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Special Report – How to get the Compensation you Deserve after an Auto Accident

After an auto accident in the state of Maryland (and many other states), you may have one or more claims depending on whether the accident was your fault or not. Generally, if the accident was not your fault, you may have three claims. The first would be your property damage claim if your vehicle was damaged. The second would be your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim if you did not waive this when you bought your policy. The third claim you can make would be a claim for personal damages against the liable party or an Uninsured Motorist Claim against your own insurance company if the liable party is uninsured or unavailable.

Your Property Damage Claim

Your property damage claim or your claim for damages to your vehicle may be made against your own insurance company (depending on the type of policy you have), or against the insurance company of the party who was at fault. If you go with your insurance company, you would be required to pay a deductible which can later be recovered by your insurance company or by your lawyer if you hire one. If the damage to your car resulted in a “total loss” (so damaged that it is not economical to repair it), the insurance company should pay the fair market value of the car.

Your property damage claim or your claim for damages to your vehicle may be made against your own insurance company (depending on the type of policy you have), or against the insurance company of the party who was at fault. If you go with your insurance company, you would be required to pay a deductible which can later be recovered by your insurance company or by your lawyer if you hire one. If the damage to your car resulted in a “total loss” (so damaged that it is not economical to repair it), the insurance company should pay the fair market value of the car.

Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Claim

Your PIP claim would be under your own insurance policy. It would cover your lost wages and medical expenses up to the amount on your policy. PIP coverage in Maryland are usually $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000.00. This is a “no fault insurance” claim since it does not matter whether you were right or wrong in the accident. Your insurance company should provide you with a claim number, the contact person and some forms to complete. Unfortunately, some drivers waive PIP. It is not advisable to do so. Talk to your insurance agent or company to find out whether you have PIP or not.

To make the best of your PIP, make sure you properly document your medical expenses and your lost income. Also obtain all the medical reports not just the bills for all your treatments. Some insurance company will delay making payments if the reports are not submitted along with the bills. If you are employed, have your employer prepare a lost income verification letter for you. Our office routinely would send a sample of this letter to the employers of our clients. Remember that your PIP claim will expire if you do not make a claim within one year.

Your claim for personal damages against the liable party (person at fault)

To recover damages from the insurance company of the part who was at fault, you must prove that he or she was negligent. In some cases (such as rear end collisions) you may not need to prove this if the insurance company of the liable party accepts liability. In other cases this may be quite contentious and may ultimately end up in court.

Assuming that it has been established that the other party was at fault, the damages that you would be seeking would consist of medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. What if the party at fault left the scene (“hit and run”), did not carry insurance or has insurance coverage that is insufficient to cover your damages. Of course, in Maryland, “hit and run” or driving without insurance would be considered a serious traffic violation. However, these would be separate and apart from your claim for damages. In this situation you would proceed under the Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Under Insured Motorist (UIM) coverage in your own insurance policy. (See our Special Report on Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist Claims in Maryland)

It is not possible to determine in advance the value of a personal injury claim. Your lawyer can only give you a general idea. We generally give to our clients an idea of how much their cases could settle for, depending on various factors, such as the damage to the vehicle, medical bills incurred, length of treatment and other personal and general factors. If the liable party’s insurance company (or your own insurance company in the case of an UM or UIM) does not make a reasonable offer to settle the claim, you should be ready to proceed to court. Generally, if you go to court and prepare your case very carefully, a Judge or Jury would probably award to you a more reasonably compensation for the damages suffered. However, certain cases may not be worth taking to court.

Decisions about whether to file a complaint in court are usually difficult and involve such factors as the complexity of the case, the potential for recovery in a case, the strength of the argument of the potential defendant and many others. In our office, we carefully review every aspect of the case before deciding whether to accept an offer to settle the case or to proceed to litigation.

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