There is a lot to be concerned about immediately after a serious accident unless you have ice water in veins. This sometimes includes finding reliable transportation, dealing with insurance companies, and trying recover from injuries. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether your auto accident claim while worrying about mounting medical bills, insurance company headaches, and fears about the future. But you do.
Law school 101
There are four elements to every personal injury claim. Each of these four must be proven in order to win in a lawsuit:
- Duty: The other driver must have had a duty to drive as a reasonable driver would have driven. In most auto accidents, this is the easiest element to prove.
- Breach: The other driver must have violated his duty to drive in a reasonable manner. He must have violated some rule—usually a written rule (for example, in the Maryland Transportation Code) or a rule established by prior court cases.
- Causation: The breach of that duty must have caused some damage to the person making the claim.
- Damages: The person making the claim must have suffered some form of damage. In a Maryland auto accident claim this usually includes medical expenses, lost wages, damaged property, pain, mental anguish and inconvenience, among other things.
In many personal injury cases, we wrestle with these elements. But in car accident cases, it is pretty simple. You simply need to figure out whether the other driver’s negligence caused you harm.
In addition, there must not be any viable defenses to the claim. These are often at issue although not in most cases.Some defenses include statute of limitations (the claim was not made in a timely manner), and contributory negligence (the person making the claim did something that caused and contributed to his own injuries).
Miller & Zois’ requirements for a Maryland car accident claim
Those four elements are required for every Maryland auto accident claim. Our firm has additional standards for the types of auto accident cases that we take. When in doubt, contact us and we will let you know.
In general, we take cases where we believe the other driver caused the accident, and where there are significant damages. We do not take cases where there are no personal injuries. If there are personal injuries, we will work out the property damage issues, usually free of charge (the only exception is for diminished value claims, which don’t usually work for a number of reasons). For those cases with personal injuries, our general rule of thumb is that the victim must have received some sort of medical treatment within two weeks of the accident. We’re not saying that you weren’t injured if you didn’t receive treatment within two weeks, we’re just saying that injury cases without prompt medical treatment are much more difficult to prove.
What is the value of my case?
There are no magic formulas or calculators to tell you exactly what your claim is worth, but there are some general guidelines. At its most basic, the value of your auto accident case is:
Medical expenses + Lost wages + Property damage + Noneconomic damages
The first three are easy.
Medical expenses are calculated by totaling up the total value of the medical care you received. Importantly, you consider the full cost of the care—not what you paid out of pocket, and not what your health insurance company paid.
Lost wages are the amount of money you lost by missing work. Even if you used sick days or vacation days or if your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy paid for your lost wages, you still calculate them.
Property Damage includes the lesser of the repair cost of your car or its fair market value, the cost of a reasonable rental vehicle, and the fair market value of any other property damaged in the collision. If these things are paid by your insurance company through your collision policy, you do not include them in your lawsuit (you will pay a deductible, but your insurance company will try to recoup it for you). If you can prove to the judge or jury that your losses were reasonably related to the accident, you are entitled to be paid for them. If you want to know why you can recover the full value of medical expenses and lost wages, even if they were paid by someone else, see our webpage on the collateral source rule.
Noneconomic damages are the hardest part to calculate. This includes pain and suffering (mental and physical, including discomfort, anxiety and grief), permanent impairment, scars and disfigurement. Because these damages are subjective, it is hard to say with any certainty what a judge or jury would award in any type of case. Some factors that influence this decision include:
- Who the decision-maker is (all judges have different ways to calculate this, and every jury is unique—your lawyer will want to know what county the case is in in order to give you an estimate)?
- Strength of the liability case: in close cases, many jurors may decide to pay less than full value of the claim if there are any doubts as to which person caused the accident.
- The plaintiff’s testimony: the victim will usually have to convince the judge or jury about how injured they were or are because of the accident. If the victim is likeable, believable and compelling, then the value of the case is likely to be higher.
- The extent of the injuries: it goes without saying that someone who had a fractured leg or a concussion should get more money than someone with a minor soft-tissue injury that resolves quickly.
- Perception: the insurance company adjuster, like a judge or jury, has his or her own thoughts and feelings about auto accident claims. That adjuster’s perception of the case (including his or her perception of the victim, the defendant, the county where the case is located, the Plaintiff’s lawyers, etc…) determines its settlement value.
- The noneconomic damages cap: Maryland has a limit to the amount of noneconomic damages that a plaintiff can recover in an automobile accident case.
I’m still not sure if I have a Maryland car accident claim
If you are still not sure if you have a good Maryland car accident claim, contact our car accident lawyers at 1.800.553.8082, or online. We have a proven track record of settlements and verdicts, and we’d be pleased to help you.