Montgomery County Car Accidents
In the best possible scenario, no one will be injured in a car accident. In a collision, vehicle damage is a given in most cases. While a car accident can lead to expensive repairs, it can have a large impact on the lives of those involved. Lost wages might even occur while the car is being repaired. A car accident victim may have trouble getting to and back from work, and they may have difficulties completing necessary daily errands.
However, human beings are not as easy to fix as a missing bumper, broken window, or a quarter panel on a car. People are uniquely vulnerable in a collision. Objects gain force with speed, and that force often significantly damages human bodies. Injuries from a crash can range from simple cuts and bruises to internal organ damage, broken bones, and head injuries. All too often, injuries from a collision lead to death.
In Montgomery County, car accidents happen each day. Even in the beginning of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with many businesses and schools shut down for weeks and months at a time, collisions still frequently happened.
If someone has been hurt in a car accident, they should consult a lawyer as soon as possible. Pennsylvania laws regarding car accidents are complicated, but an experienced legal advocate can fight on behalf of their client to ensure that their rights are protected.
What are the Negligence Laws in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania car accident laws are complex. Expenses from an accident are often paid back on a graded scale based on the fault of each driver. The way of divvying up the expenses that resulted from a vehicle crash is called modified comparative negligence. In Pennsylvania, modified comparative negligence rules determine what percentage of damage claims are paid out to each driver based on the responsibility of each party.
If a driver is found to be more than half responsible for a crash, specifically, more than 51 percent, they cannot collect damages from the accident case. If the driver is found to be less than 50 percent at fault, they will be eligible to get compensation for their damages. That compensation is reduced, however, by the percentage of their own responsibility. For example, suppose a driver is found to be 10 percent at fault for an accident. In that case, the driver found to be less at fault is going to be paid for 90 percent of their expenses from the party who is 90 percent at fault. In short, the driver who was less at fault is still not going to be reimbursed the amount for the car repairs. If a driver is found to be 100 percent at fault for a collision, that driver is responsible for the financial losses suffered by the victim in the crash.
It is important to understand Pennsylvania’s negligence laws when considering a personal injury lawsuit. Often, those involved in an accident think that the expenses will be covered by the insurance of the party who is found to be mostly at fault. In Pennsylvania, the amount will be determined following the police investigation and assignment of responsibility to each driver that is involved.
Comparative negligence is the underpinning to how car accidents are handled by insurance companies, claims adjusters, and in court. It guides the way judges and juries look at the collision costs as well. The way car insurance claims are handled by the state is also equally as important.
Pennsylvania’s Choice No-Fault Insurance
Pennsylvania is one of three states that allows drivers to choose no-fault insurance at the time they sign up. No-fault insurance is sometimes called personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. It pays out damages, despite responsibility assigned to any of the parties involved, for medical care and lost income for a covered accident up to the limits of the policyholder’s plan and minus the deductible.
Many drivers choose a different type of auto coverage that is sometimes referred to as comprehensive collision insurance. This type of insurance pays out claims according to the responsibility assigned to each driver, or who is found to be at fault.
A key element with Pennsylvania offering no-fault insurance is that in any given accident, there may be a party who carries the no-fault insurance and another who carries comprehensive collision. This likelihood makes it even more important for drivers involved in a car crash in Montgomery County to consult a lawyer.
With the no fault-insurance selection, as long as the accident is covered within the terms of the policy, PIP coverage pays for medical bills, lost wages, and other related expenses incurred after the deductible and up to the covered limit. Remembering that Pennsylvania is a contributory negligence state, this adds yet another factor in determining payouts from an accident.
While an injured person may be compensated quickly for medical costs and lost wages, the cost of damages to the vehicle or any other property involved in the accident may be waiting on a crash investigation, and compensation will be determined by the amount of responsibility of each party involved.
Every accident is going to have a negative impact on the lives of the drivers, even without injuries to those involved. To help people recuperate, a lawyer can take advantage of existing protections in Pennsylvania law to help the victim with their case.
What are Common Injuries From Car Accidents?
There are many factors that determine the severity of a car accident injury, such as:
- The speed of the vehicles involved.
- The use of seat belts or restraints.
- Whether or not the car had airbags and if they deployed on impact or were defective. Also, in most cars, the airbags are reserved for the front seats.
- Placement of the passengers in the car. Some types of accidents have greater impact on the people in certain parts of the car.
- What direction the people in the car were facing during impact. People could be looking behind them, to the side, or looking straight in front of them. Likewise, small children facing forward in car seats face different challenges than those facing the rear.
The most common injuries resulting from car crashes include:
Soft Tissue Damage: Whiplash is a common form of soft tissue damage, and it is the most common car accident injury. Soft issue refers to connective tissues, muscles, and ligaments. Whiplash means damage to the muscles and ligaments in the neck and back due to sudden movements from the collision.
Scrapes and Cuts: During a collision, items that do not normally move a lot in the car, such as cups in cup holders, pens, suitcases, mugs, cellphones, and purses, all become airborne. An object in the car can cause severe cuts and lacerations during an accident.
Head Injuries: Head injuries can be relatively minor or debilitating and deadly. A closed head injury means the skull did not break from the damage.
Chest Injuries: Contusions, bruises, broken ribs, and internal chest injuries can be relatively minor or severe. Drivers often get chest injuries because they sit behind the steering wheel. The seat belt can also cause chest injuries as the body is pushed hard against the belt on impact.
Arm and Leg Injuries: Arms and legs may be slammed against the door in a side-impact collision, the dashboard for those sitting up front, or the backs of the seats for those in the back row. This can mean bruises and sprains, it can also mean broken bones.
For those who are involved in a car accident, it is best to keep tabs on the injuries as something may get worse as time goes by. Anyone in a car accident should see a doctor immediately to treat injuries.
What are Common Causes of Car Accidents?
Government statistics firmly point the finger at human error for almost all crashes. However, there are other factors that can be involved, such as faulty traffic lights, a stop sign that is hidden by an overgrown tree or brush, and slippery road surfaces, and some of these hazards happen often. Faulty vehicle parts, which are less common and can result in a products liability suit against the manufacturer and seller, can also create a collision. A defective car part can result in mass recalls.
Despite all the causes of car accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 94 percent of all serious car accidents are caused by driver error. Some driving behaviors seem to make a crash far more likely. Typical causes of car accidents are listed below.
An ongoing effort by government agencies, road safety advocates, and phone and auto manufacturers has caused a decreasing number of distracted driving collisions over recent years. Besides public awareness campaigns, phone manufacturers have created a shut off feature for when the car is in motion, virtually putting the phone to sleep. Auto manufacturers have built newer cars to allow for hands-free communication via Bluetooth technology, which connects phones to the car so the motorist can speak and listen without touching any buttons while driving. Auto accessories manufacturers have come up with several safer ways to keep a phone where the motorist can see it, reducing the chance of a driver searching the car for a phone that dropped.
While distracted driving is often pictured in public outreach campaigns as texting and driving, the reality is that there are a lot more distractions for a motorist than the phone. Some forms of distracted driving include:
- Daydreaming, or allowing one’s mind to wander from the road, is the leading cause of distracted driving car crashes, according to a study done by TeenSafe in 2018.
- Checking on passengers is also a common distraction. This can often cause the driver to steer out of the lane lines without even knowing that it is happening.
- Eating and drinking while driving. Given that so many restaurants offer drive-through services, it makes sense that a lot of drivers are eating and drinking when two hands are supposed to be on the steering wheel. This is particularly a problem when the food or drink spills.
- Personal grooming. People also get dressed in their cars, shave, apply makeup, or brush their hair while they are driving. All of these actions are distracting, which can lead to a severe collision.
It is human nature to want to get other tasks done while sitting fairly still in the car, but changing conditions and the behaviors of other drivers will demand full attention from every motorist. Keeping eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel are the best ways to make sure everyone is safe.
This means moving into another lane without proper signaling and adjusting for traffic patterns. When it is done accidentally, it is often referred to as drifting. It is not often discussed, and it is not part of a public outreach campaign. Many times, it is likely the result of other bad driving behaviors, such as speeding, distracted driving, and impaired driving.
To reduce this problem, auto manufacturers have installed detection systems that warn motorists when they are leaving the lane, but this requires the driver to react to the warning, which is often a vibration and lights on the side mirrors. Since drivers that are under the influence or drowsy may not react to it or react slowly, there are limitations to the system, but this technology has likely stopped many accidents before they had a chance to start.
This refers to those driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance. The popularity and conveniency of rideshare services has created a fairly inexpensive alternative to cab fare for those who may have had a few drinks and should not get behind the wheel of a car. Alcohol manufacturers, road safety groups, government agencies, and stiffened legal penalties for those who are caught driving under the influence are all factors changing the public outlook on driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance.
Single vehicles running off the road might be the result of impaired driving, distracted driving, or speeding. While this does not involve the force of another vehicle colliding, it could quickly result in massive, serious injuries and/or fatalities. Some cars may hit the side rail and just stop, and some vehicles may go over the side rail. A car driver hitting a utility pole or another fixed object can wind up with traumatic injuries.
This is a very common driver error, which is often found to be the underpinning reason for many accidents involving newer drivers, particularly teenage motorists. Speeding increases the chance of a crash significantly as it takes time for the car and driver to react to changes in the roadway. Since a car moves fast, it is likely to cover more ground in the seconds that the motorist is reacting, making the driver’s reactions too slow.
Many people refer to aggressive driving and road rage interchangeably, but road rage behavior is aggressive driving at its worst. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) defines aggressive driving as:
- Racing to red lights or ignoring stop signs
- Frequent lane changes
- Failing to yield to oncoming vehicles
- Illegal U-turns
Most of the behaviors listed by the PennDOT are ones a driver will see daily on the road. However, the problems increase when the driver is angry and loses focus on the other motorists, pedestrians, and changing conditions on the road, or simply does not care about safety. All of these actions can be the start of road rage.
There is no public outreach or active campaign to stop this, but overtired drivers are far more likely to get into accidents. Drowsy driving is frequently listed as a main cause of truck accidents as well because the truck drivers are often working under a tight time frame to deliver goods and require long hours behind the wheel to do so. Drowsy drivers have the reflexes and reactions of a person who is legally intoxicated, so it is best to get at least eight hours of sleep a day and take breaks for long drives.
How Can I Drive Safely?
Like any other physical activity a person takes part in during the day, much of what goes into the process of driving is mental. Attention needs to be focused on changes in the road, on what the car is doing, on what other vehicles are doing, adjusting for climate conditions, and responding to traffic signals and signs appropriately.
There are many driving behaviors that simply need to be adjusted due to environmental conditions or what other motorists are doing that would be fine if those circumstances changed. For instance, a driver who is maintaining the speed limit on the passing travel lane of a four-lane divided highway should carefully shift over to the slower lane if the motorist behind them is repeatedly flashing their bright lights, angrily gesturing, and riding up close. On another day, that driver might be fine to stay in the passing travel lane.
Much of what goes on around the motorist has to guide the driver’s actions, the PennDOT urges drivers to get out of the way of aggressive drivers, not challenge them. An angry motorist is a bad driver, and it is best to avoid them. Avoid those drivers, and do not make eye contact with them. Do not respond to a rude action with a rude gesture, even if human nature makes it tempting. This kind of reaction is likely exactly what the aggressive driver is looking for to excuse their responding action.
Do not pursue an errant driver so their actions can be reported to police, as doing this could increase the chance of an accident as well. Drivers who wish to do so should pull over to make calling safe and have a description of the vehicle, the license plate number, and the state registered.
Government statistics point out that driver behaviors cause most traffic accidents. The state of Pennsylvania, which invests money each year from federal grant funds into safe driving initiatives, developed a public outreach program that aims to instill more thoughtful and safe habits in drivers. The ongoing public outreach program called START SMART, STAY SMART is an acronym for safe driving habits. START SMART means:
- Seat: Seat belts first. If a person is unrestrained, they can be severely injured in a car accident. In some cases, a person who is not wearing a seat belt can fly through the windshield during a collision.
- Mirrors: Mirrors need to be adjusted to each driver’s needs, particularly with families where multiple drivers use one car. A driver should have a clear view behind the car and can quickly see what is on either side before getting on the road.
- Air: The air conditioner, heat, and fans need to be adjusted to drive safely in changing climate conditions. For instance, windows will have a good layer of frost and ice in winter, and the heat and defrost needs to be turned on well in advance so the driver can see. The same is true in heat; the air conditioner needs to be turned on in advance so the condensation on the windows evaporates and visibility is returned.
- Radio: Looking for a good station or changing up the music playlist from a Bluetooth device can take a driver’s eyes off the road for long enough to get into an accident. Decide on the music before driving.
- Traffic: Particularly if reversing to start driving, check for traffic behind and around the car; this means people as well as cars.
STAY SMART means:
- Speed: Obey the speed limits.
- Mirrors: Check mirrors, particularly when switching lanes or entering into traffic.
- Avoid: Avoid all distractions.
- Remember: Follow the rules of the road. A stop sign means stop for everyone, even if the driver lives in the neighborhood or works in the industrial complex. Most accidents happen remarkably close to the victim’s home.
- Time: Give enough time to get to the destination. This is a crucial element, many mistakes happen on the road because the driver is in a hurry.
Even with all the safety precautions, a driver can still get into a car accident. After a collision, it is advantageous to speak to a lawyer to discuss the best legal course of action.
Montgomery County Car Accident Lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Represent Injured Collision Victims
Car accidents happen for many reasons, and all motorists should practice safe driving. If you were injured by a negligent driver, consult the Montgomery County car accident attorneys at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. today. Call us at 267-861-7100 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Montgomery County, Delaware County, and Norristown.