before Hiring Them?
  1. What is your contingency fee?
  2. Will I be responsible for any advanced case costs if we lose?
  3. Have you tried these types of personal injury cases before?
  4. Do you have the time necessary to actually work on my case now?
  5. When will my lawsuit be filed?
  6. Will my case actually go to trial? And if so, when?
  7. What is my case worth?
  8. Will you be the actual attorney handling my case?
  9. What will my participation in the lawsuit be?
  10. Will you get me more money than other attorneys and why?

To read more analysis of these questions, please see: “Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Pennsylvania Personal Injury Attorney“.

Should I Talk To The Defendant's Insurance Company?

No. If you are injured, and suspect that another party may be responsible, you should NOT talk to the defendants insurance company directly. Insurance companies against you will attempt to obtain verbal or written statements which you are not required to give. You should hire an attorney to handle all of the verbal and written communications with a defendant's insurance company.

Should I Sign Any Forms With the Defendant's Insurance Company?

Do NOT sign any insurance forms without having them first reviewed by your lawyer. The risks outweigh the benefits. Most often, insurance companies will want you to sign release forms so that they may settle your case or they may try to obtain copies of your medical records. If you need to communicate with an insurance company representing the defendant's interests, it is better to have an attorney handle all of the communications so as not to jeopardize your legal rights.

Is Settlement Possible Or Do I Have To Sue?

It depends. We will always explore settlement options early if we believe it is in the best interests of the client. Many times it will be necessary to file a lawsuit. Even if a lawsuit is filed, a majority of meritorious claims do settle prior to an actual trial. However, we believe the best settlements are obtained by being fully prepared for trial and we treat each case as though a trial will be necessary. This often helps lead to successfully resolving the case without having to go to court.

How Long Will My Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

A typical lawsuit in Pennsylvania typically takes one (1) to two (2) years from the time of filing the complaint. Of course, there are numerous factors including the complexity of the legal issues and the amount of discovery necessary. We try to expedite all Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuits to the best of our ability and try to timely resolve lawsuits to the extent possible.

What Is The Statute Of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Pennsylvania?

The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for personal injury cases is two (2) years from when the accident occurred. However, the statute can be extended limited circumstances, such as in injury cases involving minors, (under age 18). In personal injury cases involving minors, the statute of limitations is tolled until two (2) years after the minor's 18th birthday. The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania can also be tolled or extended in certain cases where the plaintiff was unable to be aware of the defendants’ negligence at the time of the accident. In those scenarios, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the plaintiff knew, had reason to know, or should have known of the defendants’ negligence. If you are unsure whether your case is within the Pennsylvania statute of limitations, you should take action immediately.

What Does a Tort Mean?

A “tort” means a wrong by definition. A civil tort can be done negligently or intentionally. Both types of torts allow wronged individuals in Pennsylvania to file a lawsuit and to recover monetary damages for these wrongs.

What Is An Intentional Tort?

An intentional tort in Pennsylvania simply means that a wrong was caused intentionally (with the specific intent of causing harm or damage to another). Intentional torts sometimes can include the addition of punitive damages (which are damages aimed at punishing defendants).

What Does Negligence Mean?

Negligence is the breach of a duty of care to another. It has a legal definition that is similar to being careless. In Pennsylvania, for a party to be liable for negligence, there must be a breach of a duty which directly and proximately causes harm or damage to another party. When a party is negligent in violating a Pennsylvania statute or law, it can be known as negligence per se.

What is Negligent Entrustment?

Section 308 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts defines Negligent Entrustment and this definition is as follows:

“It is negligence to permit a third person to use a thing or to engage in an activity which is under the control of the actor, if the actor knows or should know that such person intends or is likely to use the thing or to conduct himself in the activity in such a manner as to create an unreasonable risk of harm to others.”

Negligent entrustment can be pled in a variety of scenarios and a situation in which you will often see it applied is in the case of a car accident.

For a negligent entrustment claim to prevail in a car accident claim, the following criteria must be met:

1. The owner of a vehicle permitted a person to use the vehicle.

2. This person who was permitted to use the vehicle was incompetent and/or unfit to drive.

· What does “incompetent to drive” mean? There is not a clear definition, but this could mean that the driver was underage, the driver was unlicensed, or the driver was
intoxicated, the driver was ill or disabled. It could also mean someone who has a past history of causing car accidents or who has been cited pursuant to the motor vehicle code previously.

3. The owner of the vehicle knew or should have known this person was incompetent to drive.

4. The person was actually negligent on such occasion in which they were permitted to drive the vehicle; and

5. The person’s negligence actually caused the accident.

A Negligent Entrustment is a separate cause of action than the Negligence action against the actual driver who caused the car accident. In a Complaint in Civil Action, these will be listed as two separate counts.  

If you have any reason to believe that Negligent Entrustment is applicable in your car accident case, you should plead it in your Complaint along with the Negligence count against the driver as the statute of limitation is two (2) years from the date of the accident.

Is There Really No Fee Unless We Win?

Yes. Our representation for all personal injury cases is based on a contingent fee structure. There is absolutely no fee unless we obtain recovery for you. We advance 100% of the litigation costs, including experts, filings, and depositions and are only reimbursed from the client’s share if we are successful.

Can I get an Immediate Consultation for My Personal Injury or Accident Case?

Yes. Simply text or call Managing Attorney Noah Fardo on his cell phone at 412.855.5511 for a confidential no obligation consultation.

What Is The Standard Contingency Agreement?

Almost all personal injury lawyers, if there is merit to a case, will offer representation on a contingency fee agreement. The contingency fee means that the lawyers payment or fee is contingent upon an actual recovery. In the contingent fee agreement, there is no risk to injured clients of owning any monies even if the case is not successful. Contingent fee agreements should motivate lawyers to obtain maximum compensation as the lawyer fee is directly tied to the outcome of the case.

How Are Costs Calculated In Personal Injury Cases?

We have all heard that there is no fee unless there is recovery in a personal injury case. What most people do not know is that the costs of the case are deducted from the clients’ money. This is the reason why some personal injury lawyers actually receive more money than their clients in settlements and verdicts.

  • EXAMPLE: Case settles for $100,000.00 Lawyer Charges 40%: (or $40,000.00) Client’s portion is 60%: (or $60,000.00). However, what you do not know is the costs. You never hear lawyers explain in advertising how the costs are then deducted. For example, if the lawyers spent $11,000.00 on costs, then the client would only receive $49,000.00 (their share $60,000.00 minus the costs $11,000.00 = $49,000.00), and the lawyer would receive $51,000.00 (atty fee $40,000.00 + costs $11,000.00 = $51,000.00).

The lawyer received more than the client? Though it is absolutely necessary for personal injury lawyers to spend money on case costs, lawyers have a lot of discretion in how exactly this money is spent. Clients are rarely ever told their options about the costs of experts or other various costs associated with litigating their case. Lawyers can very easily spend excessively to pursue a case, knowing that the money will ultimately be paid back by the client. For example, is your lawyer flying first class or coach? What hotel is your lawyer staying at?

We always recommend that our clients stay involved with the costs as the case progresses. Ask your lawyer to always send you a copy of every check spent on costs. This will save you money, because lawyers will be more cognizant of the spending.

Why Should I Choose Flaherty Fardo as My Personal Injury Attorneys?
  • Over 25 Years Experience
  • Millions and Millions Recovered For our Injured Clients
  • Hundreds of 5 Star Reviews
  • Passionate and Dedicated Representation
  • We Treat Each and Every Case as Unique
  • We Develop Relationships That Last Decades and Focus on Client Satisfaction

In serious personal injury cases, it is important that clients feel comfortable with the personal injury lawyers chosen. There needs to be teamwork between the lawyers and the client. We understand that a financial award can never fully compensate an individual for a significant injury or for the loss of a loved one when a serious personal injury or accident occurs. However, monetary compensation can help to make the burden of injury or loss, at the very least, economically bearable.

Our goal is to maximize monetary recovery. Serious personal injuries and accidents are never planned and can wreak financial disaster in a family’s life. Our work cannot lessen the emotional and/or physical trauma that loved ones suffer. However, we attempt to mitigate the financial hardships and bring justice for the negligence and/or malpractice of others.

What Do Your Personal In jury Past Clients Say?

“Noah Fardo is a 5-star lawyer. I underwent a medical procedure that unfortunately went wrong. Reluctantly, I took a chance and found Noah through the Yellow Pages. When Noah took my case, my experience in working with him exceeded far beyond my expectations. He respected and reciprocated with me on my personal viewpoints of the case, yet dealt with me realistically on possible outcomes. He kept in touch with me through every step of the process, alleviating much of the anxiety associated with a lawsuit. He responded to my ongoing questions, comments and concerns almost immediately. I felt like we were a team and when the case finally came to execution, he left no stone un-turned. Most importantly, he fought for me equipped with total knowledge, vigor and professionalism.” Mary, Pittsburgh, PA

“3 years ago, I sustained an injury which I believed I needed an attorney. After countless phone conversations with many law firms that said, no, I did not have a case based on our phone conversation, I finally was able to get at least a personal interview with the law firm Flaherty and Fardo to determine if indeed I had a case. I met with Noah Fardo and he was very professional. After our meeting it was determined that his law firm would help me. The entire staff, from legal secretaries and lawyers, were very professional, compassionate and thorough. The law firm of Flaherty and Fardo made me feel like I was their only client. They kept me informed weekly with the progress of my case. They were able to win my case and I was awarded a monetary value beyond my expectations. I highly recommend them if you want it done right. Even to date they call me to see how I am doing. Flaherty and Fardo were truly a godsend to me and my family.” D.L., Pittsburgh, PA

“I’d never been involved in a lawsuit concerning a death before. But, when my uncle died unexpectedly in his apartment after the local utility company shut off his heat, I decided to ask several lawyers if they felt that the company was negligent. Attorney Noah Fardo was the only one who looked deeply into the details of the case and then decided a wrong had indeed occurred. Hands down, I’m glad that he was so thorough in his investigations. Attorney Fardo walked me through the entire case, basically, hand-in-hand. He’d call to update me through every stage of litigation, and when he had any news at all to report. I was never in the dark… or lost and confused about anything. I appreciated, so much, the personal touch he had with my case. I have to say, if there was an attorney who was ever so determined, and unrelenting, it’s Noah Fardo. Now my case has been successfully won and the estate received a large settlement. I can leave the trauma in the past. Thank you, Noah!!” Peter, Pittsburgh, PA

“Hi Noah and Shawn, Thank you. I had no idea what to expect filing my first lawsuit. I really didn’t even want to file it. You guys did a phenomenal job and me and my family can’t thank you enough. I hope I never need you again, but if I, or anyone I know does, I absolutely will recommend you.” Thanks again guys, we really appreciate it!” Robert, Pittsburgh, PA

Medical Malpractice

What Is Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice?

Medical Malpractice is the deviation from the ‘acceptable standard of care’.

The STANDARD OF CARE is the degree of caution or skill of which we expect and require from healthcare providers in our community.

A physician must have the same knowledge and skill and use the same care normally used in the medical profession. A physician whose conduct does not meet this professional standard of care is negligent and should be held responsible. Medical Malpractice is based upon holding doctors or healthcare providers responsible when the standard of care is breached.

The STANDARD OF CARE is a subjective standard. Therefore, doctors can often disagree about what is expected in providing medical treatment. In order to pursue a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania, plaintiffs must obtain a written expert report from a physician in the same or similar field opining that the care rendered indeed was negligent.

Malpractice is believed to be the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer, according to an article in the Journal of American Medical Association.

Individuals in Pennsylvania are entitled to compensation when a physician’s negligence causes their injury.

Compensation for medical malpractice includes monetary recovery for:

  1. past and future pain & suffering,
  2. medical expenses,
  3. lost wages,
  4. earning capacity,
  5. embarrassment,
  6. humiliation,
  7. disfigurement, and
  8. loss of enjoyment of life.

Our firm routinely reviews a wide variety of medical malpractice cases including surgical errors, hospital mistakes, misdiagnoses, plastic surgery errors, and lack of informed consent cases. If you have any questions, please call us at 412.855.5511 and speak to attorney Noah Fardo directly.

What Is The Statute Of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases in Pennsylvania?

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice and medical neglect cases in Pennsylvania is two (2) years from the date of the harm suffered. There can be a tolling (or extension) of the statute of limitations of two years in specific cases where the party was unaware of the negligence or harm suffered until a later date or if the case involves a minor (under the age of 18). In medical malpractice cases involving minors, the statute does not begin to accrue until the minor reaches age 18, and then ends on their 20th birthday.

Example of tolling a medical malpractice case: If a patient undergoes a knee surgery, and the doctor operates on the wrong knee, then the statute of limitations would most likely be two (2) years from the date of the surgery, since the patient should have known of the mistake on the day the surgery occurred.

However, if the doctor’s error was not discovered until a later date (even years later), then the statute of limitations may not begin to run until the patient knew, had reason to know or should have known of the alleged malpractice and the injury. Of course, each case depends on the unique facts of each case.

How Do I know If I Have A Medical Malpractice Case?

You need to have your potential case reviewed by experienced medical malpractice lawyers as well as a potential review by a physician.

Bad outcomes do not always mean a person has a lawsuit. A mistake by a doctor may mean that there is a case but not always.

In Pennsylvania, injured persons have a medical malpractice case if and only if they can satisfy three elements.

  1. There was a deviation from the acceptable standard of care AND another doctor in the same field verifies the deviation in writing.
  2. The deviation directly CAUSED harm to the patient.
  3. The patient was injured.

It is not always possible to know whether a medical malpractice case exists until the records are obtained and reviewed both by the lawyers and doctors.

However, common sense will often dictate to people whether a medical error happened and it is very important to know what to do if you are suspicious as to whether malpractice occurred or not.

What Should I Do After A Medical Mistake Has Happened?

If you think a medical mistake or medical error has happened based on the actions of a doctor or hospital, you need to do 3 important things.

  1. You need to ask the doctors and administrators what happened. This can be an effective tool in gathering information and often doctors will be more honest immediately upon the event happening than they will be later. Ask direct questions and take notes in front of witnesses when possible.
  2. You need to request the medical records as soon as is practical. Medical records can be changed or omitted. If you believe a medical error occurred, you are always better off requesting the medical records immediately at the hospital or at the doctor’s office if possible.
  3. You need to consult a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The days following a medical mistake are crucial in gathering and preserving evidence. As the memories of a witness may fade, and medical records may get misplaced, it is important to start investigating what happened as soon as possible after a suspected medical error or mistake.
How Do I Get A Copy of My Medical Records?

Obtaining your own medical records should be easy. It is not. Doctors and hospitals often have excuses of why they are unable to timely forward copies of patients medical records.

Depending upon the facility, it is always better to try to obtain copies of the medical records at the time of treatment. Speak directly to the office manager or to the medical billing unit at the hospital.

You will need to complete a HIPPA compliant medical record release authorization if you would like your attorney to request these records on your behalf.

Many of the medical facilities in Pennsylvania do have standard medical record requests available online. These forms can be filled in by either the patient or the representative and sent directly to the provider. If you ever need help obtaining your medical records for a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania, please feel free to let us know by emailing info@pghfirm.com.

Should I Go Back To The Same Doctor After a Medical Mistake?

It Depends.

We never give medical advice. If you believe that a specific doctor can give you or a loved one the best medical care, then you always need to do what is best from a health perspective. You should never let a legal decision affect an important medical decision.

However, from a legal perspective, we do not recommend continuing treatment with a doctor that you believe may have committed malpractice unless necessary from a medical standpoint or from a treatment standpoint.

The logic is simple. First, why would you want to continue treating with a doctor that you believe committed medical malpractice? If you believe a doctor was negligent, common sense would question whether you or your loved one should continue care with that same allegedly negligent doctor. Second, juries can be skeptical of patients who sue the same doctors that they continued to treat with. This is different if you believe a hospital made a mistake, and again legal decisions should NEVER guide your necessary medical treatment.

Choosing a doctor is a personal decision, and one that should focus on health and safety first and foremost. However, if you are pursuing a lawsuit, you should be careful about treating with the same doctor or healthcare provider you believe was negligent in the first place.

How Do I Find The Best Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Lawyer For My Case?

Not all medical malpractice lawyers are equal and most have different levels of experience. Finding the right malpractice lawyer for your case is about finding the best lawyer that you feel most comfortable handling your case. There are several ways you can ensure that your potential lawyer is the right malpractice lawyer for your case.

At a minimum, you need to:

research lawyers, interview several lawyers, and make sure your lawyer has the time and specific experience to handle your case.

Will You Review My Medical Malpractice Case For Free?

We will certainly talk with you for free and provide some general thoughts on your potential medical malpractice case. Our screening process starts with an interview by an actual lawyer. If we believe there is merit, we will offer to review the medical records and have the records reviewed by a doctor. We do not offer actual physician review in every case.

There is no obligation during the review process and typically, we only offer representation if a doctor is willing to agree that there was negligence. In addition, we must be able to determine that the negligence caused harm to the patient.

If we accept your case, we advance 100% of all costs, expert fees, deposition costs, the costs of obtaining your medical records, and any other case expenses and are only reimbursed if we are successful in recovery.

If you would like a free consultation, please call Managing Attorney Noah Fardo directly at 412.855.5511.

What Do You Charge For Medical Malpractice Cases?

Our representation for medical malpractice and/or medical negligence cases is based on a contingent fee structure.

There is absolutely no fee unless we obtain recovery for you. We advance 100% the costs, including experts, filings, and depositions and are only reimbursed from the client’s share if we are successful. If we represent you or a loved one in a medical malpractice case, you can rest assured that we cannot make money unless we obtain monetary recovery for you or our client.

Our Pittsburgh law firm advances substantial sums of money for each case with absolutely zero financial risk to our injured clients.

If you are injured, we will make any necessary accommodations to offer you the most convenient consultation possible. Whether you are at home or in a hospital, we will listen to the situation which caused your injury.

What Is The Standard Fee Agreement For Medical Malpractice Cases?

The standard fee for medical malpractice cases is 40% of the total recovery received. It is important to understand that any costs advanced by the lawyer are typically deducted from the client’s portion of the recovery.

Clients are never responsible for out-of-pocket expenses unless there is a recovery. However, clients are encouraged to keep track of costs as litigation proceeds so that they are aware of the deduction which will happen from their final recovery.

Fees for injured minors will often be reduced and need approval from the courts prior to final resolution.

Should You Try To Settle Your Medical Malpractice Case Before Filing Suit?

It Depends. We have had some success in early resolution programs with local hospitals and doctors. Typically though, early resolution is only the best remedy if the case is very clear on liability and the defendants express an interest in the early resolution process. More typical is that the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit is necessary to ensure that the case is fairly evaluated before any settlement. We believe that the value of a medical malpractice case usually increases once the legal complaint is filed.

Also, you can always address resolution once the case is actually filed, and then the defendants better understand the allegations and injuries suffered, as well obtain a copy of the expert report by your own doctor opining that the defendants were indeed negligent.

Ultimately, it is the client’s decision on whether or not they would like to settle at certain points throughout litigation. Our job is to provide options and advice. However, the final decision to settle or go to trial will always be the decision of the client. We work hard to make sure our clients are fully informed so that we can help them make the best decision for their case.

How Long Does A Medical Malpractice Case in Pennsylvania?

Most medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania take about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years to effectively prosecute to trial.

It takes about 3-6 months to file the complaint and have the defendants file their answer. Discovery usually takes 12-18 months and then it takes another 6 months to have the case listed for trial depending on which county the case is filed..

These are of course estimates, and each medical malpractice case is unique depending upon the complexity of the case, the number of defendants, and the number of issues involving negligence, causation and/or damages.

Be careful about lawyers extending the case for longer than it needs to be. Many lawyers are eager to sign clients, but are not as eager to push the case forward as efficiently as possible. When our offices are retained, we work hard to either settle the case or move the case forward as quickly as possible to trial.

Do I Pay Any Costs In A Medical Malpractice Case?

Typically, No. There is no risk of our clients having to pay out of pocket expenses in a medical malpractice case.  However, clients are responsible for reimbursing the law firm out of their portion of the recovery for any monies advanced.

We routinely update our clients of any costs advanced so that they are aware of the costs at all times. We also try to be efficient in costs and not incur unreasonable expenses which ultimately are reimbursed from the client.

How Much Is My Medical Malpractice Case Worth In Pennsylvania?

It depends on the level of negligence of the doctor, as well as the severity of the harm actually suffered.

In Pennsylvania, injured plaintiffs can seek recovery for damages which include:

  1. past medical bills,
  2. future medical bills,
  3. lost wages,
  4. lost earning capacity, and/or
  5. other ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses.

Pennsylvania also allows for the recovery of pain and suffering, which may include:

  1. physical pain,
  2. emotional pain,
  3. stress,
  4. mental anguish,
  5. embarrassment,
  6. humility,
  7. and/or reduction in the likelihood of marriage.

Pain and suffering is different with every jury. Also, how reckless the medical error is, can have a direct impact on the financial award or settlement.

The true value of any medical malpractice claim can only be determined after thoroughly analyzing the liability, the defendants, and a full understanding of the injuries. This also includes understanding the plaintiff’s background, life and family. We work hard to inform our clients of expectations based upon our thorough review, past experiences and personal relationships with our clients.

What Is The Pennsylvania ‘Certificate of Merit’?

The Pennsylvania certificate of merit is a statement from another doctor agreeing that there was negligence.

In 2003, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court approved a new rule requiring attorneys to obtain a “certificate of merit” from a medical professional establishing that there was a violation of the standard of care.

What this means is that in order to proceed in medical malpractice cases now, lawyers must have a written statement from another doctor, in the same or similar field of medicine, opining that there was negligence and that such negligence was in fact the direct cause of harm to the plaintiff.

A lawyer failing to obtain the certificate of merit cannot bring a case to trial. Certificates of merit must be obtained within sixty (60) days of the filing of the complaint. If a certificate of merit is not filed, the case can be dismissed and judgment may be entered in favor of the defendants.

Anyone considering filing a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania needs to understand the critical importance of the certificate of merit and having a statement from another doctor agreeing that there was negligence, causation and damages.

What Is Your Past Experience With Medical Malpractice Cases?

For over 20 years, Flaherty Fardo has helped injured victims of medical malpractice claims recover significant money for their injuries.

Our efforts have helped victims in cases involving surgical errors, emergency room mistakes, misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose and lack of informed consent claims. We have extensive experience in cases against various healthcare providers including, hospitals, general surgeons, OB/GYN physicians, and emergency room staff.

We have received numerous settlements and/or verdicts in Allegheny County and surrounding counties including, Washington County, Westmoreland County, Elk County, Fayette County, and Clearfield County, Pennsylvania specifically for medical malpractice cases..

Medical malpractice claims are some of the most difficult cases to pursue, both because of the actual time incurred as well as the financial resources necessary to challenge some of the largest healthcare organizations in the state of Pennsylvania. We believe our success in prosecuting malpractice claims is a direct result of our work ethic and recognition of the importance of our client’s claims.

Do You Have Access to Doctors to Review My Medical Malpractice Case?

Yes. Our medical malpractice lawyers have developed a large access to a variety of  board certified physicians to review potential cases and to help with the prosecution of medical malpractice actions when negligence exists. It is common place to contact prior experts when reviewing new or potential malpractice cases.

Why Should I Choose Flaherty Fardo As My Medical Malpractice Lawyer?

Because if we accept your case, we believe no one will work harder to help you.

Choosing the right medical malpractice attorney is crucial. What we offer is experienced, aggressive representation with client’s interests as our primary concern.

We believe that recovering monies for victims of medical malpractice can affect our clients and their families for the rest of their lives. We take that responsibility seriously and only commit to cases we are determined to win.

We believe we offer three advantages.

  1. We have a large database of physicians we can consult. Having access to doctors is essential in prosecuting these cases.
  2. We have significant experience and have collected millions of dollars for victims of malpractice over the years.. We have successfully handled multiple kinds of malpractice cases including surgical errors, hospital errors, misdiagnosis, and informed consent cases.
  3. We provide unique personal attention. We are accessible and our clients should never have to ask about the status of their case.

Debt Collection

What Is Pennsylvania Debt Collection?

Pennsylvania debt collection includes collection of money owed from one individual or business to another. In order to collect debt in Pennsylvania, a creditor typically needs to obtain a money judgment first. This is a legal determination that money is legally owed. Once a judgment is obtained, a creditor then has certain legal abilities to enforce or execute on the judgment in order to get paid.

What Is The Legal Process For Pennsylvania Debt Collection?

If you or your business is owed money, there is typically a 3-step process to Pennsylvania debt collection.

  • Step 1 is typically a demand letter. A demand is optional for most Pennsylvania debt collection cases.
  • Step 2 is filing a debt collection lawsuit.
  • Step 3 is enforcing and executing on the judgment which can include garnishing or 'freezing' bank accounts and/or having a sheriff sale of personal assets, vehicles, or real property owned by the debtor.
Step 1: The Pennsylvania Debt Collection Demand Letter:

Step 1 is the demand letter.

There are federal and state requirements when demand letters are written from debt collectors. The demand letter typically includes:

  • the name of the creditor;the amount of the debt;
  • the opportunity to dispute the debt, and/or
  • the opportunity to request written verification of the debt.

Demand letters also often include a deadline by which to respond or pay.

Demand letters are NOT a prerequisite to filing law-suits in Pennsylvania. However, a well-drafted demand letter is a viable option for collecting pre-suit. Payment plans prior to filing suit can also help pay for the cost of the lawsuit, if necessary. If a demand letter does not produce payment, then legal action is usually necessary to collect.

Step 2: Filing A Pennsylvania Debt Collection Lawsuit:

Pennsylvania Debt Collection is a strategic game that requires skilled attorneys to collect. If you want to collect Pennsylvania debt, then most often a civil lawsuit is necessary. The process involves filing a complaint in civil action requesting JUDGMENT against the defendant (debtor).

If the debtor disputes the allegations of the complaint, then the defendant can file an ANSWER, AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES, and/or a COUNTERCLAIM.

The defendant does not legally owe the money until proven in court and a judgment is entered.

Depending upon where the lawsuit is filed (i.e. magistrate, county arbitration, county general docket), there can be multiple appeals available for the defendant to delay.

There are strategic decisions to determining where to file and the most efficient way to collect. Although a money judgment acts as a lien on all real property in Pennsylvania, it does not guarantee payment of the debt. Most often, enforcement of the judgment is necessary.

Step 3. Enforcing The Pennsylvania Money Judgment:

The goal of the lawsuit is to not just obtain a money judgment, it is to collect the money owed. To collect on the money judgment, sometimes it is necessary for creditors to force a sheriff sale of personal property, real property, vehicles and/or assets of the debtor. Also, seizing a bank account can be the most effective way to collect your money. Pennsylvania is a debtor friendly state because marital property is exempt and wages cannot be garnished (absent very limited circumstances). Please read more below on How to Enforce Pennsylvania Judgments.

How Long Are Pennsylvania Judgments Valid For?

Pennsylvania judgments are valid for 5 years. Judgments can be revived every 5 years and should be revived if a creditor is attempting to actively collect on the debt. Judgments also act as a lien against real property for up to 20 years or longer if properly revived.

What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Debt Collection In Pennsylvania?

Most debt collection cases stem from a breach of a written or oral agreement or contract. The statute of limitations for breach of contracts in Pennsylvania is 4 years from when the party knew, had reason to know or should have known of the breach. Accordingly, payment of a debt can toll or extend the statute of limitations from the time of the last payment.

How Do I Know If My Debt Collection Case Is Collectible?

The answer is you may not ever know until you try. You can do background checks to determine assets, vehicles, bank accounts etc. However, Pennsylvania debt collection is not a game of certainty. Many times, we will collect debt on cases we thought may be difficult, and other times individuals with plenty of cash are able to avoid debt collection.

The keys to collecting are patience and consistency. Once you obtain the money judgment, you need to be smart about how much you will pay in attempting execution on the judgment and about what other options are available.

Each case is different, but more often than not, debt can be collected if the party remains persistent. Also, it is critical to do pre-lawsuit investigations on websites such as Pennsylvania Corporate Name Search; Facebook and/or Linkedin.

What Do Debt Collection Attorneys Typically Charge In Pennsylvania?

Debt collectors in Pennsylvania include both attorneys and non-attorneys. Most Pennsylvania debt collection attorneys offer services on hourly, flat fee, and/or contingency fee arrangements (meaning they do not get paid unless they collect). Depending on the specifics of the case, we offer hourly and/or contingency fee arrangements for our clients.

Depending upon the age and/or amount of the debt, most contingency fees range between 25% to 50%. Many collection firms will charge clients 50% of the debt recovered, and then hire law firms at 25%. Most clients who are owed money are better off hiring attorneys directly.

If you are considering hiring a debt collection lawyer, you should inquire about all three type of debt collection fee agreements.

How Do You Enforce Debt Collection Judgments in Pennsylvania?

Getting a Pennsylvania judgment is not enough to collect on a debt and money owed to you or your business. Obtaining the judgment is only one step in the Pennsylvania debt collection process. Most attorneys can obtain judgment against debtors and defendants who do not respond to lawsuits. This is called the default judgment. Obtaining the judgment is usually the easiest part of the debt collection process.

Pennsylvania debt collection means understanding Pennsylvania sheriff sales.

The next step is executing upon the judgment. Pennsylvania does not allow wage garnishment except in certain landlord / tenant cases and only skilled Pennsylvania Debt Collection attorneys know what to do after the judgment is entered.

Many attorneys, businesses and individuals have relied upon the expertise of our Pittsburgh law firm in collecting judgments they were all unable to collect.

There are limited options in Pennsylvania to enforce and execute upon judgments. Basically, Pennsylvania creditors have 5 options:

  1. Garnish and Seize Bank Accounts.
  2. Garnish Money owed From 3rd Parties.
  3. Sheriff Levy and Sale of Vehicles.
  4. Sheriff Levy and Sale of Personal or Business Property.
  5. Foreclosure of Real Property.

Each Pennsylvania county has different local rules for enforcing and executing upon judgments.

Choosing the best execution strategy is important so as not to waste client’s money. The last thing most of our clients want to do is throw good money at bad money. Skilled Pennsylvania collection attorneys also need to understand how marital property and claims for exemption can affect execution of judgments.

We often perform crucial discovery in aid of execution, including interrogatories in aid of execution and depositions in aid of executions to best ascertain the financial solvency of the debtors. This experience in executing and enforcing upon judgments gives our clients the best advantage for collecting their money owed.

You need an experienced Pennsylvania debt collection attorney if you are going to collect on a judgment in state or out of state. We fully evaluate the possibilities of bankruptcy, claims for exemptions, and the ability to hide assets in every case.

We offer free consultations at all levels throughout the litigation process, and we are often eager to assist in enforcing judgments, which have already been entered. We are also able to assist with judgments entered in Pennsylvania magistrates’ offices. There is a distinct process for entering magistrate judgments with the county courts and you need experienced debt collection attorneys to collect.

For a free consultation call Noah Paul Fardo, Esq. or Shawn T. Flaherty, Esq. at our offices at 412.802.6666 or toll free at 1.877.744.3476.

How Does Flaherty Fardo Collect Debt?

Flaherty Fardo, LLC takes extreme pride in its ability to collect Pennsylvania debt and money owed for both individuals and businesses. Our clients consist of:

  • Individuals;
  • Corporations, LLC’s, Partnerships;
  • Large and small business owners,
  • Banks;
  • Credit unions;
  • Collection agencies;
  • Mortgage companies.

When the collection agencies cannot collect a debt, they call our Pittsburgh law firm for help.

Since 1999, we have helped creditor’s recover monies and debts for student loans, defaulted mortgages, and everyday account receivables including money loaned. We are also experienced in enforcing Pennsylvania judgments.

These days, small business owners cannot afford not to be paid for their goods and services. We have helped our business clients engage in pre-litigation, litigation and post-litigation strategies, including repossession, seizure of bank accounts and sheriff sales of personal and business property.

There are times for filing suit in collections and there are times to negotiate. We help our clients make the best overall business decisions to collect their money fast. Our experience as Pennsylvania debt collection attorneys has helped us collect for all types of individuals and businesses.

How Do You Find Assets To Collect On?

We are skilled at tracking defendants and their assets. Our computer research allows us to track individuals, corporations and to inventory their assets. We routinely hire skilled private investigators to research the location of assets, vehicles and bank account information. When debtors hide, our hired investigators find them. We have personal items repossessed and will authorize the repossession of vehicles in appropriate cases. We collect large sums of money by garnishing and seizing bank accounts.

We are also aggressive litigators if need be. Debtors lie. If you are going to collect debt in Pennsylvania, you are going to be lied to. It takes experience in dealing with debtors, to understand when they intend to pay versus when they are misleading you. We can be compassionate if it makes sense for our clients. This is fine line that only experienced Pennsylvania debt collection attorneys understand.

Does Your Law Firm Cover The Entire State Of Pennsylvania for Debt Collection?

Yes. We offer legal services in every county in Pennsylvania and have the knowledge, skill and expertise to collect debt from even the most difficult debtors. We spend considerable time ensuring that we are familiar with the local rules of each of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania so that our national clients do not need more than one law firm in Pennsylvania.

Our current national clients, including large banks and student loan agencies, have trusted us for over a decade to collect their outstanding debt and monies owed. We keep clients because we produce results.

We offer our aggressive services on a contingency basis, hourly basis, and/or a flat fee depending on the prospects of collection and the wealth of the defendant debtor.

Do You Represent Out-of-state Clients and Record Foreign Judgments?

Yes. Flaherty Fardo, LLC works with law firms and collection agencies all over the United States in transferring judgments and in collecting Pennsylvania debt. We have assisted law firms from all over the country including Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, and Michigan in collecting Pennsylvania debt.

We act as general counsel for the entire state of Pennsylvania for student loan agencies, banks and mortgage companies. Out of State law firms have relied upon our collection law experience and consistency in handling their Pennsylvania debt collections since 1999. We take each and every debt collection case seriously, and will often stay on cases for years, renewing the judgments after 5 years, if necessary.

Will Your Law Firm Pay Referral Fees To Out-of-State Lawyers?

Yes. We offer reasonable contingency fees to ensure that out of state law firms and collection agencies are able to profit as well through our efforts. When contacted by out of state law firms, we realize that their reputation is also on the line. The out of state law firms also have clients to answer to.

We also believe that out of state law firms making the referral should profit by the referral. This method and belief has helped us form relationships all over the country and has led to a number of additional referrals for our Pittsburgh law firm. We offer free consultations and will gladly research the debtors assets free of charge before discussing potential representation.

Do You Offer Free Consultations On All Debt Collection Cases?

Yes. Flaherty Fardo does offer free consultations on any and all Pennsylvania debt collection cases. It is common for us to talk and consult with potential clients to help them understand the debt collection process in PA and to decide whether our debt collection and/or litigation services make financial sense for the client. Free consultations can be made by calling our office or emailing us at info@pghfirm.com.

Tax Appeals

What Is A Property Assessment?

A property assessment is the value that is used to determine property taxes on your property. In Allegheny County, PA, the County is the government entity that determines the assessment for each property in Allegheny County. A property assessment can be appealed every single year in Allegheny County either by the property owner or any interested taxing jurisdiction.

Every property owner in Allegheny County, PA pays three (3) different property taxes, which are:

  1. County Taxes;
  2. School District Taxes; and
  3. Local (Borough or Township Taxes).

You can find your current Allegheny County assessment value, listed as “2022 Full Base Year Market Value”, at the County website here.

The County assessed value directly determines what your County tax, school district tax and local property tax will be every single calendar year. All three property taxes are calculated using the same County property assessment. Therefore, the lower your property assessment, the lower your property taxes.

From 2002 through 2012, Allegheny county utilized a 2002 base year. Beginning in 2012, the reassessment values reflected a 2012 base year, to be used for taxation purposes in the 2013 tax year moving forward. Your 2022 property assessment value should therefore reflect the fair market value of your property as of January 1, 2012. It is not known when the next Allegheny County Reassessment will occur.

Sometimes you will notice that there are two different property assessments listed on the Allegheny County website. The reason one of these is assessments is sometimes less, is that the county allows a ACT 50 - HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION of $18,000.00 if the property is your primary residence. If the Homestead Exemption application is filed, the property assessment will be $18,000.00 less for County tax purposes only. The school district and local property taxes will still be based on the full county assessed value.

How Do I Calculate My Property Taxes?

Again, there are three (3) different property taxes (County, School and Local).

Allegheny County Property taxes are calculated by multiplying the county property assessment by the current millage rate for each specific taxing entity and then adding all three tax bills. The County millage rate for 2022 is 4.73. Each school district and local taxing entity (municipality/borough or township) sets their own specific millage rates each year.

Here is an EXAMPLE of how to calculate Allegheny County property taxes:

Let's assume Allegheny County issues a property assessed value of $100,000.

Next, you would multiply the $100,000 assessment times each specific millage rate.

  • County millage rate: 4.73 (county tax = $473/year)
  • School District millage rate: 20.00 (school taxes would = $2,000/year)
  • Local millage rate: 5.00 (local tax = $500/year)

In this example, a property assessed at $100,000 would pay a total of $2,973/year in property taxes. Typically, the school district millage rate is largest but not always. Most properties in Allegheny County pay a total of around 30 mills, or roughly $3,000 in total property taxes for every $100,000 a property is assessed at. This of course varies based on the millage rates and can be as lower as 22+/-mills and as high as as 55+/-mills. So depending on the location of the property the same $100,000 assessed property can pay as low as $2,200 in total property taxes or as high as $5,500 in total taxes.

For more information about the current municipality tax millage rates in Allegheny County - see the following:

Who Sets Millage (Taxation) Rates in Allegheny County, PA?

The County tax millage is set by the Allegheny County Council. School district tax millages are set by local school boards. Municipal (local) tax millage rates are set by individual municipalities. The County millage rate is typically set by the end of each calendar year for the following year. The setting of millage rates for local taxes and school district taxes varies across the County, as some of these bodies operate on a calendar year, while others operate on a fiscal year. All millage rates are usually set by the end of June of any given year for the following year.

What Is The 2012 Base Year and Does it Still Matter?

The 2012 Base Year is the year in which the last Allegheny County-wide reassessment occurred. Yes, it still matters because it means that all properties should be valued with an effective assessment value of January 1, 2012.

For 2022 taxation purposes (and for future years until the next reassessment), the base year is 2012. Therefore, for 2022 property appeals, all assessed values should represent the estimated base year market value of the property as of January 1, 2012.

This value (even under a 2012 Base Year) can be changed due to permits, appeals, property information corrections, flood loss or catastrophic loss. The goal of Base Year methodology is to allow similar homes to have similar assessments until the next County-wide reassessment. This is often questioned when school districts appeal only more recent sales, and can make determining current assessments more complicated the more time that elapses between reassessments.

How Was My Current Allegheny County Property Assessment Calculated?

For the 2012 reassessment, Allegheny County hired Tyler Technologies to conduct the most recent reassessment. Allegheny County Office of Property Assessment also hired County assessors to use a computer assisted mass appraisal system (CAMA) to help determine property assessment values.

The goal was to determine value primarily by comparison with sales from 2009, 2010 and 2011 on properties with similar characteristics within your defined neighborhood.

The assessment for your property could have changed from the original reassessment value based on tax appeals, building permits, or various exemptions which could apply to the property.

Is My Current Assessment Value Correct?

Current assessment values are NOT supposed to represent current market value.

Since we are using a 2012 Base Year, it is not as simple as answering: "What is your property worth?" Your property is NOT supposed to be assessed at 100% of current market value. To the contrary, the longer the time period that elapses from the 2012 Base Year, the lower the assessment should now be relative to actual market value. Most property owners are confused about the 2012 Base Year and how it can be used as an argument to lower property taxes.

There are several ways to argue that a commercial or residential property is now over-assessed. If you have any questions whether you can lower your property taxes, you should seek a free tax appeal consultation with our attorneys by emailing info@pghfirm.com.

How Do I Lower My Property Tax Bill?

The best way to lower your property tax bill is to lower your property assessment value. You can lower your property taxes in Allegheny County, PA by appealing and lowering your current property assessment value. The lower the property assessment, the lower the property taxes which are due.

Other options, outside of the tax appeal process can include applying and receiving an abatement or exemption. Allegheny County lists the Tax Abatements and Exemptions on the Allegheny County real estate website which include:

  • County Act 50 (Homestead/Farmstead Exclusion)
  • Act 76 (LERTA) Act 77 (Senior Citizen Property Tax Relief)
  • Act 132 (Residential Visitability Design Tax Credit Program)
  • Act 156-PA (Clean & Green Program)
  • Act 202 (New Construction) Exemptions (for Non-Profit Organizations and Governmental Entities)

Property owners with a primary residence within the County are generally entitled to the Act 50 Homestead Exclusion tax abatement. If a property owner wishes to file for this Exclusion, they must file the appropriate paperwork by March 1st of that calendar year. In 2022, this Exclusion entitles property owners to a $18,000 reduction in their assessment value for County taxes only. To determine if your property already has this exemption, you can find this information on the County website or on your County tax bill.

Where Can I Get An Annual Tax Appeal Form for Allegheny County?

Any property owner can appeal their property taxes every calendar year, if there is no pending tax appeal for the property.

Allegheny County tax appeal forms are also available during the relevant appeal period on the Allegheny County website here. Allegheny County property assessment appeal forms are also available in person on the third floor of the County Office Building at 542 Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

How Do I Know My Assessment Appeal Form Was Received?

You can check your property Allegheny County Assessment website to confirm receipt of your appeal form or Contact the Office of Property Assessments Public Information Line at 412-350-4600.  

Be careful about confirming the status of your appeal online. Though the Allegheny County website does have an “appeal status” tab that will show if your appeal form has been processed, it is not always accurate. We always recommend that property owners send in two copies of the appeal form, and ask that a time-stamped copy be returned to them when it has been received by the Office of Property Assessments. This helps to protect the property owner down the road if there are any issues with the appeal form being misplaced or mishandled.

What Is The Deadline For Filing An Annual Appeal Form?

The appeal deadline for 2022 is March 31, 2022. An appeal filed in 2022 would constitute a 2022 appeal, and apply only to 2022 and year(s) moving forward. The 2022 appeal form must be postmarked by March 31, to be accepted for the 2022 tax year.

When And Where Does The Board Of Appeals Meet?

Allegheny County has an actual Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review (BPAAR) which typically meets every other Thursday at 8:00 am in Room 328 of the County Office Building at Forbes and Ross Streets in downtown Pittsburgh. You can view the Board Meeting Schedule online or call the Office of Property Assessments at (412) 350-4600 to ask when the next meeting is.

How Long Does It Take to Get A Tax Appeal Hearing Date?

Hearings at the BPAAR are typically scheduled between April and September of every calendar year.

According to the Allegheny County website, the Office of Property Assessments will, “Send you advance notice of the hearing date 14 days for residential, 30 days for commercial."

If you are unable to attend the scheduled hearing, a postponement can be requested from the Office of Property Assessments. Postponement request forms can be found on the Allegheny County real estate website and must be sent at least 7 days prior to the listed hearing.  Emergency requests to postpone may also be submitted, and must be sent to the Office of Property Assessments.  All taxing bodies must also be made aware of this request by written notice. During the pandemic all hearings have been via telephone only, and parties have had to exchange information at least 5 days before the hearing occurs.

What If I Miss My Scheduled Hearing Or I Am Out of Town?

If you have questions about the timelines of an appeal form or a scheduled hearing date, you should call the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessment public information center. The staff is typically very helpful.

If you miss the hearing entirely, you would need to make a request directly with the Board of Property Assessments Appeals & Review (BPAAR) to have the hearing rescheduled.  The Board of Property Assessment as described above would hear your request and either approve or deny your request.  If the request for a rescheduled hearing is denied, you would then have the option of further appealing this decision to the General Motions Judge at the Court of Common Pleas. Call us with any questions 412.802.6666 if that happens and we would be happy to help guide you.

Can I Postpone My Allegheny County Tax Appeal Hearing?

Yes. At least once. Call the Office of Property Assessment at 412-350-4600. You have "the right to postpone a scheduled assessment appeal hearing only once.” (Source Allegheny County Website). As stated, the employees at the Office of Property Assessments are typically very helpful in resolving any scheduling issues. You can find the official Postponement Request form on the Allegheny County Assessment webpage, which can then be faxed to the Office of Property Assessments. It is important to note that requests for postponement are typically required at least seven (7) days before the date of the hearing.

What Type Of Evidence, If Any, Should I Bring To My Allegheny County Tax Appeal Hearing?

The type of evidence for a property tax appeal differs greatly on whether you are an owner appealing (appellant) or whether you are defending a tax appeal (appellee). Choosing which valuation method and valuation year is appropriate is crucial in the appeal process.

If you are a property owner appealing your property taxes, you must decide if you are arguing current market value or base year (2012) value. If a property owner is arguing base year (2012) value, then evidence of the value of the property in 2012 is relevant. However, if a property owner is arguing current market value, then evidence of the current market value is applied.

Here is a key difference. If a property owner is using current market value, that value should then be reduced by the common level ratio for each calendar year. The CLR (common level ratio) is simply a multiplier that is multiplied against the current market value to arrive at an actual base year value.

Basically, a property should not be assessed at 100% of its current market value under our current system. If a property owner believes their property is worth $100K, and their assessment is currently $100K, they can file an appeal. If they can prove their current market value is $100K, the CLR would apply to that value, and reduce the assessment accordingly. If the CLR is 85% for example, then a property currently worth $100K would appropriately be assessed at $85K.

The same is true for appeals filed by school districts. It would not be appropriately for a school district to argue that a property should be assessed at 100% of what a property just sold for.

Evidence for either a 2012 base year approach, or a current value approach (using the CLR), can include a variety of evidence including but not limited to the following:

  • An appraisal opining as to the current value if appropriate or an appraisal indicating the 2012 value, depending on which valuation method and year is chosen;
  • Research of similar homes in your neighborhood that sold in the years prior to the effective date;
  • Research about similar assessments (not always the best argument - but can be helpful as a secondary argument if there is clear lack of uniformity);
  • Pictures, estimates, etc. of repairs or deficiencies within the property that should be considered; and/or
  • Any reason you think you overpaid for a property (in current market value appeals).

The ultimate question for any tax appeal is focused primarily on what other sales and information suggest about the fair market value of the subject property, or the 2012 Base year if that is chosen. The property owner (or representative) is required to bring three (3) extra copies of their evidence so they can be distributed to all parties in attendance at the hearing (school district representative, etc.).

Do I Need To Hire An Attorney To Represent Me?

We believe yes. We believe that the best settlements and decisions are still more likely to be obtained by having experienced tax appeal attorneys represent the property owners.

If the school district has appealed your property assessment, we almost always recommend counsel because school attorneys cannot cross-examine us the same that they can property owners. We seldom have our clients attend the hearing, and especially in defense cases, there can be a distinct disadvantage of property owners attending and offering information that will likely be used against them in a second appeal of their case. Most of the tax appeal cases are appealed to the second level Board of Viewers, and property owners should be careful about what evidence they volunteer at the first level hearing.

At Flaherty Fardo, we analyze every case first to ensure that our efforts will justify the cost through increased tax savings. These cases can often involve significant tax consequences that will impact the property owner for various years into the future, and the costs of an attorney are often justified.

If I Cannot Attend My Hearing, May I Send Someone Else?

“Yes, you can decide to send another interested party provided they have an authorized representative form from you with your signature.” (Source Allegheny County Website). Authorized representatives can be anyone at the first level only (BPAAR). At the second level (BOV), only the property owner, interested party (i.e. tenant), or attorney may appear for a property.

If The School District Or The Municipality Filed An Appeal Against My Property, Should I Attend?

Allegheny County tells property owners that “You are not required to attend an appeal filed on your property by your school district or municipality. However, you may attend the hearing to present evidence for your case if you so choose.”(Source Allegheny County Website). This is awful advice by the County.

Property owners need to be careful about representing themselves, if for no other reason other than the school district attorneys can cross-examine property owners about appraisals, mortgages, and improvements to the property, and then use that information later in the tax appeal process. This information from property owners is seldom helpful to recent home buyers and is directly used against property owners by the taxing entities to increase their property taxes. We believe a better approach is to have experienced tax appeal counsel representing the property owners who cannot be cross-examined or compelled to offer into evidence information that does not help the case.

Can The Decision From The First Level (BPAAR) Be Appealed?

Yes - almost all tax appeal cases go through a multiple appeal process (first the BPAAR and second the BOV).

You do NOT receive a decision at the time of your first level (BPAAR) hearing. The hearing officer makes a recommendation to the Board of Property Assessment of Allegheny County, and the Board issues the decision by mail to the property owner.

The tax appeal decision from the first level hearing is typically mailed about 2-3 months after the BPAAR hearing. However, we have seen some decisions take 6 to 12 months to be issued. Once the decision is rendered, all parties (property owner and each of the taxing entities) have 30 days to appeal the decision (de novo – meaning “fresh” or “new”) to the Allegheny County Board of Viewers (BOV). It is very important to know your appeal rights and to appeal within thirty (30) days of the mailing date on the decision.

Any appeals to the second level Board of Viewers (BOV) are retroactive to the original filing date.

What Happens At The Second Level BOV Hearing?

Once the case is appealed from the BPAAR (first level) to the BOV (second level), it normally takes anywhere between 6 months to 18 months for the case to be scheduled for a hearing date. It is often a long wait and almost always means that there will be multiple years at issue by the time the case is finally scheduled. All tax appeals are retroactive to the year in which the appeal was originally filed and can generate additional bills or refunds based on the outcome of the tax appeal.

The BOV hearing occurs on the 8th floor of the City County Building as opposed to the BPAAR which is on the 3rd floor of the County Office Building. The hearing is DE NOVO, which means whatever happened at the first level (BPAAR) is now legally irrelevant. The appeal process starts over and the question is what is the base year value of the property under appeal. Unlike the first level (BPAAR), the BOV hearing is in a courtroom, and often there are attorneys from the County, school district and even municipalities present at the time of the hearing.

There is typically a conciliation process first, where everyone attempts to negotiate a settlement for all years involved. At the BOV level, proper legal counsel is essential. Unlike the BPAAR, non-attorneys are precluded from appearing on behalf of property owners. If a settlement is reached, every party can sign off on the agreed upon value while present at the hearing. If the parties are unable to resolve the case through this conciliation, then the case can goto an actual trial in front of an appointed Hearing Master. It is a real trial, with opening arguments, cross-examinations, etc. using the rules of evidence. It is absolutely essential to have competent legal counsel if you are litigating your case at the BOV. The reality is that you normally will not get the best settlement unless you have counsel and are prepared to go to trial. The taxing entities will often pressure property owners into unfair settlements if they are unrepresented. Often, we will hear the statements from attorneys for the school state: "Let’s go to trial then." This is said in an attempt to pressure property owners into settling. Don’t be bullied by the school districts. If you have additional questions about the BOV process, email us info@pghfirm.com or call us at 412.802.6666 for a free consultation.

What Is The History Of Allegheny County Assessments?

Allegheny County has had a long and tumultuous history with property assessments and residents of Allegheny County. There have been at two county wide reassessments (2002 and 2012), and the practice of school districts only appealing new home buyers has increased the lack of uniformity of assessments between similar property owners. Here is a look at the last 50 years of property assessment news in Allegheny County, PA.

Contributing Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6/6/07

  • 1970 —Green Tree Borough filed suit challenging the County’s system of assessing one-third of the county every year,
  • 1977 — Wilkinsburg filed a similar suit.
  • 1979 — Common Pleas Judge Nicholas P. Papadakos took control of the cases.
  • October 1, 1979 — eliminated the annual assessments and required the County to assess every property on a regular basis.
  • October 17, 1982 — Judge ends court oversight of the assessment system
  • February 13, 1992 — A computer-aided study of 500,000 properties by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette finds the values of many of them are substantially out of whack compared to their purchase price.
  • January 1994 — An effort to address assessment problems results in substantial increases in property values — some more than 40 percent — leading to a taxpayer revolt.
  • January 1, 1996 — Fueled by the assessment controversy, Republicans freeze assessments for five years so the County can fix the system.
  • May 13, 1996 — Six homeowners file suit against the assessment freeze, claiming it unfairly freezes values at inaccurate levels.
  • April 15, 1997 –Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. declares the freeze illegal and orders the County to prepare a plan to begin developing a new assessment for implementation in 1998 for properties whose values are more than 20 percent above or below fair market value.
  • January 9, 1998 — In exchange for the County implementing a full reassessment by 2001 instead of 2002, Judge Wettick puts off changes for properties more than 20 percent off of fair market value but also orders across-the-board assessment increases of 2 percent for every property in the county for 1999 and 2000.
  • February 10, 1998 — County hires Sabre Systems and Service of Miamisburg, Ohio, to complete the Allegheny County wide reassessment for $23.9 million.
  • January 9, 2001 — The County Property Assessment Oversight Board certifies new values for 552,000 properties at $57.1 billion across the county, up 48 percent from 2000.
  • January 2, 2002 — The new County assessment figures lead to more than 90,000 appeals.
  • February 15, 2005 — Responding to proposed new assessment figures for 2006 that would have nearly 80 percent of homeowners facing an assessment increase — 17,000 of them 100 percent or more — Mr. Onorato proposes to cap increases at a maximum of 4 percent.
  • May 12, 2005 — Judge Wettick rules the 4 percent cap is illegal, claiming it would only “exacerbate” disparities in the 2003 assessment.
  • September 20, 2005 - In a surprise move, Mr. Onorato decides not to use the revised figures for 2006 and instead called on County Council to establish 2002 as a base year for assessments.
  • October 27, 2005 — Kenneth Pierce of Braddock and Stephanie Beechaum of the Hill District file suit against the base-year system, saying their properties have decreased in value since 2002.
  • October 31, 2005 — A second group of homeowners file suit to challenge the base-year system.
  • March 16, 2006 — Judge Wettick rules that state law allows the county to use a base-year system for property assessment, but he allows attorney to challenge the constitutionality of the state law.
  • June 6, 2007 — In a landmark decision, Judge Wettick rules the state law allowing counties to use a base year for property assessments is unconstitutional because it doesn’t treat all taxpayers uniformly, which is a primary requirement.
  • 2009 – Supreme Court rules Base Year unconstitutional.
  • 2009 – Wettick Orders 2012 County Reassessment
  • Spring 2010 – Residents prepare for 2012 Allegheny County-wide Reassessment.
  • January 1, 2012 – New 2012 Base Year is established for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
  • 2012-2013 - Over 100,000 property tax appeals filed in Allegheny County.
  • 2013-2021 - School Districts appeal thousands of property owners who recently purchased their properties, leading to increased calls that they are being discriminated against.
  • 2018-2021 - Lawsuits are again filed by property owners alleging that the use of a 2012 Base Year without periodic reassessments is unconstitutional based on the same reasons that the 2012 reassessment was ordered. These lawsuits are still pending in 2022.
  • March 31, 2022 - Current tax appeal deadline for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania for property owners and taxing entities.
When will the next Allegheny County Reassessment happen?

Another Alegheny County reassessment is now overdue. It was 10 years between the 2002 and 2012 reassessments. Many experts expected the next Allegheny County reassessment to occur in 2022, but there are no definitive dates currently set. Reassessments in general are never popular and until the courts order the reassessment, it is unlikely to occur. There are several pending lawsuits as of 2022 which could trigger a reassessment as well, but these could take years to work through the courts.

Flaherty | Fardo | Rogel | Amick

Request a Free Case Legal Consult!

Thank you for your submission. We try to respond promptly, often within hours. If you need immediate assistance, you can try texting 412.855.5511. Be in touch shortly.

Thank you,
‍Noah Paul Fardo
Managing Partner
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.