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Personal Injury: What To Do After a Traffic Collision


By Dennis L. Plank, Attorney

Traffic accidents can harm Lancaster County residents in many ways. It might be the temporary pain of broken bones and bruises, the permanent pain of life-changing injuries such as brain or spinal cord damage, the financial pain of lost wages, or the emotional pain that is sometimes harder to define.

Auto accidents can have long-lasting effects, many of which qualify for a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, getting fair compensation isn’t always easy. Lancaster County drivers can improve their chances by taking two important steps after a traffic collision: Consult a doctor and consult a personal injury attorney. Here’s why:

One: Personal Injury Is Not Always Obvious. Don’t Assume You are “Fine.”

The body often responds to the trauma of an accident by releasing endorphins that mask pain and delay the onset of symptoms. Vehicle accidents at any speed usually involve sudden, jarring stops that can result in injuries to tissues, muscles, and joints that may not manifest themselves for days or even weeks. More importantly, even a minor accident can cause serious internal injuries that can grow worse or even deadly without treatment. A doctor visit following an accident is important for evaluating seemingly minor injuries and detecting hidden injuries before they become life-threatening.

Two: Accident Fault is Not Always Obvious, Either

Pennsylvania is a no-fault auto insurance state, meaning each party’s own insurance pays for medical expenses and lost wages resulting from an accident, up to coverage limits, no matter who is at fault. However, state law allows drivers to essentially opt-out of the no-fault system depending on the coverage they choose. Limited-tort auto coverage, although less expensive, limits the rights of an individual or their family to seek compensation for injuries caused by other drivers. Limited tort generally does not allow for financial compensation for pain and suffering or other non-financial damages unless the injuries meet a certain threshold. Full-tort coverage gives individuals and their families unlimited rights to recover compensation from at-fault drivers, not only for medical expenses and lost wages but also for pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages. Under Pennsylvania law, however, the court may reduce damages if a jury determines that the victim was partly at fault. A Lancaster County personal injury attorney can gather the necessary evidence to pursue a successful claim against an at-fault driver.


Three: Personal Injury Claims Depend on Timely Doctor Visits

Prompt medical attention after an accident is crucial not only for good health but also for fair insurance compensation. If an injured party hopes to recover fair compensation, they must seek medical attention within a reasonable amount of time. Most insurance companies consider 72 hours reasonable when evaluating a personal injury claim, so it is important to visit a doctor within 72 hours of a car or truck collision, even when there are no apparent injuries. Otherwise, an insurance company may try to argue that the accident couldn’t have been that bad or that the injuries are the result of some other event or pre-existing condition. Remember, just because there isn’t a broken bone or an open wound doesn’t mean there isn’t an injury. Waiting to see a doctor until symptoms show up could result in a significant reduction in compensation. 

Four: Medical Records Are Crucial in Lancaster County Personal Injury Cases

Medical records are important evidence in any personal injury case. It’s very difficult for someone to prove to an insurance company that they have injuries resulting from a traffic collision if there are no medical records to back it up. To ensure those medical records are thorough, be sure to share all details of the accident with the doctor as well as any and all symptoms, no matter how minor or vague they may seem. Now is not the time to battle through pain, ignore doctor’s orders, or skip appointments. A doctor will document all details about the accident, the patient’s symptoms, test results, and recommended treatment, all of which will help a Lancaster County attorney strengthen the personal injury claim and calculate damages. The patient should also keep a record and receipts from every visit to a doctor or specialist, any prescribed medications or devices such as crutches or braces, and any inconveniences or difficulties associated with the injuries. While it is important to report even minor symptoms, never exaggerate the details of an accident or injuries or neglect to share past medical history, all of which can damage credibility in the eyes of the insurance company.


Five: A Lancaster Personal Injury Lawyer can Ensure a Fair Settlement

An experienced personal injury attorney is an expert at proving fault and establishing liability. A personal injury lawyer will gather evidence and witnesses to support an insurance claim as well as calculate and document losses, including everything from wages to medical expenses. While putting a dollar amount on current and future medical bills and lost income is fairly straightforward, a personal injury lawyer can also calculate fair compensation for physical pain and other physical limitations along with emotional and mental trauma. Insurance companies often prefer to negotiate an agreement, known as a settlement, rather than go to a jury trial because it tends to be quicker and less expensive. However, insurance companies also look for reasons to reject claims, such as a lack of medical evidence.

Six: a Personal Injury Lawyer can File a Lawsuit if Necessary

Pennsylvania residents have a legal right to seek financial compensation for medical bills, expenses, loss of current and future work, legal expenses, and in some cases, pain and suffering related to a car or truck collision. When an insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement or refuses to negotiate in good faith, a personal injury lawsuit may be the only option. A Lancaster County personal injury attorney can gather evidence and prepare for trial. Pennsylvania residents have two years from the date of injury to file a personal injury lawsuit, giving them ample time to determine the long-term impact of their injury, from ongoing medical issues to work and financial losses.

Lancaster County residents injured in a traffic accident should contact the Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer who will review their options, determine if they have a strong case, help them navigate the legal system, and ensure they receive the compensation they deserve.

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