Personal Injury Questions
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Recoveries from personal injury accidents and medical malpractice cases are basically nontaxable under the IRS code. So therefore when contemplating accepting a settlement offer or when presenting your case to a jury, the jury is instructed not to attach more money to its verdict to compensate for taxes because there are no such taxes.
In many ways this is beneficial because if had you were working and received a paycheck your paycheck would surely be taxable so recovering compensation for lost wages inside of a personal injury case does have its benefits. Also this procedure of not taxing personal injury benefits can be instrumental in the pretrial settlement of a claim because the amount of money directly realized in an injured victim’s bank account will be significantly augmented by the fact that they do not have to pay federal or state taxes in Maryland. So if a person has a personal injury case with $25,000 in medical bills and $25,000 in lost wages that claim could be worth $100,000 or more. The insurance company by some miracle may properly compensate the injured party for their injuries or they may not. In the event the insurance company acts like a normal insurance company and shortchanges an injured victim, sometimes the case may be able to settle because the client would still receive a substantial amount of money in their pocket at the end of the day.
In this case, if the insurance company were to offer $100,000 in settlement of the claim, based upon lost wages of $25,000 then the only thing that may need to be paid out of the settlement proceeds might be the medical bills of $25,000 and the attorney’s fee. The rest of the money could go to the injured victim with no tax liability and thereby allowing the injured party to actually realize substantially more money in their bank account than they otherwise might.
There are instances in certain types of cases where there may be a tax liability for future lost wages but that tends to be in a very specialized type of case with catastrophic injuries. And even in that situation if the settlement is properly documented and clarified, even then taxes can be lawfully avoided. Therefore it becomes eminently important to retain the services of a qualified personal injury attorney to help navigate the maze of laws that control in this area.
If you have a workers compensation case and you have lost wages because of your inability to work the workers compensation insurance carrier only has to pay you two thirds of your average weekly wage because of the fact that taxes are not taking taxes out.
1. The police may or may not come to the scene and make a report depending upon how serious the accident is. If no immediate injuries are reported, or if the injuries from the car accident are minor, the police may only write an exchange of driver info sheet and give you both a copy. An exchange of information only has the information of the parties and does not go into fault. You should try to insist that a police report be made because there will be details in the report that are important such as fault and witnesses and also the report will shore up what happened as the defendant will typically change his story after the accident. Defendants will typically say one thing at the accident scene in the presence of the police, but when they go home and talk to their spouse or friends, the story often changes. Thus it is best to have the police their to make a detailed report.
1.5 One excellent way to document the scene of the accident irrespective of the police presence is to take pictures of the cars before they are moved or towed away. In serious accidents it is unlikely that you will be able to take pictures of accident scene, but if a spouse, friend or even a bystander is present, it is important to get pictures of the cars as they are. After the cars are moved, pictures of the property damage is also important to show the insurance company or a jury, thus if you go to visit your car if totaled, get several pictures to record the damage severity and location.
2. All witnesses are important and information must be obtained on the spot. Witnesses disappear after the accident and can be difficult to get a hold of. Witnesses can make or brake a case and sometimes mystery witnesses show up well after the accident occurred so getting all witness information on the scene is important. Pictures of the scene at the time of the accident are very important because the defense always tries to change their story. Pictures should be taken immediately of the position of all cars and the road and any signs or lights involved. If you were injured in the accident seek appropriate medical care at the hospital at once and let somebody else take the necessary pictures and get witness information.
3. Don’t communicate with insurance, especially the other side’s insurance company. Insurance companies will want to take your recorded statement as soon as possible to box you into whatever you tell them on the phone. Insurance company folks are trained to elicit things from you or spin things in a way which do not help you; in fact it could hurt you. They are trained to attempt to mess you up, ask ambiguous questions and otherwise get you to hurt your own case by saying things that may not be accurate which they can hold against you later in court. Thus, you should not speak to the other sides insurance without the benefit of a lawyer advising you or better yet, doing it for you. We rarely allow our clients to communicate with the other insurance company and certainly not without us present on the call. It’s always best if the lawyer communicates for you.
4. Contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. We will get in touch with witnesses, complete an investigation, speak to insurance for you and make sure your legal rights are protected. Insurance companies have gotten increasingly difficult to deal with so we are eager to file suit for you to enforce your rights in court where they will be held to the fire to do the right thing. Without court, insurance has no pressure or desire to make it right. Many lawyers out there prefer not to go to court instead settling for the quick buck. At Robinson & Associates, we are a trial law firm and we enjoy going to court to maximize our client’s recovery.
5. Be advised of a few terms. First, the statute of limitations in Maryland is 3 years. That means you have 3 years to file a law suit in court for a car accident or you will be barred from doing so. This should not be a problem if your lawyer is actively watching and moving your case along but it is an important date to know. You should be aware that in many cases you have the right to PiP or Personal Injury Protection. Pip comes from your own policy and SHOULD be used by you for medical bills and lost wages – irrespective of whose fault the accident was. This is essentially “free” money available to you, that you have paid for in your premiums to cover these losses. This is important because it lowers medical bills which may have to be paid at the end of your case.
A very important factor in the value equation is the true nature and extent of permanent injury, if any exists. A permanent injury, for life of the injured person, should have a significant financial value even if the medical bills are not significant. For example, take the case of a broken arm following an accident. The medical bills for a broken arm will be relatively low in the absence of surgery, but the pain and suffering from the brake are significant and last for 8 weeks, and possibly more. Therefore, the bills versus the overall value of the case are not fairly related in this example.
This is where many lawyers and insurance companies get side tracked and fail to understand the true value of a their client’s case. The insurance company continues to bang away saying the case has X value (which is always under valued by the insurance company) so an experienced lawyer must look for permanent injury, must properly document the injury and all the pain and suffering and then must present it properly to a judge or jury in order to recover fair and appropriate compensation for the injuries suffered by the client. At Robinson & Associates, this is what we look for and develop from day one when you come to the office.
It is hard to say how many times a client asks me if they need a lawyer for an accident that was not their fault; or that the insurance company has offered them $2,500 to settle their claim the day after an accident and should they take that. This is the insurance company acting in their own best interest and not even considering your needs as the injured victim. How is it fair, intelligent or even legal for the insurance company to offer a fraction of what a case is worth the day after the accident happened? While the law does allow this userous behavior, it is horrible and should be illegal. Don’t fall for that!
In Maryland, as with most states, the insurance companies are stingy and greedy. They demand all their premiums up front and on time but when you make a claim for injuries related to a car accident, they do everything in their power to deny and delay your claim. They simply do not want to pay. If they have to pay, they do everything within their power to limit what they they have to pay. One of their newest tricks is to offer pennies on the dollar to the injured party to encourage them to settle their claim early and quickly. This is predator behavior and should be illegal. When victims are the most vulnerable and need money, the insurance company offers to settle claims for pennies on the dollar. Do not fall for this horrible and userous trap. They have many tricks and traps they like to use such as taking recorded statements from injured victims and getting them to say things that the insurance company lawyer will use against them in court. The list of evil tricks goes on.
It is important to understand, without a lawyer, not only do you not know the law or how to prosecute your case against the insurance company, but, you are no threat to them whatsoever; therefore they don’t pay. They have specific adjusters set aside to deal with accident victims that don’t have lawyer so they can further hurt you and not fairly compensate your claim. When lawyers do get involved in your claim, all of sudden the case goes to new adjusters to deal with the accident. In fact, if and when suit is filed in court, the case is often moved again to higher level adjusters and sometimes fair offers of settlement are made at that time.
The majority of personal injury lawyers will represent your case on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not have to pay out of your pocket to retain a lawyer. We have always worked that way. We only get paid when we recover money for you therefore, there is no reason to get caught up in the insurance games. There is no reason to be victimized by the insurance company all over again. Call us for help.
Contingency fee means the lawyer or law firm only gets paid a fee when your case is successfully concluded and compensation is received from the insurance company for the Defendant. If there is no recovery in a case, then there is no fee to you.
Having said that, some lawyers may charge an hourly rate to handle a personal injury case or they may charge you for the expenses of the case. In this example, the lawyer will be paid irrespective of the outcome of the case.
At Bruce Robinson & Associates we are confident in the work that we do so we handle all accident and medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis– we do not get paid for our work unless you get paid for your injuries.
The historic purpose of contingency fee billing is very important to the public in these types of cases because what contingency fee billing does in car wrecks and personal injury cases is it opens the courthouse doors to the average member of the public who is not in a position to pay a lawyer tens of thousands of dollars to pursue a personal injury case.
By way of example, the average experienced attorney may charge $350 per hour or more for their time. At $350 per hour you can imagine how quickly the legal bill adds up and becomes unattainable for the average person. In addition to very significant billing, a contingency fee scenario keeps both the attorney and the client highly motivated to obtain the very best result possible. In other words, if an attorney was charging $350 per hour (as they may do in a business case) the lawyer is getting paid either way irrespective of the outcome of the legal matter. This may or may not be in the clients best interest. After all, if an individual is being paid $350 per hour to accomplish a task it seems as if it would be in that attorney’s best interest to take as much time as possible to resolve that task and that may or may not be in the clients best interest or the choices that are made to handle the case may not be necessary.
Conversely when the attorney is only getting paid when the case gets resolved, and the attorney is being paid a contingency based on the amount of the recovery than the attorneys interest is directly aligned with the interests of an injured victim and therefore this system of compensation has been approved since the early days of tort litigation.
If you come across an attorney that does not operate on a contingency fee basis or alternatively wants you to put up the expenses of your case you might want to consider interviewing other attorneys who have more confidence in their ability and or more financial resources to see your case through to the end.
Once all the medical documentation is collected it must then be reviewed by the attorney and a settlement demand issued to the insurance company including your bills and reports. Once that happens, the insurance company generally takes 30-60 days, depending on the nature of the case, to review the medical records and the demand in order to make an offer of settlement. Once an offer is made, it is always low and negotiations begin. If the initial offer is too low and not in the right ball park it may be a telegraph that suit needs to be filed.
Insurance companies have become very stingy over the last decade so if you want full and fair value for the injuries you sustained, then you may have to consider filing suit and going to court. The good news regarding court is you will probably get something closer to fair value for your injury case but the bad news it will take longer to resolve. District Court is fairly quick from the time suit is filed until your court date, but Circuit Court, which is a good option for bigger cases, will generally tack on a year to your case.
Thus, there are many variables that effect how quickly your case will resolve and it’s really a case by case analysis. Our attorneys will explain your best options under the circumstances of your individual case.
The Pip money is “no fault” money meaning it does not matter whose fault the accident was, the money is available for you to use and it comes from your own insurance company irrespective of who caused the accident. Additionally, using PiP benefits is not a black mark on your insurance policy so you can use it freely without concern that your rates will go up.
This means even though the other person hit you and the accident is completely their fault, you should still make a claim for PiP with your own insurance company in order to get the first $2,500 or $5,000 of your bills paid or in order to recover lost wages up to the amount of your PiP coverage. This money does not have to be paid back at the end of the case, it is “free” money for you that you contracted for when you bought your insurance policy with PiP coverage. You should not waive this coverage when you get insurance as it is quite useful following an accident and inexpensive to purchase.
Contact us if you have additional questions regarding PiP and it’s uses.
Looking at this issue a little deeper it is in the insurance companies financial interest to dispose of injury cases quickly if and when they are able to do so at a fraction of the value of a case. It would seem to the outside onlooker that this type of predatory behavior should be illegal but the lawmakers have not seen fit to outlaw it. There has been a small effort made to protect a consumer when they are victimized by an insurance company in this regard. That is when insurance company offers a settlement early on to a victim of an accident and the victim accepts said funds in full and final settlement of their case, they are afforded a number of days in which the transaction can be avoided or undone. Sadly, the undoing of this predatory behavior does not happen too often because folks involved in an accident may be happy to receive a quick $500 in exchange for the closing of their case, the injured party may not even be aware that their case has a true value of $25,000 or more, what makes this behavior by the insurance company even more predatory is that an injured victim may be fully aware that their case has a value of 25 or $50,000 but they may be in such financial difficulties as a result of being forced out of work that they very well may be unable to hold on until the resolution of their case months later. The only beneficiary in this type of predatory situation is the insurance company because they have traded $1000 for the closure of a $25,000 case. And that is why this scenario and behavior is predatory against injured victims.
This allows the insurance company to see if quite a bit of money when you multiply the savings times thousands of cases nationwide that the insurance company has. An injured victim should at a minimum get the free advice of an experienced personal injury attorney and understand what they are giving up versus what their full legal rights are in a given situation. Remember the insurance company is a for profit business entity like any other and therefore has stockholders in a Board of Directors who have stock and make big salaries which are augmented by predatory moves such as this and also by making lowball offers one cases which again many injured victims may be forced to take out a financial necessity. There are sometimes ways and strategies to help victims recover appropriate and fair compensation for their losses and a qualified attorney should be contacted to discuss the possibilities.
This is a big problem because the insurance company will want to take a recorded statement from you (with your permission) and proceed to twist what you say, on tape, and use it against you at settlement and trial. This can seriously hurt your case and we have seen this in accident cases many times. Please do not contact the other side without the benefit of counsel. Let counsel handle all such communications with insurance carriers and defense lawyers.
So the insurance adjusters for all the big insurance companies handle thousands of cases per year. They handle so many automobile accident cases they don’t know one case from another and their office is filled with files from floor to ceiling. Make no mistake about it, the insurance adjusters do not know you, they don’t care to know you, and they don’t care about your case or any case they have. The only thing the insurance adjusters care about is minimizing the exposure of money that their company has on every case that they handle. It’s amazing how these insurance adjusters fight, and nickel and dime every single case like the money is their own. It is particularly interesting when considered against the backdrop of the staggering profits that these insurance companies make. It has been suggested before that adjusters make a commission or a bonus based upon settling cases at or under the true value of the case, which would make sense why they fight to settle their cases and screw the injured party.
Having recognized that truth, an injured party needs to understand that adjusters know every trick in the book to try to minimize their exposure and one of the tricks that is very easy for them to do an effective in hurting you is to attempt to do to befriend an injured party early on in the case and to innocently request a recorded statement when they damn sure already know how the accident happened. The reason this is important is because they ask innocent questions about how the accident happened and injuries sustained in the accident and then they use those words against the party in litigation or settlement conferences. It can be a very powerful technique when the words come directly from the injured parties mouth. So for example if a victim were to say on the day of the accident that they feel fine or that they are not experiencing any pain than those words can be played for a jury or a judge many months later but what the fact finder may not understand is that a day or two after the accident the delayed ramifications of an injury often come on quite strong. Another example of a problem would be if an injured victim failed to properly explain the exact circumstances of an accident and said something that could be twisted and used against them in trial. All of these things happen routinely so it is by far the best wisdom not to give any recorded statements to an insurance company without first discussing the situation with a qualified personal injury attorney.
All car insurance policies in Maryland carry uninsured and under insured motorist coverage specifically for this purpose. So if you are in a car accident with an uninsured driver, you still have coverage. Also, if the car accident was not your fault, then your insurance will no go up for using your car insurance under these circumstances.
On a side note, the fact that you are using your own insurance coverage for an accident does not change the need for a lawyer to prosecute your claim for you. The insurance company will not treat you any better because they are your insurance company. They still desire to protect their own financial interest and will do just that. So the claim must be pursued like any other claim accept for the fact that you are actually fighting an insurance company and not a human being.
This is actually a benefit in court however because the jury can see directly that the defendant is an insurance company and when the insurance company fails to take care of their own insured, fails to follow the policy of insurance that you bought and paid for, juries don’t like that much.
Alternatively, if liability or fault for the accident is clear, for example a rear end accident, you can go directly to the defendant’s insurance carrier and have them fix the car. Doing this will avoid any type of deductible payment on your side.
Another issue to bear in mind when getting your car fixed is “Diminished Value.” Diminished Value is when you get your car repaired after the car accident but your car loses value merely because it has been in a significant accident. So if you were in a minor rear end accident there may not be much of a diminished value claim. However, if your car is only two or three years old and is in a serious accident and then repaired, your car actually loses value even if it is fixed. There are car appraisal experts that can evaluate and document the loss of value to your car and this can become a damage to be pursued in your case along with the person injury damages.
Then some additional factors which come into play are the jurisdiction where the accident happened, the type of work that you do and how that work is impacted by your injuries, and the type of lifestyle you maintain and how that lifestyle and your hobbies are impacted if at all, by the injuries you sustained.
So for example if an accident happened in Prince George’s County Maryland or in Baltimore city Maryland these are often time considered to be better jurisdictions for a plaintiff’s recovery as opposed to more challenging and difficult jurisdictions such as Montgomery County Maryland and Harford County Maryland. In these jurisdictions, juries tend to be quite conservative and just do not want to pay fair damages in personal injury cases. The insurance companies are very well aware of what jurisdiction a case is brought in an miss is one significant factor among others to be calculated when they determine how much to offer in a particular case.
Another significant factor in a personal injury settlement is whether the plaintiff suffered a permanent injury as a result. If a person has a permanent limitation as a result of an injury then this is a calculation that will affect the rest of their life versus a soft tissue injury which may be completely resolved by the time the case is settled or goes to court.
So as you can see there are a number of different factors for the plaintiff and the defendant to consider when arriving at a fair and appropriate settlement but this calculus is further complicated by the fact that insurance companies are very reluctant to pay even fair value for a case which is why so many cases end up in court to be heard by a judge or jury. That is to say even know the plaintiff may have a fair and appropriate demand for the value of their case an insurance company was more than likely still be stingy about fair compensation and thus suit must be filed to obtain fair and appropriate compensation.
And thus a plaintiff should be prepared to reimburse his health insurance carrier, Medicare or to pay the doctors directly if they were waiting on payment until the case resolved.
Sometimes a person’s medical insurance will pay the medical bills as they are incurred and many times the insurance company will want to be reimbursed for the monies they laid out which they are entitled to recover after an appropriate reduction by your attorney.
Additionally in most car accidents people tend to have PIP insurance which is nice because it typically pays the first $2500 of your medical bills and this money does not have to be reimbursed to your insurance company. It is a wise idea for you to obtain PIP coverage when asked by your automobile insurance carrier and you should obtain an appropriate amount of at least $2500 or more when asked, it is cheap insurance and very useful to have.
The good news is in personal injury cases most all attorneys handle them on a contingency fee basis, this means that the attorney will take a standard contingency fee based upon his recovery in your particular case. That means if there is no recovery or if the case is lost you all nothing to the attorney and conversely if your case is one our recovery is made you will typically pay a one third recovery for cases settled before going to court or 40% typically for cases that are in suit.
This situation is extremely beneficial to injured folks who would not otherwise have access to the court system because it tends to be so expensive but by handling matters on a contingency fee basis only everybody has access to the courthouse. If you have a personal injury case and your attorney wants fees or expense money from you, you should probably consider speaking to another attorney as there are great majority of lawyers who will handle a personal injury case on a strict contingency fee basis meaning no out-of-pocket monies at all. That is the way that we handle personal injury cases as well no out-of-pocket expense to you.
That is not to say that a whiplash or soft tissue injury is not a painful experience for the months of recovery that is necessary but the fact that the damage does go away completely in time is a factor that is considered by the insurance company and a judge or jury. There are so many soft tissue injury cases that happen in a given year that the insurance companies and judges become somewhat numb to hearing about the cases and insurance companies in particular go to great lengths to try to minimize the payout for these types of cases. Consequently many times soft tissue injury or whiplash cases can end up in District Court in order to obtain a fair recovery.
The factors of consideration in a soft tissue injury case are similar as explained above and may include the jurisdiction where the case is brought, the property damage of the cars involved, the nature and extent of the injury incurred by the plaintiff, any lost wages the plaintiff had as a result of the accident and how the plaintiff was effected by the injuries they sustained even for the closed period of time that they experienced the pain and suffering.
The big distinction between a soft tissue injury or whiplash and a permanent injury is that a permanent injury is for the rest of your life while a soft tissue injury tends to subside and go away after several weeks or months of physical therapy and healing. Obviously a lifetime injury would have a far more substantial financial compensation claim then a smaller injury that resolved into to six months.
That is not to insinuate that a soft tissue injury case is not valuable or that it should not be pursued, in fact such claims should be pursued as they can be quite painful and linger for months on end.
The insurance company does not care what you paid for the car or how much money you have outstanding on your note and the law does not require them to contemplate any such factors. The simple evaluation is how much will it cost to repair your car versus what is the blue book value of your car. If the financial damage to your car begins to approach 60 to 70% of the value of your car then the insurance company will start to think about totaling your car out and writing you a check for the blue book value of your car.
Sometimes this can create a sticky situation when you are “upside down” in your car meaning that you owe more money on your note in the value of your car. Obviously when the insurance company gives you a check for the value of your car and you still of thousands of dollar on your note this creates a very unpleasant situation for the plaintiff who is already been victimized by somebody else’s negligence. In this case it is often beneficial that the plaintiff has a personal injury case as well because that extra money may be needed to simply pay off a car note.
Gap insurance in the situation can be quite useful as gap insurance will pay the deficit between the blue book value of your car and your car note. this is very important insurance and when and if gap insurance is offered to you at the time you purchase a new car it is a wise investment to consider because it can really save a problem down the line. We all know that when you drive your car off the lot it depreciates 10 to 20% the minute you drive it off the lot and the gap insurance covers that 10 or 20% which is nice.
Finally, if the insurance company insists on totaling out your car, you can always accept that money and still purchase the “scrap” car back from them so that you can go fix the car yourself and keep on driving. That may be an attractive alternative in certain cases. You do have to pay a certain amount of money back to the insurance company for the “scrap car” because the car even in its defective condition does have value and you will have to reimburse the insurance company for that value.
Also when determining the value of your car over and above the stated bluebook value the insurance company will take into consideration any upgrades that you may have gotten either from the manufacturer or aftermarket this could include brand-new tires you put on one or upgraded interior or upgraded stereo system etc. They will not give you dollar for dollar more money but new parts or upgrades do have value for sure And therefore do have an impact on what you can recover if and when your car is totaled by the insurance company.
And the truth is it is about as easy as that. Once we either send them a letter to open a case or simply file suit against their insured a case is open and they have the same responsibility to our client as in any other case. So don’t fall for that fallacy from the insurance company that you have to take any particular action according to their timeframe.
Having said that however, it is best if an injured party seeks medical attention as soon after the accident as possible. If a particular injury necessitates going to the hospital or even getting checked out at the hospital then an injured party should do that. If for no other reason than the importance of getting checked out so as not to miss any serious conditions which actually can happen if one is not careful.
In the event that one does not go to a hospital that is okay but if there are injuries which necessitate medical attention then one should go see proper medical providers for evaluation and therapy as necessary. And while one does not need to dance to the tune of the insurance company one is well advised to seek timely medical care.
The argument that they will make down the road is that how injured could a person be if they did not seek any type of medical attention for several weeks while month or two following an accident and that may be a relevant question albeit in certain circumstances there may be a valid reason for not seeking timely care.
So in conclusion don’t worry about what the insurance company has to say because like in all aspects of your case whatever the insurance company has to say is of limited to no relevance however obtaining timely medical care is always a good idea.
As for regular personal injury type cases, these expenses technically may be compensable but may or may not be something to be pursued in court. The reason being that if you are in court pursuing significant damages for significant injury often time attempting to pursue smaller or diminished expenses like this can have a negative impact on a much larger claim.
Thus when talking about expenses like this or even a small lost wage claim a personal injury victim should think twice before engaging the defense in a small battle like this which can take the fact finders eye off the bigger ball of more significant damages.
That is to say in a situation like that may be possible to win the battle but it might cost you the war. So while minor expenses like this are compensable it’s not always the best avenue to take.
So to understand this concept a little better assume an injured victim has $25,000 in medical bills and $10,000 in lost wages and therefore is in pursuit of recovering $100,000 or more for their claim. If the insurance company is willing to fully and fairly compensate the claim short of litigation than the pursuit of diminimus expenses such as gas to or from a doctors office may be appropriate to recover however the pursuit of $400 or less in gas in the overall pursuit of a six-figure claim can very much have a negative effect on the overall value of the case. Why? Because you want to present to the factfinder a claim that is worth six figures and therefore you need to produce medical testimony and bills and possibly lost wages which would substantiate such a significant claim and more importantly you want the factfinder to focus in on one fair and substantial numbers to compensate for the claim. By bringing to bear a three or $400 gas bill one is doing the exact opposite of having the jury focus on large numbers. To the contrary you are asking the jury to focus on a $400 bill which undoubtedly the defense attorney will want to argue and fight over. The net results of this bad decision is to have the jury focus on and give time and consideration to a $400 bill and not be focused and concentrating on a $100,000 verdict.
This entire defense tactic of getting the jury to focus on the completely wrong issues is a long and ongoing tactic they use to minimize cases and not fully compensate victims for their injuries. Consequently for small expenses such as gas and in some cases even lost wages it is not always a good idea to put these expenses before a jury simply because they have been incurred by the victim.
So for example if a person received a herniated disc as a result of a car accident at age 50 and had to have surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord, that person will have some level of disability which a doctor will rate for the next 30 years of the persons anticipated life.
The law in Maryland is that a jury can it be advised of the level of permanent injury and the fact this person is anticipated to live another 30 years and one is entitled to ask the jury to give an award of compensation that will contemplate 30 years of disability for that injury.
Thus permanent injury or permanency in cases that contemplate this damage are very important and should be both documented and pursued accordingly.
In cases with permanent see a doctor needs to be the one to indicate whether or not a particular injury or disability is permanent and that is required by law. The doctor must be able to state that a permanent condition resulted from the injury and that that injury was causally connected to the accident to a reasonable degree of medical probability. In addition to that the jury must be told how old the plaintiff is and their life expectancy from the day of the trial for the rest of their life. That translates into a dollar amount that counsel will ask the jury for.
The convenience of being able to seek medical care at a qualified physician which can include expensive diagnostic testing is a beneficial thing for victims in personal injury cases. There are a number of medical providers who are set up and capable of handling injuries from acute accident cases and they are kindly willing to wait to be paid their fees and bills until the case resolves. This clearly benefits folks that do not have health insurance and in many cases those that do have health insurance. That is not all medical providers are even willing to take the time to meet with diagnose and treat folks injured in car accidents even if they do have health insurance. The reason being that getting involved with personal injury cases often times means the doctor will have to take additional time for legal related matters which many medical providers are simply unwilling or unable to do.
Thus for those medical providers that are willing to take the time to treat such patients and engage the medical legal system as necessary and then to wait to be compensated it is a substantial support mechanism to injured victims and to the legal system. In the final analysis what this really does is it opens the courthouse doors to middle America who may not otherwise have the resources or knowledge as to who they can see and treat with four acute injuries. This is very similar to the article regarding contingency fees wherein victims of accidents do not have to pay $350 per hour for a qualified attorney to handle their case rather they can just pay a contingency fee to the attorney only upon successful resolution of their case.
The take-home message is that despite not having financial resources or even having a doctor folks injured in accidents still have access to the legal system and to qualified and appropriate medical care including expensive diagnostic testing such as MRIs and CAT scans. There are even cases where surgery may be an option as needed to fix a neck or back or extremity where there may not be resources available.
Qualified counsel who represent victims of personal injury cases will often be in a position to recommend a variety of medical providers who will be willing to treat you.
The defense is entitled to proof of your lost wages and might delve a little deeper by asking for tax returns or W-2s to further substantiate a lost wage claim in any given case. While we almost never provide tax returns because we do not feel as if it is their business W-2s for a given period of time is a valid request to substantiate a claim for lost wages.
Sometimes a lost wage claim can become more complicated where a person is self-employed or operates on commission only or in situations where a paycheck or W-2 does not tell the whole story. In these cases a tax return or further supporting documentation may be necessary to tell the whole story.
Depending on the case sometimes defense counsel may put up more of a fight or less of a fight depending on how valid they feel the lost wage claim is in a given case and therefore sometimes more documentation or proof may need to be provided and in other times less documentation is requested.
If it is not possible to provide formal lost wage documentation for one reason or another in these cases presenting a lost wage claim in court will probably not be possible. So for example if a person was paid in cash and does not have formal documentation of a W-2 then it is unlikely that a lost wage claim can be made in court as it cannot be properly documented.
Thus if you were hit by a person that did not have insurance or did not have adequate insurance to cover the losses that you sustained you very well may have to call upon your own insurance company to compensate you and make you whole over and above what the defendant has paid you. This is a very common situation to be in and you should not hesitate to utilize your own insurance company to compensate and to make you whole in this scenario.
Another situation where this can occur is if a phantom vehicle hits you while driving and then takes off without giving you any information. If you are unable to identify who that driver was they are called a “phantom driver”; in that situation you will have to call on your own insurance policy to pay your bills and compensate you for the injuries you have sustained and you should not hesitate to do so under your policy because your rates will not be increased under the law.
If you suffer injuries and damages either to your car or to your person as a result of this accident you should proceed forward just like any other accident in terms of seeking proper medical attention and seeking competent counsel to help you sort through the maze in order to receive fair and appropriate compensation.
Your insurance company cannot and will not raise your rates because you made a claim like this because the accident is not your fault and when the accident is not your fault they cannot increase your insurance premiums.
It is wise to call the police and at least make a claim or police reports when this happens to document for the insurance company what happened and when it happened so as to satisfy their curiosity of these types of claims.
Say you are up side down in the car, this means you have negative equity. Put another way, you owe more on the financing of your car then the car is worth. So the insurance company is ONLY going to give you the blue book value of your car plus any enhancements you may have made like new tires just put on, a new engine just purchased etc.; and they will not be generous in determining after market values either.
Anyway, so you owe $10k on the car note, but the car is only worth $7.8. The insurance company is only legally bound to pay you the $7.8 that the blue book says it is worth. Sometimes there can be some negotiation as to what is the value of the car but you are still in a losing proposition. The different on the value of the car versus what you owe on the car is the gap. You can purchase gap insurance when you buy a new car that makes up the gap. Gap insurance is great, if you have it.
In the absence of gap, who is going to pay the negative equity, well, nobody is going to pay it, which means you are going to be stuck with that. That is why, if you are injured in the accident that caused this problem, it is important that you actually treat for your injuries and bring a claim against the other driver because if you don’t, you are going to walk away from this situation in the financial whole. Conversely, if you do bring a personal injury claim, you can recover for ALL your damages and not be behind the eight ball when it’s over.
Also, if you have full coverage on your car, either your insurance company or their’s can handle the initial property damage. This may be important if one company wants to total the car but the other company is willing to fix the car. If you have further questions on this topic, feel free to call us.
So when you drive your new car off the lot it drops in value from 10 to 20% the second you drive off the lot and if you were hit by a truck on that very same day you would not be compensated the same amount for the car that you paid for the car and that is the gap that is created.
Gap insurance pays the difference between the value of your car and the value of your note that you owe on that car. This can become terribly important if your car is totaled weeks months or even years after you have purchased the car and it has depreciated in value yet your note has not depreciated in value you can be left “upside down” regarding the value of the car versus what you owe on the note.
Insurance is not expensive and is a useful tool in the event that you needed and therefore we recommend gap insurance.
So if you are driving a relatively new automobile of average or significant value and it is struck by a defendant and incur substantial damages the insurance company will pay to repair that car but even in its repaired state the car has a diminished value because of the fact it was involved in an accident. In some cases that can be thousands of dollars depending on the make of the car and the extent of the damage. This is a recoverable damage called diminished value.
The insurance company will always fight this type of damage and you will have to obtain an expert to evaluate the car and write a report as to the value of the diminished value claim but it is an actual damage which is compensable and should not be overlooked.
As an example if you are driving a Mercedes Benz which was two years old which got involved in a very serious accident and was subsequently repaired that Mercedes-Benz may lose $5-$10,000 worth of value merely because it was involved in a substantial accident. While this is a clear example diminished value claims are not limited to super expensive cars; as long as a car is on the newer side and in good condition it has value and when it is repaired it does lose some value to the question becomes how much value that the car lose and should that value be pursued in court.
Lawyers are always admitted to practice law in the state in which they are practice, that is a given. Sometimes lawyers may advertise in other states, or they may be contacted by a prior client who had in accident in a different state. So the question becomes, can the lawyer take the case, or should they?
The answer is, it is generally not in your best interest to retain an out of state lawyer lawyer unless that lawyer is admitted to practice in Maryland.
Reason: The insurance company can tell right away if your lawyer is admitted to practice in Maryland. If they are not admitted to practice law in Maryland and the accident happened in Maryland, then the insurance company knows there is not much your lawyer can do in our state. Your lawyer can make some calls, speak to the adjuster and see what he can do, but when the insurance company ultimately tells the lawyer to take leap (ie. low balls the case), your out of state lawyer cannot file a complaint here if not admitted and therefore your lawyer is no threat to the insurance company and that will be reflected in your offer.
Result: a low ball offer which your lawyer may or may not recommend to you depending on his morals. That is, the lawyer may know that your case is worth more money but your lawyer is unable to get that money so your lawyer may recommend settling even though they know the case is worth more money.
Net result, if your accident happened in Maryland you would be well advised to retain a lawyer located in Maryland.
The important thing to know about personal injury or accident lawyers is that the great majority of them work on a contingency fee basis. That means that they will not be charging you any fee out of pocket. That includes expenses. So, the lawyer will be putting up all necessary money to bring your case to court and they will work free of charge until the case is resolved. Once the case is resolved, the lawyer will take a percentage of the gross money recovered. They will then reimburse themselves the expense money they advanced in your case. This is very typical in Maryland and most states.
The fee structure however is just one part of the consideration when deciding upon a good personal injury attorney. Equally as important and perhaps more important is the experience and knowledge of the attorney you you are considering retaining for your case. At the outset, you only get one opportunity to bring your case to court or otherwise had it resolved. Once the case is settled or the case is tried you do not get another bite at the apple if you do not like the outcome. Only occasionally if something untoward happens at trial might there be an appeal and a new case ordered for trial however this does not happen terribly frequently in personal injury law. Therefore whoever you select should be experienced in this field and have a good track record for success.
Having said that appropriate research should be done into the firm or lawyer you are considering to retain. For example there are a lot of well-known law firms that advertise heavily on television to help with personal injury and car accident cases. Just because you see a firm repeatedly on television does not assure you of an appropriate or substantial resolution to your case. In fact you may find that the firm that advertises on television is not even the law firm that handles your case. Many times cases are sent to other attorneys for handling, trial and resolution. You should be aware of this fact and even inquire the firm you are hiring will be the firm that resolves your case.
Some other factors that would be good to consider our does the firm routinely take cases to court for resolution. A high number of law firms either do not go to court or do not try cases and thus a resolution in your case can be impacted if the insurance company knows your law firm or lawyer will not file a case and go to court. This is an important matter to bear in mind. In addition to an attorney’s willingness to go to court on your behalf is their ability to properly present your case and win it before a jury. That is to say that all attorneys are not created equal. Some have a comfort level to only settle cases out of court, some may be willing to file suit in a case while others are willing to try the case. And even if they are willing to try the case they should have a record of sound verdicts.
Additionally any law firm that you select to assist you with your case should have the financial resources to pursue your case through resolution. While the majority of personal injury law firms will advance all necessary case expenses for you there are still a number of firms that may ask you to advance your own case expenses. Notwithstanding highly unusual circumstances, if a firm does not have enough confidence in either their ability to win or in the merits of your case to put up case expense funds for you you may desire to look for other representation.
Bottom line, hiring an attorney is easy, you just make a call! The harder thing to know is if you are hiring a good lawyer. One way to tell is how quickly they get back to you when you contact them. There are also other relevant factors to consider as well.
The variables of a case have to do with the injuries sustained by the person, the treatment and recovery they experienced, any permanent injury effecting the person, if the person had prior injuries to that part of the body, wether there were lost wages, the extent of pain and suffering attendant to the injury suffered, the property damage involved, etc.
After answering all those questions, other questions are, what jurisdiction did the accident happen in Baltimore City or Harford County. Two completely different things even if the exact same case happened. Also, what insurance company is involved and who is defending.
Sadly, there is no average settlement in an auto case, not even close. It is a complex makeup of many factors. Then to make the situation worse, if you are not represented by counsel, then you are not threat to the insurance company at all and they will low ball your case to try to get rid of you. This is always a bad idea to fall prey to that trick.
If you have a question about a particular case, call us, let’s talk about it.
That is correct- sorta. If the insurance company offers you a financial settlement, that settlement should include your medical bills and then pay you extra money for the pain and suffering that you went through as a result of those injuries.
Thus, if you have $5,000 worth of physical therapy and doctor bills related to your accident, the insurance company may offer you $10,000 to settle your claim. That figure is based in part on the $5,000 in medical bills.
If you were to accept the $10,000 as settlement, then you would be responsible for the payment of the $5,000 in bills out of your settlement. Under this circumstance, $10,000 may not be enough of a settlement and more settlement money may need to be demanded. Conversely, sometimes there may be other sources of money to pay some of the bills like PIP on your own auto policy or possibly health insurance.
So to review, when you opt to settle a case with the insurance company whatever gross amounts of money you agreed to settle for always includes payment for your medical bills. Sometimes at settlement and injured party may think that the settlement amount that is being offered is all pain-and-suffering money intended for them but that is never the case. At the time of settlement of a claim, whatever has been negotiated by your attorney includes reimbursement to you for all expenses incurred in your accident as well as pain and suffering compensation and any permanency that you may have suffered as a result of the accident.
It may be that in your case your health insurance company has actually paid some or all of your medical bills related to the accident. You might then reasonably assume that your bills have been paid and therefore any settlement with the car insurance company would go to you minus any agreed-upon attorneys fees. This however may not be the case. When health insurance companies pay your accident related medical bills they are entitled to subrogation against any recovery in your accident claim. This same logic applies to Medicaid or Medicare payments for medical bills made on your behalf by the government. In fact when it comes to Medicaid they are absolutely entitled to recovery of any monies they paid and your attorney is actually required to determine and pay the amount of Medicaid’s lean.
Regular health insurance coverage such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield is also entitled to reimbursement however they are in required to put the injured party or the attorney on notice of their lean in order to protect their interest in your recovery.
The bottom line is when you recover money in an accident settlement it would be wise of you to make sure all medical bills are accounted for and settled in one form or another because if you do not then you can get a phone call or a letter from a health insurance provider years after settlement demanding some form of reimbursement for the monies they expended when your behalf.
There are different types of health insurance liens and some or more stringent then others when it comes to paying them back.
take for example Medicare, this is a “super lien” and they must be paid back money that they have spent on medical bills for you related to an accident. Medicaid is a joint Federal and State program which may also need to be paid back.
When it comes to Medicaid for example, the attorney is actually required to contact Medicaid and determine what their alleged lean in your case is in order to determine how to satisfy their lien. The word alleged is used because often times Medicare is sloppy and will include all types of medical expenses that were incurred during the time of treatment for the accident but may not be related to the accident. If medical treatment and bills were incurred that are not causally related to the accident than they do not need to be a reimbursed from the accident proceeds.
Other more common health liens would be from your very own health insurance carrier like Blue Cross and Blue Shield as an example that has paid medical bills. They do not have a “super lien” but if they put you on written notice of their lien by letter to you or your lawyer, then they will have a lien that must be dealt with at the time to settlement. The good news is that these liens can be reduced, typically by 1/3 or more but they must be addressed once you are placed on notice. The reason that health insurance liens can be reduced by one third or more is because your attorney is the one that is engaged in the recovery of compensation and payment for your injuries and that compensation is what will be used to satisfy the health insurance lien. In other words one party or another whether it be Blue Cross and Blue Shield or whether it be your attorney is going to spend money and expend effort to recoup said funds and whoever recoups those monies is entitled to be paid for their effort to do so. So in the case where the plaintiff’s attorney recoups the money and satisfies a health insurance lien you and your attorney are the ones that are expending the time and effort to recoup the money and therefore it is standard in the industry that a 1/3 fee towards recovery shall apply. So that translates in a one third reduction of the outstanding lien which means that you would only have to pay back two thirds of the lean to the health insurance company. This is actually a good thing for an injured victim and therefore the use of health insurance to pay for medical bills upfront can be a good idea. Another benefit of using health insurance to pay bills is that the health insurance company has negotiated lower payments to the doctors and hospitals for the services they provide. So if a hospital, doctor or health provider were to charge $100 for a service the health insurance company will typically negotiate a lower rate like 60 or $.70 on the dollar. That would translate into paying $70 for a $100 bill which saves you money in the long run and then on top of that you can negotiate a reduction in your outstanding lien which is a secondary benefit to you.The money to repay the liens comes out of your settlement or verdict.
The reality of the situation is, if you were in an accident, you should begin to pursue the accident right now. That is, the insurance company needs to contacted and a claim should be set up. Witnesses should be contacted by your accident lawyer, and you should be assisted with your injuries.
Medical injuries must be properly documented in order to have a valid claim for injuries. If your injuries are not properly documented, or you do not treat for any injuries, it will basically be impossible to pursue a claim later because you have nothing to show you were injured. The mere fact that an accident occurred is not sufficient to support a claim for damages. There must be actual damages, they must be properly documented and you must be able to prove the accident occurred the way you say it happened.
Thus, there are many things that go into the proper prosecution of an accident case. The fact that the statute is 3 years will not help unless the claim is properly documented.