Two drivers surveying a car accident

How Will Me Being Partially at Fault for the Accident Impact My Claim?

Sometimes, who is at fault for causing an accident is not clear cut. One person may not carry all of the blame. If you played a role in contributing to an accident, but you were still injured in the incident, you are likely worried about how being partially at fault will impact your claim and your right to recover compensation for your injuries. Every state has its own laws regarding comparative negligence, which is the right of an injured party to recover damages when carrying partial blame for causing an accident. Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence laws may have a significant impact on your right to pursue compensation after an accident. Find out more here.

How Will Me Being Partially at Fault for the Accident Impact My Claim?

States vary in how they handle an accident injury victim being partially at fault in causing an accident. Some states will even place a full bar to recovery should a person partially contribute to causing an accident. These are states that follow a contributory negligence approach to such situations. There are only four contributory negligence states. Anyone who is even a tiny bit responsible for an accident risks not being able to recover damages at all. You can see how contributory negligence states are favored by insurance companies and defendants alike.

Most states follow a comparative negligence approach as opposed to a contributory negligence approach. However, there are two different kinds of comparative negligence approaches: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence. With pure comparative negligence, it does not matter how much fault a plaintiff may carry for an accident, they will still be able to recover damages. This means that even if a plaintiff was 99% at fault for an accident, they would remain eligible to receive compensation for their injuries. About one-third of states follow a pure comparative negligence approach.

With modified comparative negligence, there is a threshold set for the degree of fault a plaintiff can carry and still recover damages. Should a plaintiff carry a percentage of fault above the established limit, then they will be barred from recovering damages. The established threshold for this varies slightly among modified comparative negligence states. Some states follow the 50% rule where any party that is 50% or more at-fault for causing an accident will be unable to recover compensation for damages sustained in an accident. Other states follow a 51% rule where any party that is 51% or more at-fault for causing an accident will be unable to recover compensation for damages sustained in an accident.

Pennsylvania is a modified comparative negligence state and follows the 51% rule. That means that you will be able to recover damages in an accident if you were less than 51% at fault. Be aware, however, that your damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault that you end up being assigned. That means if you are found to be 20% at fault for an accident, you will be eligible for compensation, but your compensation awarded will be reduced by 20%.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

Determining fault and percentage of fault in an accident can have a profound impact on the amount of compensation you are eligible to receive in a personal injury claim. At Cooper, Schall & Levy, we are experienced in handling the most complex of personal injury actions. We are dedicated to providing our clients with zealous and effective legal counsel. Contact us today.

Personal Injury attorney

Compensatory Damages

Have you heard of compensatory damages? If you or a loved one has ever been injured in something like a car accident or filed some other type of personal injury claim, you may have. Compensatory damages are a central part of a personal injury claim and one of the main, if not the sole, purpose of filing a claim, to begin with. You see, the aptly named “compensatory damages” are intended to compensate a plaintiff in a personal injury action for harm suffered, whether it be for an injury or other loss incurred as a result of the accident.

Compensatory Damages

While we are focusing here on compensatory damages in personal injury actions, compensatory damages are actually available in most, if not all, civil actions where someone has suffered a loss due to the negligence or unlawful conduct of someone else. As in a personal injury action, compensatory damages should be available when a plaintiff is able to prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, that duty was breached, and that breach of said duty caused the plaintiff to suffer harm.

Compensatory damages must be quantified, although some are easier to do so than others. Compensatory damages do, after all, include both economic and non-economic damages suffered by the plaintiff. Economic damages are those which are easier to quantify and are grounded in concrete numbers. Some examples of economic compensatory damages include:

  • Cost of medical care
  • Cost of future medical treatment
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation expenses
  • Ambulance costs
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Increase in cost of living
  • Domestic services and nursing home care

To quantify these losses, you can look to bills, paychecks, and other supporting evidence. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, represent real harm suffered by a plaintiff but are more difficult to assign a price tag. Non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of opportunity

It is critical to take care in accounting for all of your losses which may be included in your compensatory damage award. Once you are paid out on your claim, you will likely have to sign a release of future claims and will be unable to recover further on this specific claim. That means it is especially important to make sure you get full and fair compensation before you settle your claim. It is likely to be your only shot at recovery.

Compensatory damages will likely make up the bulk, if not all, of your damage award. In some rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages, however, are only awarded in exceptional cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious. When this is the case, the court may award punitive damages in order to punish the defendant and to deter future conduct such as one that led to the current plaintiff’s injuries.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

Have you been injured in an accident? Talk to the knowledgeable team at Cooper, Schall & Levy about what damages may be available to you. Contact us today.

Two men exchanging insurances after accident

What to Do If the Insurance Company Requests a Recorded Statement

So, you have been in a car accident. You have filed a claim with your insurance company and with the insurance company for the at-fault party. Almost immediately, you may find yourself being contacted by both insurance companies. They will call requesting details of the crash. They will call requesting details of your injury. They may call requesting a recorded statement with you. What should you do with these requests?

What to Do If the Insurance Company Requests a Recorded Statement

Insurance companies are not in the business of paying out on claims that they do not have to for injuries they do not have to. They will thoroughly investigate the details of an accident and resulting injuries to find ways to justify not having to payout. Insurance companies are, after all, businesses looking to protect their bottom line. On their fact-finding missions, insurance companies are likely going to want a statement from you about the accident and your injuries in order to assist them in determining liability. As such, they may very well ask you to give a recorded statement.

A request by an insurance company for a recorded statement or for information in general about the accident should be met with extreme trepidation. As previously stated, an insurance company will use anything you say to try and undermine or deny your claim. You may also find that insurance companies, particularly those who insure the at-fault party, may be particularly aggressive in their requests for a recorded statement.

If the request for a recorded statement is made by your own insurance carrier, you may be contractually obligated to comply with the request. Failure to comply may violate your contract terms and result in your insurance carrier refusing to continue paying out benefits. If the request is made by someone else’s insurance carrier, such as that of the at-fault driver, there is really no good reason to comply with the request. They will have received a copy of the accident report to get the basics of the crash, your attorney may even send them some of your initial medical evaluations so that they understand the severity of the injuries you suffered. Beyond that, a recorded statement to the insurance company for the at-fault party is most likely a set-up for the insurance company to find ways to undermine your claim in whole or in part.

In a recorded statement, usually conducted by an insurance adjuster, you will be asked for your basic identifying details such as your name and address as well as your birth date. Then, you will likely be asked to detail the accident and how it happened. They are also likely to ask about your injuries and how you felt after the accident. If you are in a recorded statement, keep your answers clear, concise, and free of speculation. Adding extraneous information can be dangerous. Do not speculate. If you do not know the answer to a question, say you do not know. If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification. Never guess. Never admit fault.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

Interacting with an insurance company can be intimidating. That is why the team at Cooper, Schall & Levy is here to stand up to them for you and protect your interests every step of the way. Contact us today.

Doctor sitting with patient

What Damages are Available in a Medical Malpractice Case?

In Pennsylvania, medical malpractice is said to have occurred when a patient is injured by the negligent treatment provided by a healthcare professional that has deviated from generally accepted medical standards. Injuries resulting from medical malpractice can have severe and lasting consequences on health and lives. While it can be scary to confront the fact that those professionals we entrust with our health and best interests may sometimes provide substandard care, it does happen, and very real, very significant injuries do occur as a result. By bringing a medical malpractice claim, a patient who has suffered due to receiving negligent medical care can seek the recovery of some of that which has been lost. Damages in a medical malpractice claim, on the whole, seek to put the victim in a position that they would have occupied had the medical malpractice never occurred.

What Damages are Available in a Medical Malpractice Case?

The bulk of damages available in a medical malpractice claim is compensatory in nature. Compensatory damages, as the name suggests, are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the damages incurred as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Through compensatory damages, the legal system attempts to make the malpractice victim “whole” again by awarding the victim financial compensation for the losses they have sustained as a result of the medical malpractice.

Compensatory damages are divided into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those damages that are readily assigned monetary value. They are easily quantifiable as they are grounded by things such as medical bills and pay stubs, among other things. The economic losses of a medical malpractice victim will commonly include things like:

  • Medical expenses
  • The cost of future medical care
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitative costs
  • Lost wages 
  • Loss of future earning capacity.

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are a bit more nebulous. While just as real as economic damages, non-economic damages are the harms that are difficult to assign a number value to. Consider one of the most prominent non-economic damages: pain and suffering. How do you put a value on the pain and suffering a person has gone through? While courts employ a number of methods to try and reach a number, it is still rather uncertain whether any number could adequately reflect what a person has gone through after suffering from harm caused by medical malpractice.

It is important to note that there is no limit, or “cap,” on the amount of compensatory damages a plaintiff can recover in a Pennsylvania medical malpractice case. This is in contrast to many other states which do put caps on such damage awards. While Pennsylvania may not restrict compensatory damages in a medical malpractice case, there are, however, restrictions in place on punitive damages in such cases.

Punitive damages serve a different purpose than compensatory damages. Punitive damages look to punish a wrongdoer as opposed to compensating a victim. With this punishment, the court hopes to deter such wrongful behavior in the future. Generally speaking, punitive damages are only awarded in cases where there has been particularly egregious behavior on the part of the defendant. In Pennsylvania, punitive damages in a medical malpractice case cannot exceed 200% of the compensatory damage award.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

If you have suffered due to substandard medical care, do not delay in reaching out to the dedicated medical malpractice attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy. Contact us today.

wrongful death claim

How to File a Wrongful Death Claim

While the nuances of the definition can vary slightly from state to state, most, Pennsylvania included, define a wrongful death as a death resulting from the wrongful act or negligence or another. In addition to being a real tragedy and a palpable loss for a family and loved ones, a victim in a wrongful death action can leave behind a deep sense of emotional loss as well as have a profound impact on the finances of a family. This is particularly true when the victim was the breadwinner or primary earner in a family. The law provides a way for those who have suffered as a result of the victim’s death by allowing them to bring a wrongful death claim.

How to File a Wrongful Death Claim

The first thing to talk about when discussing how to file a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania is who is actually authorized to file a wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law requires the personal representative of the decedent’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative of the estate is most often named in the will of the decedent. In the event, however, that the decedent died without a will, otherwise referred to as dying “intestate,” the court is authorized to appoint a personal representative if no one volunteers to take over the responsibility. Should the personal representative of the decedent’s estate fail to file a wrongful death suit within six months of the decedent’s death, any beneficiary of the decedent’s estate is permitted to file the wrongful death suit on behalf of all of the estate beneficiaries.

Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations in place that establishes a time limit allowed for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. It is two years. This means that a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the date of the person’s death. Failure to file a wrongful death claim within the two-year time frame means that a court is likely to deny hearing the case at all.

While the personal representative is the authorized person to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, the lawsuit itself is actually filed on behalf of the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate. There are a variety of damages that are available in a wrongful death claim, including:

  • Final medical expenses of the decedent
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Expenses related to the administration of the decedent’s estate
  • Lost wages and benefits the decedent could have reasonably been expected to earn should he or she had lived to support the family
  • Pain and suffering

A wrongful death claim may also pursue compensation for loss of comfort and companionship. These kinds of damages, however, are intended to compensate surviving family members for loss related to the wrongful death. Because of this, damages for loss of comfort and companionship are only available if the decedent has a surviving spouse, children, or parents.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

Have you lost a loved one due to the wrongful act or negligence of another? You can trust the team at Cooper, Schall & Levy to work tirelessly to pursue a wrongful death claim that can provide you with critical financial support in the wake of losing a loved one. Contact us today.

attorney meeting with personal injury client

Seniors, Stay Safe Out On the Road

We face unique challenges as we age. As our age increases so do our chances of experiencing a decline in our mental and physical health. Our vision, hearing, and reaction time can be impacted by advanced age and all of this can lead to serious safety concerns for our senior drivers. This is even more so true when you consider the fact that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that the number of drivers aged 70 or older is growing. More older people are on the road than ever before as people are keeping their licenses longer. Now is the time to confront those safety issues that can come with driving in advanced years of age and manage them accordingly.

Seniors, Stay Safe Out on the Road

With a decline in physical abilities such as reaction time and vision, seniors need to be mindful of the fact that, if they want to continue driving safely, there needs to be some parameters put in place. According to the IIHS, several studies reveal that increased impairment in a person’s physical, cognitive, or visual functions is associated with increased crash risk. What can be done to help keep seniors safe out on the road? There are a few things that have been shown to be effective in accomplishing this.

Senior drivers can reduce the hours they permit themselves to drive. Many older drivers choose not to drive at night. It can be difficult to see at night and heightened reaction times can often be necessary in order to avoid a crash. Furthermore, there are more likely to be people driving under the influence at night which can make driving conditions much more dangerous. Senior drivers can also reduce the length of distances they travel in order to help them stay safe on the road. Less distance traveled can understandably correlate to a reduced chance of accident involvement.

It is also common for seniors to be taking medications. Many medications, whether over the counter or prescribed, can impair a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. Labels on the medications should reflect this danger. Seniors should always be aware of the potential side effects of medications as well as whether the medications state that they should refrain from operating heavy machinery, such as operating a motor vehicle, after consumption.

In addition to these safety steps seniors can take, it is also important that seniors have vehicles with updated safety features. Did you know that seat belts on older cars tend to be less effective at safely restraining older vehicle occupants than the modern safety belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters? It’s true! Older vehicles can often be retrofitted with the newer seat belt models. You can contact your car manufacturers to see if this is a possibility.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

We can all do our part to keep everyone as safe as possible on the road. If someone has failed to take proper safety precautions on the road and you have been injured as a result, do not hesitate to reach out to the dedicated personal injury team at Cooper, Schall & Levy. Contact us today.

Aging and Driving Safety

Aging and Driving Safety

Let’s face it, as we age, there are certain changes that many of us will go through. Our physical abilities may change and it is important to recognize this. Getting older will often mean that we have to be aware of the changes we are experiencing so that we can help keep ourselves and others safe. For instance, our driving abilities are likely to change as we get older. Recognizing this and taking precautionary steps accordingly can save lives!

Aging and Driving Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that there is an increase in the number of people aged 70 out there on the roads. This is likely a combination of the fact that older people make up a larger part of the population than they used to and people are keeping their licenses longer. With the chance of physical and cognitive abilities declining with age, it can be a safety issue for seniors to continue to drive. 

Consider the fact, for instance, that such functional impairments can exacerbate already stressful roadway conditions. Many driving situations require quick mental and physical responses such as changing lanes, merging, and making left turns without interfering with the flow of traffic. IIHS reports that physical and mental impairments among older drivers are associated with increased crash risk.

In addition to a decline in cognitive and physical abilities, older drivers are also more likely to be taking medications. Although medications do not always interfere with driving abilities, many medications do. It is important to always check medication instructions and warnings because of this.

This is all not to say that older people should not be driving, but it is supposed to make you and your loved ones aware that driving abilities change over the course of our lives. Making changes to your driving habits accordingly can keep everyone safer out on the roads. For instance, restricting the number of miles an older person drives can help. Also, many older people choose not to drive at night, which can also be much safer.

It may also bring you peace of mind to know that vehicle safety features have been found to be effective at reducing the chance of serious injury to older drivers. The IIHS reports, in fact, that side airbags with head and torso protection have reduced fatalities among front-seat occupants aged 70 and older by approximately 45%! Furthermore, modern seat belts that feature load limiters and pre-tensioners have been found equally effective for adults at any age, as have frontal airbags. It may also be important to note that some older cars with older-style seatbelts can have seatbelts updated. Just contact the vehicle manufacturer to check on this option.

Other modern vehicle safety features have also proved effective at preventing injuries across the population and varying ages. Such features include:

  • Blindspot detection
  • Front crash prevention systems
  • Lane departure warning
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Rearview cameras

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

If you have a loved one who is getting older and experiencing some difficulty associated with driving, it can be difficult to talk with them about this. Driving, of course, represents freedom to many seniors and the prospect of restricting it can be anxiety-inducing. Nonetheless, it is important to have such talks. We want everyone to be as safe as possible out there! If you have been injured in an accident, do not hesitate to reach out to the personal injury team at Cooper, Schall & Levy. Contact us today.

Man yawning in car

Drowsy Driving is Dangerous Driving

Thousands of people each year are killed or seriously injured due to drowsy drivers. Unfortunately, the unyielding demands of society have played a key role in accepting this dangerous driving behavior. In a world that does not allow for much pause, we are busier than ever. Being tired and making the long commute to work or school or various activities seems to not only be acceptable but seems to be the norm. As a result, we risk and lose thousands of lives each year at the hands of drowsy drivers. Clearly, something needs to be done, but what?

Drowsy Driving is Dangerous Driving

People are not getting the sleep they need. Whether it is the demands of work, kids, or just life in general, we are sacrificing our sleep as a result. Unfortunately, lack of proper sleep can have serious and lasting health consequences. Furthermore, it risks lives when a person engages in drowsy driving. What will really be most effective at combatting the drowsy driving problem that plagues the U.S. is for us to rethink our attitudes about drowsy driving. We need to not consider it as a necessary evil, but as a problem that needs to be addressed.

To avoid driving while drowsy, make sleep a priority. Your body will thank you. Other drivers will thank you. Experts recommend getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night. So, turn off your show a bit earlier, save your reading for another day, and get to bed in time to get the full amount of sleep your body needs and craves. If you have teens in your household, persist in making sure they are getting enough sleep as well. Did you know that the biology of teenagers demands more sleep? It’s true. Teenagers need more sleep and this places them at an increased risk of drowsy driving. Talk to your teens about avoiding driving unless they are well-rested.

Also, be aware of how other things you put into your body can exacerbate your drowsiness. Alcohol, for instance, can interact with sleepiness to increase drowsiness and impairment of your ability to safely operate a vehicle. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can also cause drowsiness. Be sure to check the medication’s label to see if this is a potential side effect. If so, avoid driving after you take the medication. It can also be important to be aware of the body’s circadian rhythm. Did you know that there is a natural dip in the body’s circadian rhythm, the internal clock tasked with sleep regulation, between midnight and 6 a.m. as well as in the late afternoon? If you can avoid driving at these times, you may also be able to decrease your chances of drowsy driving.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

The safety and well-being of ourselves and others needs to be a priority. We are all in this together. If you have been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you deserve to be fully and fairly compensated. The dedicated personal injury team at Cooper, Schall & Levy is here to see to that. Contact us today.

person buckling up seatbelt

Seat Belts—Why They are Necessary

The development of the modern seat belt, complete with lap and chest restraint, has been one of the biggest safety developments of modern times. Buckling up when you get in a vehicle is one of the best things you can do to keep yourself safe. Did you know that, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts saved approximately 14,955 lives in 2017 alone? So, take the time to buckle up if you are a driver or passenger in a vehicle. It just might end up saving your life. 

Seat Belts—Why They are Necessary

Most Americans have been trained in practicing the good habit of seat belt use. In fact, the NHTSA reports that, in 2020, the national seat belt use rate sat at 90.3%. We are seeing more and more how critical seat belt use is to remain safe in a vehicle. Without seat belt use, vehicle drivers and passengers put themselves at needless risk of awful consequences such as being ejected from a vehicle upon impact with another car or object, a more likely than a non-fatal event. Wearing your seat belt can help keep you safe and secure inside a vehicle in the event of a crash.

In order to help ensure you are maximizing the effectiveness of a seat belt as a safety feature, proper fit and placement of a seat belt is key. The lap belt portion should be secured across the pelvis, running along your hips as opposed to your stomach. The shoulder belt portion should run across your rib cage, across the middle of your chest, away from your neck. Do not loop your arm through so that the shoulder belt portion of your seat belt rests behind your back or under your arm. This not only makes the seatbelt ineffective, but can pose its own unique dangers as well.

The fit of your seat belt also matters and, considering how important of a safety feature a properly fitting seat belt is, you should be sure to investigate seat belt fit whenever looking to buy a new vehicle. Talk to the auto dealer about seat belt fit and the options for seat belt adjustment. Should you need a roomier belt, ask if seat belt extenders are available from the manufacturer. Should you be in the market for an older or classic car model, you may find it only comes with a lap belt. Look into the option of having the vehicle retrofitted with the much safer seat belts that feature both a lap and shoulder restraint.

It really is amazing what safety features vehicles are equipped with these days. The airbag, for instance, has developed over time to be a great line of defense in the event of an auto collision. It is still important, however, to use your seat belt. In fact, did you know that airbags are specifically designed to work in tandem with seat belts? Airbags without seat belt use can not only be ineffective as a safety feature, but can also prove to be dangerous. The force of impact of an airbag can cause serious, and even fatal, injury to someone who is not using their seat belt.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

Philadelphia, buckle up. The team of personal injury attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy want you to be safe at there. We have seen far too many tragic consequences for those who have been involved in auto accidents. Contact us today.

Car driving at night in a city.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

It is illegal in every state to operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs. This does not just mean it is illegal to operate a vehicle while impaired by illegal drugs, but it also includes those for which you have a valid prescription or even those sold over the counter. If you are impaired by a substance, you are putting yourself and everyone else on the road at risk. That is why it is illegal. It is time to have a frank discussion about driving under the influence of drugs, the danger it poses, and the misconceptions that seem to follow this topic.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Because drugs can have a variety of side effects, each drug can pose different dangers should a person under the influence of the substance choose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. For instance, some prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause extreme dizziness or drowsiness in a person. Reviewing warning labels on the packages of these medications will even state that operating heavy machinery, including driving, should be avoided after use. Cocaine and methamphetamines have been found to make drivers more aggressive and reckless in their actions and maneuvers.

One of the biggest dangers comes from the lack of awareness a person can have regarding the impact a drug is having on them. It is a dangerous truth that impaired drivers are unable to accurately assess their level of impairment. To help keep everyone safe, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends living by the standard that if you feel different, you drive differently and should, therefore, avoid driving until you return to a more normal state of feeling.

We want to emphasize the point that even the use of legal drugs can still be illegal if it impairs your ability to drive safely and can still put yourself and others at risk should you choose to drive while under the influence. That means, despite marijuana being legalized in more and more states, driving while impaired by marijuana use is still illegal and still a risky driving behavior. Despite the seemingly persistent rumors that marijuana can make a person a better driver, several scientific studies reveal that this could not be further from the truth. Marijuana can impair motor skills and lane tracking as well as other cognitive functions.

The NHTSA reports that, between October and December of 2020, 56% of drivers who were involved in serious injury or fatal crashes tested positive for at least one drug. Help save lives and make the choice to avoid driving after drug use of any kind. Should use of a vehicle after drug use be unavoidable, find someone else to drive. Intervene when others attempt to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol and always remember to wear a seatbelt.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

Have you or a loved one been injured by an impaired driver? The team of dedicated personal injury attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy are here to fight for you and your right to full and fair compensation. Contact us today.