Resources

Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

WHY YOU DON’T WANT LIMITED TORT?

By: Peter M. Hileman, Esq. We represented a client we will call Ramon Martinez. One day, as Ramon was driving home from his job in the stockroom at K-Mart, he was hit head-on by a car that turned left directly into his path. His car was totaled and had to be towed away. The police issued a citation to the other driver, who was 100 percent at fault for the accident. Ramon was taken by ambulance to the emergency room and treated for injuries to his back and left knee. After he left the emergency room, Ramon was treated by an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon who diagnosed him with a severely herniated disk in his back and a fractured knee-cap, which could not be surgically treated. He was out of work for seven weeks and could not perform his duties when he returned. He lost his job and then his health insurance. No doctor would treat him. He then found another job, which he also lost due to limitations related to his injuries. He couldn’t make the payments on his new car and it was repossessed. Ramon called many lawyers who would not take his personal injury case. Why? Because he had elected limited tort on his auto insurance policy. Limited tort made Mr. Martinez a victim twice. He was first victimized by the other driver, who caused the car accident. He was then victimized again by the travesty of limited tort, which prevented him from receiving just compensation […]

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Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE IN A CAR ACCIDENT?

By: Peter M. Hileman, Esq. It is likely that you will be involved in a car accident some day. You need to be prepared before that happens, so that you will say and do the right things. If you are in an accident, and later bring a claim for injuries you sustained, you may have to make a statement under oath. You will be asked to describe everything you said and did immediately after the accident. So will the driver who hit you. Some accident victims say or do things at the scene that harm their case. Some become belligerent with the other party or the police officer. They may say they feel fine, even if they are badly shaken or in a state of shock. Some have been known to jump out of their car and direct traffic! They may refuse medical assistance or an ambulance (even when they really need such help). Many accident victims realize they are hurt but act as if they are not. The problem is, such behavior at the scene of the accident may seriously jeopardize any later recovery. Insurance companies and jurors expect people who claim that they were seriously injured in an accident, to have reported their injuries at the scene and to have sought immediate trauma care. Here are our nine rules for what to do if you are in a car accident: Stay at the scene. By law all parties to an accident must stay at the scene and exchange […]

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Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

WHAT IS LIMITED TORT?

By: Peter M. Hileman, Esq. We strongly recommend that all Pennsylvania drivers elect full tortcoverage on their automobile insurance policy, and not the alternative — limited tort. What is limited tort coverage? If you elect limited tort, and are then hurt in a car accident that is the other driver’s fault, you will not be able to recover damages for bodily injury unless you sustain a serious injury. Unfortunately, based on our 19 years of experience trying limited tort cases since Pennsylvania passed its limited tort law, we know that most insurance companies and juries are very reluctant to consider almost any injury to be serious. Judges and juries in Pennsylvania have found injuries such as a fractured skull, multiple fractures of the foot and herniated disks not to be serious. The bottom line is, if you are injured in a car accident, but don’t have serious injuries, you will be told that you don’t have a case, even if the other driver was solely at fault. Many lawyers won’t even take limited tort cases. But at Drake, Hileman & Davis, we do take limited tort cases. If another lawyer has told you that you don’t have case because you have limited tort, give us a call for a second opinion. Many of our largest recoveries have been for limited tort clients. How do we do it? First, we look for exceptions to the limited tort rule. Limited tort does not apply if any of the following apply to the […]

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Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

WHAT IS A GOOD PERSONAL INJURY SETTLEMENT OFFER?

By: Jonathan J. Russell, Esq. In a prior article, we discussed whether you should settle your personal injury case without going to trial. If you have decided to settle your case, it is critical that both you and your attorney understand the concept of Best Alternative to a Negotiated Settlement, or BATNA. (The term BATNA was coined by authors Roger Fisher and William Ury in their groundbreaking book,Getting to Yes, and is now part of the lexicon of negotiation practice.) To successfully negotiate your personal injury claim, you need to understand both your and your adversary’s BATNA. For example, suppose you were seriously injured in a slip-and-fall case in Pennsylvania. Suppose you sustained substantial damages, but the other party disputes liability. Your BATNA equation might look something like this: Percent of liability attributable to the defendant: 80 percent; multiplied by the projected jury verdict: $100,000; minus the one-third attorney fee: $26,666; minus the costs of suit: $10,000; equals your BATNA net recovery of $43,333. Accordingly, if you could settle your case for a net of $43,333 (your BATNA), or greater, you should do so. The difficulty in determining your BATNA is that no one (including your attorney) has a crystal ball and knows for certain how a jury would decide a particular case. Unfortunately, sometimes juries reach verdicts that seem to have little basis in fact or law. Thus, you must also consider your adversary’s BATNA in order to fully appreciate the value of a settlement offer. In the example […]

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Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

SHOULD I SETTLE MY PERSONAL INJURY CASE?

By: Jonathan J. Russell, Esq. At Drake, Hileman & Davis, we realize that if you have been injured in an accident, your ultimate goal is not to spend anxious days in court trying to prove your case to a jury of strangers. Rather, you want to be made whole for the injuries you have suffered due to someone else’s fault. In our system of justice, the only remedy a court can provide to an injury victim is money, hopefully an amount that fully compensates you for the injuries and losses you have sustained. But there are other nonlitigation alternatives that can also assure that you receive full compensation, often at less cost to you in terms of stress, anxiety and money. Even though we lawyers enjoy the opportunity to use our lawyering skills in open court, you have little interest in being caught up in a grueling trial. What you really want is to be compensated for your harm. Since our job is to represent our clients and keep their interests paramount, we strive to keep our client’s goal of full compensation our top priority. As a personal injury case approaches trial, both sides have incentive to settle, due to the uncertainty of a jury trial. In an effort to manage this uncertainty, the parties to the lawsuit often agree to an alternative dispute resolution process such as mediation or arbitration. Parties do so in order to replace a very unpredictable court system with a more predictable settlement system that […]

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Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

HOW MUCH IS MY PERSONAL INJURY CASE WORTH?

By: Peter M. Hileman, Esq. The Top Seven Factors If you have been injured due to a car accident, slip and fall, product defect or dog bite as a result of someone else negligence, it is natural for you to wonder what your case is worth. One reason to select an experienced personal injury law firm such as Drake, Hileman & Davis to handle your personal injury case is that we have the experience and judgment to provide you with a reasonable estimate of the amount of compensation that you can expect to receive. Don’t be misled by what you may have read or heard elsewhere. A trained professional can provide you with a realistic value range for your case. Insurance companies routinely value personal injury cases to decide whether they should settle or try them, and for how much. (Some even use powerful computer software programs to do so.) Just as insurance companies have claim valuation tools at their disposal to guide their decisions, you need a good lawyer on your side who understands how to value your case and knows what to do in order to ensure that you receive full value for your claim. A good trial lawyer knows how to appropriately assess the relevant facts and factors that go into valuing your claim. This evaluation process is part art and part science. However, there is no substitute for experience and good judgment. These are the top seven factors that go into determining the value of a […]

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Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

DO I HAVE THE RIGHT CAR INSURANCE COVERAGE?

By: Peter M. Hileman, Esq. At Drake, Hileman & Davis, we deal with car accident victims on a daily basis. One of the first questions we ask them is what are the terms of your auto insurance policy? It amazes us how few people know what their auto insurance policy says or what its key terms mean. Many don’t realize until after an accident that they don’t have adequate insurance coverage. For the little thought you probably give it, your auto insurance policy is one of the most important and potentially valuable things you have. Many people try to save some money by cutting corners on their auto insurance coverage. This is the ultimate penny wise, pound foolish mentality. Many have only the minimum coverage allowed by law. In Pennsylvania, minimum coverage is: limited tort; no uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage; and $15,000 of bodily injury coverage. But when it comes to auto insurance, you literally get what you pay for. And, unfortunately, when you elect to limit your own insurance coverage, your decision also limits the rights of your spouse and minor children to recover for their injuries as well. We have seen the devastating impact of motor vehicle accidents on families who did not have adequate insurance. Like many people, they thought that auto accidents and disabling injuries only happen to other people. But when an accident impacted their lives, they deeply regretted that they did not do a better job of protecting their family. These crash victims would tell […]

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Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

DO I HAVE A GOOD SLIP & FALL CASE?

By: Jonathan J. Russell, Esq. If you or a family member was injured in a fall on someone else’s property, are you entitled to receive compensation for your injuries from the property owner? The answer depends on the five factors discussed below. First, did the property owner owe you a duty of care? That depends on why you were on the owner’s property. Were you an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser? If you were an invitee, you were owed the highest duty of care. This is true whether you were a business invitee(i.e., shopping at a store), a public invitee (such as walking on a public sidewalk) or a social invitee (visiting a friend’s home, for example). If you were a licensee, you were owed a moderate duty of care. Licensees are permitted to enter the property of another for a limited purpose such as to perform a service. If you were a trespasser, you were owed the least duty of care. However, even trespassers have a potential claim if they are injured due to a serious defect in the property. Second, did the property owner or manager breach his or her duty of care to you? That depends on whether the owner/manager acted reasonably under the circumstances. It also depends on whether the owner caused or knew about (or should have known of) the dangerous condition that made you fall. For example, suppose you slipped and fell on a banana peel lying on a supermarket floor. Store management […]

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Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

DO I HAVE A GOOD MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASE?

People injured by medical malpractice may be entitled to substantial compensation for pain, suffering, medical expenses and other damages. Medical malpractice liability, however, is difficult to prove. To prevail, an injured person must: Prove duty of care and negligence. Your health care provider must have deviated from the accepted medical standard of care, and the error must be clear and be verified by another medical expert. Establish causation and damages. You must prove that your health care provider’s action or inaction caused an injury or worsened or prolonged an illness, and as a result, you suffered harm. If you were injured due to medical malpractice, or someone close to you was, the lawyers of the Pennsylvania personal injury law firm of Drake, Hileman & Davis can provide experienced legal help. We understand the issues that are relevant in all types of medical malpractice cases. We can provide clear advice if you have questions regarding harm caused by a physician’s or surgeon’s mistakes, including: Failure to diagnose cancer or another disease or medical condition Misdiagnosis resulting in inappropriate or delayed treatment for a disease or injury Medication errors such as a wrong prescription or wrong dosage We have handled many complex cases ranging from misdiagnosed fractures to foreign objects left in a patient’s body during surgery. We will work hard to develop a strong case for you that will convince an insurer or a jury that you have suffered serious and long-term injuries and economic losses and are entitled to fair […]

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Oct 29, 2016 - FAQ

I WAS BITTEN BY A DOG. DO I HAVE A GOOD PERSONAL INJURY CASE?

By: Peter M. Hileman, Esq. If you, or a family member, have been bitten by a dog, you may be entitled to recover money to compensate you for your injuries. But the fact that a dog bit you doesn’t automatically make the dog’s owner liable for your injuries. To be eligible for damages, you must be able to prove that the owner was negligent or otherwise “at fault.” At Drake, Hileman & Davis, there are two ways we do this: 1. By proving the dog’s “dangerous propensities.” At one time, all Pennsylvania dog bite cases were subject to the “one bite rule.” It was presumed that all dogs (who are, after all, “man’s best friend”) are safe until proven dangerous. The dog got “one free bite.” That first bite then put the owner “on notice” of the dog’s vicious propensities, and obligated him to confine the dog. The dog’s second victim had a case, but the first victim was out of luck. The one bite rule has changed. Today, the plaintiff need to only prove that the dog’s owner knew that his dog had “dangerous or vicious propensities.” A prior bite is still sufficient proof of such knowledge. But now, even a first bite may give rise to a valid claim if any of the following apply: Mauling. If the “first bite” involves a ferocious mauling and serious injuries, a jury may reasonably conclude that the owner knew the dog had vicious propensities, even if the plaintiff cannot actually prove prior […]

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