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AugustRush

Car Accident (5 vehicle)

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Background: I'm in my mid-20's. I've never gotten a speeding ticket or been in an accident. I don't text and drive- I don't even have a smart phone. 

 

A few weeks ago I was driving home and was involved in a car accident. There is only one lane of traffic going each way, I was following 2 cars and had one car behind me. The first car was stopped to make a left turn and I vaguely remember slowing down with the cars ahead. The next thing I remember is hearing glass smashing, feeling pain in my back, and being out of breath when my car came to it's final resting place in the middle of the road. After the accident, I collected my wallet and phone and got out of the car. I didn't know what happened, but only could see the rear damage of my car from where I was standing after the accident. Based on witness statements from the driver and passenger of the car head of me, the vehicle behind me rear-ended me and started the accident. They literally said they "saw everything unfold in their rearview mirror" and the driver behind me rear-ended me. After I was rear-ended initially, I was knocked unconscious for a few seconds (most likely due to the speed of the driver behind and the fact that my car was nearly stopped for traffic ahead). This initial impact probably caused the L5 vertebrae fracture in my back as well. 

 

Next, when I was rear-ended I hit the car ahead of me (and they hit the car ahead of them). I was then sent into oncoming traffic towards a large truck pulling a 5th wheel. (I was unconscious and don't remember any of this happening, its based on the truck driver's account. I actually found out that I hit the truck/camper a few days after the accident). My vehicle took out the trucks front axel and I then went airborne along the side of the camper and smashed the side window. The camper nearly landed on my car and it caused some of the 5th wheel mount bolts to break. This was the end of the accident, I was left in the center of the road. The car that rear-ended me was now ahead of me, when everything was finished. 

 

The state trooper interviewed me and asked what happened. I said I was unsure what just happened, but stated that I was not driving distracted by any means. The guy driving the truck initially though that I was texting, which I denied. I have my Verizon text/call records to prove this wrong (last call on my phone was 2 days before crash, last text was the night before texting my mom). I met the driver of the truck at the tow yard a few days after the accident. He explained that I hit his truck and camper, but also realized he incorrectly thought I was texting. He now knows it was the driver behind me that was distracted.

 

Crash Report: (To be fair to the trooper, the whole accident scene was a mess. There was a lot of confusion as to what happened.)

The crash report stated that I started the accident when I supposedly rear-ended the car ahead of me. It said I was driving carelessly and speeding. (?). The driver behind me was also listed a partially responsible. I was also cited for using a texting device, which means they didn't verify my records from Verizon. I was the only one injured in the accident, someone in the SUV ahead had minor whiplash. 

 

  • The trooper that was managing this accident report was on training and i'll be taking to him this week once he gets back.
  • State Farm (my Insurance Company) has reviewed everything and has a recorded statement (from the driver ahead of me) and has put the driver behind me at fault for the accident. (I also asked them if my 2017 Nissan Sentra had a "black box" recording device, which may help explain what happened.
  • The driver ahead of me called the trooper and left a message yesterday. He will be giving his account of what happened. 

 

I'm looking for advice on getting the police report corrected/amended.

 

I appreciate the help!

 

 

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The police report doesn't count because it's inadmissible in court. You can file whatever you want with the police but it isn't likely to do you any good because your statements will be biased and self-serving.

 

What absolutely DOES count are the witnesses that said they "saw everything."

 

It's imperative that they be identified and their written statements obtained if that has not already been done.

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Thanks everybody for your responses, I appreciate it.

 

For some reason, the police report didn't have any statements from the driver/passenger ahead of me. State Farm has been very helpful throughout this process, they actually called everybody involved (as they usually do I think) and they notified me of what the driver ahead said. I actually talked to the driver that was ahead of me, on Friday. He said he was happy to give a statement. I thanked him for talking to State Farm, but didn't want to be seen as "telling him what to say", so we didn't discuss the accident too much. He was very surprised and confused when I told him the trooper list me as partially at fault. Nobody else has the police report, I went onto Penn DOT's website and paid the $22.00 to download it. (I voluntarily sent the official crash report to State Farm, since PA takes a long time to supply it. 

 

Overall, I guess i'm just amazed how they can publish such an incorrect crash report. I know mistakes can happen, but it was very off. 

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On 10/5/2019 at 11:35 PM, AugustRush said:

I was also cited for using a texting device,

 

You need to defend yourself on that charge. You should likely have an attorney because a conviction could affect the whole thing not in your favor.

 

Was that the only thing you were cited for?

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PayrollHRGuy, thanks for the reply. 

 

The police report listed "Careless Driving", "Using Texting Device", and "Not Driving at Safe Speed" as the violations.

 

In the mail, I received 3 citations: (1) Failure to sign registration card, (2) Careless driving, and (3) Using texting device. I sent the citations in the mail today pleading "not guilty".

 

I know that i'm not guilty or at fault in this accident, so i'm definitely not going to accept these charges. I would prefer to not get an attorney involved in this matter, but I will if I have to. I have what's known as "limited-tort" with State Farm, which I understand affects my ability to sue. I've never had a ticket or accident before, so i'm new to how paying for an attorney actually works. I know some attorneys only make you pay a percentage of the settlement if they win.

 

If I knew that the limited tort wouldn't stop me from getting a lawyer and having my costs covered, I would hire an attorney tomorrow. I was also the only one injured in the accident, with a fractured L5 vertebrae (that hopefully doesn't need surgery).

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1 hour ago, AugustRush said:

If I knew that the limited tort wouldn't stop me from getting a lawyer and having my costs covered,

 

In Pennsylvania limited tort only prevents you from recovering compensation for pain and suffering. You can still recover your medical bills, property damage, and lost wages that are unpaid by your PIP Coverage. Trouble is, without pain and suffering in the claim, it is unlikely that any attorney will take the case on a contingency.

 

There is an exception. To recover for pain and suffering the injury must be considered a "serious injury."

 

In Washington v. Baxter, the PA Supreme Court adopted the following criteria for determining "serious impairment of body function"


 

Quote

 

The "serious impairment of body function" threshold contains two inquiries:

a) What body function, if any, was impaired because of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident?

b) Was the impairment of the body function serious? The focus of these inquiries is not on the injuries themselves, but on how the injuries affected a particular body function. Generally, medical testimony will be needed to establish the existence, extent, and permanency of the impairment.... In determining whether the impairment was serious, several factors should be considered: the extent of the impairment, the length of time the impairment lasted, the treatment required to correct the impairment, and any other relevant factors. An impairment need not be permanent to be serious.

 

 

https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=16835582455698015205&q=washington+v+baxter&hl=en&as_sdt=4,39

 

Unfortunately for Mr Washington, the court found that he did not have a "serious injury." But that's not the important part of the decision. The important part is that limited tort can be overcome.

 

You would be wise to consult a personal injury attorney who can demonstrate success in overcoming the limited tort limitations and see what he says about your case.

 

As for the traffic citations, you'll have to pay a lawyer to defend you against the texting and careless driving charges. It would help if those witnesses appeared in traffic court to testify in your favor.

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adjusterjack, thanks for responding to my post with the limited tort information. It makes much more sense than what I read today 😀 

 

I may consult a personal injury attorney in the near future. Overall, I'm fortunate that I didn't sustain more serious injuries and that my health insurance will pay almost all of it. 

 

My main goal right now is getting the crash report corrected, it is filled with errors. The trooper that wrote the report is on training and should be back soon. I will hopefully be speaking/meeting with him this week. I talked to the driver that was ahead of me this past week, i'm sure he would be willing to testify. They saw everything happen in their rearview mirror and saw the driver in back him me first, causing the accident. 

 

I'm not sure how valuable this is, but Statefarm is going to try an pull the black box (EDR). If they are able to get this, it would clear up any doubt. 

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2 hours ago, AugustRush said:

My main goal right now is getting the crash report corrected, it is filled with errors.

 

That's not likely to happen. The police aren't going to "correct" the report. At best they will ask you for a written statement and it will be added to the file. It will mean nothing because the police report is not admissible in court. It's only a piece of paper and can't be cross examined.

 

If the officer testifies at your traffic hearing, everything he says is based on information and belief and what he was told by others. All of which can be easily impeached by a lawyer. You won't know how. Anything you say will just be treated as biased and self serving and won't be given much credibility by the judge.

 

2 hours ago, AugustRush said:

I talked to the driver that was ahead of me this past week, i'm sure he would be willing to testify.

 

Don't be "sure." Give them the time, date, and place and get their agreement to be there. If they don't show, your goose is cooked.

 

2 hours ago, AugustRush said:

I'm not sure how valuable this is, but Statefarm is going to try an pull the black box (EDR). If they are able to get this, it would clear up any doubt. 

 

In court? Only if the evidence was property authenticated and admitted. Do you know how to do that?

 

Here's why you need a lawyer.

 

1 - To properly question the officer and eliminate his testimony as soon as he opens his mouth.

2 - To properly question the witnesses to elicit testimony favorable to you.

3 - To properly present the evidence from the black box.

4 - To keep you from talking because whatever you say is guaranteed to be used against you. The government has to prove it's case, you don't have to do it for the government.

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Thanks adjustjack, for replying back again.I appreciate your insight. I'm realizing more and more that I should probably just hire a lawyer, as your recommending. I live in the Harrisburg, PA area and am sure their are a lot of options. I've only lived here since April 2018, so I will ask my co-workers for some lawyer referrals to start with. 

 

Do you have an idea of what this would cost to have a lawyer represent me? (I've seen anywhere from $400 to a few thousand)

 

 

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It is not clear you have actually been charged with an offense.  Have you?  Btw, if you need to have witnesses appear, you need to have subpoenas issued ordering them to appear.  Surprisingly, witnesses will usually decide in favor of a day at work versus a day sitting in a courtroom.  If you subpoena a witness and they don't appear you would usually get a continuance, otherwise, no.  On the other hand, the police officer will usually not be a witness against you in an accident case because almost all of his or her evidence will be hearsay - if you object.

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6 hours ago, AugustRush said:

Do you have an idea of what this would cost to have a lawyer represent me? (I've seen anywhere from $400 to a few thousand)

 

At about $300 per hour my guess would be in the $1000 to $2000 area for a review, research, and court appearance.

 

But it would be worth it to avoid conviction on those charges.

 

 

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Thanks everyone for your feedback, I really do appreciate it. 😀

 

I talked to a lawyer with a major firm in Harrisburg, PA today, he will be representing me. (Yes, I did review their firm and many others). We agreed to a fixed/set rate of $750.00 total for him representing me (I have to pay court fines, etc.).

 

When it comes to the injury claim, we may pursue that after the traffic citations are taken care of. He agreed to represent me on a contingency agreement for the injury claim (I pay nothing unless they win). 

 

Having a lawyer does make things less stressful, now I can stay up late writing a paper for my MBA class in peace. 😅

 

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Thanks for responding, Victor.

 

The whole situation is very complicated and the state trooper handling this accident/crash report was very difficult to deal with from the start. (I have great respect for law enforcement with all the crap they have to deal with.)

 

I called the trooper station multiple times and left a message on September 30th in the afternoon. I was told by multiple people that since he was the only who investigated the accident and report, I would need to talk to him when he returned from scheduled training. The driver ahead of me (witness) also called a left a voicemail for him last weekend. I have yet to hear back from the trooper. After considering everything, I decided to hire a lawyer to represent me. 

 

When it comes to statements, if needed, I will write my own and request that the driver ahead write one. When I was rear-ended initially, the impact was so extensive that I blacked out immediately (for a few seconds) and I have no memory of the details. My last memory is driving down the road and I vaguely remember traffic slowing ahead of me. I have no memory of being hit or hitting another vehicle. When the driver of the truck in oncoming traffic thought I was texting and gave his statement (which he later took back), the police officer assumed I caused everything and wrote the crash report accordingly. 

 

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, Victor Ross said:

Submit a written statement to the highway patrol and let them know all the happenings in detail. If you have any witness, try to include his/her statement too.

 

That is a very bad idea now that @AugustRush has retained a lawyer.

 

And @AugustRush you need to stop doing anything that you don't first discuss with your lawyer.

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PayrollHRGuy, thanks for your concern.

 

I'm definitely not doing anything before discussing it with my lawyer. From day one I have never admitted fault for anything (because I didn't do anything wrong). I know very little about the legal process, but I know that everything I say can be used against me. The lawyer has reviewed and agreed to take my case, we'll meet next week to go over everything. I've given up trying to talk to the trooper that investigated the accident, he obviously doesn't want to talk. 😥 

 

When I think of the legal system, this video came to mind. (Please watch the link if you need a good laugh.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=ID&feature=plcp&hl=id&v=ljhuDeuebak 

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Once again, and hopefully for the last time, the trooper's report is irrelevant to anything.  It is not evidence in the traffic or any civil suit that may arise out of the accident.  Therefore, the trooper has no reason to change anything in his or her report.  

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