Vehicle Accidents - Frequently Asked Questions
- What claims can you make when you are involved in a vehicular accident?
- Can any lawyer represent you on a vehicle accident claim?
- How do you determine the value of my claim?
- How long do cases typically take to resolve?
- What legal fees and costs are involved in my case?
- Should I discuss this claim with any insurance company?
- If the at fault party has no insurance, can I still make a claim?
- What should you do if you are injured in an accident?
- How common are auto accidents?
- How many of the 6 million auto accidents result in injury or death?
- What are the causes of auto accidents?
- When do most auto accidents take place?
- What should I do if I’ve been in an accident?
- Who is most at risk for an auto accident?
- Why are teenagers most at risk for an auto accident?
- I’ve heard whiplash is common injury sustained in an auto accident, what other injuries are possible?
- How can I help prevent an injury if I am in an auto accident?
- How do I know if I have a personal injury claim?
- I believe I was not the at-fault driver, should I hire a lawyer to help with my case?
- What type of damages might I be able to recover?
- What if the victim was a loved one, now deceased due to the accident?
- What should I do if the opposing insurance company contacts me?
- What steps can I take to prevent being in an auto accident?
1. What claims can you make when you are involved in a vehicular accident?
In most cases there are three claims that can be made in Maryland . They include (a) property damage claim(b) a PIP claim and(c) a liability claim.
Our accident lawyers will help you get your car repaired. If your car is deemed a total loss, you are entitled to the fair market value of your vehicle at the time of the loss. You are also entitled to a rental car for a reasonable time. If the defendant's insurance carrier will accept liability for the accident, they will usually authorize a rental vehicle for your use while your vehicle is being repaired or until they make an offer to settle your property damage claim. In the event the defendant's insurance company will not accept liability for the accident you may also be entitled to a rental car if you have rental coverage under your own policy. The cost for the rental vehicles are either paid direct to the rental car company or reimbursed to you, depending on the practice and procedure of the insurance company involved. There are limits in terms of time and expense that the insurance company will pay so be careful not to exceed those limits. Also, it is important that you not allow your vehicle to stay in a storage facility too long as the insurance company may not pay the total bill if you have not mitigated your damages. Usually, the property damage claim is settled with the defendant's insurance company. If for some reason this is not possible, we then try to settle it with your own insurance company if you have that coverage. If the property damage claim is settled with your own insurance company, your deductible will apply.
PIP(personal injury protection)
This is coverage that pays for loss of wages and medical expenses pursuant to each policy. Usually, it is claimed against your own policy. If you are a pedestrian, it can be claimed against the defendant's policy. Unfortunately, when this coverage is available, it frequently only has limits of $2,500 per person. Since this coverage depends on each policy, our accident attorneys need to look at your policy to determine its applicability and to make sure you have not waived the coverage. Generally, under Maryland Law you only have one year from the date of any accident to make this PIP claim, otherwise you will be barred from making the claim by the contract.
This claim is brought against the at fault party. Our accident attorneys collect all the medical bills, medical reports, lost wage information and personal information from you regarding your pain and suffering and other claims you wish to make. Thereafter, we send a demand letter to the insurance company to try to settle your case. If a reasonable settlement is not forthcoming, our accident lawyers file a lawsuit and allow either a judge or jury to decide the case. Generally, in Maryland and the District of Columbia , there is a three year statute of limitations for a personal injury liability claim. If the claim is not filed in court within that period of time, your claim will be forever barred. A wrongful death claim in Maryland also has a three year statute of limitations. A wrongful death claim in the District of Columbia has a one year statute of limitations. Intentional tort claims frequently have a one year statute of limitations.
2. Can any lawyer represent you on a vehicle accident claim?
Anyone licensed to practice law certainly is allowed to represent you on your claim. Would you go to an Ob/Gyn for heart surgery? Would you want an inexperienced lawyer to represent you on your accident claim? Our personal injury attorneys represent clients on all types of personal injury matters. Our attorneys are familiar with the medical aspects of most cases and have access to experts who can assist where necessary.
3. How do you determine the value of my claim?
Primarily, the value of a claim depends on the nature and extent of the injuries involved, need for surgery, amount of medical bills, length of treatment, need for future treatment, lost wages past and future, and non economic loss such as pain and suffering, inconvenience, disfigurement, embarrassment, mental anguish and loss of consortium. Although not essential, it does help a claim if there is significant property damage to any involved vehicles since that tends to confirm to a jury that there is reason for injury.
4. How long do cases typically take to resolve?
Once you have completed treatment, we try to settle your claim with the insurance company promptly. Usually, we have a good idea if the case will settle within several weeks of filing a demand letter with the insurance company. However, there are numerous factors that can prolong any attempt at settlement. If we need to proceed with a lawsuit, the length of time depends on which court and/or which jurisdiction where the lawsuit is filed. If the claim is a particularly difficult claim, it can take approximately one year from the date of filing to get it through the court system.
5. What legal fees and costs are involved in my case?
Unless we need to file a lawsuit for your property damage or PIP, there is no charge for our services in resolving those matters. Our fees for all personal injury cases are contingent fees and are based upon the outcome of the case. The fee depends upon when the case resolves. If we settle your case our fee is 33 1/3% of the gross recovery. If we go to court or arbitration and obtain a verdict/award in your favor, our fee is 40 % of the gross recovery. Please review our retainer agreement for all the details of our fees. Any costs that we incur in representing you are usually reimbursed to us out of any recovery. If we require you to advance any costs we will advise you before the costs are incurred.
6. Should I discuss this claim with any insurance company?
In most cases there will be two insurance companies involved in your claim, your own insurance company and the other involved party's insurance company. You will need to cooperate with your own insurance company. However, you should give a recorded statement only in our presence to your own insurance company. Likewise, you should not sign any documents or endorse any checks without having us look at them for approval. Under no circumstances is it ever advisable to discuss any portion of your claim with the at fault person's insurance company. Similarly, you should not give them a recorded statement nor should you sign any documents presented to you by them without our approval. It is standard practice for the at fault party's insurance company to offer you some quick money, albeit a small amount, to attempt to get you to not go to an attorney. Do not be deceived by that obvious attempt to take advantage of you.
7. If the at fault party has no insurance, can I still make a claim?
Probably! If you are insured and have uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy, you certainly can make a claim. If you do not own a vehicle, you may still be able to make a claim against a state uninsured motorist fund.
8. What should you do if you are injured in an accident?
- Call the police immediately. Defendants often change their story if police are not called to the scene. Police will usually only respond if there is injury and someone needs treatment.
- Exchange all relevant information with the other involved party. Ask to look at the other party's driver's license and write down the correct spelling of the name, license number, address and date of birth.
- Make sure you have the license plate number for all vehicles involved in the accident.
- Ask to look at the registration of the vehicles involved in the accident and write down the relevant information.
- Write down and provide to us the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all involved and non involved witnesses and/or passengers in all vehicles and all medical providers.
- If you have access to a camera, obtain photographs of the vehicles involved in the accident immediately. Also, if visible, take photos of any injuries you suffered.
- If injured, immediately go to the emergency room or to your private physician for proper medical treatment. Do not prolong treatment just for purposes of a legal case. Once you are feeling better or a physician recommends a discharge, please call one of our accident lawyers so that we can obtain a final report and bill from the physician.
- Keep a diary of all important things that happen in your case including any medical treatment, diagnostic tests, dates missed from work, and any significant pain and suffering.
- Keep your accident attorney advised of any change of address and/or telephone numbers for you.
- Advise your accident lawyer of any and all medical providers to whom you go for treatment or testing. We cannot get you a fair recovery if we do not have all the proper information.
- Send your accident attorney all documentation for any lost wage claim you wish to make including tax returns and all schedules for the year of the accident, the year before the accident and the year after the accident. We will need a copy of all disability slips that a doctor gives you. We will need your employer to complete a form that we provide to verify the claim for lost wages.
- Advise your accident lawyer of the name of your health insurance carrier, member number and group number.
9. How common are auto accidents?
There are over 6 million auto accidents every year! That means about every 13 seconds another auto accident has occurred. In a 5 year period, about 25% of drivers will be involved in an auto accident. Its safe to say that auto accidents are very common.
10. How many of the 6 million auto accidents result in injury or death?
About 3 million of the annual auto accidents result in injury, and there are about 40,000 deaths. Many of the injuries that are sustained will be permanent.
11. What are the causes of auto accidents?
There are several causes of auto accidents. Many accidents are caused by carelessness of drivers. Drivers tend to be easily distracted or not pay adequate attention when they are driving. Activities such as eating, talking to passengers, adjusting the radio, texting, talking on a cell phone, etc, all present danger when driving a vehicle. Drivers that speed, tailgate, make unsafe lane changes, or commit other reckless acts also present danger. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a common cause of accidents, and usually with fatal consequences. Sometimes auto accidents may not be the result of driver error. A small percentage of auto accidents can be attributed to poor road maintenance or poor road design. Another less frequent factor would be vehicle malfunction.
12. When do most auto accidents take place?
Most auto accidents occur during the night, and on weekends. Times of inclement weather will also produce many auto accidents. Times when traffic is heavy such as holidays and rush hour have a higher rate of accidents.
13. What should I do if I’ve been in an accident?
If you’ve been in an auto accident there are several things you should do before leaving the scene of the accident.
- Try to stay calm. Take a second to collect yourself.
- Check yourself, any passengers you may have, and the occupants of the other vehicle for any injuries. If anyone is injured, call 911. Also, check the surrounding area for any pedestrians who may have been hit.
- Call the police. When they arrive be sure to get a copy of an information exchange report, or the police report number, and the police officer’s first and last name and badge number. Do not admit fault when talking to the police or the other driver.
- Exchange information with the other driver. You will need their name, contact information, insurance information, license plate number, and a description of their vehicle.
- Write a description of the damage to both vehicles, and if possible take pictures of the damage.
- Scan the area for witnesses. If you find any, write down their name and contact information also.
- Call your insurance company and let them know you have been in accident. Ask if they any special instructions for you while you are still at the accident scene.
- Don’t leave the scene until the police do.
- As soon as you can, write down a description of everything you remember about the accident, and the few moments leading up to it. Record the time of day, weather conditions, and any other pertinent details you can remember. The sooner you do this the more accurately you will remember. Add details as you remember them.
You may want to keep an accident kit of sorts in your vehicle, with items such as a small notebook and writing instrument, a disposable camera, and road flares. The checklist above would also be a helpful item to have.
14. Who is most at risk for an auto accident?
Young drivers up to age 20 are most at risk for an auto accident, especially male teenagers. Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Teens also have the lowest rate of seat belt usage, which may be the reason that many auto accidents involving teenagers will be fatal.
15. Why are teenagers most at risk for an auto accident?
Teenagers that have just obtained their license are often careless. Their inexperience counts heavily against them. Many times they will misjudge dangerous situations, or not know how to handle them. They will often speed or drive under the influence, despite not being legally of age to drink. Teenagers with other teenage passengers are even more likely to crash. They are easily distracted and prone to showing off, exhibiting dangerous driving behavior.
16. I’ve heard whiplash is common injury sustained in an auto accident, what other injuries are possible?
Whiplash is very common in auto accidents. Its usually caused by being rear ended. The head snaps forward and then back, straining the neck and back muscles. This pain of this injury can be slight or severe, and can last indefinitely. Muscle and other soft tissue injuries are common. Other injures that can occur are head injuries, where the brain has been bruised or damaged. This type of injury can be very serious, affecting motor skills, speech, behavioral and cognitive skills. Head injuries should be checked out by a physician right away. If not treated properly they can cause further damage. A person involved in an auto accident might also suffer some kind of paralysis which is caused by damage to the spine. Paralysis can be permanent or temporary, and can affect some parts of the body, or the entire body from the neck down. Broken or fractured bones may be suffered, as can lacerations from broken glass from the windows or windshield. Many injuries will depend on the severity of the accident, point of impact, and whether or not the occupants of the vehicle were wearing seat belts.
17. How can I help prevent an injury if I am in an auto accident?
The best way to prevent injuries is to wear your seat belt. The seat belt will help you from being ejected from the car which can cause very severe injury, even death. To prevent further or worsening injury, you should be evaluated by a physician.
18. How do I know if I have a personal injury claim?
If you have been injured as a result of another person’s carlesness or negligence, you may have a claim. Consulting with one of our Maryland car accident lawyers will be most helpful in deciding whether or not you have a claim.
19. I believe I was not the at-fault driver, should I hire a lawyer to help with my case?
Hiring a lawyer is not absolutely necessary but it can be very helpful. A lawyer can carefully evaluate your case and help you decide how to proceed. They know the laws and can help you when trying to gain compensation for injuries to your person or property. They can explain the claims process and what you may expect from the insurance companies. A lawyer can help you decide what action you may want to take in the long run
20. What type of damages might I be able to recover?
If you or your property has been damaged in an auto accident, and you decide to file a claim, depending on your specific situation, there are a few different types of damages you may recover. You may seek monetary damages for medical expenses including future medical costs that pertain to the injury you sustained in the accident, compensation for loss of income due to work days you have missed due to your injury, and damages for mental pain and suffering. Keep in mind these damages will only be recovered if you can prove negligence against the other driver.
21. What if the victim was a loved one, now deceased due to the accident?
If the victim was a relative (spouse, parent or child) and has died because of injuries due to the accident, you may make claims for wrongful death and survival. You may receive compensation for loss of companionship, loss of wages if the deceased was the provider for the family, loss of consortium, and mental anguish. Once again, you must prove the negligence against the other driver.
22. What should I do if the opposing insurance company contacts me?
The opposing insurance company should not be contacting you, and if they do, do not answer any of their questions. Do not agree to any suggestions they may make. Tell the person contacting you they should contact your lawyer or insurance company. They may try to catch you off guard and make it seem like a good idea to take what they offer you, but in reality the amount of money they may be offering is probably much less than what you actually may be able to claim.
23. What steps can I take to prevent being in an auto accident?
Fortunately, there are many simple things you can do to prevent being in an accident. When you are behind the wheel, be sure you are giving all your attention to driving. If you need divert your attention, pull over somewhere safe or try to take care of the activity before setting out. It is important all your focus is on driving when you are operating a vehicle. Perhaps the most obvious thing you can do is not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drugs an alcohol severely impair your judgment, and being behind the wheel at such a time is never a good idea. Stick to the speed limit and obey road signs and traffic signals. Reduce your speed when traveling through intersections, even if you have a green light. Be sure to give vehicles in front of you plenty of room-at least 1 car length for every 10 miles per hour, and increase this distance in bad weather. Use your headlights in times of low visibility, such as fog or times when the sun is not at its brightest. Keep your vehicle in good working order, and keep up with routine maintenance of your vehicle. Try to limit your driving to the day time, especially when taking long trips, and if you start to feel drowsy pull over somewhere safe and rest. All of these easy steps can help prevent you from being in auto accident.
The legal information on this site is not intended to be legal advice. Contact one of our experienced accident attorneys or lawyers today to get specific information and answers for your specific situation.