Three Things to do after a Berks County Car Accident

If you’ve been in a car accident in Berks County, Pennsylvania, there are three things you should consider doing right away. In this video, Attorney David Crossett breaks down immediate steps you should take.

If you’ve been injured in Berks County or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, give us a call. We’d be happy to talk with you about your case.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is the limit on how long after an injury occurs in which the injured victim may bring suit. In other words, the statute of limitations is the amount of time that you have to sue someone after they’ve hurt you. Once the statute of limitations runs out, the victim loses any rights to seek compensation from the wrongdoer.

The statute of limitations can be longer or shorter, depending on the state, and depending on the case that is being brought. In Pennsylvania, for injuries based on negligence, such as car accidents, slip and fall cases, or other cases in which someone’s failure to observe reasonable standards of care led to an injury, the statute of limitations is two years. For breach of contract, the statute of limitations is four years. In some rather unusual cases, such as lesser known common-law causes of action, the statute of limitations is six years. For claims related to privacy and defamation, the statute of limitations is only one year.

There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations bar against a lawsuit. One is called the discovery rule. If the victim did not know or have a reason to know about the injury until after the statute of limitations has run, the statute of limitations may be “tolled” or delayed to allow the victim a longer stretch of time within which to bring suit. The discovery rule is narrow, and fairly limited in Pennsylvania. It will only revive the statute of limitations long enough for the person to bring suit within a reasonable time. In extremely unusual situations where a wrongdoer has intentionally misled someone about their statute of limitations, courts will sometimes invoke the “equitable tolling” doctrine which allows someone to bring suit within a reasonable time after they’ve learned of the statute of limitations. This also is a rare situation, and neither of these exceptions should be relied on by a victim except in the most exceptional of situations.

The bottom line is you typically have a fairly limited amount of time in which to bring a lawsuit if you wish to bring one. Your rights do not remain open forever and you can lose them if you don’t act quickly. Having a litigation lawyer who understands the statutes of limitations in Pennsylvania and the various equitable doctrines built on them can help you determine in which category your case properly falls. For example, depending on the type of car accident you were in, your lawsuit may actually be a breach of contract action against an insurer. Having an attorney who can walk you through these sorts of distinctions may mean the difference between successfully bringing suit or not bringing suit at all. Regardless, you’re encouraged to discuss your rights immediately with an attorney if you believe that you or a loved one have been harmed by someone else’s actions or negligence. A litigation attorney can help you sort through the many complex legal doctrines that will affect your case and help you to understand your rights. Call the attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm today and let us help you determine your rights.

Three Reasons to Hire a Berks County Personal Injury Lawyer

Today on the Cornerstone Law blog: When you’ve been injured in an accident in Berks County, there are a lot of decisions you need to make in processing your insurance claim. Whether your injury is from a car or motorcycle accident, or is the result of someone’s negligence, having an experienced lawyer by your side can make all the difference. Attorney David Crossett gives you three reasons you should hire a Berks County personal injury lawyer to handle your claim. Watch it below!

I lost at the Magisterial District Court! What’s Next?

If you’ve lost a civil case at the Magisterial District Court, you still have options. But, you need to act quickly. After most civil cases at the Magisterial District Court, you have 30 days to appeal the decision of the Magisterial District Judge. When you appeal, you may seek a different ruling from a higher court. In some cases, you may have less time than that such as in landlord/tenant matters. In these cases, you only have 10 days to appeal.

If you decide to appeal, you will have the opportunity to have a trial de novo. This means that your trial will be re-done all over again in front of a judge at the Court of Common Pleas. It will not merely be a review of the record at the Magisterial District Court. Rather, it will be a brand-new trial, all over again—a second bite at the apple.

While the Magisterial District Court is intended to be a broadly accessible court where non-lawyers can represent themselves if they wish, at the Court of Common Pleas this is not recommended. At the Court of Common Pleas, complex procedural rules are in place. Failure to follow these rules can result in a dismissal of your case or even an entry of judgment against you.

If you’ve recently litigated a case at the Magisterial District Court and you’re not happy with the outcome, call Cornerstone Law Firm and speak with one of our litigation attorneys today. We can help you determine your rights and figure out whether an appeal is a good idea for you. Similarly, if you’ve won a judgment at the Magisterial District Court and it’s been appealed, call us today and discuss how we can ensure that you receive a more permanent victory at the next level.

What to do when insurance denies your car accident claim

When you’re injured in a car accident or a motorcycle crash, one of the most stressful details you will have to deal with is filing an insurance claim. On this blog, we’ve discussed what to do with the medical bills that start piling up. But what happens when your claim is denied or when the insurance company won’t give you an appropriate settlement? What do you do when you feel like the insurance company is not giving you a fair valuation of your claim or keeps giving you conflicting information about how to seek a settlement from them? Here are three signs that it’s time to hire a personal injury lawyer to help you with your car accident claim.

  1. The insurance company denies liability for the accident

If the insurance company for the other side denies that their driver was responsible for the accident or wants you to go on record making recorded statements about what happened during the accident, it’s time to get a personal injury attorney involved. The claims adjusters you deal with are trying to do their job, which includes protecting their company’s bottom line. The claims adjuster does not work for you.

This doesn’t mean that they’re bad people—it just means that they are going to try to find ways to say that their driver is not liable for the injuries you’ve suffered in the accident. They may call you and ask to record you speaking about the facts underlying the accident. This is a good time to reach out to a personal injury attorney who can represent you in the matter. A personal injury attorney can serve as a buffer between you and the claims adjuster who is seeking to take your statement, ensuring that your case is properly presented to the other side.

  1. The insurance adjuster gives you a low offer

Properly valuing a person injury claim requires experience and an understanding of the insurance landscape. An experienced personal injury attorney is able to help you to determine the value of your car accident claim and to understand the limits that insurance might place on a potential recovery. In some respects, you can think of a personal injury attorney as an experienced guide who is helping you to walk through a landscape you’re unfamiliar with but which he has traveled many times. If you’re concerned about the value that the insurance company is placing on your claim or the initial offer that they’ve made to you, that’s a good time to get a personal injury lawyer involved.

  1. Your claim is denied

Of course, the most obvious time to get an injury attorney involved is when your claim is denied. An insurance company says that they will not pay you or refuses to renegotiate a claim on a level that you think is fair, you should contact a car accident lawyer for a second opinion. Car accident attorneys, such as those here at the Cornerstone Law Firm, are able to help you determine whether that denial is appropriate under the terms of the policy and whether there are additional insurance policies that may apply to your situation. Sometimes, victims of car wrecks are surprised to find out that their physical injuries may be covered under a family member’s car insurance policy who was not involved in the car accident.

If you’ve struggled with an insurance claim you’ve filed, call the Cornerstone Law Firm today and let us help you determine what your next steps should be.

Medical Liens

When you’ve been in a serious car crash and experienced personal injuries as a result of the accident, one of the most overwhelming problems to manage are the ensuing medical bills that you receive. Regardless of who pays for your medical bills, or if they remain unpaid, you will likely be subject to medical liens after the accident. In this post we’re going to discuss what medical liens are and how they should be handled after a car crash, motorcycle accident, or other catastrophe that results in personal physical injuries.

When you are injured, whether you see a doctor, a chiropractor, or any other medical expert, if you are not the one paying their bills, there will be liens. Sometimes, these “liens” are placed by a medical insurance company that covers your injuries, and then “subrogates” the right to seek payment. In other instances, where the bills remain unpaid, its ultimately the hospital that is eating the costs of your medical treatment. As a result, they can continue to seek payment of these unpaid bills after you’ve obtained a settlement for your injury claim.

In any event, those who pay your medical bills, whether it’s the hospital or an insurance company, will expect to be repaid out of any personal injury settlement that you receive. Because they have paid the costs of your treatment, they have a right to be repaid out of a settlement or judgment you obtain at trial. This right operates as a “lien” on your recovery under the law. Accordingly, if you receive a personal injury settlement through your attorney or privately from the car insurance companies involved, you’re going to have to turn around and pay some of that back to the companies that paid for your treatment. This is where having an experienced personal injury attorney can help you tremendously.

What is “subrogation”?

Subrogation is an equitable legal doctrine that allows an insurance company that paid a bill to “step into the shoes” of the billing party to seek repayment. Essentially, the insurance company agrees to pay the hospital, and they take the insurance company’s right to payment as their own. So even where your medical insurance pays your bills, they can seek repayment from you if you receive a settlement of your injury claim. This is true regardless of whether the case settles or goes forward to trial.

What will a personal injury lawyer do about my medical liens?

An attorney who represents victims of car accidents can help by negotiating these liens. While the lien-holder is typically entitled to payment, there may be statutory or other reductions to these liens that you can insist on under the law. In other instances, experienced lawyers can negotiate a lower payment on the liens for other reasons. By negotiating a lower satisfaction of these liens, your recovery can be increased by eliminating some of the payments you will have to make after settlement.

Conclusion: Medical liens don’t have to be intimidating

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we help clients every day who are facing mounting medical bills and intimidating medical liens after a car crash or other accident. If you’ve been injured, call us for a free consultation on your rights. You have a limited amount of time after a crash to seek compensation, so don’t delay. Let us help you determine your rights today.

What is Habeas Corpus?

The law is filled with confusing terminology and Latin phrases. When you’ve been charged with a crime, it can be very difficult to figure out what it all means.

One term you may hear as you explore your legal options in response to criminal charges is habeas corpus. What is a habeas corpus motion in Pennsylvania state court, and when should you file one? (If you’re looking for information on federal habeas corpus relief, we’ll deal with that in a later article).

It all starts at the preliminary hearing…

What happens when the government of Pennsylvania charges you with a crime? First, you’re going to have a preliminary arraignment and a preliminary hearing (usually on two different dates). The preliminary hearing is, in some ways, the first step of a successful habeas corpus petition. At the preliminary hearing before a Magisterial District Judge, you’re going to have the opportunity to hear the evidence against you placed “on the record.” The police officer who charged you will testify along with any witnesses that he thinks are relevant to establishing why he had probable cause to bring charges against you in the first place. If the prosecution is successful in proving that the charges are based on probable cause, then the matter will be “bound over” to the Court of Common Pleas.

Once the case is “bound over” to the Court of Common Pleas, you will have a limited amount of time to request discovery (a copy of the prosecution and police case file against you), and then to file a habeas corpus motion.

Habeas corpus is Latin, and it literally means, “Do you have the body?” Habeas corpus has been called “The Great Writ” because it was one of the most important rights of the ancient world. Today, what it means is that you have the right to demand that the government explain why it is holding you on charges. If the government cannot justify its charges to a court, then you have to be released. Habeas corpus, in other words, is a petition that asks the court to completely dismiss the charges against you over the Prosecutor’s objection.

Should you file a habeas corpus motion?

So, why not file a habeas corpus motion, you might ask. A habeas corpus petition is a strategic measure. It’s the appropriate motion to file only when you believe that the government does not have any case against you even if the evidence they present is accepted as true. For example, where you present a successful motion to suppress evidence of your possession of a drug, and there is no evidence left to proceed with, a habeas corpus motion can allow you to finish off the charges. In other cases, where a key witness is likely not to testify (where they plead the 5th amendment to avoid their own prosecution, for example), a habeas corpus motion can successfully force the issue and have the case withdrawn.

But a habeas corpus motion is not the right tool for all situations. Habeas corpus will not succeed if the government has a case against you, but you simply don’t believe it’s enough to convict you beyond a reasonable doubt. A habeas corpus motion is what you file to challenge the government to produce its evidence in court. It can slow down the process of ultimately adjudicating your guilt or innocence. In many situations, you want your day in court as soon as possible, and a habeas corpus motion may actually delay that. In addition, if you waive your preliminary hearing, you almost certainly give up your right to a habeas corpus petition.

Conclusion

In short, whether to file a Habeas Corpus motion in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to dismiss your criminal charges is a decision you should only make in consultation with an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney. Call the Cornerstone Law Firm today so that we can help you to determine whether a Habeas Corpus Petition is right for you, or whether you should defend your action in another way.

October 2018 Recap

The month of October has been productive at Cornerstone Law Firm. Attorney Crossett successfully settled two car accident cases for clients, helping them to receive financial compensation for their pain and suffering. David also attended several “depositions,” a part of the civil litigation process that allows testimony under oath before trial in order for both parties to better understand the case at hand.

Attorney Ready has been all over eastern Pennsylvania this month, driving to Union County to obtain dismissal of criminal charges for a client, and holding several hearings in Berks County criminal court. Joel also filed a lawsuit for 401k benefits unlawfully denied to an employee. He also helped several clients analyze their rights as creditors in bankruptcy court. Finally, Attorney Ready filed several deeds for clients changing ownership of homes.

At Cornerstone Law, we solve problems of all kinds. Call us today to let us know how we can help you solve your problem.

Public Drunkenness and Kutztown University Students

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we’ve helped many Kutztown University students who are accused of crimes. When a college student is charged with public drunkenness or another crime involving alcohol or drugs, the impact on the student’s academic and professional future can be profound. Here are several things that a student at Kutztown University or any other college should consider when deciding what to do about criminal charges.

  1. Your charges can impact professional licensure

Sometimes, college students are quick to plead guilty or accept the initial charges filed without thinking about how such a charge will impact their professional future. If a student wants to be a teacher, a counselor, a police officer or even go into the military, a conviction can end up derailing the student’s plans. An expensive education can be wasted by accepting a plea agreement without considering these aspects.

The reality is, a college student who is 18 or older is an adult, and your charges will remain on your record for the rest of your life if they are not properly disposed of. Contrary to popular belief, expungement is not easy to obtain, and in many situations, it will not be available at all unless it is part of the plea agreement or diversionary program accepted. Don’t just plead guilty! You need to discuss the potential consequences of your plea with an experienced attorney.

  1. You are innocent until proven guilty

In the midst of all of this discussion of plea agreements and reduced charges, let’s not forget the most important fact: you are innocent until proven guilty. Just because a police officer has charged you with a crime doesn’t mean you have to plead guilty to it. Indeed, proving that someone has committed a crime in a court of law is the highest bar in the law. It requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of your peers in an environment where the state cannot require you to testify against yourself. This is not an easy task. Not infrequently, police officers and investigators make mistakes in the course of their investigation, misunderstand the significance of evidence, or rely on false characterizations in their charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you to spot these mistakes and challenge them. Sometimes this reduces criminal charges, and sometimes it eliminates them altogether.

  1. Kutztown University might implement their own academic discipline.

College students are often surprised when they find out that their legal problems create academic problems, as well. Charges filed against an individual will trigger an academic investigation by the university, and a dean of student conduct or other campus official might demand an explanation, even before the charges have been resolved.

However, Kutztown University, like any public university in Pennsylvania, is subject to the constitution and its provisions about due process, the right to an attorney, and the right to notice and a hearing. Occasionally, students are told that they do not have a right to be represented by an attorney in a disciplinary hearing. This is not true. As a student a public university, you have your full constitutional rights in disciplinary hearings, including the right to remain silent without adverse action being taken against you. You should not attempt to handle these hearings alone. In most cases, you can insist that the hearings not go forward until the charges are resolved.

  1. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you is a must.

There are plenty of things in life that you can save money on by doing it yourself. Dealing with your potentially life-altering criminal charges is not one of them. An experienced attorney who understands the potential impact of a conviction on your professional future is vital. An experienced attorney can help you to decide whether to fight charges or to seek a favorable plea, and how to eliminate or minimize potential negative consequences for your future.

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we have helped many Kutztown University students to deal with charges ranging from disorderly conduct to drug possession and more. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

What is the difference between a preliminary hearing and a preliminary arraignment?

If you have been charged with a crime, the first thing that usually happens is that you receive two notices in the mail from a Magisterial District Court, giving you the date and time for two separate hearings. One is called a preliminary arraignment; the other is called a preliminary hearing.

So what is the difference between these two hearings and what should you do to prepare for each of them? That is the subject for today’s Cornerstone Law Firm’s blog post.

The Preliminary Arraignment

The preliminary arraignment is the first step in the prosecution of a crime in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is the first opportunity you will have to be in front of a Judge on your criminal charges. An arraignment is where you are formally inducted into the criminal justice system for the purpose of disposition of your charges. To put it more simply, this is where your bail is set, your charges are read, and where information is taken from you about the Court can get ahold of you in the event that you do not show up for a hearing. It is called a preliminary arraignment because there will actually be two arraignments during the process of disposing of your criminal charges. This is the first one, and if you retain an attorney, this is the only one you will actually have to attend. The preliminary arraignment is important because it is the opportunity for you to hear the charges for the first time and to also obtain a copy of the Affidavit of Probable Cause that a police officer has filed supporting the charges against you. It is also your chance to advocate for unsecured bail. That is, bail where you do not have to pay money down to be at liberty during the rest of your criminal case.

The Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is the second hearing that you will attend during the process of having your criminal charges dealt with. This hearing will typically be at the same Court that your preliminary arraignment was held and, in most cases, it will be a few weeks after the preliminary arraignment. At your preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth is required to put on its case against you to prove that it has a prima facie case against you. Prima facie is Latin for “first blush” or “at first look,” simply meaning, the Commonwealth must prove it has a good reason for charging you. That they have probable cause. At a preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth does not have to prove the burden beyond a reasonable doubt, their only goal is to prove to the Magisterial District Judge that the charges are not completely lacking in merit.  If they are able to prove that, then the charges will be “bound over” to the Court of Common Pleas. This is where the case gets going in earnest.

So, what is the point of a preliminary hearing? In a preliminary hearing, your attorney will have the opportunity to meet with the prosecution to discuss your case, to find out the likelihood of any plea deals being offered, and it is the first chance for your attorney to cross examine the police officer and potentially other witnesses against you.

The preliminary hearing is extremely important. In some cases, it is an opportunity to have all the charges completely dismissed. In other cases, it is a crucial opportunity to get evidence on the record that will lead to suppression of evidence when the case goes to the Court of Common Pleas. In other instances, it is best to waive the preliminary hearing, that is to forgo it, in order to secure a more favorable deal from the prosecution. In all these instances it is vital to be represented by a criminal defense attorney at the preliminary hearing.

Conclusion

We hope this article has been helpful to you as you sort out the difference between the preliminary arraignment and the preliminary hearing. If you have further questions about these hearings, or about your specific charges, we welcome you to call the attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm to discuss your case.