Who is Responsible in a Car Accident?
When you have been injured in a car accident, you want to retain a Maryland car accident attorney who understands how insurance companies will handle your claim. Following a car accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is ultimately responsible for the damages you incurred from the accident. This includes medical expenses, lost wages, physical pain, mental anguish, suffering, and any other type of non-economic damages.
There are situations where your own insurance company can compensate you for damages from a car accident. This can be done through Personal injury Protection or PIP. In Maryland, drivers can purchase PIP coverage at a minimum of $2500. Drivers are not required to purchase PIP coverage in Maryland, but insurance companies are required to offer a minimum of $2500 of PIP coverage. PIP generally is a smart investment because the premiums are low and generally range between $25 to $50 a month. It can provide anywhere from $2500 to $10000 of coverage. PIP only covers medical expenses and lost wages.
PIP coverage is referred to as “no-fault insurance” because your own insurance company will pay no matter who is deemed to be at fault. These payments can be useful in covering medical bills and lost wages that were incurred from the accident without having to wait for a settlement from the at-fault party’s insurance company. Settlements with the at-fault insurance company will take longer and sometimes these cases must go forward to litigation before there is any recovery. Furthermore, a settlement is not typically pursued until you have finished your medical treatment.
PIP will help some of your bills get paid sooner and it has no effect on the fact that someone else is at fault. Once a settlement is reached you typically must pay back attorney’s fees and the outstanding balance to any medical providers for treatment you have received. If you have personal injury protection that number is typically much lower. It equates to more money going into your pocket and less going to repay the doctors for your treatment. Because a PIP claim is designed to assist with immediate medical expenses and lost wages, you must file your PIP claim within 1 year of the date of the accident.
Another situation where your insurance company can compensate is for property damages to your vehicle. While the at-fault party is responsible for property damage, getting a payment from the at-fault driver’s insurance company will take more time. While you wait, you may be without your vehicle or potentially paying more for storage fees for your damaged vehicle. Your insurance company will be responsible for the property damage to your vehicle and your insurance may then seek reimbursement through the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
How Much is a Claim Worth?
A Maryland car accident attorney will help you assess the value of your claim. A successful car accident case has two components: liability and damages. To establish liability, you must prove that the other driver failed to exercise a reasonable standard of care in the operation of their vehicle or that they were otherwise negligent in operation of their vehicle.
You can show negligence through the testimony of the plaintiff themselves, through what they saw, or heard and you can do that with the testimony of the defendant in how they reacted to the accident. Other important evidence includes the police report, any photos of the scene or any photos of the vehicles involved and property damage to those vehicles, any testimony or any statements from any witnesses to the accident, and any testimony or any statements from any police officers who responded to the scene of the accident.
Evidence of damages primarily comes from the testimony of the plaintiff. Some questions that a plaintiff will answer to establish damages are:
- What happened to them?
- What injuries do they have?
- How their life is different before and after the accident?
- What they are no longer able to do?
- What are they limited in doing?
For physical injuries, the medical records will support a claim, including the severity of the injuries, the duration and effects of the injuries, and the prescribed course of treatment.
You are entitled to recover lost wages resulting from injuries sustained in an accident. Lost wages include wages lost due to missed days of work and can also include future lost wages as well. Typically, a forensic economics expert is needed to establish future lost wages.
Maryland law allows plaintiffs to recover damages for all medical expenses even if the medical bills were covered by insurance. This is also true with PIP coverage.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is the biggest harm in any personal injury case. It is a damage that is undefined by dollar amounts or bills. An accident can have devastating effects on a plaintiff’s mental and physical well-being. The more severe an injury, the more value of the damages for pain and suffering. Factors that go into pain and suffering, in addition to the injuries themselves, include the changes to a plaintiff’s life. What are the limitations in your life after the accident? What activities can you no longer do? Did you lose a job that you loved? If a case goes to trial, pain and suffering damages are determined by the judge or jury.
If a case does not settle with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, a plaintiff has three (3) years from the date of the accident to file a complaint in court.
The value of a car accident case depends on the types of injuries involved, the severity of the injuries, the permanency of the injuries, and other special circumstances specific to the plaintiff such as lost income and changes in lifestyle. Contact Bruckheim & Patel for an evaluation of your case.