Maryland Auto Accidents: Dos & Donts
Nobody plans to be in an auto accident; yet it happens every day in Maryland. When it does, it’s important to know what you should do, and more importantly – what you shouldn’t do in order to be adequately compensated for your injuries.
What you should do
We asked Doug Stevens, a Maryland attorney who has practiced law for 30 years and whose firm focuses on personal injury and car accident matters in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, to explain the do’s and don’ts after being injured in a Maryland auto accident. Here’s what he told us:
- Seek counsel. The first question you should ask is whether you need a lawyer. When you need your wisdom teeth out, it’s a good idea to see someone with a dental degree, preferably an oral surgeon. We consider ourselves like the oral surgeons; we aren’t just attorneys, we have experience in a particular aspect of the law—injuries. With deadlines as short as 60 days, it is folly not to hire an attorney quickly.
- Know what counsel can do for you. If you do hire an attorney, Stevens says that the attorney will quickly decide which healthcare expert you are going to use. “If you rely on your HMO, you’re going to run into an institutional difficulty because the HMO providers simply have a different mindset for care and do not have experience with the legal system. If you go to trial with an HMO provider, the provider will face skillful insurance company lawyers who say things like, ‘Doctor, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, you’re not ruling out such and such, are you?’ Not knowing the tricks, the insurance company can win the case on the sly.”
- Understand how insurance companies operate. In a state where contributory negligence is the rule, the insurance company will try to elicit information from you that will bar your claim, such as trying to get you to concede that you might have been going over the speed limit even though the other guy had a stop sign.
The difficulty with that, of course, is that contributory negligence has to be a substantial cause of the accident. What we hear over and over again from the front line insurance adjusters is that, even if your client was only one percent at fault for the accident, then he or she cannot recover. This is not correct. The contributory negligence of the claimant must be a proximate cause of the accident – which means that it was the substantial cause of the accident.
- Give statements. One of the most important things we tell people is not to give a recorded statement to the insurance company. However, I would say that about 25 percent of our clients have already given up statements before they call us. I think that the insurance adjusters are trained to be as friendly and jocular as they can and to try to get statements.
- Do nothing. Stevens says that it’s also important for people to realize that hiring an attorney does not cost them money in these types of lawsuits. They’re not going to be charged any fee unless there’s a recovery. Therefore, doing nothing is never a good option. He says, “A lawyer isn’t going to take your money; he or she is going to make you money.”
In addition to the do’s and don’ts, Stevens provided us with answers to some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) he gets asked about MD car accidents. To read his answers, please click here.
An experienced Maryland car accident attorney will be able to evaluate your situation and discuss what options might be best for you.