How do I subpoena a police report?

When you are trying to get ahold of a police report after a car accident, an assault, a neighbor dispute or for any other reason, you may find that the process is very confusing. Police departments do not always produce their reports upon request, and some will tell you that you have to file a subpoena.

Unfortunately, under Pennsylvania law, to subpoena a document you must have an active case that you are a part of. This means either that you are the criminal/defendant in the case or you are a party to a civil action where you are suing or being sued. Accordingly, if you are trying to serve a subpoena on a police department, you must be a party to one of those actions. Additionally, government entities have the power to serve subpoenas in certain types of investigations, but private parties do not have similar power.

If you are not a party to one of these actions, you can consider whether you should file one in order to subpoena the documents that you need. This might mean suing the neighbor or the individual that you are in a dispute with, or in extreme cases, suing the police department if you think that you have grounds to do so. In most cases and for most people, rather than subpoenaing a police report, you should consider one of two other options.

FILING A RIGHT TO KNOW REQUEST

A Right To Know is a request under Pennsylvania law to a government entity to produce records that are in their possession. This is the state law equivalent to a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA). Some states call these Open Records laws. Simply put, the Right To Know request allows you to request documents that the police may be holding onto, including police reports.

However, police departments routinely refuse to produce police reports claiming that they are part of “an active criminal investigation.” This is sometimes true, even after they have said there will be no charges from an incident. Although this is not technically correct, it often practically results in a brick wall in trying to obtain these police reports.

PAY FOR A POLICE REPORT

If you have been a part of a car accident, you may have the right to obtain the police report by paying the police department for it. In addition, there are a number of websites that offer this service. At Cornerstone Law Firm, we routinely retrieve these as part of personal injury cases for clients. The difference and the reason that you can obtain it here is because investigating a personal injury is one exception that most police departments will properly recognize as a reason to obtain a police report.

CONCLUSION

If you are trying to obtain a police report as part of an investigation or as part of a personal injury case, call the experienced attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm to talk about how best to go about obtaining the police report and also to discuss whether there are any other ways to get the information that you are after. Our attorneys can help determine the best course of action and figure out your next steps.

Mediation in Personal Injury Cases

When you’ve been injured by someone else’s mistake, the long legal process that follows with insurance and lawyers can feel frustrating. Getting your injuries treated, dealing with medical bills and health insurance, and talking with an insurance representative about the value of your injury can add mental anguish to the physical pain you are experiencing.

One mechanism that our attorneys employ for getting the best settlement for our clients in a quicker manner is to pursue a mediation instead of going to court. This is a process where instead of going and having a trial in front of a judge or a jury, the attorneys on both sides of the case can meet with a mediator and try to resolve the case amicably.

A mediation involves hiring a third party, usually a retired judge or an attorney, to help both parties try to find a resolution they can agree on. These settlements usually involve a lot of compromise. As mediators often say, “A good settlement in a mediation is one that no one is totally happy with.” Usually, the insurance company pays a little more than it might otherwise have agreed to short of trial because they know how much a trial will cost them and that there is a risk that a jury gives a big award. The injured person may take a little less than they could have gotten at trial to avoid the additional months or years it would take to get money from the case.

Compromise might sound bad at first, but when you consider that mediations are less expensive and quicker than trials, injured clients often find that it’s best to take even a little bit less than they feel they could have gotten after a trial if they can get the money now and move on with their life. Mediations don’t always require compromise—sometimes it’s the perfect tool to help the insurance company see how serious the plaintiff’s injuries are and to get the case resolved.

Mediation is not the same as arbitration, which is a different mechanism we’ve talked about in other articles. Arbitration is less about compromise and is more like having a trial earlier in the process without a jury in the room. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident or otherwise, talk to the personal injury attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm to discuss how we can help you to reach a settlement in your case.

Peer-to-Peer Carsharing: A Sunday Drive or a Nightmare Ride?

Not all side hustles are created equally, but they all come with serious considerations. Of course, the first consideration for most is financial. After all, the whole point is to supplement your income. The upside must be worth the investment of time and capital, if any, as well as the relevant risks. Even if all you are doing is selling homemade peanut brittle to people you know, there is a risk. What happens if your product makes someone seriously ill or even worse? Risk assessment must be part of that initial analysis, and the side hustle trends seem to get riskier every day.

Just like that mountain cabin or that spare room, many have turned to peer-to-peer car rental services to make an extra buck. These services function much the same as their property rental cousins. Vehicle owners rent their vehicles to other drivers through an app like Getaround or Turo, and the rate is typically hourly. Renters might need the car only for part of the day to run errands or make a special trip to a location devoid of access to public transportation. It seems like a great idea to make money with a car that would have sat unused while helping someone in the process. However, there are many unfortunate places where this type of arrangement could lead.

The two main concerns are damage to property and injury to individuals. When you drive your car, you rely on your insurance coverage to protect against those risks, but that coverage as written could prove worthless in a peer-to-peer car rental scenario. The Pennsylvania legislature has recognized this issue and has passed Senate bill 1222 as a result. This bill, as amended, requires carsharing companies to provide additional insurance to fill the gap when a vehicle owner’s policy excludes the peer-to-peer rental from coverage. The problem is that the coverage provided by the carsharing company might be much less than the vehicle owner enjoys under his or her own policy, meaning that an accident still could pose an unreasonable risk when compared with the relatively meager income gained from this enterprise.

When we think about lending someone a car, we might think that damage to the car is the big risk, but a dented fender or a cracked windshield really sits on the conservative side of the damage spectrum. The truth is that damage to the car might be the least significant risk you take when lending your wheels to someone else. Consider that any motor vehicle accident could result in significant damage to another’s property or the death of anyone involved. The potential litigation could be something much more than most would envision ever encountering. This is why it is important to understand fully the risks involved in these trendy ventures before handing over those keys.

Whether you are considering starting this kind of side business or any side business, or whether you already started and are in need of legal assistance, the attorneys at Cornerstone Law can help. Call us for a consultation today.

Evaluating Injuries After a Car Accident

When you’ve been in a car accident and are in the process of making an insurance claim, often the most crucial part of the process is to properly evaluate the cost of your injuries. Many victims injured in car accidents ask our Personal Injury Attorneys:

“How do I appropriately value the pain I’ve suffered”?

This article covers just a few of the factors that we use in working with insurance adjusters to come to the appropriate value for your injury claim.

The Amount of Your Medical Bills

The primary factor in determining the value of an insurance claim is the amount of your medical bills. This includes not just the outstanding bills that you owe, but also the bills that have been paid by your insurance or even Medicare or Medicaid. Pain is hard to quantify, but bills are not. The dollar amounts that you have paid to hospitals, ambulance services, and rehabs, the costs of prescription medications and more, are all relevant in determining the size of your claim.

Lost Wages

Although not directly related to pain specifically, the amount of money lost from missed work or the number of personal days you have had to take can be considered in your claim. Attending appointments or time spent dealing with the car accident in general are considered “out of pocket” expenses for which you should be reimbursed. This includes not only visits with your doctor, but also consultations with your attorney or days spent in court dealing with your personal injury claim.

Permanent Damage

Are your injuries temporary, or will they be permanent? Has a doctor told you whether you can expect a full recovery, or will these injuries linger and cause you pain and suffering indefinitely? Permanent injuries are weighed heavily when considering the value of your claim.

Length of Time for Treatment

Another important factor in determining the potential value of your claim is the length of time that treatment will be required. For example, if treatment was required for only a few days or weeks after the accident, the claim is worth less than if treatment were required for months or years. The value of the claim is also impacted by how quickly after the accident treatment was sought and initiated. Was it started, in earnest, quickly? Did it require a trip to the hospital immediately? Was the injury something that developed weeks or months later? The answers to all of these questions can assist in evaluating your claim.

Future Medical Expenses

Just as the length of time that treatment was required can impact the value of your claim, so also can the potential for future medical expenses. If you will need surgery because of your injuries, or if you will need long term treatment and care, that will increase the value of your claim in most cases. Conversely, if no future medical treatment will be required and you have made a complete recovery, that often can put a cap on your potential damages.

The Effected Parts of the Body or Types of Injuries Involved

Another factor considered for your claim is the type of injuries you sustained. Is it a back injury, or a neck injury? Is it a head injury? Each of these have different potential impacts on you and your future quality of life and can be valued differently because of that.

Conclusion

If you have been injured in a car accident, it is vital that you have an experienced Personal Injury Attorney to help you with your case. At Cornerstone Law Firm, our Personal Injury Attorneys help people every day to get the settlement that is right for them. Call us to learn more.

Do My Medical Bills Get Put on Hold While I Pursue a Personal Injury Claim?

When you are injured in a car accident, a common question that you may confront is what to do about your mounting medical bills. Some people have medical insurance that covers their medical bills, and they are less concerned with this problem. But for those who have lower-grade insurance, or for those whose insurance has been depleted as a result of the injury and injury recovery process, a big concern is how those medical bills will be paid.

To begin with, your medical bills are not put on hold or “paused” while your personal injury claim goes forward. Hospitals and other medical care providers typically do not wish to wait on the conclusion of a personal injury claim to get paid, and will insist on immediate payment. In some cases, they’ll even send these bills out for collections. So, what should you do about this?

First, ensure that all of your medical bills have been run through your PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage, which is part of your car insurance. PIP coverage is provided by your car insurer, and you can read more about it in our article on PIP coverage. Your car insurance (not the person who hit you) is required to pay for your medical bills up to a certain limit. Sometimes victims of car accidents are worried that their car insurance will be negatively affected by using their PIP coverage, but don’t let this worry you. Your PIP coverage is there for you to use to ensure that you get better, medically, and you should have no concern about submitting your car accident-related medical bills to your car insurance directly.

Second, if your PIP coverage is exhausted, and you have further medical bills, you should talk to a personal injury attorney about how to ensure that these claims are handled as you go through the process. In some cases, this means that your personal injury attorney sends letters to the medical providers or collection agencies explaining to them that the process is continuing and that, at some point, you expect payment on your claim. Personal injury lawyers can sometimes negotiate these claims or at least establish a delay in payment for you.

Third, establish payment plans if necessary. Some medical providers will agree to accept payments and can do so without any interest if you begin making certain amounts of good faith payments on these bills. Furthermore, you can sometimes negotiate these bills to a more reasonable level by offering to pay cash up front for a reduction in the overall bill.

Finally, medical bills can also mount after someone has passed away in a car accident. In that case, the estate of the person who died will be responsible for the bills, but these costs can be recouped from the wrongdoer in a wrongful death action.

If you’ve been in a car accident or otherwise injured on the road, contact the personal injury lawyers at Cornerstone Law Firm to discuss your case and see how we can help you. To learn more, read our article on your next steps after a car accident.

How Do I Get the Police Report After a Car Accident?

When you’ve been in a car accident that causes you an injury or property damage, you may want to view the police report that was filled out at the scene of the crash by the responding police officer. Depending on whether it was a local police department or the Pennsylvania State Police, this can be a rather involved process.

Some police departments actually charge for their police reports, and others claim that they cannot give them out without a court order or subpoena. You may face opposition trying to get the basic official information that was gathered. This can be particularly frustrating if you’re trying to make an insurance claim based on your injuries from the accident.

Police reports are not technically considered a public record, and if anyone was charged in the accident, whether with a traffic ticket or something more serious, then the police department will usually refuse to provide the report in response to Right-To-Know Requests.

After someone has died in a car accident, the process can be particularly difficult. You may have to open an estate to pursue getting information on the accident or to set up a wrongful death claim. In these instances, police departments often refuse to give out the police reports except to an authorized representative of the opened estate.

Accordingly, if someone in the department won’t provide it to you, and if the police refuse to include it in a Right-To-Know request, what else can you do? Sometimes the only option is to retain an attorney to begin working on your personal injury case, or to pursue a small claims lawsuit for property damage to your car. An attorney can file a Writ of Summons or a Complaint to begin a civil action to recover damages and can advise you on the discovery rights this gives you. Most of the time, a simple subpoena can be sent—but only after a lawsuit is filed. Subpoena power does not arise under Pennsylvania law until a suit is filed.

If you’ve had trouble getting hold of a police report or have questions after your car accident or personal injury claim, give us a call today at Cornerstone Law Firm. Our personal injury attorneys can discuss with you how to move forward.

January 2021 Update

Attorney David Crossett has continued working through personal injury claims for car accident victims in Reading, Pennsylvania this month. Speaking of clients who are concerned about whether their car insurance was sufficient during a car accident, Attorney Crossett explains: “Clients who are ‘limited tort’ should not assume their insurance will not cover their injuries, especially when the injuries are catastrophic. We don’t want to see clients give up their rights in those situations.” Attorney Crossett’s work has also included mediation with judges in attempts to help clients resolve their conflicts outside of court.

Meanwhile, Attorney Joel Ready has been handling a number of civil rights matters, including for violations of the 1st Amendment. “Harassment claims, in particular, bring an important legal issue into the crosshairs,” Attorney Ready explains. As part of his work in this area, Attorney Ready appeared on WFMZ to speak about the First Amendment’s application to private life and employment issues.

Finally, Tim Crossett, Cornerstone’s Firm Administrator, has been working on the launch of the all new web-show, “Business in Berks,” a series of interviews with local business owners about the challenges of 2020 and beyond. The show goes live in February on our youtube channel.

At Cornerstone Law Firm, our attorneys and staff are hoping that 2021 is more pleasant for the world than its predecessor! We look forward to helping you in the coming year.

Motorcycle Injury: What to Do When You Have Been Injured in Berks County, Pennsylvania

When you have been injured in a motorcycle crash, the injuries can be catastrophic. Every serious rider knows that no matter how safe you are, and no matter carefully you abide by the rules of the road and accepted safety practices, the risk of injury is an ever present danger. When you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, what are your first steps and what should you do?

1. Submit Your Medical Bills to Your Motorcycle Insurance.

This first step often confuses people. It is important that you submit your medical bills directly to your own motorcycle insurance carrier. This step in the process often surprises the victims of accidents, because it seems like the other party should be paying the medical bills. Don’t worry! We will get to that later.

However, when you are first injured, your insurance provides you with something called PIP coverage (Personal Injury Protection). This coverage is designed to make sure that you can immediately get medical treatment right after an accident without having any money spent out of pocket. State law requires you to have at least $5,000 in PIP coverage, and you have been paying for it as part of your insurance, so there is no reason not to use it now when you need it. By opening a claim and having your medical bills submitted straight to your motorcycle insurance carrier, you will (hopefully) avoid racking up medical expenses at the beginning of this process. 

2. Get Treatment!

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, this next tip may not be that difficult to abide by. Nonetheless, it is extremely important that you get medical treatment for all of your injuries. There is no point in being tough about any sort of vehicle accident. Your injuries will not just get better on their own in most cases. This is particularly true of unseen injuries, such as torn ligaments and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

The danger of concussions is only now becoming a matter of general awareness, largely due to the news surrounding the National Football League and other professional sports. If you have been diagnosed with a concussion or are experiencing the effects of an impact to your head, which is not uncommon after a motorcycle accident, it is extremely important that you see a doctor, a specialist and anyone to whom they refer you. 

You may have to live with the effects of a traumatic brain injury for much of the rest of your life. Accordingly, the medical records demonstrating such an injury are an important part of demonstrating the severity of your claim and your entitlement to an appropriate financial settlement with the insurance companies. 

3. Call A Personal Injury Attorney to Handle Your Motorcycle Accident

Finally, it is extremely important that you talk to a personal injury attorney right away after your motorcycle accident. It does not matter if you know the full extent of your injuries. You can still talk to a personal injury attorney about your case. At Cornerstone Law Firm, your consultation is free, and we do not get paid until you get paid. We’re here to help, so call us today.

 

What is the Common Fund Doctrine?

The “common fund doctrine” is an important equitable rule of law that personal injury attorneys employ to maximize an injured person’s overall recovery. When you have been injured in a car accident, a truck crash, or some other motor vehicle accident and your medical bills are paid by a health insurer, the common fund doctrine is likely to factor in your total financial recovery. 

In simple terms, in every personal injury case, the injured victims who has to retain an attorney ends up paying part of the recovery to that attorney in exchange for their services. The injured victim can usually deduct the same percentage from the reimbursement to medical providers.

What to Know about Common Fund Doctrine

When someone is injured, their health insurance often pays the bills after the Personal Injury Protection (PIP coverage) is exhausted. This creates a medical lien against the ultimate recovery of money as a result of the injury. So, do you have to pay the full amount of that lien? This is where the common fund doctrine comes in.

The common fund doctrine is a common law, equitable remedy that allows a court to diminish the share of the lien holder’s recovery by the percentage of that recovery that’s attributable to the attorney that brought about the financial recovery. 

We say this is equitable, meaning it is meant to be fair. The lien holders, who would not have been paid back without the attorney’s efforts, should also have to pick up part of the tab for that attorney’s work. As a result, somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of a medical lien can typically be written off and given directly back to the injured party in recognition of the fact that they’ve had to bear the cost of attorneys’ fees.

We can help

Dealing with medical liens is only one part of the complexity of a personal injury case. If you’ve been in a car accident, call the Cornerstone Law Firm and speak with one of our injury attorneys. We don’t get paid until you get paid, and we can offer you a free consultation on the likelihood of a recovery in your case.

Injured on 222? We Can Help.

Pennsylvania Route 222, which runs through the heart of Berks County, is becoming not only the busiest but also the most dangerous road in the area. 222 has long been a source of economic growth to Berks County and to Reading, but in recent years, it has become more and more dangerous and has resulted in more and more accidents. If you’ve been injured on 222 in a car accident, the personal injury attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm can help you.

Pursuing Settlement

Car accidents can be a life-changing experience. Between the surgeries and rehabilitation required, these injuries demand an enormous amount of time and attention from the injured party. Other results of an accident, such as loss of earnings and chronic pain can create significant stress for the injured victim.

Having a personal injury attorney here in Berks County who understands your situation is important in dealing with the insurance company and any responsible party after the accident. The party responsible for your accident and the insurance companies involved—including your own insurance company in many cases—bear responsibility to ensure that you are made whole after the accident. This includes not only covering your medical bills and settling medical liens, but also putting together an appropriate settlement given the pain involved in your accident and the time you’ve lost at work and from the activities you love.

The process of pursuing settlement for your injuries doesn’t have to be as painful as a car accident. Frequently, cases can be resolved without the need of filing suit or going to trial. All the same, it’s important to have a lawyer who is able and willing to take your lawsuit to trial if necessary.

We can help.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident on 222 or elsewhere in Berks County, Pennsylvania, call the personal injury lawyers at Cornerstone Law Firm for a free consultation. We don’t get paid until you get paid. Call us for a risk-free, no-obligation consultation about your case.