For over 20 years, the Pittsburgh personal injury law firm of Flaherty Fardo has been helping injured individuals and their families. We pride ourselves on using our experience and reputation to help recover money for serious personal injuries and accidents. Serious injuries can include car accidents, bus accidents, trucks accidents or medical malpractice and can dramatically change lives.
When taking on a new personal injury case, we treat clients like we were representing our very own loved ones. Our firm has recovered millions of dollars for victims of Pennsylvania car accidents, truck accidents and wrongful death cases. Our lawyers have been recognized by Pennsylvania Superlawyers, The Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Elite Lawyers of America, and The Top 100 Trial Lawyers.
We believe our experience, our aggressiveness, and our attention to detail truly set us apart.
If you have been hurt or injured in an accident, here are the 5 basics of what you need to know. Each personal injury case in Pennsylvania is unique and it is important to understand and answer the following questions before proceeding with a personal injury lawsuit. Please click on each of the questions below for more information.
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:
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.
You can only receive money if someone else caused the injury or accident. To win, you must prove that the other party acted either:
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.
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.
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?
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.