It is common to have questions about filing an injury claim after a traffic accident. For many individuals, a traffic accident might be the first time they need to deal with an insurance adjuster or an attorney. Our law firm represents accident victims and their families during a time when they are struggling to deal with medical bills, physical injuries, and emotional stress because of the negligence of another driver. Below are several questions that many people ask during their free consultation with our Pennsylvania car accident attorney.
Have you been involved in a car accident? Are you beginning to suffer symptoms that you cannot explain? Even though the accident occurred a few days or weeks ago, could these symptoms be associated with the car crash?
These are just some of the questions that people ask themselves when they begin experiencing delayed symptoms after a car accident. While many injuries from a traffic accident are immediately known, some injuries may have delayed symptoms that are not recognized for several days or weeks after the accident. Below are three common car accident injuries that might not be immediately known after the crash.
Do you plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends and family? Are you going to a New Year’s Eve party? Will you be drinking alcohol as part of your holiday celebration? If so, we want you to know a few things about DUI’s during the New Year’s holiday.
Winters in Pennsylvania can be brutal. The temperatures can cause hazardous conditions for drivers and pedestrians. While a lot of information is focused on avoiding traffic accidents during winter weather conditions, you should also focus on avoiding falls during the winter.
Falls on icy or snowy surfaces can cause severe injuries, including broken bones, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injuries. If you are not careful, you could find yourself in the hospital with an injury that will keep you out of work and on bed rest for a long time.
Important Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling
In Commonwealth vs. Livingstone, the driver of a vehicle was subjected to an investigatory detention without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. A State Trooper who was offering assistance to a driver on the shoulder of a road, activated his overhead lights, investigated and administered a DUI test to the driver of the vehicle.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that when the State Trooper pulled up behind a motorist who was lawfully parked on the side of the road, he subjected her to an illegal investigatory detention because he had his overhead emergency lights flashing when he pulled up. The trooper basically subjected her to a vehicle stop without the requisite probable cause or reasonable suspicion. The act of interrogating and administering a DUI field test and breathalyzer is deemed unlawful, due to the fact the State Trooper stated he only wanted to offer assistance to the vehicle pulled over on the side of the road.
On June 14, 2013, around 9:30 p.m., a Pennsylvania State Trooper observed a vehicle pulled over on the right shoulder of Interstate 79 with no hazard lights on. The State Trooper saw the engine was running on the vehicle, proceeded to roll down his passenger window, and pulled alongside the vehicle. He noted the sole occupant, Mrs. Livingstone, gave him a “hundred-mile stare” with “glossy eyes looking through him” when he motioned for the driver to roll down the window to ensure she was safe.
Mrs. Livingstone was sitting in the driver’s seat entering an address into her navigation system when the State Trooper activated his overhead emergency lights, and proceeded to pull alongside of Mrs. Livingstone’s vehicle. She then proceeded to roll down her window as instructed by the State Trooper, where she stated she was safe. The State Trooper asked where she was traveling to, and Mrs. Livingston replied “to New York for a dragon boat race.”
That’s when the State Trooper pulled his cruiser in front of Mrs. Livingstone’s vehicle, exited the cruiser, and approached her vehicle on foot. At that same time, another State Trooper proceeded to turn on its overhead emergency lights while pulling directly behind Mrs. Livingstone’s vehicle, but not exiting his cruiser.
When the State Trooper approached Mrs. Livingstone’s vehicle, he asked to see her driver’s license and if she had been drinking that night. She mentioned she had not been drinking, but planned to once she reached her destination. She explained she had finished working around 8:00 p.m. and had been driving for approximately 90 minutes. She then stated she was a CEO of 5 companies and often worked long hours. She also mentioned that she had 2 sons at the Citadel, and feared her sons would get in trouble for their mom’s traffic stop. She also told the State Trooper she was afraid of him.
Based on the appearance of Mrs. Livingstone’s eyes, and the fact she was acting confused, the State Trooper asked Mrs. Livingstone to exit her vehicle where he could perform Field Sobriety tests. Mrs. Livingstone exited the vehicle crying, where the State Trooper advised he intended to administer a portable breathalyzer test. Assuming her test was clear, he would then help her get to her destination.
The results of the breathalyzer revealed Mrs. Livingstone had the presence of alcohol in her system. As a result, the State Trooper placed Mrs. Livingstone under arrest, and transported her back to the barracks where an EMT administered a blood test. The test revealed that Mrs. Livingstone had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .205%. Mrs. Livingstone was then charged with 3 crimes: DUI – General Impairment, DUI – Highest Rate of Alcohol, and Careless Driving.
Fighting For Justice
On March 17, 2014, Mrs. Livingstone filed a pre-trial motion to suppress evidence, stating that once the State Trooper activated his overhead emergency lights and pulled alongside her, she was subjected to an investigative detention unsupported by reasonable suspension. Following the suppression hearing, a judge denied that motion on June 18, 2014, concluding the State Trooper had a duty to determine whether the vehicle on the side of the interstate needed assistance, and the act of the State Trooper approaching the vehicle with his overhead emergency lights activated was a mere encounter. The judge also stated that once the State Trooper observed Mrs. Livingstone’s “glossy eyes” it was reasonable to continue with his investigation.
On October 20, 2014, Mrs. Livingstone was convicted of all charges, and sentenced to an aggregate term of 24 months of intermediate punishment, with the first 90 days to be served on Electronic Monitoring (house arrest), followed by probation, and fines and court costs. Mrs. Livingstone appealed her judgement of sentence to the Superior Court.
Most drivers recognize that flashing overhead police cruiser lights are a strong signal that a police officer is stopping a vehicle and the driver is not free to terminate this encounter. As stated in the Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual (“PDM”), the instructions for proceeding when being stopped by police are as follows: “You will know a police officer wants you to pull over when he or she activates the flashing red and blue lights on top of the police vehicle.” The PDM further “recommends” that drivers follow certain procedures “anytime a police vehicle stops behind you.”
Those procedures include turning off the engine and radio, rolling down a window to enable communication with the officer, limiting their movements and the movements of passengers, placing their hands on the steering wheel, keeping the vehicle doors closed and remaining inside the vehicle, and keeping their seatbelt fastened. If these instructions do not explicitly instruct motorists who are already stopped on the side of the road that they are not free to leave when a police vehicle, with its overhead emergency lights activated, pulls alongside their vehicle, we conclude that it is eminently reasonable that a motorist would believe he or she is not free to leave under these circumstances.
Moreover, pursuant to Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Code, a driver of a motor vehicle “who willfully fails or refuses to bring his vehicle to a stop, or who otherwise flees or attempts to elude a pursuing police officer, when given a visual and audible signal to bring the vehicle to a stop, ” may be convicted of a second-degree misdemeanor.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the Trial Court’s ruling. The Superior Court accepted the State Trooper’s argument that the act of pulling alongside Mrs. Livingstone’s vehicle with the police cruiser’s overhead emergency lights activated was a mere encounter, and not an investigative detention.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court’s ruling. The Supreme Court held that because Mrs. Livingstone’s vehicle was stopped on the side of the road with no hazard lights on, no visible signs of distress to the vehicle or the driver, and no reports of need for assistance, the acts of the Trooper resulted in an illegal investigatory detention.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was a significant win for this motorist and other similarly situated motorists.
There are many misconceptions about filing traffic accident claims in Pennsylvania. Some of those misconceptions are based on the state’s no-fault insurance laws. Below are three common myths about recovering compensation for a car accident claim in Pennsylvania.
Are you ready to survive winter driving in Pennsylvania? The snow and ice can make for picture-perfect landscapes. However, those same conditions can make driving treacherous. The first step to surviving winter weather on the roads in Pennsylvania is to make sure that your vehicle has a winter survival kit.
As the temperatures fall and winter takes a firm grasp on Pennsylvania, we can expect to see more episodes of dangerous driving conditions because of weather. Sleet, freezing rain, snow, and other winter weather conditions can make driving treacherous. Even when drivers believe the roads are safe, black ice can pose a significant danger for drivers and others using our roads.
If you are injured in a black ice accident in Erie or the surrounding areas, our law firm can help. You might be entitled to compensation from the other driver even though weather and road conditions may have contributed to the cause of the crash. Contact The Travis Law Firm toll free at (800) 401-2066 to schedule a free legal consultation with one of our attorneys.
Are you looking for something fun to do in Erie for Christmas? So are we! Below are several events that we found in Erie that you might enjoy this holiday season. Because we are sure that there are many more holiday events in and around Erie during December, we encourage you to share your favorite Christmas events in our comments section below.
A common question that many people ask us during their free consultation is how much money can they receive for a brain injury claim. Because we value the trust placed in us by our clients, we are honest with them when answering this question. We cannot place a value on a brain injury claim during your first visit, and you do not want us to do so.
If an attorney tries to tell you what your claim is worth before the attorney conducts an investigation or you have not received maximum medical improvement, you need a new attorney. We believe you deserve the best legal representation possible. This includes a thorough and complete investigation and evaluation before we attempt to place a value on your pain and suffering.