If you were injured in an auto collision and are getting pressured to settle early, you may benefit from legal advice. The Baltimore car accident lawyers from Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC are ready to assist. We may be able to help you receive the financial compensation you’re entitled to. By filing a personal injury lawsuit against a party that was negligent or reckless, you and your family may get peace of mind.
When a victim is injured in a car wreck and the issue of fault comes up, it’s common for the other driver’s insurance company to offer a settlement in hopes that the victim will not take legal action. These are the instances when hiring an attorney can be the most beneficial. Pursuing legal action will open an investigation. This will determine who was responsible for the accident and which party is financially liable.
Benefits of Filing an Injury Lawsuit
All drivers in the state of Maryland have a legal responsibility to not cause harm to others or make careless decisions. When a driver neglects this duty and an incident results which causes harm, they may be found negligent in court. With the help of an experienced injury lawyer, a successful settlement or verdict can let you receive compensation. This compensation can go towards the following expenses:
- Lost wages
- Past, current, and future medical bills
- Homecare costs
- Continued care costs
- Property damage costs
- Pain and suffering costs
- Loss of consortium
A successful lawsuit also sends a powerful message to those responsible. A drunk driver may not get behind the wheel again after drinking when a victim files suit against them. A victim can file a personal injury lawsuit when criminal charges are already in place.
To learn more, here are first some statistics about statewide car accidents and how they occur:
Maryland Car Accident Statistics
Despite having access to advanced vehicle technology, we see more and more fatality-causing car accidents every year. As reported by the Maryland Department of Transportation, there were 51,182 people injured in Maryland car accidents in 2017. 557 people lost their lives. Both numbers were an increase from 2016.
We also saw an increase of wrecks in Baltimore County and city. The county of Baltimore and Baltimore City had 11,050 car accidents that caused injury. 108 were fatal. Combined, almost 37% of all collisions in Maryland took place in Baltimore.
Among the types of car accidents that occur in large urban cities like Baltimore, these are most common:
- Rear-end – When a driver doesn’t see a car stopping or slowing in front of them and they crash into them from behind.
- Sideswipe – When two vehicles hit each other from the side, often when trying to change lanes at the same time.
- T-bone – When two vehicles hit each other while going in different directions. These often happen at intersections.
- Single vehicle wreck – These only involve one driver. They often occur in parking lots.
Regardless of the type of accident you were in, hiring a car accident lawyer in Baltimore is the best way to determine how and why the accident occurred. Reaching out to a lawyer is also the best way to find out your legal options.
Common Causes of Car Wrecks in Baltimore
In examining the reasons why most accidents occur, there are a handful of factors that rise to the top. Here are some of the most common causes of wrecks in and around Baltimore:
- Disregarding traffic laws – Traffic laws exist for our own safety. Maryland also has some unique laws that govern how drivers in our state should make decisions.
- Drunk driving – When a driver gets behind the wheel after drinking too much alcohol, they’re placing everyone’s lives at risk.
- Distracted driving – It’s impossible to multitask while driving. Our eyes always need to focus on the road. Many accidents happen every year because of distracted driving. The issue also extends beyond cell phones.
- Speeding – Driving too fast for conditions or even too slow can lead to an accident. Other drivers expect others to follow speed limits.
- Reckless driving – Driving recklessly, a behavior often referred to as “road rage”, can cause an accident.
- Disregarding traffic conditions or weather – Poor traffic conditions and inclement weather are both “high risk” situations. An accident may result if precautions aren’t taken during these circumstances.
You can prevent the above situations by practicing safe driving habits. When a car accident results due to reckless actions, you may want to consider contacting a lawyer.
Types of Injuries That Can Result After a Car Crash
While a serious car accident may result in many different types of injuries, some are more common than others. These injuries include but are not limited to:
- Back injuries
- Soft tissue injuries like whiplash
- Head and brain injuries
- Lacerations and abrasions
- Internal injuries
- Broken bones
- Burn injuries
- Emotional trauma
Many of these injuries may present with delayed symptoms. This is due to the amount of stress the body experiences during a traumatic car wreck. Soft tissue injuries, for example, can take time to form. Other injuries—as well as symptoms of pain or fatigue—may appear masked. Shock or adrenaline may mask pain and other symptoms.
What to Do After a Car Accident in Baltimore
If you were in a major accident, it’s vital to stay calm. Take the following steps after ensuring that your vehicle is in a safe location:
- Make sure medical care is on the way – Call 911 even if you’re unsure of the extent of everyone’s injuries. It’s a good idea to have emergency personnel on-scene to make sure all parties get the care they need. When there’s significant property damage or injury, you also must notify the police. They will need to issue a police report.
- Get contact information – Before the other driver leaves the scene, make sure to get their contact information. Write down information about their vehicle. Be careful not to mention blame or fault to the other driver at any point. Doing so may harm your case or claim later.
- Take photographs – Take pictures of the scene of the accident. This can include photos of the damage your car sustained, the other driver’s car, and of any distinguishing features about the scene. This can include evidence of an obscured road sign, for example, or of skid marks or road debris.
- Get witness information – If any witnesses are there, ask them if they’re willing to give an account of what happened. Ask for their contact information if they agree.
- Contact your insurer – Your insurance company will need to know the details of the accident. Be careful to not agree to any early settlements if you’re weighing your legal options. You can tell them that the accident is currently under investigation.
- Contact a Baltimore car accident lawyer – This is when you’ll want to contact a personal injury attorney if you have any questions. A lawyer can tell you about the compensation you’re entitled to and your possible legal options.
Insurers do not always focus on the needs of accident victims and their families. At the end of the day, insurers are looking out for their own company’s bottom line. If you feel you need more compensation than you’re being asked to settle for, a lawyer may be able to provide answers.
How Maryland Determines Liability After a Car Accident
The state establishes the laws for determining collision liability. Understanding the laws of the General Assembly of Maryland is crucial to building a strong case for yourself. Your attorney will have a comprehensive understanding of the laws and be able to explain what applies to your claim.
According to Maryland’s negligence laws, there are three ways a crash victim can seek compensation. They can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company, file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault driver, or file a claim with their own insurance company.
No matter how a person chooses to file, they will need to prove without a doubt that the other driver was completely responsible for the accident. With the help of the right lawyer, the claim can prove the at-fault party owed a duty of care to the other party. They breached that duty and injured the other party, and there is a direct correlation between the breach and the injuries.
In general, there are three types of negligence states use to determine liability. They include comparative, modified comparative, and contributory. Maryland is one of the few states that follows a pure contributory negligence rule. This means that if you are at fault for any part of the accident, you cannot recover damages.
What Happens If I’m Partially At-Fault for a Crash?
In many states, victims are able to claim damages for the percentage of the accident they were not at fault for. For example, a person who is only 10 percent at fault for a wreck can seek 90 percent of the damages. As mentioned above, however, Maryland abides by pure contributory negligence. If the at-fault party is able to prove you were in any way responsible for the crash, your right to compensation will be forfeited. As a result, you’ll be forced to deal with the ramifications of the accident on your own.
The only way to avoid a situation is to hire a personal injury attorney who can thoroughly investigate your case and prove that you were not in the wrong when the incident occurred. A big part of this proof lies in the evidence.
Using Evidence to Prove Liability
Gathering as much evidence as possible is key to determining liability in a car accident. The first place to look is the scene of the accident. Photographs of the vehicles and notes about the condition of the road and weather at the time of the crash should be collected. If there were witnesses present at the time of the collision, their testimonies are likely to be useful.
After the scene has been evaluated, your lawyer will help you gather evidence of damages. This will include any losses you’ve incurred including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Specific connections between the accident and the losses need to be made in order to prove fault.
Why Is Determining Liability Complicated?
There are a number of factors that can complicate determining fault after a wreck. Gathering evidence, speaking with witnesses, and obtaining medical records and police reports can take a long time. After that’s all compiled, building it into a strong case can take even longer.
If both drivers say they did nothing wrong, it complicates the matter further. While it’s unlikely the at-fault driver will admit guilt right away, this only lengthens how long it takes to settle the claim. It’s also more difficult to determine who’s at fault when more than two vehicles are involved. When that happens, it’s best to hire an accident reconstructionist who will be able to determine how the accident occurred from start to finish.
Determining fault is also difficult when insurance companies get involved because they only take actions that support their best interests and bottom line. The adjuster can ask loaded questions to victims and make it seem like their injuries are not as bad as they claim. They may even try to skew the person’s recollection of the accident to support it being their fault, even if it clearly wasn’t. Hiring a car accident lawyer can help you avoid the confusion and frustration of dealing with insurance companies.
Requirements for a Successful Injury Lawsuit
To file a personal injury lawsuit against someone who was reckless or otherwise negligent, you’ll need to do the following:
- Meet the statute of limitations – Every state has different requirements for filing a car accident claim. According to Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings Code section 5-101, the statute for most car accident lawsuits in Maryland is three years from the time of the crash. This statute doesn’t apply to insurance claims.
- Be able to prove that negligence occurred – For your claim to be valid, your car accident attorney will need to prove that the party who was responsible was, in fact, negligent. They will also need to prove that the wreck could have been prevented. They’ll need to provide evidence showing that the party was acting careless or reckless and that a good driver would have not caused the accident.
- Prove that you played no part in causing the accident – As part of Maryland’s “contributory negligence” rule, if the plaintiff (person that’s filing the claim) is found to have played any role in causing the accident, they cannot recover any compensation. Maryland is one of the few states that has this rule.
One concept that often comes up during a personal injury case is the concept of “duty of care.” All drivers have a duty of care to not be reckless, careless, or otherwise make negligent decisions. This duty makes them responsible for accidents that are avoidable or preventable.
What Happens After You File a Claim?
After you meet you with your injury lawyer and they accept your case, they will take the steps to gather all the necessary facts, information, and evidence. They will make sure you’re comfortable with every step. A reputable attorney will do everything they can to keep you informed about your case.
When an attorney accepts your case, the following steps will happen:
- You will sign a contract during an in-person interview. During this time, your lawyer will start an investigation of the case. This includes gathering evidence such as any reports filed, any surveillance footage or logs, or any witness testimony. The purpose of this investigation is to determine fault as well as the extent of the damages suffered.
- The defendant (the party you’re filing the claim against) will be notified about the claim. Your attorney will also inform any relevant insurance companies. They may decide to handle all insurance matters going forward. You may told to refer any insurers to your lawyer.
- Your car accident injury lawyer will get a final medical report. This will contain details about the extent of your injuries as well as your prognosis. This information determines what type of compensation, often referred to as damages, you’re eligible for. Compensation-related damages fall into two categories:
- Compensatory damages – These account for losses that are quantifiable and often broken down into economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages can include losses such as hospital and medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Non-economic damages refer to losses like pain and suffering which are more difficult to quantify but can still be proven.
- Punitive damages – These are rare in the state of Maryland and go above and beyond compensatory damages. They’re generally only rewarded when the judge and/or jury feels that wrongdoings must be punished.
- Your lawyer sends a demand letter to the defendant. This details your injuries, the facts surrounding the investigation, and the details about the monetary damages you’re seeking. A mediation may take place to negotiate terms. If the defendant agrees to the terms, you may receive an early settlement. A significant portion of all car accident claims settles early.
- If an agreeable resolution isn’t possible, the lawsuit will proceed to litigation. Eyewitnesses and expert witnesses are called upon. This is when the case will proceed to trial.
Every case may not follow the exact steps outlined above. Extra requirements may be necessary depending on the unique needs of your case. Your lawyer in Baltimore will give you a detailed account of what will happen and when.
Moving Forward with a Legal Team You Can Trust
If you were injured in a car crash in Maryland, our Baltimore car accident lawyers are on your side. If you have any questions or would like to meet with us, don’t hesitate to reach out to our personal injury firm today. Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC offers zero-obligation personal injury consultations at no cost. We’re committed to helping injured victims and their families.