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dallston@allstonlaw.com
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Personal Injury

DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COVERAGE?

Maryland law requires every car to be insured. However, Maryland law only requires every car to have $20,000.00 of coverage. Some people will have more, but that is a factor you cannot control.

To protect yourself and your family, you might want to consider additional uninsured/underinsured insurance (UM). The purpose of UM coverage is to compensate you for damages caused by a driver who is driving (illegally) without car insurance, or driving with only the minimum amount. If you have car insurance, you have at least $20,000.00 in coverage. However, that might not be enough.

For example, a driver runs a red light and strikes your car. You break both legs. You incur approximately $50,000.00 in medical bills. The driver that caused the accident has insurance coverage in the amount of $20,000.00. You have the same limits of coverage on your policy for UM benefits. What is the maximum amount you will recover? The maximum amount you can recover is $20,000.00. That takes into account everything, including medical bills, court costs, and attorney’s fees. In order to avoid having this happen to you, increase your UM coverage. It usually is not very expensive to obtain $100,000.00 or even $300,000.00 in UM benefits. If you had had $100,000.00 in UM coverage in prior example, you could recover $20,000.00 from the at-fault driver and then look to your insurance company for $80,000.00 ($100,000.00 minus the $20,000.00 recovered).

COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT PERSONAL INJURY CASES
In response to the many questions that my clients frequently ask regarding their personal injury cases, I have prepared these questions and answers. I hope that it will give you an idea of what to expect in your personal injury case. If you still have some questions after reading this, please feel free to give me a call.

Q: How long will it take to resolve my case?

A: Every case is different. Some cases are resolved within six months and some go on for many years. It is important to remember that your case is controlled by a Statute of Limitations which is legal deadline by which your case must either be settled or filed in the proper court of law. The amount of time allotted by the statute of limitation in your particular situation, may be needed to properly prepare a solid case. A quick settlement does not always mean a good settlement. If you have any questions regarding the progress of your case, give me a call and I will be happy to discuss the status of your case.

Q: What kind of things slow my case down?

A: Two of the factors that will determine how long it will take to resolve your case are: 1) how long your medical treatment lasts and 2) how long the insurance company takes to investigate your claim. It is important to keep in mind that, in most cases, nothing can be done with regard to the settlement of your case until you have completed your medical treatment. Therefore, once you have been released from treatment, please let me know. At that point, we will begin to discuss the possible resolution of your claim.

Q: How much is my case worth?

A: It would be misleading and inappropriate to speculate about the value of your case before your treatment is completed and the facts regarding liability have been established. This is because the value of your case depends upon a number of different factors, none of which are clear at an initial interview and often are not clear until the case nears conclusion.

Q: How do we determine what my case is worth?

A: One significant factor likely to indicate the value of your case is the amount a jury of your peers would likely decide you are entitled to as a result of the Defendant’s negligence. If you would like to settle your claim before going through the formal litigation process, we will discuss what a jury in your particular area would likely award if you went to trial. This will help you decide whether a settlement offer is reasonable. Remember, however, that a jury trial can be very uncertain, and a wide range of results are possible. We will discuss the various risks and advantages of litigation as your case progress.

Q: What factors will the jury weigh to decide the value of my claim?

A: The jury may award you damages for past and future medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Therefore, the two factors that will likely influence the jury most are the dollar amount of your medical expenses and your lost wages. In an automobile collision case, a jury will also look at how much property damage there was to your vehicle. If you had little or no damage, a jury is likely to award you less for pain and suffering. In essence, the jury will utilize a variety of factors to decide the seriousness of your injuries, many of which will be based on common sense.

Q: Does it matter if I miss a few doctors appointments?

A: Yes, there are two reasons to make sure that you regularly attend your doctor’s appointments and/or physical therapy appointments. The first is a medical reason. Your doctor cannot properly treat you if you don’t listen to his or her suggestions. Failing to attend a follow-up appointment can result in a longer recovery period. The second reason is a legal one. The insurance adjuster and/or jury will look at your medical treatment to decide the extent of your injuries. If you repeatedly missed doctors appointments and physical therapy sessions, they may conclude that you were not seriously injured and may award you less money, if any, as a result.

Q: Is it okay to speak with my own insurance company?

A: A good rule of thumb is not to speak with anyone unless we discuss it first. There are, however, some instances where it is permissible to speak with others about your case. For example, you may discuss your property damage with the insurance company. Be careful, however, not to discuss your personal injuries or how the collision took place. Only, discuss information that relates to the value of your car. If you have any questions as to whether you should be speaking directly to someone about your case, please call me first to verify that is in your best interest.

Q: Should I tell my doctors and lawyers about previous injuries?

A: Absolutely. The insurance company will always find out whether you had a previous injury. It is much better to be honest and let your doctor know your full medical history so that he can properly treat your condition. In addition, I need to know about all of your prior injuries so that I will not be “sandbagged,” or surprised, by the insurance company once they find out about your injuries. Therefore, if you forgot to mention a previous injury to me during your interview, please contact me with details of that injury.

Q: Do insurance companies ever take surveillance films of people like I have seen on T.V.?

A: Yes, they do it all the time. You would be surprised at how inexpensive it is for an insurance company to hire someone to follow you around with a video camera and a zoom lens. In most cases, you won’t even know that you are being filmed. The problem with surveillance films is that you will always be caught on a good day when you try to do anything, just ask yourself if your doctor would allow you to do it. If your doctor would tell you not to do it, then do not do it. If you ever observe a private investigator following you, let me know so that I can make a note in your file. It would be very damaging to your case to have a videotape of this nature available to be shown to the jury.

COMMON QUESTIONS REGARDING PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION BENEFITS (PIP)

What is PIP?

PIP is no-fault insurance coverage that can provide coverage for medical, hospital and disability benefits sustained as a result of a motor vehicle accident.

What is the purpose of PIP?

To assure financial compensation to victims of motor vehicle accidents without regard to the fault of a named insured or other persons entitled to PIP benefits.

Does every automobile insurance policy include PIP?

No. Each insurer that issues motor vehicle liability insurance policies are mandated by law to offer the opportunity to purchase PIP coverage of at least $2,5000.00 in the state of Maryland. However, many people waive their right to purchase PIP coverage.

Does PIP cover lost wages?

Yes. In Maryland PIP will pay for 85% of documented income lost, subject to certain limitations.

How long do I have to file for PIP benefits?

In most cases, an application for PIP benefits must be made within 12 months after the date of the motor vehicle accident. Faiture to file within 12 months will result in a forfeiture of benefits.

Do I recommend that each and every person reading this have PIP benefits on their autmobile insurance policy?

Yes, if a Maryland resident. PIP amounts vary with different insurance policies offered. The maximum amount of PIP allowed in Maryland is $10,000.00. I think that you would be surprised how little it would cost to increase your PIP benefits or to add PIP to your policy. PIP is particularly important if you are not covered by a policy of health insurance.

What is the difference between PIP and Med Pay?

Med Pay is the no-fault protection that is offered by some insurance companies, for instance, in Virginia. It is similar to PIP, however, a notable difference is that Med Pay only covers expenses for hospital and medical care, but does not cover loss of income.

What should District of Columbia residents know about PIP?

Unfortunately, the laws differ for those who are residents of the District of Columbia. In some circumstances, if a District of Columbia resident elects to receive PIP benefits, he/she may be barred from making a recovery against the other driver. If you live in the District of Columbia, always check with an attorney before filing for PIP.