BALTIMORE – LEGAL – Car accidents are the leading cause of injury in America. According to the National Safety Council, over 40,000 individuals died as a result of auto collisions in 2016, which is an increase of over 6% from the year before. Even worse, many of those car accidents end up in lawsuits due to damages and injuries. Car accident laws are guided by the specific laws of the state where they occur. If you are involved in a car accident, hire a Baltimore car accident attorney because, there are many components to making a claim, varying theories of liability, and ways to find out who is at fault.
Before a case goes to litigation
If you are in a car accident and fault has already been determined, it doesn’t have to end in a lawsuit. The first stage after any car accident is called the pre-litigation negotiation phase. It is where either you or the person representing you has the opportunity to communicate with the other party’s insurance company to try to reach a settlement. If the insurer’s offer is a reasonable and fair one, then you can agree to settle the case outside of court without suing. If the amount that the insurer offers you is not a fair amount to compensate you for your damages and injuries, then you will have to file a lawsuit.
No-Fault insurance rules
Some states operate under “no-fault” insurance laws. In these states, the likelihood of litigation is greatly decreased. In no-fault states, your insurance company is obligated to pay for any injuries you sustained to the maximum of your policy’s limit, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. The only exceptions are if criminal activity, drugs or alcohol are involved. There are times when an insurer will refuse to pay, however, even in no-fault states, which would require that you file a lawsuit against them to recover damages.
The no-fault laws hold two different thresholds that allow for a lawsuit to be initiated; they are:
Monetary Threshold States – These are states where only the medical expenses can go beyond the exceeded limit of the policy, and the person is eligible to sue for the remainder.
Verbal Threshold States – These are states that allow for severe injuries left unpaid the eligibility to initiate a lawsuit to have them covered.
In states that ascribe fault, “fault” is determined by the theory of negligence. In legal terms, “negligence” means that someone had a duty of care to another person and they acted in a manner inconsistent with that duty, resulting in injury or damage to someone. Negligence can be in the form of either doing something wrong or failing to do something that led to someone else being injured.
When you get behind the wheel of a car, you have an obligation to follow the rules of the road. That means that it is your duty to drive within the speed limit, obey road signs, not drive while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and pay attention to the road. If you fail to uphold your duty of care, then you are in “breach of care,” which is what defines you as negligent and liable in at-fault states.
What are the different types of compensation you can receive in an auto accident suit?
For auto accidents, you are entitled to recover two different types of damages — economic and noneconomic. The types of things you are entitled to recover for are:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship, consortium, or affection
- Where egregious or malicious behavior can be proved, the plaintiff is also eligible to recover for punitive damages
- Wrongful death, if the accident results in the death of the driver or passenger
If you are in a car accident — even if it is a fender bender — it is imperative to seek the help of a lawyer who specializes in auto accidents. If you choose to handle the claim on your own and either don’t claim or don’t know what you are entitled to, and you sign a settlement, you will absolve the insurer from any financial responsibility going forward. Before you sign anything or make any formal or informal statements to the insurer, it is imperative that you get the advice of your attorney to take the right steps to protect yourself.