Pursuing a Maryland Auto Insurance Claim Settlement
The average motorist is probably unacquainted with applying for an auto insurance claim, certainly not one that involves extraordinary medical costs from a severe traffic accident. And, since the majority of drivers have yet to be involved in a serious car, truck or motorcycle crash, if and when it does occur, it is doubtful that the typical accident victim is knowledgeable on the subject of traffic-related injury claims. This is likely why the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, are contacted by injured people concerned about their mounting medical expenses from a car accident; some car accident victims decide to call a personal injury lawyer they believe they have received a “low-ball” settlement offer from an auto insurance carrier.
Because most drivers who are hurt in a roadway collision are likely first-time accident victims, their having never submitted an accident-related injury claim would not be surprising in the least. However, this doesn’t mean that one should wait to be involved in a bad car or trucking wreck to become familiar with the process of making a claim after an injury accident. While it is true that many people have no idea where exactly to start when approaching an injury-related auto accident claim, it is also true that understanding the claim/settlement process will help make things easier, especially if one finds himself suffering from the effects of a serious injury accident.
As experienced Baltimore personal injury attorneys, we know that understanding the insurance claims process can only improve the odds of having one’s car, truck or motorcycle injury claim settled expeditiously and, most important, in a fair manner. If you have never been a party to a personal injury/auto insurance claim, learning about the process ahead of time may be helpful in the future. If you have been badly hurt in a roadway collision, and have yet to make a claim, then some of this information may help you as well.
First, always be aware of the statute of limitations for auto injury claims in terms of the deadline it imposes on the claims process. If there is any doubt, a professional legal expert trained in the area of auto insurance and personal injury law will also be able to advise individuals who find themselves facing a fast approaching deadline for filing a claim. As we have said already, understanding what goes on with a typical auto insurance claim/settlement will allow you to remain actively involved in the process; your ability to follow the various steps -- from the filing of a claim through the decision making process, and ultimately to the final settlement.
Numerous factors can affect the outcome of a personal injury claim, the most important of which is establishing fault. Our legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen understands the singular importance of proving fault in an automobile or commercial trucking accident case. Placing the responsibility for an injury-related car, truck or motorcycle collision squarely on the shoulders of the negligent party is the key to any successful injury claim.
Certainly, if there is any chance of recovering damages from a negligent driver, or other responsible person or entity, one must usually provide proof that the fault lies solely with that other party. In cases where a victim was rear-ended or where the negligent driver failed to yield when making a left turn in front of the victim’s vehicle, fault is usually easy to establish. However, there are other instances where fault may be difficult to prove without the help of a qualified auto injury lawyer.
A good starting point for establishing fault is to obtain an official police report. The importance of a police report should not be lost on anyone who needs to file an injury-related claim following a passenger car and commercial trucking wreck. For this reason alone, the victim of a traffic accident must, without fail, contact the police from the scene of the accident. Once officers are at the site of the crash they will assess the situation and attempt to determine which driver was at fault.
When beginning the claims process, it is advantageous to have in hand a police report that includes not only details of the crash but also the police officer’s evaluation of the incident, which often will include his opinion as to which driver was at fault in the collision. Keep in mind that if the police report does not match your recollection of the incident, you may wish to contact the police officer who wrote it to provide additional details that may have been missed; depending on the circumstances, you can try to respectfully ask the officer to revise his or her report based on your additional information.
If you choose to go it alone without the help of a qualified personal injury attorney, it is advisable to do some research into the Maryland statues to confirm your understanding of negligence in the case of auto accidents. If an individual is considering the possibility of filing a personal injury lawsuit to increase the settlement amount, fault is very important. For instance, under Maryland common law, any evidence that shows there was even the slightest bit of negligence on the plaintiff’s part can ruin the victim’s chances of recovering damages.
For the aforementioned reason, it is not uncommon for defendants in personal injury cases to use a contributory negligence defense to avoid paying damages. This can be accomplished by showing that the plaintiff’s own negligence in some fashion contributed to the accident; and, unless a plaintiff can show the court that there was absolutely no contributory negligence on his part, the outlook for his or her case may be dim. For example, even though a victim may be able to demonstrate that the defendant was 99 percent at fault, the existence of just one percent of fault on the part of the plaintiff is enough to cause the court to rule against the victim who is trying to recover damages following a traffic-related injury accident.
This aspect of Maryland law can come as quite a shock to many victims who have been injured in a car or truck crash, which is why it is often best to consult a legal expert in the field of insurance and injury law. As automobile and trucking injury lawyers, Lebowitz & Mzhen recommends that victims of negligence-related road accidents consider professional legal representation, if only because hiring an experienced trial lawyer can increase one’s chances of obtaining fair compensation for injuries received in a bad highway or beltway crash.
Our helpful staff understands that it can be quite frustrating for a recovering auto accident victim to accept the sometimes slow pace that our legal system often takes. However, when the focus is obtaining the best possible monetary recovery for medical, rehabilitation and other accident-related expenses, patience on the client’s behalf is always important.
Furthermore, because the effects of some bodily injuries may not manifest themselves for weeks or months following a serious collision, it is best not to agree to a quick settlement offered by an auto insurance carrier. To do so might limit the settlement amount to a level wholly insufficient should one’s injuries result in chronic or serious long-term physical problems requiring extended medical treatment of life-long nursing care.
Finally, remember the various factors that may affect how much compensation an auto accident victim will likely receive. The insurance company and its adjusters will review any number of documents and other pieces of evidence to arrive at a determination. These will usually include the following:
- Police report (includes accident details, officer’s name and badge number)
- Whether or not the victim sought professional medical treatment following the crash
- Whether any of the claimed injuries were actually pre-existing
- If the victim or any other driver was drunk behind the wheel or otherwise impaired
- Statements the victim may have made to other drivers, passengers or bystanders following the accident
- Eyewitness statements/testimony
- Photographic evidence of the accident scene
- Documents/records that validate the number of days/wages lost due to the accident
- Personal injury limits written into the victim’s auto policy
Note that it is not unusual for the insurance adjuster to contact investigating police officer himself in order to confirm information and corroborate statements that the injured party(s) makes on the claims. As experienced trial attorneys, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen reminds victims of traffic-related personal injury accidents to try and keep your emotions in check. Although an event as violent and emotionally jarring as a car, truck or motorcycle crash can leave you enraged and angry, be certain not to make any inadvisable statements, promises or agreements with anyone until you consult with a lawyer who has experience in auto accident and personal injury claims.
If you or a member of your family has been badly injured as a result of a negligence-related car or truck wreck, we recommend that you contact a qualified auto accident attorney to learn more about your options. Lebowitz & Mzhen has trained professional legal staff that can offer help to assist you through the often difficult process of filing an auto injury claim. Whether the accident occurred in the state of Maryland or the District of Columbia, we are ready and willing to provide legal representation for your traffic-related injury claim. Call us toll-free at (800) 654-1949 for a free, no obligation consultation. You can also contact by emailing either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen.