How Does Another Driver’s DUI Impact Your Accident Claim?
Car accidents occur around the Baltimore area every day. Unfortunately, many of them are caused by reckless drunk drivers who jeopardize the safety of everyone else on the road because of their irresponsible decisions. If you survived a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you should consult an injury lawyer right away. You shouldn’t have to pay for damage inflicted by someone else. Any claim or lawsuit that your injury lawyer files on your behalf will proceed entirely separately from criminal charges against the other driver.
Negotiating a Just Settlement
Drunk drivers cost their insurance carriers big bucks. Because insurance companies know that juries almost always find in favor of the plaintiff in these cases, these companies are usually quite willing to settle the case. However, the insurance carrier’s idea and your idea of a just settlement may be fairly disparate. It can take some back-and-forth negotiations between your injury lawyer and the insurance company to reach a fair settlement. Remember to keep your lawyer updated with any changes in your health status. If you require additional surgery, are diagnosed with another medical problem, or otherwise experience a change in your health, this will affect the settlement negotiations.
Deciding to Take a Settlement
Your lawyer can offer advice on whether or not a settlement offer is fair in light of your losses. However, only you can decide whether to agree to settle the case or not. There’s no need to rush to a decision. If you do agree to the settlement, you cannot later change your mind. However, you could decline the settlement and then reconsider a settlement at a later date, assuming that the other party is still willing to settle.
Going to Trial
If a fair settlement offer is not forthcoming, it’s time to talk to your lawyer about the merits of taking the case to trial. In civil lawsuits, drunk drivers are nearly always held liable for the damages they inflict. However, you will have to be prepared to testify and have your medical records scrutinized. Your lawyer will guide you through each step of the litigation process.
Is Your Accident Settlement Offer Too Low?
Even if you have been involved in a previous car accident in the Baltimore area, you may find it overwhelming to deal with the many details of securing compensation. It’s a good idea to speak with an injury lawyer even if you aren’t sure whether you will file an accident injury lawsuit. Your lawyer has plenty of experience dealing with insurance carriers. He or she will help you secure a generous accident settlement.
It’s to be expected that the first accident settlement offer you receive will be the lowest amount that the insurance adjuster is authorized to offer. Insurance is a business and, as with any business, the insurance adjuster’s goal is to improve the company’s bottom line. Unfortunately, far too many car accident survivors take the first offer they get because they’re unaware that it’s negotiable or because they lack negotiating skills. This is another benefit of hiring an injury lawyer; he or she knows the most effective strategies to use to negotiate with the insurance adjuster.
Before deciding whether subsequent settlement offers are too low, you’ll need an estimate of your losses. Calculating your losses can be more difficult than you might think, but your lawyer can handle this task for you. The settlement offer should be substantial enough to fully cover your out-of-pocket medical costs such as diagnostic tests, surgeries, hospitalization, physical therapy sessions, and pharmacy co-pays. Depending on the nature and extent of your injuries, you might also require durable medical equipment and perhaps the services of a home health aide when you leave the hospital.
Your vehicle may have sustained minor damage or it might be a total loss; either way, you deserve full compensation for the damage. The settlement offer should be high enough to restore your car to the condition that it was in prior to the crash. If the vehicle was a total loss, your lawyer will ask for a settlement offer that includes the fair market value of the car. Your settlement offer might even include your rental car or other transportation costs that you incurred after the crash. Keep in close contact with your lawyer throughout the process and advise him or her of any new expenses you incur.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Every 14 seconds, someone is injured in an auto accident. With so many car crashes happening every day, it’s important for drivers to be prepared and to know what to do after an accident. If you are in an auto accident, remember to take the following steps and consult an experienced car accident lawyer in Anne Arundel County.
Put Safety First
Immediately after an accident, move the cars to the side of the road and away from traffic to prevent further accidents or injuries. If the vehicles cannot be moved, everyone should stay in their cars with their seatbelts fastened while waiting for help to arrive. If you or your passengers have been injured, seek medical assistance right away. Keep all of your medical records so that an accident attorney can help you receive full compensation for your personal injury.
Record the name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, the insurance company, and policy number of the other driver and owner of the vehicle. You will also want to write down the year, make, model, and color of all vehicles involved. If there were witnesses to the accident, get their contact information as well.
Document the Accident
Take photographs of the vehicles, damage caused the location, and any relevant traffic signs or signals. You will also want to file an accident report with the police if no officers arrived on the scene. By creating a complete picture of the collision and how it happened, you can improve your insurance claim and strengthen your case with a car accident lawyer.
Contact Your Insurance Company
It’s important to notify your insurance company right away about any accidents so that you can file your claim properly and receive full compensation. You may also need information about what your policy does and does not cover after an accident, like costs for towing or a rental car.
Hire a Car Accident Attorney
An attorney with a car accident law firm can help you recover the costs of medical bills, car repairs, and missed work. If you suffered an injury due to another driver’s negligence, you will want an experienced lawyer to act as your legal advocate when going up against the other party for compensation. Your accident attorney can also negotiate a fair settlement with your insurance company and will offer full support while you recover.
Involved in a Wreck? Don’t Ignore These Delayed Symptoms
Most car accident injuries are immediately apparent, such as lacerations and broken bones. Others may not result in symptoms until hours, days, or even weeks after the wreck. Your injury attorney in Baltimore needs to know about these late-appearing injuries so that he or she can provide effective legal advocacy services, and secure maximum compensation on your behalf.
Low back pain is particularly common among survivors of rear-end and side-impact car accidents. It might not develop right away, and it can become worse without treatment. It’s possible for the pain to be caused by damaged vertebrae, ligaments, or nerves, so talk to a doctor about your symptoms promptly.
Pain or swelling of the abdominal area should receive emergency medical attention. This could indicate severe internal bleeding that may become life-threatening. Other accompanying symptoms may include extensive bruising on the area, dizziness, and fainting.
Neck Pain and Stiffness
Neck pain and stiffness, loss of range of motion, and headaches can indicate whiplash—a common late-appearing injury of rear-end car accident survivors. Without early treatment, it’s possible for whiplash to cause chronic symptoms. Other accompanying symptoms of whiplash may include blurry vision, tinnitus, dizziness, and muscle spasms, along with pain, numbness, and tingling that extends down the arms. Treating whiplash may involve multiple sessions with a chiropractor and/or a physical therapist. Your attorney can help you secure compensation for these medical expenses.
Headaches and Impaired Cognition
Never ignore any signs of possible head trauma or neurological impairment after a car wreck, such as headaches, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and impaired reasoning. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can develop even if your head wasn’t struck by something. The force of the impact can cause your brain to move back and forth within your skull, causing severe tissue damage. Other signs of brain trauma can include convulsions, nausea, vomiting, confusion, depression, irritability, and loss of balance. Some patients go on to suffer from long-term or permanent changes in personality and functional abilities.
Will Noah’s Law Affect You?
DUI laws often change, but a lawyer in Baltimore can inform you of any legal changes that could affect the outcome of your drunk driving case —such as Noah’s Law. As this featured video explains, Noah’s Law was named in honor of police officer Noah Leotta, who was struck and killed by an impaired driver in 2015. Noah’s Law went into effect in October 2016.
The law sets stricter penalties for individuals convicted of DUI. For a first-time offense, they are required to use an ignition interlock device for six months. A second offense results in one year, and three offenses or more result in three years. Noah’s Law also increases the amount of time drivers will have their licenses suspended for impaired driving.
I Was Injured During My Commute. Can I Get Workers’ Comp?
Workers’ comp law in Baltimore allows injured employees access to financial benefits if they are hurt while on the job, accrue medical expenses, and lose wages. It does have some limitations, however. Employees are only covered under workers’ comp if their injury or illness was directly related to the workplace or duties of the job. This means that most employees who are injured during their daily commute to work aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation. There are exceptions to this, however, so it’s in your best interests to consult an attorney.
Going and Coming Rule
Maryland’s “going and coming” rule limits workers’ comp eligibility. It states that workers cannot qualify for benefits if they were injured while going to or coming from work. This rule presumes that you are responsible for ensuring your own safety while traveling. However, there are a few exceptions.
One notable example of the premises exception is a Maryland woman who won her claim for benefits after she was injured in her employer’s parking lot, while walking to the employee entrance. The court determined that, because the employee was on employer property, she was covered, even though she hadn’t started work yet.
Even if you were injured off-site, next to your employer’s property, you may still be eligible for benefits under the proximity exception. Two elements must be present to qualify:
- The off-site area contains a special hazard (such as icy sidewalks).
- The route from the off-site location to the employer’s property is closely associated with the employer.
The second requirement can be tricky to meet. It’s fulfilled when an employer directs employees to use that off-site location, or when the employer knows employees use it, and acquiesce to it. For example, Gerald is a fictitious worker who leaves his job and walks toward the employer-provided parking lot. To get there, he takes a shortcut along the railroad tracks, where he is struck by a train. The employer is aware that workers take this shortcut. Gerald would be covered, since there is clearly a hazard, and the shortcut is strongly associated with the employer’s property.
Employer-Provided Transportation Exception
Some employers contract with transportation companies to provide free or fee-based transportation to their workers. If you were injured on a shuttle bus provided by your employer, you could be eligible for benefits.
Property Damage Claims: What Car Crash Survivors Need to Know
After surviving a car accident, residents of the Baltimore area will have plenty of paperwork to deal with. Hiring an injury attorney is an effective strategy to ensure you get every cent you’re entitled to. Even if you don’t file a lawsuit, your lawyer can coordinate your property damage claim, and tell you if the insurance company isn’t offering a fair settlement. Before filing the paperwork, you’ll need to assess the total value of your losses .
Your car will likely be the greatest financial loss, especially if it was declared a total loss. The loss of your car is covered under the auto damage portion of the claim. It includes damage to any items that are considered part of the car, such as your car stereo. Non-auto property damage is listed separately, and it can include car accessories like a GPS system, spare tire, or child safety seat. Know that child safety experts recommend replacing child safety seats after each moderate to severe accident—even if the seat doesn’t show signs of damage.
The items you’re wearing at the time of the car accident can be surprisingly valuable. Even if you weren’t wearing designer clothes that sustained damage, you may have been wearing eyeglasses, a hearing aid, or dentures. If you need to repair or replace these items, you can request compensation for them.
Anything you tossed on the passenger seat or backseat can become airborne during a car accident. Since personal belongings like laptops weren’t designed to survive a short flight, they’ve likely sustained damage. Before filing your claim, carefully check for damage to items like cameras and cellphones.
Your lawyer will ask you for evidence of the damage. Photos will typically suffice. If the damage isn’t visibly apparent, you may need to take the item to an expert. For example, a computer repair specialist could provide a notarized statement to prove that your laptop is no longer functional. Items that are difficult to put a price on may need to be professionally appraised.
A Family’s Guide to Post-Accident PTSD
Although post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is strongly associated with combat veterans, people of all ages and backgrounds can develop it—including residents of the Baltimore area who have been involved in car accidents . PTSD is a serious mental health disorder that warrants the attention of a medical professional. Since behavioral healthcare services can be expensive, and aren’t always covered by insurance, your family may decide to talk to an injury lawyer about the merits of seeking compensation from the at-fault party.
Unlike many mental health disorders, PTSD has an identifiable cause. It always stems from exposure to a traumatic, frightening, or dangerous event, such as the following:
- Being in a war zone
- Experiencing the death of a loved one
- Seeing a dead body
- Surviving a major car accident
- Being trapped in a car after an accident
The symptoms of PTSD linger well beyond the event itself, and they can last past the time it takes the person to physically recover. PTSD does not indicate any character flaws or lack of willpower. It isn’t possibly to simply “snap out of it.” PTSD is a real medical condition that requires expert treatment.
The signs and symptoms of PTSD can be chronic or short-lived, and not everyone experiences the same symptoms. Usually, symptoms begin within three months of the event. The signs of PTSD are grouped into categories. An official diagnosis requires the individual to experience the following for at least one month:
- One or more re-experiencing symptoms
- One or more avoidance symptoms
- Two or more cognition and mood symptoms
- Two or more arousal and reactivity symptoms
Re-experiencing symptoms are those that involve reliving the trauma. They include flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts that are impossible to control. Avoidance symptoms occur when the person tries to avoid places, objects, or activities that remind him or her of the event. For example, a car crash survivor might become incapable of getting in a car. Arousal and reactivity symptoms include:
- Angry outbursts
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling tense
Lastly, cognition and mood symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Negative thought patterns
- Withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities
Getting Treatment for PTSD
Treatment is best begun as soon as possible. After a loved one survives a car accident, families should be alert to the potential signs of PTSD. Its treatment is usually a combination of medications, such as antidepressants, and psychotherapy.
Be Prepared for Accidents
The steps you take after a car accident in Baltimore can have a significant impact on your ability to file an accident injury lawsuit in the future. Watch this video to prepare yourself to act if an accident happens to you.
In the immediate aftermath of the car accident, the first priority is getting emergency medical attention if necessary. Call the police to the scene of the accident, and document the location, make and model of other vehicles, and road conditions, using photos if possible. Exchange information with the other driver, but don’t discuss the details of the collision. Go the hospital or your doctor for an exam after the accident, even if you don’t think you’re injured. Some common car accident injuries, like whiplash, don’t cause symptoms right away, so it’s important to see a doctor for diagnosis and to document the injuries as soon as possible.
Qualifying for Disability with Low Vision or Blindness
If you are living with low vision or blindness, you could qualify for Social Security disability benefits. However, the qualification requirements are strict and the procedure is lengthy, so it is helpful to have an experienced attorney in Baltimore to assist during the approval process. Here is what you need to know about applying for disability benefits for low vision or blindness.
How does the Social Security Administration define blindness?
In order to be considered blind under Social Security guidelines, you must not be able to correct your vision to better than 20/200 in your better eye for a period of at least 12 months or a period that is expected to last for at least 12 months. Alternatively, you can have a visual field of 20 degrees or less in your better for the same time period. If your vision doesn’t meet the definition of blindness but you have low vision that prevents you from working either alone or in conjunction with other health issues, then you still may be eligible for benefits.
What kind of disability benefits can I receive?
Two disability programs may provide benefits when you’re blind or have low vision: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is based on credits earned while working, so you are only eligible for it if you have ever had a job, or in some cases, based on your parents’ or spouse’s earnings. SSI is not based on past employment, so you are eligible for these benefits even if you don’t have any work history.
How do I apply for benefits?
Although you can apply for benefits by contacting the Social Security Administration on your own, having a lawyer guide you through the process is recommended. Many people are rejected for benefits on their first try, and having an attorney can help you avoid an initial rejection and the need to appeal. An experienced attorney knows how to avoid application errors and build your case effectively.