Motor Vehicle Accidents

Being involved in a motor vehicle accident can cause serious and sometimes permanent injuries. These can range from soft tissue injuries, referred to as “whiplash,” to cuts and bruises, broken bones, herniated discs, and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The attorneys at the law firm of 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 dealt with the same way. How an auto accident has impacted your life or the life of a loved one, is a highly individualized matter, and each person has a unique set of circumstances or challenges following a collision. The car accident lawyers 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 to the shoulder or a safe, well-lit area. Be sure to put your hazard lights 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 in a car crash, call 911 immediately. Understandably, people avoid a hospital trip, but even slight dizziness can be a symptom of a severe 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 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 to feeling “fine” or “alright” at the scene of an accident. If you start to feel pain after leaving the scene, the insurance company will use this previous statement to claim that you weren’t injured in the crash. 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 collision’s circumstances, even if you believe that you are the at-fault driver, do not apologize or discuss how the crash occurred. Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia have a law called “Contributory Negligence,” an old legal concept that only a handful of states follow. 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 you make at the scene against you and deny an insurance claim. 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 from the other driver. Also, the officer will create an accident report that will serve as a record of the crash and may help establish fault if there is a dispute as to responsibility. Get the law enforcement officer’s information, such as their badge number, and ask for a police report number.
  • Exchange personal and insurance 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 motorist. This information is critical. Request to see a copy of their driver’s license and insurance card and take down the information or photograph the cards if possible. Obtain the following information:

Full name: __________________________________________________________

Address: ____________________________________________________________

Phone 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 of the Scene of the Accident (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 accident scene and the property damage to both cars. Use your cell phone’s camera to take pictures of both vehicles, major intersections, and other factors at the scene of the accident that may have been a factor in the accident. This may help your car insurance company in the claims process.
  • Is your car able to drive safely? If you can safely operate your car, 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. See our article about 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 settlement offer, such as $2,000.00 “for the inconvenience”. Do not accept any offers until you have taken the time to assess your losses with a personal injury attorney. 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 vital to move it 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 your insurance policy has collision coverage, getting your vehicle repaired through your insurance carrier is the quickest and easiest way to handle the 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 evident that the other person is responsible for causing the collision, it can take weeks for an insurer 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 insurer to accept liability, but you will have to pay your deductible. Once the other side accepts responsibility, their insurance company will reimburse your deductible. If your vehicle was in a fender bender and is still drivable, it may be easier to wait for the other insurance company to conclude their investigation before getting it 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 adjusters will offer you the fair market value for your car. This amount may be negotiable, and you shouldn’t necessarily accept the amount they are offering. Researching the value of your car 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 collision victim, you are entitled to a comparable rental car during the repairs. Frequently, a 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 it.

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, automobile manufacturers design vehicles to withstand large impacts without showing significant damage, but people’s bodies have not changed. The insurance companies will sometimes try to argue that accident victims cannot be injured if there is not much visible damage to their vehicle. This assertion could not be further from the truth – no one should not let the amount of damage to their vehicle prevent them from seeking the appropriate medical care for their injuries after a collision.

At Dross Berman LLC, we have seen our clients suffer serious injuries and permanent bodily harm in a collision where there was minor visible damage to the vehicle. If you are experiencing pain, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible and speak with a personal injury lawyer that is well-versed in handling car accident cases and car accident claims.

How can I be compensated as the victim?

The law requires the responsible person’s insurance company to provide fair compensation to the victim for the following items:

  • Property damage
  • Medical bills and expenses, even those covered by health insurance
  • 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
  • In some states, including Virginia, car accident victims can seek punitive damages under certain circumstances if a drunk driver is an at-fault party in the automobile accident

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 dishonest. The attorneys at Dross Berman LLC take a highly-individualized approach to maximize the value of your claim. We believe that if we take the time to prepare your case individually, we will show the results 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 attorneys 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 and case review. We work with clients on a contingency fee basis to reduce the amount of money you have to spend out of pocket.

Please visit our blog for additional information on other issues that may arise following a motor vehicle collision.