Michael A. Luongo Joins our Doylestown Law Office

High Swartz LLP is pleased to announce the addition of Michael A. Luongo, Esq. to the firm's Doylestown Law office. He will add his diverse skillset to the firm's business litigation, personal injury, criminal defense, and municipal practices. Michael joins High Swartz after practicing for 4 and a half years in the litigation department at a prominent law firm in Blue Bell, PA.

"I'm excited to be part of the litigation team at High Swartz. Their reputation in the Bucks and Montgomery region is well-respected and I look forward to contributing right away," states Michael.

Prior to his time there as a business litigator and criminal defense attorney, Michael served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Mr. Luongo litigated multiple high-profile criminal cases, including hundreds of bench trials and jury trials. He was the designated vertical prosecutor handling all press cases, non-fatal shootings and gunpoint robberies. He also conducted hearings for motions to suppress, bail, quash, discovery, reconsider, and consolidate prior bad acts. It was Michael's trial and prosecution acumen that garnered his promotion to Northeast Philadelphia's top prosecutor position.

Michael utilizes his strong business background in his work as a small and medium-sized business litigator in the Philadelphia region. He plans to also assist the firm's municipal group, consisting of attorneys who counsel multiple first and second class townships in the region as solicitors.

"What really stood out to me was the opportunity to work with High Swartz's municipal team. I look forward to gleaning from the many years of Southeastern Pennsylvania representation experience the group possesses," Mr. Luongo said.

While in law school at Rutgers of Camden, Michael served Philadelphia County's Court of Common Pleas judge the Honorable Rose Mare Defino-Nastasi as a summer law clerk. He earned a Master's of Business Administration from LaSalle University and also a Bachelor's of Science from Lehigh University. Michael also studied International Business during his time at Villanova University's Post Grad Program and worked at a marketing firm during his law school days.

17 High Swartz Attorneys Named Main Line Today Top Lawyers for 2021

We are pleased to announce that 17 attorneys have been included in the 2021 Main Line Today Top Lawyers Around the Main Line and Western Suburbs List.

Main Line Today is a Southeastern Pennsylvania regional magazine focusing on the communities of the western suburbs of Philadelphia and surrounding Counties. The Best Lawyers of Chester County, Delaware County and Montgomery County are nominated through peer balloting then vetted through Main Line Today's editorial process.

2021 sees the addition of 3 High Swartz attorneys to the Top Lawyers list. New attorneys include family lawyers Chelsey A. Christiansen and Michael B. Prasad for Divorce and Family Law and Stephen M. Zaffuto for Real Estate Law. Congratulations to all winners!

Below is the full list of High Swartz Top Lawyers from Main Line Today in 2021.

  • Joel D. Rosen - Business Law
  • Kevin Cornish - Civil Litigation
  • Mark Fischer - Civil Litigation
  • Melissa Boyd - Divorce & Family
  • Mary Doherty - Divorce & Family
  • Elizabeth Early - Divorce & Family
  • Chelsey Christiansen - Divorce & Family
  • Michael Prasad - Divorce & Family
  • Thomas Rees - Employment Law
  • James B. Shrimp - Employment Law
  • David Brooman - Municipal Law
  • Gilbert High - Municipal Law
  • William Kerr - Municipal Law
  • Richard Sokorai - Personal Injury
  • Arn Heller - Real Estate Law
  • Stephen Zaffuto - Real Estate Law
  • Thomas Panzer - Workers’ Compensation

If you're looking for lawyers near you in Norristown, Doylestown, and the Greater Philadelphia area, get in touch with our law office. Our attorneys and lawyers are some of the best you'll find to handle all your legal concerns.

High Swartz named among 2019 ‘Best Law Firms’ by U.S. News – Best Lawyers

Full-service law firm in Bucks and Montgomery counties recognized for prowess in Family Law, Municipal Law, Real Estate Law and Litigation - Real Estate, Land Use and Zoning

High Swartz LLP, a full-service law firm with offices in Norristown and Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is pleased to announce that it has been named a “Best Law Firm” for 2019 by U.S. News – Best Lawyers®, achieving a Tier 1 ranking in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area in the practice areas of Family Law, Municipal Law, Real Estate Law and Litigation - Real Estate, Land Use and Zoning and National Tier 2 ranking for Land Use and Zoning Law.

To be eligible for a Best Law Firm ranking, a firm must have at least one lawyer included in The Best Lawyers in America©. Attorneys are neither required nor allowed to pay a fee to be listed. For 2019, 9 High Swartz attorneys were named among Best Lawyers:

Best Law Firm rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

The highest honor, a Tier 1 ranking, is based on a firm's overall evaluation, which is derived from a combination of its clients' impressive feedback, the regard that lawyers in other firms in the same practice areas have for the firm, and information that the firm provided to Best Lawyers via a survey.

Teen driver safety in Pennsylvania

As a personal injury lawyer who recently represented a teen driver who had received a traffic citation, I was presented with a letter she had received from the Secretary of Transportation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania covering traffic laws and driver safety.

In that thoughtful letter, the Secretary of Transportation reminded her that “personal responsibility and knowledge of our traffic laws are major parts of [being] a safe driver.”

It was further noted that:

  • a traffic violation doubles your risk for being involved in a car crash
  • at highway speeds, your car travels the length of a football field in a couple of seconds
  • a moment of carelessness or distraction can quickly become a tragedy
  • not paying attention to the road or careless decisions while driving can cause serious injuries or death to you and to those around you
  • car crashes are the leading cause of death among 16 to 20 year olds

My client’s parents were asked to encourage their teenage driver to improve her driving performance in the future and were also reminded that they had the right to withdraw consent of their young driver’s license until the age of 18!

The letter also directed us to additional traffic and driver safety information which can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) website. There, one can find a great deal of interesting, although often quite disturbing, details. I would encourage you to visit that site when you have some free time on your hands, but I will share some of those statistics with you now.

However, before we focus on traffic crash figures, I have one question, the answer to which you will find at the end of this blog. In Pennsylvania, there are approximately 2,500 municipalities throughout the 67 counties, but which is the only official “town?”

Traffic and driver safety statistics in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s website reported that, in 2015, there were traffic-related deaths in Pennsylvania arising from various circumstances, including:

  • 459 fatalities involving hitting a fixed object
  • 413 fatalities involving unrestrained occupants of a motor vehicle
  • 306 fatalities involving drinking drivers
  • 179 motorcycle fatalities
  • 153 pedestrian fatalities
  • 119 fatalities involving aggressive drivers
  • 66 fatalities involving distracted drivers
  • 23 fatalities in work zones

PennDOT has also published a booklet of 2017 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics which contains the following information:

  • Pennsylvania has over 120,000 miles of roads and highways
  • In 2016, there were approximately 101.1 billion vehicle miles of travel on those roads and highways

In its “Overview,” the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation notes that (based on 2017 data), on average, each day:

  • 351 reportable traffic crashes occur (about 15 per hour)
  • 3 persons are fatally injured in traffic crashes (one every 8 hours)
  • 221 persons are injured in reportable crashes (about 9 per hour)

Based upon Pennsylvania’s population in 2017 (12,805,537), this would mean that:

  • 1 out of every 44 people was involved in a reportable traffic crash
  • 1 out of every 11,263 people was fatally injured in a crash
  • 1 out of every 159 people was injured in a crash

Teen and young driver safety statistics in Pennsylvania

PennDOT reports that, in most age groups, male drivers are involved in more crashes than female drivers. In fact, male drivers aged 21 to 25 were involved in more crashes than drivers in any other age group—male or female. Regrettably, in that age group, 31% of all driver fatalities were drivers who had been drinking.

It was also noted that, although adverse weather and road conditions negatively affect vehicle handling and driver sight, the vast majority (80.2%) of all crashes occurred under no adverse conditions. This has been attributed to:

  1. the fact that weather and roads are clear and dry most of the time; and
  2. the reality that drivers fail to use caution under even optimal road conditions. It is also reported that more crashes occur during daylight (probably because there are more vehicles on the road at this time).

As the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation points out, every traffic crash involves 3 different elements:  the driver, the roadway, and the vehicle. It is reported nationally that 85-90% of all traffic crashes involve some sort of driver error which contributes to the crash. Of all the different age groups represented, the teen driver is one that stands out most. Teen drivers (age 16 to 21) are not only the least experienced drivers, but they are also prone to what has been described as “overzealous” driving. Again, 18% of the driver fatalities in the 16 to 20 age group were drinking drivers.

We are now in and approaching that time of year when most traffic crashes occur—October, November, December, and January. More crashes occur on Friday and Saturday and the number of fatalities which occur on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) is proportionately greater than the number of crashes (which could be attributed to alcohol use).

So, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves—and also our teen drivers—of the importance of being safe in order to avoid being sorry.

Toward that end, PennDOT offers the following tips for teen drivers:

  • always wear your seat belt
  • do not eat or drink while driving
  • do not talk or text on your cellphone while driving
  • obey the speed limit—driving too fast gives one less time to react
  • adjust radio and climate controls before beginning your trip
  • leave early—give yourself plenty of time to get there
  • expect the unexpected—you never know what might happen
  • and many others

We certainly hope you never face a traffic crash or a situation involving serious injury as a result of a motor vehicle collision or otherwise.

However, if this does occur, please be sure to contact myself, Eric Marttila, or one of our experienced personal injury lawyers—located in the greater Philadelphia area—to fully explore your legal options and to seek all available remedies to be made whole.

By the way, the Town of Bloomsburg in Columbia County is the only official “town” in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Limited Tort! = Limited Recovery?

Pennsylvania drivers, when presented with car insurance coverage choices, are given the “Limited Tort Option” – at a discount of some 15% to 20% on annual premiums.  While such savings may be appealing at first glance, such a decision can have far reaching adverse consequences – and our personal injury law firm strongly recommends that our clients select the “Full Tort Option” whenever possible.

Not coincidentally, the word “Limited” has been defined as “restricted in size, amount, or extent” -- and various synonyms have been offered, such as “restricted, finite, little, slight.”  All of these appropriately describe the impact on your potential recovery of selecting the “Limited Tort Option” . . . should you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having been injured in a motor vehicle collision which is not your fault.

As a general rule, choosing Limited Tort restricts your right to make a claim for non-economic harms and losses which arise from personal injuries sustained as a result of a car collision – damages most often referred to as “pain and suffering.”  Regrettably, too many fail to appreciate what they have given up in this regard until it’s too late.  Even one lost opportunity to be fully compensated for all harms and losses will normally far outweigh any short-term savings by choosing the Limited Tort Option.  Therefore, our personal injury lawyers highly recommend Full Tort coverage to “fully” protect you and your loved ones.

Even if you have selected the Limited Tort Option, though, all is not necessarily lost.  Although many insurance companies will attempt to convince persons who have made such an election -- and who then suffer physical injuries in a motor vehicle collision -- that they are not entitled to any compensation for their pain and suffering, there are exceptions to the general rule precluding such recovery.  Therefore, it is very important that you talk to a personal injury lawyer before agreeing to be bound by any “limited” recovery.

What exceptions might apply?  A few, have nothing to do with the nature and extent of physical injuries which were caused by the collision, include the following . . .

  • The driver at fault is determined to have been driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
  • The driver at fault is driving a car registered in another state
  • The driver at fault has not maintained proper car insurance
  • The injured party is the occupant of a motor vehicle other than a private motor vehicle

However, there are also exceptions which relate to how “serious” an injury was suffered.

Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility law provides as follows:

Each person who elects the limited tort alternative remains eligible to seek compensation for economic loss sustained in a motor vehicle accident as the consequence of the fault of another person pursuant to applicable tort law. Unless the injury sustained is a serious injury, each person who is bound by the limited tort election shall be precluded from maintaining an action for any noneconomic loss . . .

75 Pa.C.S. § 1705 [Emphases added]

A “serious injury” is therein defined as a “personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.” 75 Pa.C.S. § 1702 [Emphases added]  Therefore, one who has selected the “Limited Tort Option” may still make a claim for pain and suffering where he or she has sustained a “serious injury.” Whether or not a personal injury has resulted in “serious impairment of body function” is most often the hotly contested question faced by a personal injury lawyer.

The first case in which the issue of “serious injury” was addressed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was that of Washington v. Baxter in 1998.  There, the Court stated:

The “serious impairment of body function” threshold contains two inquiries:

  1. a) What body function, if any, was impaired because of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident?
  2. 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.

Washington v. Baxter, 553 Pa. 434, 447–48, 719 A.2d 733, 740 (1998).

Since then, parties have focused less on the physical injuries suffered and more on the effect which those injuries have had on a particular body function or functions.  For example, where physical injuries limit walking, lifting, working, sleeping – and even cognitive function – courts have decided that it is for a finder of fact to ultimately determine whether or not a “serious injury” has been sustained.

Factors to be considered include how the injury affected the actual functioning of certain injured areas; the extent of the impairment; the duration of the impairment; treatment required to address the impairment; and any and all other factors.  Indeed, it has been determined that subjective complaints of pain alone may constitute a “serious impairment of body function”—and that an impairment need not be permanent in order to be serious.

Accordingly, even where you have selected the Limited Tort Option, please talk to a personal injury lawyer in order to determine whether or not it may reasonably be contended that you have suffered a “serious injury.”  To be safe and secure, however, you should always select the Full Tort Option when possible so that you and your family are fully protected – and are unquestionably permitted to make claims for all harms and losses sustained as the result of a motor vehicle collision which is not your fault.

We certainly hope that you are never faced with a situation involving serious injury as a result of a motor vehicle collision or otherwise.  If this does occur, though, please be sure to contact a personal injury lawyer experienced in this area to fully explore your legal options and to seek all available remedies to be made whole.

If you have any questions about Limited Tort, please contact Eric G. Marttila at 215-345-8888 or emarttila@highswartz.com. At High Swartz, we advocate for the rights of injured people. With law offices in Doylestown, Bucks County and Norristown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, our personal injury lawyers work with people who have been injured by the negligence of others throughout Pennsylvania.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

Be Prepared for Motorcycle Season

As the long cold and rainy spring of 2018 fades into memory, motorcycle riders across the Commonwealth are taking out their bikes and getting ready for a glorious season of riding.  However, the unfortunate truth is that motorcycle accidents can and do happen. Here are some thoughts about how to increase your chance to have a safe and happy motorcycle season.

  1. Make sure your ride is ready. Like any vehicle, motorcycles need maintenance.   Before taking your motorcycle on the road, check your oil, brakes and tires to make sure that they are in proper condition.  Worn brake pads and tires can make an accident more likely and make it more difficult to avoid an accident in the first place.  A small investment now may avoid large problems later.
  2. Make sure you are ready. Are your skills polished and up to date?   If you have not ridden in a while, your skills and reflexes may have diminished.  Your first rides of the year are no time to challenge yourself.   Please consider taking your initial 2018 rides in good weather, on uncrowded roads, and when you are rested and alert.  Consider a class or professional training if it’s been a while since you’ve been on the road.
  3. Proper gear is essential. While the wind in your hair may seem appealing, remember that you’ve only been issued the one head, and you’d best take good care of it.  Similarly, long sleeves and long pants made of proper materials may literally save your skin.  Your chances of surviving an accident with minimal injury increase dramatically with proper clothing and gear.
  4. Remember that you may see automobiles before they see you. Don’t assume that an automobile driver has you and your bike in their field of vision.  A brightly colored helmet or jacket may increase your visibility.  Beware of blind spots and try to avoid them, or spend as little time in them as possible.
  5. Check your insurance. Is your motorcycle properly covered?   Unlike car insurance in Pennsylvania, motorcycle insurance does not include payment of medical expenses.   Your personal medical insurance will have to cover your motorcycle-related injuries, so make sure you have medical insurance that is adequate to the task.
  6. Remember that a collision that is a fender-bender to a car can result in serious injury or death to a motorcycle rider. There is no metal box around a motorcyclist to absorb impact and no seat belt to keep the ride from being thrown.  Even a minor motorcycle accident can result in serious injuries such as broken bones, internal injuries, and brain damage.
  7. Don’t Assume What Other Drivers Will Do. It is far better to avoid an accident than to have to play the “blame game” afterwards.   It is therefore recommended that motorcyclists  assume that drivers of other vehicles may be distracted or inattentive.   Be wary of cars making or that may unexpectedly make left turns, for such turns are a frequent cause of accidents.   Don’t assume that a car is turning just because its turn signal is on, or that a car is stopping because it is approaching a red light or stop sign.   Watch the other drivers; if another driver’s body language does not indicate that they driver has seen you and your motorcycle, be ready to move or take evasive action.

If an accident happens, keep your cool.   Don’t play into the stereotype of the “reckless motorcyclist.”   Remain at the scene, check yourself for injuries, and call 911.  If you are able, take photographs at the scene to establish the position of the vehicles.  Exchange insurance information and get medical attention if necessary.  When the police arrive, do not accept any blame for the accident.   Even if you believe you are unhurt, it is not in your best interest to tell that to the police.  Many injuries only become apparent later, and that statement you made to the police officer that you are “all right” or “unhurt” may be difficult to overcome at a later date. It's also best to talk with a personal injury lawyer.

After a motorcycle accident, you may be contacted by insurance adjusters seeking a statement from you.  Be wary, as the insurance adjuster may not have your best interests in mind.  It is wise to talk to a personal injury lawyer before you talk to any adjuster to make sure that your rights are protected.   Similarly, seek counsel before signing any documents that an insurance adjuster may place in front of you, such as a blanket authorization to obtain medical records.

Enjoy your ride, but be careful out there.    And should you be in an accident, remember that the personal injury lawyers at High Swartz stand ready to help with any questions or problems you might encounter.  If you have any questions or need assistance with Personal Injury, please contact a High Swartz attorney.  At High Swartz, we advocate for the rights of injured people. With law offices in Doylestown, Bucks County and Norristown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, our personal injury lawyers work with people who have been injured by the negligence of others throughout Pennsylvania.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

Personal Injury Claims

When faced with losses from a personal injury, it's essential to explore your legal avenues and options. You may be eligible for benefits and compensation. Moreover, depending upon the surrounding circumstances, there may be multiple sources of recovery. So, leave no stone unturned when it comes to a personal injury claim!

If you suffer a disabling injury due to a work incident, you should investigate holding a negligent "third party" responsible with a personal injury lawyer.

Personal Injury Claim in PA

Under Pennsylvania law, injured workers may be eligible for medical treatment for an injury. They may also be eligible for reimbursement of a portion of their lost wages from their employer (or its insurance company). However, typically, a worker may not sue their employers directly for additional compensation for pain and suffering. That's true even when the negligence of those employers is directly responsible for causing the underlying incident.

Sometimes someone or something else has done something – or failed to do something – that's a substantial factor in causing the injury. The individual might be a motor vehicle driver, someone who maintains a piece of property, or a construction contractor or subcontractor performing nearby work. That person constitutes a "third party." You can work with a personal injury lawyer to file a lawsuit against a negligent third party while simultaneously collecting workers' compensation benefits.

Suppose a personal injury claim is ultimately successful. If so, the employer or its workers' compensation carrier may be entitled to reimbursement of monies related to that injury. This concept is called "subrogation." It refers to the legal right of an entity that has paid out benefits connected with an injury caused by a negligent third party to receive compensation from that third party.

If you're injured, consult a personal injury lawyer near you. They can seek appropriate compensation from all potentially responsible persons and entities.

Car Accident Personal Injury Claims

One example of where the possibility of recovery from multiple sources exists is when a worker is injured in a motor vehicle collision while in the course and scope of employment.   Although Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Responsibility Law generally prohibits subrogation, this no longer applies to workers' compensation matters.

Accordingly, even where a worker has purchased Uninsured (UM) or Underinsured (UIM) coverage, they must be aware of a right of subrogation on the part of the workers' compensation carrier.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Another example of recovery from multiple sources is when a worker receives an injury in a "slip and fall" incident caused by a negligent "third party." Estimates reflect that more than one million people are injured each year in accidents in which they slip, trip, or fall. Wet or icy floors, sidewalks or parking lots, inadequate lighting, or poor property maintenance reflect the causes of such incidents.

In many such cases, the property owner or subcontractor may have been negligent. Nevertheless, they are responsible for providing safe premises for customers or business invitees. Otherwise, courts may hold them liable for all resulting damages. So, talk to a personal injury lawyer near you.

As we have just experienced, winters in Pennsylvania can bring much snow and ice – resulting in treacherous conditions in parking lots and on sidewalks. With such wintry conditions, the property owner must act within a reasonable time to remove the snow and ice when it constitutes a dangerous condition.

Courts in Pennsylvania recognize the established common law regarding the legal duties of care imposed on landowners. Accordingly, they apply the "Hills and Ridges" doctrine. This doctrine usually applies to paved areas where pedestrians travel. For an injured person to recover, they must show that ridges or elevations -- and not just generally slippery conditions --  caused the fall. See Rinaldi v. Levine, 176 A.2d 623 (Pa.1962).

Our Personal Injury Lawyers Will Address Your Claim

Our injury law firm represented an injured worker who stopped at a convenience store for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, because the store improperly learned the snow, he slipped and fell, suffering severe physical injuries. However, the workers' compensation carrier paying his medical and wage loss benefits asserted its right of "subrogation." As a result, any potential resolution with the negligent third party requires factoring in this right.

Whenever a third party causes injuries, a personal injury lawyer can explore each path of potential recovery. Although it will often involve "subrogation," pursuit of a personal injury claim against a responsible third party should lead to more appropriate recovery and compensation for all the harms and losses sustained.

However, it is essential to navigating this properly. The handling of one claim can seriously affect the pursuit of another. That's why it's vital to work with a personal injury lawyer near you. Otherwise, you may forfeit rights or settle for less than warranted.

Talk to Our Law Firm About Your Claim

If you suffer an injury on the job or elsewhere, our local law firm will pursue and protect your rights. Our attorneys work to ensure you receive all monetary and other benefits possible. As most personal injury lawyers do, we work on a contingent fee basis. The attorney's fee is contingent upon our winning or settling the case. With no need to lay out legal fees in advance, you afford the best lawyers.

Many qualified attorneys specialize in one area of disability law or another. As a result, you might want to consult with a well-round local law firm like High Swartz. We have multiple attorneys who focus on specific areas of disability law. So, our attorneys can work together to coordinate a strategy to maximize your recovery effectively. In addition, our personal injury lawyers in Bucks County and Montgomery County are here to assist you. If you have questions about obtaining compensation for personal injuries, please contact Eric Marttila, Esq., at (215) 345-8888 or emarttila@highswartz.com.

The information above is general: we recommend you consult an attorney regarding your circumstances. You should not consider the content of this information to serve as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.