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How do I know whether I have a valid auto accident claim?
There are four parts to your auto accident claim. First, you must show that someone had a duty to be careful, second, that that person was not careful, and third, because they were not careful, the accident occurred. Fourth, you must also show that you suffered some harm due to the accident. The technical terms for these elements are a duty of care, breach of that duty of care, causation, and damages, respectively.
What happens if both myself and the other party cause an accident?
This situation is called contributory negligence. In other words, you contributed to the accident. For example, when an accident occurs involving two parties, the question is whether both parties contributed to that accident or whether one party was the primary cause of the accident. Maryland is considered a “contributory negligence” state because its law considers contributory negligence when determining who is liable after an accident. In contributory negligence states like Maryland, if the injured party was partially at fault or contributed to the negligence in other ways, they are completely barred from any recovery (gets nothing). Even if they were just 0.0001% at fault, they would recover nothing from the other negligent party. This is contrary to the position in states that are referred to as “comparative negligence” states. Even if a claimant is partially responsible for an accident, that claimant can still recover some compensation in those states.
I was treated at the hospital after my accident; why am I receiving bills from different physicians and providers and not only from the hospital?
Medical bills and reports after treatment in a hospital can be very confusing. The more serious the injuries and complex the treatments, the more confusing these can be. Federal regulations require that technical and professional charges be billed separately. Most treatments will involve laboratory testing and x-rays. Most of these procedures will be billed in two parts. The first will be for the hospital (technical component). This will include nursing care, equipment, testing, and others. The other will cover physicians’ bills for the reading and interpretation of radiology and lab procedures, and other treatments in the hospital. Therefore, in addition to the hospital bills, you may receive bills from other physicians and professionals, which will vary according to the type of services that were provided.
How long after an auto accident can I wait before making a claim?
Generally, for automobile accidents in Maryland, the claim must be brought within three years. Failure to claim within this period will prevent you from ever doing so. However, this is not the only deadline to consider when dealing with automobile cases or injuries in Maryland. There is also a statute of limitation for personal injury protection (PIP) claims. In Maryland, claims for personal injury protection must be brought within one year. There are also “notice” requirements for certain types of cases. For example, when claiming against a county, a municipality, or the state, you must satisfy a notice requirement. Failure to give the required notice within the period will invalidate any potential claim.
How do I deal with the insurance companies after my auto accident?
It is always advisable to report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Generally, you are not obliged and should not immediately contact the insurance company of another party involved in the accident. However, it may be important to obtain some essential information as soon as possible, even if you decide not to discuss the accident in detail at that time.
You need to know initially the claim number, the representative handling the claim and their contact information, and related information, but you don’t have to talk to them. It is not your responsibility to notify them or provide information about the accident. As long as you have information about the other party and their insurance company, the case can go ahead. Once you get
What Should I Do When the Insurance Company Contacts Me?
If the other party’s insurance company contacts you, you should never give them a statement without talking to your lawyer first. You should be polite, and you may respond to basic questions such as the fact that you were involved in the accident, where and when it occurred and whether a police or ambulance came to the scene, but no more. If you have a lawyer, you should give them your lawyer’s information. Even if you have not yet talked to a lawyer, tell them you intend to talk to a lawyer before talking to them.

If your own insurance company calls you after an accident, you may talk to them but you must be careful if the accident occurred in a manner such that liability could be contested. It is prudent to talk with your lawyer before giving any recorded statement even to your own insurance company. Oftentimes, your insurance company is on your side as they would not want to pay the other party if they do not have to. However, this is not always the case. If you happen to be talking to your insurance company before consulting your lawyer, make sure to keep your notes of the discussion.

My general advice to clients who have retained us, and who have not yet talked to their insurance companies or to the other party’s insurance company, is that they shouldn’t talk to any of them. Our office would send out a letter of representation, and if the insurance company involved needs to talk to our client, we decide whether that will be helpful or not as well as when, where and how to provide any statement.

What Can I Expect from The Other Side Once A Claim Has Been Filed With The Insurance Company?
What you can expect from the other side once a claim has been filed will depend on the nature of the claim. If liability (fault) has not been admitted, you may expect a letter from the insurance company formally denying liability.

If the insurance company has admitted that their insured was at fault, the situation will be different. After your lawyer has put together all your losses (damages), both specific and general, he or she will submit a demand or settlement memorandum to the insurance company of the other party. The insurance company will review it and consult with their adjusters. They may then make an offer to settle the claim based on what they believe the proper compensation should be. Many insurance companies use some methodology (including software) to determine the damages and come up with an offer to settle the case. They usually have a range within which they are willing to settle the case. Sometimes, negotiations to settle a case can drag. If the amount being offered is not agreeable to both parties, then the case will end up in court.

Therefore, what to expect from the other side when a claim has been filed, will depend on many factors including but not limited to the nature and complexity of the claim,whether liability has been admitted or not and the reasonableness of any offer made and the policies of the particular insurance company you are dealing with.

What strategies do insurance companies use to avoid paying compensation after an auto accident?
Insurance companies have several strategies to avoid paying claims because they are in business to avoid doing so. The first thing I tell my clients is that the adjuster or the representatives of the insurance companies are not out to protect your interest. That will be directly contrary to their main function which is to limit as much as possible how much compensation they should pay. They may call, and seem to be nice, but they are not doing that because they want you to maximize your compensation. Actually, they will do many things to minimize the cost to the insurance company that they work for. Secondly, the representatives of insurance companies try to secure get the admission of certain facts on the record. They would ask to take a recorded statement. The statements could be obtained by very detailed questions that can be confusing and misleading. Remember that it is your right to refuse to provide this statement until when you are ready to do so. Oftentimes, for obvious reasons, insurance companies try to obtain this statement before you talk to a lawyer or someone knowledgeable. Another technique used by insurance companies is to entice you to admit fault or liability by telling you that your insurance company or another source will cover your damages. You should never be misled by any promises or suggestions of this type. Some insurance companies may actually tell you that their insured was at fault and make an offer to pay your medical bills and repair your car. If you accept such an offer, they may hurriedly estimate the damages to your car, obtain copies of your medical bills, and send you a check. They will make you sign a “release,” preventing you from bringing any further claim against that insurance company.

Some insurance companies would actually try to talk claimants into not hiring a lawyer. They may tell you that you do not need a lawyer because it is a simple case that can be resolved without a lawyer, but if you hire a lawyer, your case will drag. One problem that may result from falling for this tactic is that you may not know the exact extent of your losses. You may need time and an experienced hand to properly quantify your damages, both specific and general. Some insurance companies would talk to you in a way that minimizes your injuries. They have adjusters and representatives who are trained to use medical terminologies. For example, using some “doctor’s language”, they could explain to you what the medical report says and why the injury is not serious.

Many insurace companies have been known for actually delaying payment on a valid claim. This could tire and frustrate a claimant to accepting a low offer to settle a claim. If it’s a big case and the insurance company knows that it would probably be paying a huge sum, dragging the case for as long as possible will be to their advantage. Insurance companies have been known to “spy” on claimants. They may send out investigators to try to “catch” you in compromising circumstances.
Sometimes insurance companies strategically deny liability outright, knowing that ultimately they will accept it. There may be many reasons for doing this, including but not limited to, dragging the case and tiring the claimant, making the claimant and his or her lawyer believe that the case is difficult so that when liability is accepted a very minimal offer can be made to settle the case.

How do I know whether I will be compensated or not after my auto accident?
Whether you will be compensated after a car accident and to what extent will depend on various factors. Your injuries if any, and other losses incurred will be the main considerations. Your injury may be minor or serious, it may be a soft tissue injury or hard tissue (fracture) injury. There may also be lacerations and some injuries can be permanent. In addition to the nature of the injury, the period and intensity of the treatment will be important considerations.

Generally, the damage to the vehicle is an indication of how serious the injuries are. However, there are cases where a minor impact may cause serious injuries and vice versa. Losses sustained after an accident are referred to as damages
Damages may be specific or general. Specific damages include those things that can be quantified or documented, like medical bills, lost income, or the estimated damages to the vehicle. General damages on the other hand include all unquantifiable damages that were suffered as a result of the accident – pain, suffering, inconvenience, aggravation, and more.

How do I know the value of my auto accident claim and what compensation I will receive ?
Generally, your auto accident claim will be valued through the prism of the harm suffered (or, in legal terms, “damages”). These include:
  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Lost wages and benefits;
  • Loss of future earning capacity;
  • Miscellaneous expenses (e.g., childcare, transportation, medical devices or appliances etc.)
  • Mental, emotional and physical pain and suffering.

Each auto accident claim will have certain unique aspects that will determine how that particular accident will be valued. These vary from one accident to another, so there is really no hard and fast rule that applies to every case in the same way. Suffice to say that one has to analyze each claim very carefully to determine what aspect or aspects of the claim will affect its valuation.

What can I do to ensure that my case is favorably resolved?
There are many ways you can help make sure that you case is favorably resolved. First and foremost, if you do not know the law and how these claims are handled you should find someone (preferably a lawyer) to assist you. Second, do not discuss your claim with anyone who is not on your side. Third, keep a good account of the facts of the accident, your treatments (if you were injured) and losses you incur. These may prove to be quite helpful when you will need to explain what happened and how it has affected you. Fourth, follow the instructions regarding your treatments. If not, your medical records could be used against you. Fifth, follow the instructions of your lawyer if you already have one. Lawyers generally give instructions to their clients regarding the accident and the claim. Usually these instructions are based on the strategy being pursued by the lawyer. It is important to follow them. Sixth, respond respond promptly to request for documents and information whether from your lawyer or from insurance companies.
Are witnesses and evidence necessary to prove my claim?
Evidence and witnesses can be very important in auto accident claims. There are many types of evidence that can be used in auto accident claims. These include but are not limited to testimonial, documentary and circumstantial evidence. A police incident report in and of itself is not admissible as evidence of fault. However, it can be used strategically in preparing the case.

A witness to the accident can be quite helpful. For example, when an auto accident occurs at an intersection, or happens as a result of a sudden lane change, or sudden stop, a witness or witnesses can make or break the case. A witness’ testimony can determine what happened and who did what.

There are some types of accident cases where the presumption of liability is very high and very little evidence is required to prove fault. One example is rear-ended collisions. In Maryland, most insurance companies will presume that their insured was responsible for the accident, they rear-ended another car. However, this is not always the case.

How long will my case take to settle instead of going to court?
An auto accident claim may be settled prior to litigation or during litigation. Generally, if an insurance company is involved, it should not take much time for the funds to be disbursed. If all parties are in agreement, and all releases are signed, the insurance company would normally release the funds within a couple of days. If you are represented by a lawyer, such funds will be deposited in his or her Trust or Escrow account.

Thereafter, he or she should prepare and review with you, a disbursement memorandum or statement, outlining how the funds are to be disbursed. Normally, from the time when the funds are available to when they are disbursed, should not take more than a couple of days or weeks. Of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, where some entity or entities have a lien on the funds, the funds could be held in the Trust Account for as long as is necessary to resolve the lien.

Should I take my case to court or not?
There are many factors that can cause an auto accident claim to go to trial. If liability is contested (that is, neither party to the accident accepts fault), then the case would most probably end up in court. Sometimes liability is not contested but the insurance company is making an unreasonable offer to settle the case (compensate for damages). In this situation, the case will go to court. In some instances, the offer to settle the case may not be the best but when the cost of litigating the case is taken into consideration, it would be advisable to settle the case. Some claimants take cases to court as a matter of principle. Such a claimant needs to be well informed about what to expect during the litigation. Generally, the lawyer should abide by his or her client’s wishes if it is reasonable and cost-effective to do so.
If I go to court what should I expect?
Once a suit is filed in court, you can expect the insurance company’s lawyer to get involved. Again, depending on the nature of the case and the court in which the case is filed, many different things can happen. After the complaint is filed and answered, there may be periods of discovery, mediation, pretrial conferences, motion hearings, and more. During this time, each side will be weighing its options to determine whether to settle or not to settle. Some cases will be heard by a Judge while others will be presented to a jury. Many cases are resolved before or even during the trial.

In the District Court of Maryland (which is the court for cases involving damages in the amount of $30,000 or less), the case can go on for between three months to six months. In the circuit court, it could take anywhere from six months to more than a year, depending on the complexity of the case.

The Judge’s decision in a case at the District Court can be appealed to the Circuit Court. A case could be appealed from the Circuit Court to the Court of Special Appeals, and subsequently to the Maryland Court of Appeals. Ultimately, the length of a case will depend on the court in which it is filed, its complexity and the extent to which the parties are willing to litigate the issues.

How does going to court affect the cost of my case?
For cases without substantial damages, it would not make much sense to go to trial if it can be settled. This is because the litigation cost could cut into the overall damages recovered. However, in complex cases involving substantial damages, the potential recovery may be substantial enough to justify the time and cost of litigation. It really depends on the nature of the case. There is no question that litigation cost is usually a major consideration. The effective lawyer should assist his or her client to engage in a frank cost-benefit analysis before filing suit.