What Are Your Rights as an Injured Victim of Negligence?
If you’re injured by a negligent driver in Maryland, a Pikesville personal injury lawyer can investigate what happened, examine the police and medical reports, question any witnesses, and fight on your behalf for the compensation that a victim of a car accident is entitled to by law.
What are the your legal rights when you’ve been injured by a driver of a vehicle? How much is your injury claim worth? What is included in your compensation, for example, can you recover for your medical bills, personal pain and suffering, and lost wages?
The value of your case is determined by your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, inconvenience, pre-impact fright. The beginning stages of personal injury cases are similar to that of baseball games in that it is premature in the top of the first inning to predict the score at the bottom of the ninth inning. Similarly, it is premature for an attorney to give you an estimate of the value of your case because the extent of your injuries, the amount of time you may lose from work, and the cost of your medical bills is unknown at the beginning of a case
What Compensation is Available in Personal Injury Cases?
Three types of compensation are available to the injured victims of negligence in Maryland:
- Economic damages are the damages that are documented: your medical and pharmacy bills, your lost wages, transportation costs to and from medical appointments.
- Non-economic damages are the damages that are meant to compensate you for your personal pain and suffering, inconvenience, and pre-impact from that was the result of the other driver’s negligence. Pain and suffering needs to be documented by your medical providers. Typically, you will not be compensated for pain and suffering unless you are treated by a doctor for the injuries you sustained in the crash and your doctor documents that you are in pain. Noneconomic damages are capped by Maryland law.
- Punitive damages are rarely awarded in Maryland and are not meant as compensation but rather as punishment to deter at-fault parties from future negligence. In order to receive punitive damages, you have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the at fault party purposely caused your injuries or knowingly engaged in egregious behavior that the at fault party knew would result in harm to another. Although it’s rare, when punitive damages are awarded, Maryland does not cap these damages.
When a jury determines a reasonable and fair compensation amount for a victim’s pain and suffering at the close of a personal injury trial, the jurors may take into account a victim’s age and life expectancy, the type and extent of the injuries, and a victim’s likelihood of continued pain and suffering and the need for future medical treatment.
Maryland caps the non-economic compensation amount that an injury victim may recover. As of 2023, the cap is $920,000, except in medical malpractice and wrongful death cases. The cap for medical malpractice non-economic damages is $875,000.00, while the cap for wrongful death cases that have at least two beneficiaries is $1,380,000.00 and, if survival actions are brought, the full amount that beneficiaries are entitled to is $2,300,000.00.
How Are “Pain and Suffering” Defined?
Legally speaking, “pain and suffering,” which is compensable as a part of non-economic damages, is often difficult to measure in dollars. Pain and suffering includes both physical pain, mental/emotional distress, and grief that resulted from the accident.
However, an at-fault party’s insurance company may offer little or nothing for the non-economic damages you suffered as a result of an accident.. How do insurance companies, attorneys, judges, and juries in Maryland calculate damages for personal suffering and pain?
How is a Pain and Suffering Award Determined?
There aren’t any laws, rules, or formal guidelines in Maryland for calculating a personal injury victim’s non-economic damages. Some insurance companies use a computer program that determines what should be paid for an injury victim’s personal suffering and pain.
Most personal injury lawyers in Maryland use one of two widely-accepted formulas to determine a fair and reasonable amount to seek for a client’s non-economic damages. Insurance companies aren’t required or expected to use either of these formulas:
- One method multiplies documentable economic damages by a number from one to five, depending on the severity of the injury. This calculation is typically done after you have completed your treatment. If a neck sprain treatment totals $4,500.00 in medical bills, your lawyer will analyze the type of treatment received, the length of the treatment, and the possible outcome at trial to evaluate the value of case to determine the amount of money to demand from the insurance company. Your lawyer will initially demand an amount of money that is higher than the value of your case because this provides room for negotiations.
- Although rare, other lawyers use a per diem calculation which assigns a daily amount for pain and suffering and then counts from the injury date to the date of maximum recovery (when a patient heals to a point where no additional improvement can be expected).
How Will a Personal Injury Lawyer Help You?
To recover non-economic damages, your Maryland personal injury attorney will have to provide evidence of your personal suffering and pain. The more evidence you and your attorney can provide, the more likely you are to recover a fair and just compensation amount.
Medical records, reports, and testimony or statements from your doctor can be key evidence in support of your claim for pain and suffering. If you seek damages for a condition such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or insomnia, you should have a mental health professional’s testimony or statement.
Medical evidence should be accompanied, to the extent that it’s possible, by photos, personal diaries or journals, and the statements or testimony of friends and loved ones regarding your emotional and physical suffering and pain.
When Should You Accept a Settlement Offer?
If you are injured in an accident and the insurance company offers you a settlement that includes compensation for your pain and suffering, how will you know whether the offer is fair and reasonable?
Contact a Pikesville personal injury lawyer as soon as you have been injured in an auto accident to handle communications with the insurance companies so that you can focus on healing from your injuries. Do not give any recorded statements to any insurance companies until your attorney is on the phone with you and the insurance company. Leave the settlement negotiations to your attorney who understands the laws and the value of your case. Be weary of insurance companies who offer you a personal injury settlement within a few days or weeks of the accident.
Insurance companies will often prematurely offer you money to settle your personal injury case before you finish treatment because once you accept the money, the insurance company is no longer on the hook for paying any of your additional medical bills or pain and suffering you endure after you accept the check. Discuss any settlement offered by the insurance company with your attorney before you accept or reject it.
What Else Should You Know About Personal Injury Cases?
If you’ve been injured by another person’s negligence in Maryland, ask a Maryland personal injury attorney to help you file an injury claim. Personal injury lawyers represent their clients on a contingency fee basis, so there is no fee to a lawyer unless and until your claim prevails.
Usually, you have a three-year statute of limitations in Maryland – from the date of your injury – to initiate legal action, but realistically speaking, you should not wait three years to speak with a personal injury lawyer. Don’t even wait three weeks, as there are several exceptions to that three year statute of limitations.
Your lawyer should have the chance to examine any evidence before it deteriorates or disappears and will want to question any witnesses before their recollections fade. Acting right away gives your lawyer the ability to build the strongest possible case on your behalf.
If you’re injured because someone else was negligent, and if you and your attorney can prove you were not at fault, you will likely recover compensation. The process starts when you call the offices of a personal injury lawyer and request a free, no-obligation case evaluation.