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Help! I was in a car accident, what do I do?

You are driving along the 95 South, stuck in traffic wishing that they would hurry up and finish construction. You hear a screeching, your head snaps backward as you are jolted out of the reverie by a nondescript midsize sedan. You groggily shrug off sleep and awake in a room lit by the deathly glow of fluorescent lights and filled with the unceasing hum of machines.

I have work! I need to go. Where is my car? How am I going to pay for this? You were just in a car accident and unfortunately, there is a lot more to do.

Pennsylvania is a choice no-fault insurance state, which means you may choose either no-fault or traditional tort recovery. Beware if you choose the tort method because it could open you up to countersuit if you were partially at fault for the accident. However also consider that if you choose to recover under the no-fault system then you are limited to recovering damages you can prove with a receipt, like lost wages (up to 80 percent of your income) or medical bills (capped at $100,000). Under MVFRL 1711(a), you can exceed this cap up to $1,100,000 for extraordinary medical care. Whether you choose no-fault or tort liability depends upon your insurance coverage and the nature of the accident. You may elect to recover both no-fault compensation and sue the at-fault driver if you suffered a serious injury. An injury is serious if it results in death, serious disfigurement or loss of use of a limb or organ.

Under the Pennsylvania system, you can recover for any injury arising out of the "maintenance or use" of a motor vehicle. This generally means you will recover from your own insurer.

Once you file a claim with your insurer, you must comply with all their requests. Commonly this includes sitting for a medical examination, giving a statement and sending in all money requests in a timely fashion. If you fail to meet any of these deadlines then it is cause for the insurer to cancel their coverage.

Remember your insurance company is not always your friend, if you give them an opportunity they may try to deny your claim. This is where the aid of an attorney could be very beneficial.

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