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Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
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What is an injury lawyer looking for in an automobile accident case?

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There are three components of a good vehicle collision case, namely 1) liability, 2) damages and 3) insurance. You need to have all three of these elements in order for you to have a car wreck injury claim that I can help you with. If any of these elements is missing, I may be forced to decline the case because it isn’t one that I would be successful at getting you compensation for.

Liability means who was at fault. In a car crash case this is usually pretty straight forward to figure out who is at fault. Typically we rely upon what the police officer says as far as who violated the rules of the road. Sometimes the police get it wrong and give a ticket to a client whom I end up representing in an injury case. However, most of the time the initial impression about fault by the cops indicates how the lawyers and insurance companies are going to respond. In Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), you also have the addition burden to show that the plaintiff was free from fault. The rule of contributory negligence applies in Maryland (MD) as well. Sometimes the liability decision is in doubt because it is a swearing match between the two drivers. This would be true in the typical red light, green light case. There we are looking for an independent witness who can verify that our client had the green light and was free from fault and that the other side was at fault. Without that witness, the case might be nothing better than 50/50 chance of recovery, because it would become really a “he said, she said” kind of case.

The second leg of a good personal injury case arising out of a vehicular crash is the injury or the damages. If only the cars are messed up, all that arises is a property damage case. Typically if it’s only a property damage case without injuries you do not need an injury attorney. However, where injuries are involved in a car crash that is when we can get involved. Obviously, the more significant the injury the more money that the insurance company is going to be willing to pay to settle the claim. Typically, a major sign of how serious the injury will be is how much medical treatment has been received and the amount of the medical bills. Although there are various circumstances where the amount of the medical bills does not fairly reflect the amount of medical treatment or injury, it is a rough indicator that is used by insurers and personal injury lawyers. Unless there is a certain critical mass of medical bills, it probably doesn’t make sense to hire a personal injury lawyer for your case. For example if all you have to do is go to your family doctor one time and within a week you are fine then it is probably not a case for a personal injury attorney. You are only going to have $100-200 worth of medical expenses. Typically we are expecting to see medical bills in the thousands of dollars before it becomes a case that is economically worth pursuing through an attorney. The most common pattern is an injury where you have to go to the emergency room and then have some follow up care. A typical emergency room bill together with the radiologist and physicians running the emergency room will be at least $500 or more. Then follow up care is required because the injured person is not better two days after the accident. There we are talking about having sufficient amount of medical bills and injury that is makes sense to have an attorney representing you.

The third requirement for a good personal injury case is automobile insurance. If there isn’t insurance coverage then likely the debt created by a car wreck injury is not collectable. By collectable, I mean that you will be able to get any money from anyone. Although the individual driver remains responsible in Virginia for their negligence in a vehicular wreck, it is typically their insurance company that pay the money to compensate you for your injuries. If the person doesn’t have automobile insurance, then the chances are that they also don’t have sufficient assets to pay for the injury claim against them. So one of my first questions to you when you call about a car wreck injury case is have you heard from the other side’s insurance company and gotten confirmation that the driver had insurance. If there is some question about whether the at fault driver has insurance, then the next question is whether you have automobile insurance. Even if you are unlucky enough to be hit by an uninsured driver, there is typically insurance coverage available under the policy of the vehicle that you were in at that time of the wreck. The only time there isn’t any insurance is where the at fault driver doesn’t have insurance and neither you nor the vehicle you are in has any insurance coverage. Amazingly, this does happen. Under those circumstances, I am not able to do much good for the injured person. Confirming the existence of insurance coverage early in the case is one of the first things we do when we take on representation in a wrongful death or personal injury arising out of car crash.

This discussion was intended to show what the personal injury lawyer is thinking when you call him or her about a potential case. They want to make sure that all the elements are likely in place so they will be able to help you get a recovery for a motor vehicle wreck. When you call our firm, Hajek, Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton, we will go through all this to be sure we can help you after an accident.