Once the immediate trauma and stress of an auto accident have passed, victims are facing many issues which need to be resolved quickly. These issues are explained and discussed below.
The 9 Immediate Steps You Need to Take Following a Car Accident Are:
Step 1. Obtain Proper Medical Care and Treatment:
The first and foremost concern is tending to the injuries sustained in the accident.
The injuries caused by car accidents are different than other types of injuries. These injuries require immediate and proper medical diagnosis, care and treatment, usually followed by physical therapy or chiropractic treatment.
Therefore, it is important to have a thorough and comprehensive medical examination by a doctor who specializes in the blunt trauma associated with moving motor vehicle accidents.
More often than not, it is not enough to just be checked out at the Emergency Room following a motor vehicle collision. Medical treatment needs to be combined with physical therapy or chiropractic treatment for proper healing.
This is why, even if my clients have been to the Emergency Room or to their family practitioner following an accident, I still send them to Doctors who specialize in these specific types of injuries for proper care, treatment and therapy, so that they do not risk having future medical problems. (See Types of Injuries Sustained In Car Accidents).
You should receive thorough diagnostic testing, which may include X-rays, CT Scan (Computed Tomography Scan) which takes detailed pictures of the internal structures of the body by using x-rays, and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which takes pictures of the body like an x-ray, but uses powerful magnets and radio waves instead of radiation.
Under Maryland law, the driver who caused the accident is liable and is therefore responsible for compensating you for your injuries, damages and losses, and there is no cost to you for receiving medical treatment and legal representation.
Because the Doctors who specialize in bodily injuries sustained from vehicle collisions know that it is the legal and financial responsibility of the at-fault driver, through their insurance company, to make you whole again, the Doctors will wait until you finish treating and your case is resolved, to be paid by the insurance company.
You may be entitled to significant monetary compensation. I assure that my clients receive the compensation they are entitled to receive in these cases and that they are made whole again for the negligence of the driver who caused the injuries and losses.
It is also important for you to know that if you have health insurance coverage and you use it to cover your medical care and treatment for your injuries from the car accident, the health insurer may seek to be reimbursed from the recovery you receive in your case.
This is yet another reason why I refer my clients to Doctors who specialize in these cases and who will wait until you finish treating and your case is resolved to be paid by the insurance company.
For my clients who used their health insurance benefits before coming to me, I will negotiate with the health insurance carrier to reduce the reimbursement the carrier is seeking in order to maximum my clients’ financial recovery in their case.
Furthermore, you should know that you do not have to sign the medical providers’ liens, which ensure that they will be paid, in order for you to receive medical treatment. Some of the liens authorize the payment of interest on the open balance. People sign these liens because they believe they have to, when in actuality, they do not.
Step 2. Apply for Personal Injury Protection (PIP):
Personal Injury Protection, is insurance coverage which covers medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses resulting from personal injuries in automobile accidents. It is not fault based, therefore, you are covered regardless of who caused the accident, and it will not affect your premiums or count against you.
If you carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) on your automobile insurance policy, you should open a PIP claim to pay for medical expenses and/or lost wages due to the accident.
The minimum amount of PIP coverage is $2,500.00. Most insurance carriers write the policies in three amounts: $2,500.00, $5,000.00 and $10,000.00.
I advise my clients to get the higher amounts of coverage because the difference in premium paid is very small. The insurance companies do not promote the higher amounts of coverage because they are providing a lot of coverage for a low amount of premium, therefore you have to ask for the higher amount of coverage.
If you do not have PIP coverage, you would have had to specifically waive it by signing a Waiver form. If you do not see PIP coverage on your car insurance policy, make sure that you request a copy of the Waiver that you would have signed in order to waive it. Without that, it is not waived and they must cover you.
Under Maryland law, specifically, the Maryland Insurance Code, Section 19-505(a), PIP covers those injured persons who were in the vehicle that the policy covers, and includes the insured, guests and passengers in the insured vehicle, family members who live in the insured’s home, permissive users of the insured’s vehicle, and any pedestrians who were injured in the collision.
Therefore, even if you do not PIP coverage on your policy because you waived it, I can also get you coverage under a family members’ policy, even though they were not a party to the accident, as long as they live in your home. Lastly, because the coverage is not fault based, it will not affect their premiums or count against them.
There is also another law in Maryland which benefits my clients in these cases. Under the Collateral Source Rule, you can use your PIP coverage to pay for your medical bills and/or your lost wages even though the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay your medical bills and reimburse you for your lost wages, even if your employer is paying you while you are absent from work while you are recovering from your injuries.
You are allowed to recover twice for your damages because you are using a benefit, such as sick leave from work, which you have earned and used due to this accident.
It is important to note that Maryland has a one year “statute of limitations” for making a PIP claim under the Insurance Code, Section 19-508. This means that you have 1 year from the date of the accident to file the application for PIP coverage, otherwise you are not eligible to receive that coverage.
I complete and file the PIP application forms for my clients immediately to ensure that they are protected and so that they receive the benefits right away. If the insurance company states that PIP was waived, I will request to see the Waiver that would have to be signed by you in order to waive it. Without that, it is not waived and they must cover you.
If you did in fact waive PIP coverage, I will check the other allowable provisions under the Maryland Insurance Code, Section 19-505(a), such as the car insurance policies of the family members who live with you, or whether you are a “permissive user” of the insured’s vehicle.
Step 3. Notify Your Insurance Company And The Other Driver’s Insurance Company:
After receiving proper medical care and attention, the next important step is to notify both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company of the accident.
A claim needs to be opened with the other driver’s insurance company. However, do not provide a statement to the other driver’s insurance company (Read Should I Provide a Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company?). I provide the statement to the insurance Adjuster on behalf of my clients in order to protect them and their claim.
My experience representing victims of car accident cases has uncovered the defense tactics used by insurance companies and has allowed me to best prepare and present my clients cases and to maximize their financial recovery.
The other driver’s insurance company is not on your side and will protect their own insured, not you. Call me directly at 410-983-3022 before you speak with them in order to protect your interests. You may also contact me by completing the Contact box on the left side of this page, or by email and I will discuss, review and evaluate your case with you at no charge.
You can also protect your case by downloading my Free Automobile Accident Fact Book and learn what to do Right Now.
Step 4. Determine the Vehicle’s Property Damage:
The next issue which needs to be addressed is the property damage resulting from the accident.
The vehicle driven in the accident must be examined by a body shop for an estimate of the property damage or if the vehicle is declared to be a total loss, the market value must be determined (See Property Damage Information Center).
Step 5. Vehicle Storage Fees:
If your vehicle was towed from the scene of the accident, the tow yard will charge a towing fee and daily storage fees until the vehicle is removed and taken to a body shop for repairs or declared a total loss and released to the insurance company.
Therefore, the adjuster assigned to handle the claim must act immediately to open the claim, accept liability, and have the vehicle moved and examined so that your vehicle does not sit at the tow yard running up daily storage fees at your expense.
I ensure that I speak immediately with the adjuster from the at-fault driver’s insurance company who is assigned to the case so that a claim is opened and the car is appraised right away so that my client’s car will be repaired or replaced quickly and they are not stuck paying the storage fees.
Step 6. Rental Car and Temporary Transportation:
While your vehicle is being evaluated, you may need alternative transportation. The at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for providing you with either a rental car or giving you a cash allowance to pay for transportation while your car is being evaluated and repaired, or if the vehicle is totaled, for a reasonable period of time to allow you to purchase a substitute vehicle.
Step 7. Absence From Work While You Recover:
You may be unable to go to work due to your injuries and you may have a Lost Wage claim. I will file a Lost Wage Claim with the insurance company so that you are reimbursed for the time that you lose at work while you are healing and recovering from your injuries.
Even if your employer is paying you while you are out, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will also pay you for the time you missed at work (See number 2 above and the Collateral Source Rule). You may be paid for your lost wages under a PIP claim (See number 2 above)as well.
Step 8. Evidence and Witnesses:
There is evidence which needs to be obtained and preserved, and witnesses who must be interviewed immediately after the accident in order to prove and to protect your case (Read Evidence In Car Accident Cases). My investigators will immediately conduct a through investigation of the accident scene, the property damage, and the witnesses to protect your claim.
Step 9. Obtain Legal Counsel:
It is important that your primary focus following a car accident is to properly heal and recover from your injuries so that you can be restored to your condition before the accident. In order to do this, you need to devote your time and attention to receiving proper and thorough medical care, attention and treatment, and not to dealing with the insurance companies.
It is not possible to devote your time to your medical needs when so many other issues must be addressed right away. The stress and time that these issues can involve end up preventing you from making a healthy and rapid recovery. It is my duty and responsibility to handle all of the issues involved in these cases for you.
Furthermore, I have learned from speaking with my clients that most people are unaware of the full extent of the recoveries available to them in these types of cases. Unfortunately, the insurance companies do not inform them of this either.
I will inform you of all of the types of remedies and financial recoveries that you are entitled to receive, as well as your rights, which far exceed just receiving compensation for your medical expenses and car repairs (Read What Damages Can I Recover?).
I do this at no cost to you because automobile accident cases in Maryland are handled on a contingency basis, which means that the at-fault driver’s insurance company is legally and financially responsible for your injuries, damages and losses in the case, and will pay for the medical care and treatment, property damage, related expenses and attorney’s fees in the case.
You will be fully compensated for all of your damages and made whole again for the negligence of the driver who caused your injuries and losses, with no out-of-pocket expenses to you.
For more information about your car accident case and what you need to do right now, call me directly at: 410-983-3022 and I will discuss, review and evaluate your case with you at no charge. You may also contact me by completing the Contact box on the left side of this page, or by email. You can also protect your case right now by reading my advice in my Free Automobile Accident Fact Book.
How Are Car Accident Cases Handle
Insurance companies initially determine fault and liability in accident cases. Liability in auto accident cases is usually due to the negligence of the driver who caused the accident.
Negligence is, in its simplest terms, a failure to exercise reasonable care and diligence under the circumstances.
Liability can also be due to the other driver’s recklessness. In accidents involving traffic violations, there is a stronger presumption that the driver who committed the traffic offense was at fault.
Fault and liability are also based on the statements of the drivers and any eyewitnesses, the property damage to the vehicles, the skid marks, if any, Accident Reconstruction Reports and Police Accident Reports. I have my Investigator document, investigate and photograph the accident scene, the property damage, the injuries sustained and interview witnesses. I also take written statements from witnesses, police officers and preserve all physical evidence.
In some types of traffic accidents, liability is established from the type of accident itself. For instance, if you were struck by a vehicle from behind, in most cases it is the other driver’s fault because traffic laws require that drivers maintain a safe distance from the automobiles in front of them in order to be able to stop safely.
Also, drivers making left-hand turns are almost always liable in collisions where the other driver was driving straight in the opposite direction, unless the other driver was exceeding the speed limit, ran a traffic signal, or was otherwise negligent.
In some cases, liability can also be due to product liability, meaning the car was not safe and did not perform as expected as warranted by the manufacturer or retailer selling the product.
Under products liability law, when that product fails to perform as expected or injures someone, the company can be held liable and the consumer who was harmed by the defective product may seek financial compensation for injuries and damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and possibly punitive damages.
The manufacturer, retailer and supplier of parts for the product may be held responsible for the injuries and losses that are caused due to a defective product that it manufactured, produced, designed or sold.
When you are injured in an auto accident, the insurance adjuster from the negligent driver’s insurance company is likely to contact you to offer a quick and easy financial settlement of the claim.
It is important to know that the insurance adjuster represents their insured, the person who caused the injuries, damages and losses. They do not represent you and they do not have a duty to protect you and your best interests.
Therefore, you should call me before you agree to a financial settlement agreement and I can review the offer relative to your injuries, property damage and any other losses, in order to assess whether it is a fair and all-inclusive offer. It is my duty to protect you, your best interests, and your legal rights now and in the future.
The Insurance adjuster will ask you to sign a Release in order to send you a settlement check. The Release is a release of all claims against them for any past, present, or future liability for your injuries. It protects them, it does not protect you. It can prevent you from all future action even if your injury becomes worse or new complications arise from the accident.
Be aware of the fact that by accepting an immediate settlement from the insurance company, you are forever releasing the other driver from all liability for your accident. The matter will be forever closed and cannot be reopened. This leaves you unprotected and financially responsible for the injuries and damages their insured caused you through no fault of your own.
What Can I Recover In A Personal Injury Case
As a general rule, in a Maryland personal injury claim, you are entitled to recover the following damages and losses:
- Medical Bills;
- Lost Wages;
- Property Damage;
- Car Rental;
- Other Out-of-Pocket Expenses due to the accident;
- Pain and Suffering;
- Physical Impairment;
- Disfigurement, including scarring;
- Future Medical Expenses;
- Future Lost Wages;
- Loss of Relationship with your Spouse, called “Loss of Consortium;”
- Other non-monetary injury; and
- In cases in which the person at fault’s conduct was malicious, you may be able to recover an additional damage, called “Punitive Damages.”
In a claim for wrongful death, the spouse and family are entitled to recover the following additional damages and losses:
- Mental Anguish;
- Emotional Pain and Suffering;
- Loss of Society;
- Loss of Companionship;
- Loss of Comfort;
- Loss of Protection;
- Loss of Care (marital care, parental care, filial (child) care);
- Loss of Attention;
- Loss of Advice;
- Loss of Counsel;
- Loss of Training;
- Loss of Guidance;
- Loss of Education; and
- Other non-economic damages authorized under Subtitle 9 of the Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, § 3-2A-01.
In Maryland, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) covers medical bills, lost wages, and other accident related expenses resulting from personal injuries and losses sustained in an auto accident.
Other benefits of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) are that it is not fault-based, meaning you it provides financial compensation and covers for your personal injuries resulting from an automobile accident, regardless of who caused the car accident. And, your Insurance company will not count it against you so that you will not face increased premiums as a result of making a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim.
Furthermore, under Maryland law and the “Collateral Source Rule” you can receive benefits from more than one source. For instance, I will recover your lost wages and medical expenses for you from the other side’s Insurance company, and I will also recover those expenses and lost wages for you up to the amount of your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.
Under Maryland law, you are allowed to be compensated twice under the “Collateral Source Rule” because you have paid the insurance premiums for the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and therefore the law recognizes that you should not be penalized as an injured victim, and should benefit from that collateral, or other, source.
How Are Personal Injury Cases Proven
In order to prove a case of negligence in Maryland, the person bringing the action (the Plaintiff) must prove the following four (4) elements:
1.That the person who caused the accident and injuries (the Defendant) had a “Duty of Care” to the injured person. A Duty of Care is a duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily prudent person would have used under the circumstances. The issue becomes whether the behavior of the Defendant in any given case constituted negligence so that the Defendant is liable. Proving negligence does not, by itself, award monetary damages however. The other elements must also be proven;
2. The Plaintiff must also establish that the Defendant breached that duty by not exercising reasonable care;
3. The Plaintiff must further prove that the Defendant’s negligence caused the harm (injuries, damages and losses) and was the “Proximate Cause” of the harm, not a remote consequence of it; and
4. The Plaintiff must prove actual damages, meaning the injuries and losses sustained to support the compensation for the harm.
Should I Have A Lawyer Represent Me
Personal injury claims are intended to restore injured persons to their original condition, prior to the accident. Being the victim of an accident should not cost you or inconvenience you, and you should not have any losses.
Therefore, I ensure that my clients receive proper medical care and treatment, recover lost wages, are fully compensated for all losses related to the accident, and that their vehicle’s property damage is quickly and fairly resolved and that a rental vehicle is provided, if needed.
Furthermore, the compensation I recover for you is not taxable so that you will not have to pay any State or Federal taxes on the funds that I recover for you.
Studies conducted by insurance companies found that accident victims recover two-and-a-half times more for their auto accident case when they are represented by a personal injury attorney. Unfortunately, the at-fault driver’s insurance company has no duty to explain your legal right to you or to protect those rights. In many cases, they do not even understand your full legal rights.
Insurance companies are in the business of protecting their insured and maximizing their profits by paying as little as possible on personal injury claims. Oftentimes, just the threat of going to trial and winning against the insurance company can increase the value of your case.
I seek to recover for you every category of damages that applies to your case to make sure that you sustain no losses, that you are fully protected and that you are made whole again.
How Much Time Do I Have to File A Claim
In Maryland, if you have been the victim of an accident due to the negligence of another, you have only three (3) years to file suit to recover for your injuries and damages or your claim will be forever barred.
However, in these types of cases there are issues and concerns which must be handled immediately, such as who is going to pay your medical bills, who is going to compensate you for your lost wages, for your pain and suffering, for your damaged vehicle, and for your other losses and damages.
It is difficult to properly handle all of the issues on a timely basis, while you are trying to get medical attention and treatment so that you may fully and properly heal and recover from your injuries.
The last thing you can afford at this point is to be taken advantage of by an insurance company. If you don’t properly protect your legal rights, you may jeopardize your rights or worse yet, you may not be able to make a claim at all.
To that end, it is important to protect your interests as soon as possible. Witness statements should be obtained before the insurance company gets involved. The injured victim should NOT speak with any representative of the insurance company because their job is to protect their insured and not to protect you.
I will fully and properly advise you and protect your legal rights right away, while maximizing your insurance recovery. I will ensure that you are compensated fairly not only for your personal injuries but also for your property damage and all of your losses and damages.
In Maryland, bodily injury accident cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning that attorney’s fees are paid out of the insurance proceeds that I successfully recover for you from the at-fault driver’s insurance company to compensate you for all of your losses and damages.
For more information about your car accident case and what you need to do right now, call me directly at: 410-983-3022 and I will discuss, review and evaluate your case with you at no charge. You may also contact me by completing the Contact box on the left side of this page, or by email. You can also protect your case by reading my advice in my Free Automobile Accident Fact Book.