What do I do if I get a traffic ticket?

If you’ve been pulled over and given a traffic ticket, or if you’ve received a traffic ticket in the mail, you should think carefully about your options before pleading guilty to it. When you plead guilty to a traffic ticket, you will incur all of the fines, penalties, points and license suspensions that go along with it. So, here are a few things to consider when you see those blue lights in the rear-view mirror.

  1. Fines…and other coststraffic ticket

If you get a traffic ticket, you know there’s a fine. That’s really what a traffic ticket is. Traffic tickets in Pennsylvania are almost always “summary offenses,” meaning they can be resolved by simply paying your fine. Indeed, most traffic tickets in Pennsylvania are just fines, without any additional points or other complications (although some come with other penalties as discussed below).

But there can be other costs to a traffic ticket when you plead not guilty, including minor court costs and other fees. Regardless, pleading not guilty is your chance to challenge a ticket, and you should carefully weigh this option before simply paying the ticket. The fines on a traffic ticket are always the smallest cost in the long term, which leads us to number two.

  1. Points on your license

The bigger concern when you have a traffic ticket is how many points it will put on your license. In Pennsylvania, once you’ve reached 11 points, your license is suspended, and once you’ve reached six points, you have to pay fees and take a special exam (which, if it’s half as bad as it sounds, is a fate worse than death).

More relevantly, for most Pennsylvanians higher points means higher insurance premiums. Insurance companies take points into account when deciding how much to charge you for your premiums. So, if your traffic ticket comes with points, you want to carefully consider whether you can afford the long-term insurance costs that the ticket will bring. Sometimes a ticket with lower fines and points will end up costing you far more than a ticket with a higher fine and no points.

  1. Your license may be suspended

In some cases, tickets can bring about an automatic license suspension. Worst of all, they may not tell you that until after you’ve plead guilty and it’s too late to do anything about it. PennDOT assesses the suspensions automatically and does so after the fact. So, you won’t know about a suspension in some cases until after it’s too late. Your license can be suspended for relatively small matters such as speeding in a work zone, or allowing someone else to use your car without a license.

Call for a free consultation with a traffic lawyer today

Whenever you’ve received a traffic ticket, it’s important to discuss your matter with a traffic ticket lawyer. Attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm can help you determine whether there’s a way to fight your traffic ticket at the Magisterial District Court or a higher court, or whether it can be negotiated to something that doesn’t carry points or a license suspension.

We’ve helped many clients to avoid the serious ramifications of a traffic ticket and we can help you, too.
Call for a free consultation today.

What is Subrogation?

If you filed a claim with an insurance adjuster after a car accident or any other type of motor vehicle accident, there are a few unusual terms that you are going to hear. One of them is “subrogation.” You may hear about it first from the claims adjuster that you’re dealing with at the insurance company. Or perhaps you’ll get a letter from your own health insurance company saying that they’ve subrogated claims or that they believe they have a right of subrogation. So, what is this that they’re talking about, and what should you do about it? Do you need a subrogation lawyer?

subrogation

Subrogation is the right to be reimbursed

Subrogation is a strange word, but it’s fairly simple. It means that someone else has purchased your legal rights from you—even if you didn’t know it! The most common situation in which this arises is when a medical insurance provider pays for your medical care after an accident. In this situation, the medical provider or the health insurance company has a right to be reimbursed by you if you receive a settlement for your personal injury claim.

When you think about it, this makes sense. Someone who pays for your medical care generally ought to be partially reimbursed for their payments if you get paid by the person who hurt you. Similarly, if a hospital or other medical provider remains unpaid for treating you after you are injured, they are usually going to try to be first in line to get reimbursed after you are compensated for those injuries.

But having said all of that, just because someone claims the right of reimbursement doesn’t mean they actually have a right to reimbursement. This is a complicated area of the law. Subrogation is what is known as an “equitable doctrine.” The insurance company or medical provider may have a right of subrogation but that right is limited by a number of important legal principles that a subrogation lawyer or personal injury attorney can help you work through.

Your Personal Injury Claim is Affected by a Subrogation Claim.

One thing people often do not realize when they are negotiating with an insurance adjuster about their personal injury claim is that these subrogation rights of other parties have to be considered when determining the proper amount of compensation for a personal injury claim. In other words, if a medical insurance provider has already paid for your medical bills, the car insurance company involved is typically going to be responsible for providing you with enough money to reimburse them for the amount of money that they paid.

Sometimes an injured party will be negotiating a settlement and believe they are going to receive a certain sum of money from the insurance company only to find out that the entire amount of money will have to be handed over to a medical provider. This should not be the case. The insurance company is responsible for compensating you for all of the injuries you’ve suffered and to make sure that there’s money left over to compensate you for the pain and suffering you’ve experienced. This is where having an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you value your claim and protect you against third-party creditors is extremely important.

Do I Need a Subrogation Lawyer?

If all of this sounds a little bit confusing, don’t panic. An experienced subrogation lawyer can help you to figure out whether your personal injury claim is being properly valued by the insurance company when taking into account any right of repayment that a medical provider or medical insurance company may have.

At Cornerstone Law Firm, our attorneys have extensive experience in the areas of personal injury and subrogation. Our lawyers know how to help you to compromise liens which may be placed against you and how to deal with those claiming a right of subrogation. They can help to defray the costs that would otherwise accrue you and they can help to maximize your recovery. If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle crash or if you’ve been injured in another way and someone has contacted you about a right of subrogation, call us right away.

Who’s going to pay for my car?!

When you’ve been in a car crash and your car is totaled, one of the first and most frustrating lessons that you learn is that car insurance companies do not put as high a value on your car as you do. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and our other “toys” of the road often have a special sentimental value to us and a practical long-term value. With care and maintenance, most of us hope to drive our cars forever!

Unfortunately, car insurance companies frequently try to give you the bottom-dollar for your car, truck or motorcycle after an accident. So what do you do when the car insurance company makes a low offer? Worse, what if the insurance company says your car isn’t worth as much as the loan you still have to pay off?

  1. You have a right to insist on the actual value of your car, truck or motorcycle after a crash.

In most cases, your insurance company is responsible for paying for the value of your vehicle. Although value can be subjective, the market value of your car is the proper amount that the insurance should pay you.

So, in other words, don’t be afraid to insist on the full value of your car and don’t be afraid to submit supporting documentation such as the Kelly Blue Book value or other objective measures of the value of your car. The car insurance company shouldn’t get away with undervaluing your car any more than a used car dealer would when you trade it in! So push back and insist on full value.

  1. Property Damage vs. Injury Damage

Your car insurance covers you for very different types of damage. It covers you for your immediate medical bills. It covers you for property damage to your car or belongings. It covers you in the event of an injury and ensures that you will receive compensation for your pain and suffering and the medical cost of your injuries. It also may cover other things such as time that you lost at work.

Sometimes insurance policies can be confusing. The declaration page from your insurance company may break down eight different types of recovery, and despite showing that you have “coverage,” a claims adjuster may tell you there’s no money for your situation. In these situations, you should consider retaining a car accident attorney to help you understand your declaration page and to help negotiate with the insurance company.

  1. A car accident lawyer can help you determine the value of your car—and your injury claim.

When you’ve been confronted with an insurance company that doesn’t believe that the value of your car or the value of your injury is as serious as you do, you should contact an experienced car accident attorney. One value to having an experienced car accident lawyer by your side is that an experienced attorney can tell you what the proper valuation of your claim is.

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we deal with injury claims all the time. We know the ins and outs of dealing with a car accident case, and we can help you determine whether you’re getting proper value for your car and proper value for the injuries that you’ve suffered.

So if you’ve been in a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a truck accident, or any other vehicle crash, call us at the Cornerstone Law Firm today to discuss your case and see how we can help you.

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.