Baldwin & Briscoe P.C.
301-862-4400
22335 Exploration Drive Ste. 2030
Lexington Park, MD 20653
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SETTLING YOUR CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM

What are you entitled to get compensated for?

 

            You’re in a car accident.  It wasn’t your fault.  Your plans for the next week have now been suddenly upended.  You now have a “to do” list that seems like it’s a mile long – doctor’s visits, rental car, dealing with the body shop.  Next thing you know, the insurance adjuster is on the line wanting a statement from you. A few hours later, she calls back with a settlement offer.  What does this all mean, anyway?

 

            Before you lose your mind trying to ensure that you aren’t taken for a ride by the other guy’s insurance company, take a few minutes to understand all of the things that are happening here.  Most important, you want to know that settling your claim prematurely means that you give up the legal right to pursue money damages down the road.  You should see an attorney before signing any release unless you are certain that you understand what it means. 

 

PROPERTY DAMAGE

 

            One of the first concerns that you will likely have following an accident, particularly one with significant impact is getting your car repaired.  In some cases, you car is still in good enough condition to drive after the accident.  In other cases, of course, the car cannot be driven after the accident.  In either event, you are entitled to have your vehicle repaired or replaced.  In Maryland, property damage claims are handled as part of a separate process from your injury claim.  This means that, in cases where there is no dispute as to liability, the adverse insurance company should immediately take care of your property damage.  This includes setting up an estimate, getting the car in for repair and getting you into a comparable rental car while your vehicle is in the shop.

 

            If the other guys insurance company does not cooperate in handling your property damage claim, then you can turn that claim into your own insurance company, if you have collision coverage as part of your policy.  If your insurance company pays to have your vehicle repaired, they will usually seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurance company through intercompany arbitration.  Collision coverage is not dependent upon who caused the accident.  You can get reimbursed under your collision coverage, even if you are the at-fault party.  If that is the case, the insurance company will not be able to go after the other party for reimbursement.

 

            What if the other guy doesn’t have insurance?  Although Maryland law requires that everyone driving a motor vehicle in the state carry minimum liability policies, not everyone follows the law.  Surprised?  I didn’t think so.  When the other party doesn’t have insurance, or doesn’t have enough insurance, your claim can be submitted to your insurance company under the uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist portion of your policy.

 

            If liability is disputed, in other words, it is unclear who is at-fault for causing the accident, then the adverse insurance company likely will not settle your property damage claim.  In this case, you will have to resolve your claim through your insurance company.  If you don’t carry collision coverage, then you can seek property damage reimbursement through litigation.  If you don’t have collision coverage, then you must take reasonable steps to mitigate your damages until the liability question is resolved.  You cannot simply continue to drive a rental vehicle for months or years until the claim is resolved and expect to be reimbursed at that time.  If your vehicle is not going to be repaired, and you do not have collision coverage, then you are better off purchasing another vehicle a quickly as you can.  If you owe money on the vehicle that was totaled, you may be able to roll the debt over into a new vehicle loan. 

            Maryland law allows you to recover the cost to repair your vehicle to the condition that it was in prior to the accident.  You may also be able to recover the depreciation value that results from the fact that the vehicle has been in an accident.  If the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds the market value of the vehicle prior to the accident, however, you’ll only be able to recover the value of the vehicle, not the repair cost.  This is referred to by insurance companies as a “total loss.”  It is important to keep in mind that the insurance company only has to pay the fair market value of your vehicle, not the replacement cost.  If you have an older vehicle, you might not be able to recover the full replacement cost or the cost to pay off your loan.

            The insurance company will use standard guides, such as Kelley’s Blue Book or N.A.D.A. to determine the value of your vehicle.  Once your vehicle is repaired, or the insurance company has issued a check for the replacement value, they will no longer continue to pay for a rental car.

 

YOUR MEDICAL BILLS

 

            You are entitled to compensation for medical bills arising from the care or treatment that you receive in connection with your car accident.  Simple?  Pretty much.  Sometimes there are issues such as causal relation, that is whether or not an injury existed prior to the car accident.  For the most party, medical bills are generally straightforward.  When making a personal injury claim, you are entitled to the full retail value of the medical treatment that you received.  The fact that you may have had a health insurance company or your own auto insurer’s personal injury protection pay some or all of the medical bills does not affect what the at-fault party is responsible for.  This generally creates a situation where what the other side has to pay is more than what you have to reimburse the provider for.  Although there may be a health-insurance lien in your case, normally the injured party comes out a bit ahead as far as this portion of the settlement goes.

 

PAIN AND SUFFERING

 

            The colloquial term “pain and suffering” refers to what the law calls noneconomic damages.  Noneconomic damages are intended to compensate the injured person for having gone through the traumatic experience of an automobile accident.  In determining noneconomic damages, factors to be considered are the types of injuries that have been sustained and their extend and duration, the effect of those injuries on the overall physical health and mental well-being of the injured person, physical pain and mental anguish that the injured person has endured as well as the pain and anguish that they can reasonably expect to endure in the future, whether or not the person is disfigured, and if so, the humiliation or embarrassment that is associated with the disfigurement.  Noneconomic damages, in many cases, constitute the largest portion of a settlement or verdict.

 

LOSS OF EARNINGS

 

            When a person is injured, sometimes they are not able to engage in their normal occupation or profession.  In most cases this leads to a temporary loss of income.  In severe cases, the loss of income can be permanent.  In either case, the injured party has the right to recover lost earnings from the individual who caused the accident.  In Maryland you can recover for loss of earnings, even if you have salary or sick time that reimburses you when you are off work. 

 

GETTING AN ATTORNEY

 

            Making sure that you are properly compensated when you are injured in an automobile accident is very important for your financial well-being.  Insurance companies are in business to make a profit, not to look out for your well-being.  It is important that you seek experienced legal representation to make sure that your rights are protected.  Only an attorney who has the experience to properly assess the value of your claim can advise you whether the insurance company is making an appropriate settlement offer.  I have seen settlement offers double, triple, and more when an attorney gets involved in the case.  Picking the right attorney is also important.  You want to retain an attorney who is not afraid to pursue your claim and go to trial, if necessary, not one who is going to simply advise you to take the first offer that the insurance company puts forth.  Insurance companies know which lawyers will take a case to trial and which ones won’t.  At Baldwin, Brisoce & Steinmetz, P.C., we have a reputation for taking cases to trial when the insurance company doesn’t offer what the claim is worth.  There is no cost or obligation associated with our personal injury consultations.  Call us today to speak with us about your case.

 

          For more information on how a personal injury claim works, click here.

          Do I have to go to court if I file a personal injury claim?  Click here.

   

 

The information contained on this page is provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice.  The experienced attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. can assist you if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident.  Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation, in-office-consultation for any injury related claim.  The law offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. handle accident claims in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

           

 

 

 

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. also offers these services:

Bankruptcy and ForeclosureBusiness LawCivil LitigationCriminal DefenseEmployment, Disability, and Consumer RightsFamily LawGovernment Contracts LawIntellectual Property, Personal InjuryReal Estate, Social Security Disability & Workers’ Compensation and Wills, Trusts, & Estates

 

 

Contact Us

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.

22335 Exploration Drive

Suite 2030

Lexington Park, MD 20653

301-862-4400 Phone

301-862-3009 Fax

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Our Attorneys

Samuel C.P. Baldwin, Jr., Esq.

Janice Briscoe, Esq.

Richard J. Steinmetz Jr., Esq.

David J. Hebb, Esq.

Sandra Kaufman Jonasen, Esq.


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With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Stienmetz, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.


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