There are many steps in the process of seeking compensation for damages caused by a car crash. While each case is unique, the process is essentially the same. The details (injuries, value of damages, insurance policies, etc.) are what make injury claims different.
Not knowing what to do next or not knowing what is coming can be a source of anxiety, particularly for injury victims. That is why it is important to learn more about the legal process and discuss it with an experienced attorney.
Our licensed Maryland vehicle crash lawyers are here to guide you through every stage of the legal process. We have helped countless clients pursue and recover compensation for damages they suffered because of a personal injury.
No upfront fees or legal obligations. Call today: 410-401-9979.
The legal process starts at the scene of the crash. The police come to the scene to assess what happened so they can complete a report about the accident. The officer talks to those involved, collects driver’s license numbers, insurance information, and contact information and assesses the scene.
The officer’s report includes the information the officer collected about the crash and those involved. Some of the information you may find in the police report includes:
Sometimes the drivers and passengers involved take pictures of the damaged vehicles, debris and visible injuries.
Medical treatment often starts at the crash scene and continues as victims are transported to the hospital in an ambulance. Sometimes victims head to the hospital from the scene.
It is vital for crash victims to obtain medical treatment as soon as possible. Waiting to receive treatment could have devastating consequences, as injuries would be allowed to get much worse. Sometimes waiting to receive treatment could allow some injuries (internal injuries, brain injuries) to become life-threatening.
Make sure to explain all your symptoms to the doctors who treat you. This will help them to diagnose all your injuries and assess their severity.
Your lawyer will tell you to make sure to continue your medical treatment as advised by your doctors. Stopping treatment could hurt the value of your claim because the insurance company could argue your injuries have healed or are not as serious as you initially claimed.
The at-fault driver’s insurance company may contact you to attempt to settle your claim. They may offer you a small settlement hoping you will accept it because you are desperate for compensation.
It is important to consider speaking to an attorney before talking to an insurance company. An attorney can talk to the insurance company on your behalf. More importantly, an attorney is committed to your best interests, unlike the insurance company, which is committed to saving itself money.
Talking to the insurance company can be quite risky because you could say something that hurts your claim, and you may not even realize it. Offhand comments about your actions before the crash could be interpreted as admissions of fault.
This step may take place before the victim even talks to an insurance company. Sometimes victims call attorneys at the scene of the crash or at the hospital. They likely suffered a severe injury and feel like they are going to need legal help to have a chance of securing full compensation for their damages.
However, even if you are unsure about whether you have a valid claim, you could greatly benefit from talking to an attorney. At our firm, an initial consultation is free, and it gives us a chance to determine if you may have a valid claim.
The sooner you call an attorney the better. If you have a case and decide to hire an attorney, he or she needs time to investigate and build a strong case.
If you hire an attorney, he or she can get to work investigating the crash. This often includes visiting the scene to take pictures and try to determine what happened in the accident. Your lawyer will also review your medical records and may need to consult experts to prove why the crash happened. Your attorney needs to determine how much compensation may be available from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy and potentially your own insurance policy.
Your lawyer also needs to assess the value of your claim, including the value of:
When you reach the point of maximum medical improvement, your attorney will send a demand letter to the liable insurance company. Maximum medical improvement is the point when the victim has fully healed or has healed as much as he or she is likely to heal.
Most victims reach a point where further treatment will not dramatically improve the victim’s condition, even though doctors may recommend more treatment to help manage pain or other symptoms. Your doctors are the ones who assess when healing has stopped, and you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).
Once you reach MMI, your lawyer can send a demand letter asking for a certain amount of compensation for damages. The demand letter also explains why the other driver should be held liable for the crash and includes evidence to support this assertion.
Once the insurance company receives a demand letter, they will have time to respond. There are rare occasions when insurance companies agree to provide the compensation the attorney is requesting. However, insurance companies often make counteroffers. They may even deny your claim.
Usually, sending a demand letter is the first step in negotiating for compensation. Your attorney and the insurance company will likely go back and forth multiple times before reaching an agreement on a settlement.
At Peter T. Nicholl Law Offices, we are committed to seeking full compensation for your damages. We are prepared to negotiate and push the insurance company to provide the compensation you need.
The demand letter tells the insurance company to provide compensation or risk going to court. If our attorneys are unable to secure a favorable settlement, we may need to file a lawsuit to continue to pursue full compensation. This is something our attorneys will discuss with you to explain what the next steps may be.
If we do reach a settlement, the next step will be to finalize it and resolve the claim. This means getting you compensation, covering our fees, and taking care of any liens that were placed on your settlement, such as by health care providers.
After a lawsuit is filed, the discovery process begins. This is the point where both sides gather evidence and share information. This gives both sides a chance to review their case and determine strengths and weaknesses. Both sides can also get a better idea about the strengths and weaknesses of the other side’s case.
Depositions may be part of the discovery process. These involve lawyers asking questions of those involved in the crash (witnesses, drivers, police, doctors and others).
Interrogatories may also be sent out. These are written lists of questions that need to be answered by those on the opposite side of the case.
This is often a required step before going to trial. This is essentially a roadblock to try to encourage both sides to reach a settlement and not go to court. A third party, known as a mediator, helps facilitate a discussion between both sides.
Typically, you and your attorney will be in one room while the attorney for the insurance company is in the other room. The mediator goes back and forth, listening to both sides and make recommendations about how to settle. However, the mediator does not have the power to order a settlement.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the case proceeds to trial. A trial begins with opening statements, then both sides make their case, provide closing statements and the case is in the hands of the jury.
Your attorney needs to prove the crash resulted from the other driver’s negligence and connect the crash to your injuries. Your attorney also needs to establish the damages you suffered and their value. This may involve testimony from various witnesses and experts.
Both sides can try to settle at any point during the trial. Sometimes the insurance company will reach out to try to settle because they are concerned the jury will rule in your favor. They may think they can settle for less than would be awarded by a jury.
If a settlement cannot be reached, the case is left in the hands of the jury. The jury will need to determine if the other driver is at fault and the amount of compensation you should receive.
Once the jury decides, the case is nearly resolved. If compensation is awarded, it must be paid out. Attorney fees need to be taken care of and liens on the compensation award must be dealt with.
For decades, our firm has been working to secure compensation for car crash victims and victims of other personal injury accidents.
You do not need to go through the process of seeking compensation on your own. We are prepared to help and have a history of results. There are also no upfront fees for our services.
Peter T. Nicholl Law Offices. We are ready to help: 410-401-9979.