Being involved in a motor vehicle accident can cause serious and sometimes permanent injuries. These can range from “soft tissue” injuries, also referred to as “whiplash”, to cuts and bruises, to broken bones, herniated discs and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The attorneys at Dross Berman LLC have handled thousands of motor vehicle accident cases, and recovered millions from insurance companies.
Our attorneys have learned through handling thousands of motor vehicle collision cases is that no car accident is the same, and not every car accident should be handled the same. The way your accident has impacted your life is a highly-individualized matter, and each person has a unique set of circumstances or challenges following a collision. The attorneys at Dross Berman LLC take the time to get to know you and your case, because this preparation leads to better results.
What should I do after a car accident?
Being in a car accident is overwhelming and stressful. After a collision, you should take the following steps:
- Get off the road. If possible, do not stay on the road, which might lead to a second collision. Pull over into the shoulder, or a safe, well-lit area. Be sure to put your blinkers on so you are visible to traffic.
- Are you or anyone in your car injured? If you or a passenger in your vehicle is injured, call 911 immediately. It is understandable that people avoid a trip to the hospital, but even slight dizziness can be a symptom of a serious closed head injury such as a concussion. It is better to be safe than sorry. Document and create a record of all your injuries as early as possible. This is done by reporting all symptoms to the attending physician, no matter how minor it may seem at the time.
- Do you not feel injured? Even if you do not feel injured, do not admit at the scene to feeling “fine” or “alright”. If you start to feel pain after you leave the scene, the insurance company will use this previous statement to claim that you weren’t injured in the crash. It is a well known fact that some injuries, especially injuries to the neck and back, will sometimes not become symptomatic (i.e. pain and stiffness) until days after an accident.
- Say as little as possible. No matter the circumstances of the collision, even if you believe that you are at fault, do not apologize, or discuss how the collision occurred. Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia have a law called “Contributory Negligence”, which is an old legal concept that is only followed in a couple states. If you were even 1% at fault for the collision, you are completely barred from recovery. The insurance company will use any comment or apology that you make at the scene against you. One of the first things an insurance company does is try to find a way to establish that “1%”.
- Call the police to exchange information. Regardless of the extent of the collision, call the police to exchange information and write a report. With a police officer present, you can rest assured that you will obtain all the necessary information that you need from the other driver. Also, the officer will create a report that will serve as a record of the crash, and may be helpful in establishing fault if there is a dispute as to fault.
- Exchange information. If it is impractical for a police officer to arrive at the scene, do your best to gather as much information as possible from the other driver. This information is critical. Request to see a copy of their driver’s license and insurance card. Obtain the following information:
Full name: __________________________________________________________
Telephone number: ___________________________________________________
License number: _____________________________________________________
License plate number: _________________________________________________
Make, model and color of the car: ________________________________________
Insurance carrier and contact information: _________________________________
Insurance policy number: ______________________________________________
Date and time: _______________________________________________________
Weather conditions: __________________________________________________
Location (road name and city): __________________________________________
Name of nearest intersection/mile marker: ________________________________
Were there were any passengers in the other driver’s vehicle? ________________
- Take photographs of the scene and the property damage to both cars.
- Is your car able to drive safely? If your car can be safely operated, it is okay to just drive it home. If your vehicle is inoperable or unsafe in any way (even if the headlights are out), contact the local police, who can assist you in getting your car towed to a lot. If you are unsure, err on the side of caution and have it towed. If your car is towed to a lot, make sure that the claim is reported as soon as possible, so the insurance company can have it moved. Otherwise, you may be stuck with a hefty tow lot bill.
- Seek legal advice immediately, or, report the claim. If you think you may need an attorney, it is best to contact one as soon as possible. This will allow the attorney to handle the claim from the beginning, and ensure that it is being properly handled. If you decide not to retain an attorney, report the claim to both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company. Make sure you receive a claim number and the name and contact information for the adjuster handling your claim. Read Rowe, Weinstein and Sohn, PLLC’s article on what an insurance policy must pay for following a collision.
- DO NOT GIVE A RECORDED STATEMENT OR ACCEPT AN INITIAL OFFER. The other driver’s insurance company will almost immediately request that you provide a recorded statement. You have no legal obligation to comply with their request, and the recorded statement is simply being taken to gather evidence to be used against you to deny your claim. Politely decline the request. In addition, the other driver’s insurance company might make you a token offer, such as $2,000.00 “for the inconvenience”. Do not accept any offers until you have taken the time to assess your losses. Once you accept any offer, you may lose any rights you may have had under the law.
What should I do about my property damage?
After a collision, getting your vehicle repaired can be very stressful. If your vehicle has been taken to a tow lot, it is important to have it moved to a repair shop as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you risk the insurance company denying payment of the storage fees at the tow facility.
If you have collision coverage under your policy, getting your vehicle repaired through your own insurance carrier is the quickest and easiest way to handle your property damage. This is because the responsible person’s insurance company may take some time to investigate the incident before agreeing to pay for your property damage. Even in instances where it is obvious that the other person is responsible for causing the collision, it can take weeks for an insurance company to make a liability determination.
By going through your own insurance company, your vehicle will be repaired much quicker than waiting for the responsible party’s insurance company to accept liability, but you will have to pay your deductible. Once the other side accepts responsibility, your deductible will be reimbursed. If your vehicle is drivable, it may be easier to wait for the other insurance company to conclude their investigation before getting your vehicle repaired.
If your vehicle is considered a “total loss”, meaning that it is unrepairable, or that the cost of repairs exceeds a certain percentage of your vehicle’s value, the insurance company will offer you the fair market value for your vehicle. This amount may be negotiable, and you shouldn’t necessarily accept the amount they are offering. Researching your vehicles value at these sites can assist in negotiating with the insurance companies:
Kelley Blue Book: www.kbb.com
National Association of Auto Dealers: www.nada.com
In addition to being compensated for the repairs to your vehicle, as the victim of the collision, you are entitled to be provided with a comparable rental vehicle during the repairs. In addition, often times, your vehicle will sustain a loss in value due to the damage. The responsible person’s insurance company will pay for the “diminution in value” to your vehicle. Unless you specifically ask for this, they will not offer.
The attorneys at Dross Berman LLC routinely provide guidance and assistance in navigating through getting your vehicle repaired as part of our service to our clients.
What if there is not much damage to my vehicle, but I am in pain?
Nowadays, vehicles are made to withstand large impacts without showing significant damage. People have not changed. The insurance companies will sometimes try to argue that if there is not much visible damage to your vehicle, you cannot be injured. This could not be further from the truth, and you should not let the amount of damage to your vehicle prevent you from seeking the appropriate medical care if you are injured after a collision.
At Dross Berman LLC, we have seen our clients suffer serious, sometimes permanent injuries in a collision where there was little visible damage to the vehicle. If you are experiencing pain, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
What can I be compensated for as the victim?
The law requires the responsible person’s insurance company to compensate the victim for the following things:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Future medical expenses if there is a permanent injury
- Future lost income or diminished earning capacity of there is a permanent injury
- Loss of consortium (if you are married and the injury affects your relationship with your spouse)
- Pain, suffering and inconvenience
What is the value of my motor vehicle accident claim?
No two claims are the same. Any attorney who places a dollar value on your claim immediately after an accident is either guessing or being dishonest. The attorneys at Dross Berman LLC take a highly-individualized approach to maximizing the value of your claim. We believe that if we take the time to prepare your case in an individualized manner, the results will be shown in the compensation you receive.
The responsible person’s insurance company is likely a multi-billion dollar business. They make their money by finding ways to either deny your pain, or minimize your suffering. Let the attorney’s at Dross Berman LLC fight for you. If you would like to learn more, please give us a call at 240-403-7200 for a free consultation.
For more information and additional resources please visit our blog for additional information on other issues that may arise following a motor vehicle collision.