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What Should I Do After A Car Accident?
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 Car Accident Fact Book.