Twenty Items to take with you to your first meeting with a Maryland car accident attorney

Many victims of car and truck accidents come to the realization that they will only receive fair treatment from the insurance companies if they retain an attorney. The process of choosing an attorney can be arduous and confusing. Calling the TV advertising lawyers rarely yields a conversation with an actual lawyer and any semblance of personal service is difficult to obtain.

Recommendations of family, friends and neighbors often are the most fruitful but even those rarely result in any conversation with an actual lawyer. Thus, the actual meeting with the lawyer, if attained, is the most important event in the life of any personal injury claim.

To be clear many law firms don't actually make a lawyer available for the initial meeting and this should be a tip-off as to what expectations you should have going forward. If you want to choose a lawyer for your case, insist on meeting the person or persons who will be representing your interests and good name regarding your injury claim and if they won't see you, find one who will.

Once you have set up an appointment to see your chosen lawyer, think about what concerns you going forward. There are many very understandable worries and having a list of yours drawn up will allow for an airing of the issues and give you a cheat sheet in case you are nervous or forgetful.

It is also highly useful to bring someone else that you trust to the meeting so they can help you retain a more accurate memory of what was said. Often crash victims are some what confused or addled as a result of a concussion or their crash injuries and these people in particular need back-up.

So what are the twenty items you should bring to your inital meeting with your Maryland accident attorney?

There are different categories of items including crash information, auto insurance information, medical information, health insurance information, property damage information and prior crash and injury history.

So lets start with crash information. Pretty broad category right? What we mean is the names and addresses of all partcipants and witnesses. Police report numbers if applicable, pictures of both the vehicular damage and the accident scene, preferably from the immediate scene after the crash.

Depicting the vehicle locations immediately after the collision can be essential as shockingly, many at-fault drivers suddenly don't think they are at-fault when they talk to their insurance companies. If you don't think to take pictures at the scene or are too hurt to do so, pictures of the scene later are still of value.

Moving to auto insurance information, we mean both that of possible at fault parties and your own. You say " Why my auto insurance, I wasn't at fault and won't they raise my rates?"

The answer is because there are benefits on your own auto policy that you pay for every day that you may well need to take advantage of. These include so-called PIP ( personal injury protection) benefits, Medpay ( Medical payment) benefits, Uninsured and Underinsured motorist benefits and even property damage and rental coverage.

Okay why don't I just avail myself of the at-fault driver's insurance coverage? For one thing at-fault drivers often tell their insurers very different versions of how a crash happened and the insurers will often side with their insureds until proven other wise. A second factor is that often drivers don't have enough insurance to cover all the injuries and property damage they cause.

If they total your $30,000.00 car and only have $15,000.00 in property damage coverage, your going to need someone else to cover the rest and that is going to be your own insurer.

At-fault insurers generally don't provide PIP or Medpay payments to people outside  of their vehicles or pedestrians as a function of the policy language and applicable law.

It is also hard to understate the value of your own PIP or Medpay coverage in ensuring access to necessary medical care. In an age when many people don't have health insurance, PIP can reassure doctors and therapists that they have a source for payment of their bills.

Even people with health insurance often use their PIP to take care of wage loss.

Often the most important function of your car insurance concerns getting some modicum of fair compensation for more serious injuries. That is the function of your so-called " Uninsured Motorist Coverage." That title is a bit of a misnomer as U.M. coverage is more than merely for instances when you are injured in an accident with an at-fault driver who has no insurance. It is essential for such situations but is more often deployed as " "Underinsured Motorist Coverage."

While this has been explored at greater length on this website a brief discussion is appropriate here.

Underinsured translates into the at-fault driver having a liability limit that is less than the value of your injury claim. Maryland has a minimum insurance amount of $30,000.00 per injury. So, if you break your arm or leg it is highly likely that your case will be worth more than $30,000.00.

If you have uninsured/ underinsured coverage of more than $30,000.00 lets say $100,000.00, and you have a  broken leg than you can collect an additional $70,000.00 from your own U.M. coverage.

So consider your auto insurance information essential to your accident injury case. As for worries about insurance premium increases, Maryland in theory has a fault-based premium system and if you aren't at fault for your collision you shouldn't be assessed a premim increase.

Medical information includes that information concerning treatment you may have received from the crash you are meeting a lawyer about but also medical information about prior injuries or crashes and/ or underlying medical conditions you may have suffered from before the crash.

This information is vitally important because the language of personal injury claims as spoken between lawyers and insurance companies is predominantly medical in nature. The value in a case isn't only lost wages and medical bills but also often is more specifically about the nature of the injuries that can be sensibly attributed to the crash. Pain and suffering is often the largest aspect of the value of a case and the way it is proven is through the medical records.

Medical records diagnose injuries and conditions stemming from accidents, describe the extent of a patient's pain and suffering and prescribe therapy and treatment regimens. They often clarify what problems were caused by a car accident and what conditions are unrelated.

As a consequence insurance adjusters want to see all relevant records and will often ask for records from before the claim arose.That is why telling your attorney about injuries and treatment from before the accident is very important. If you injured your neck in a collision, the at-fault insurer will be most interested in any neck issues before the collision.

Efforts to conceal information about pre-existing conditions and/ or prior personal injury claims often are found out through several means. First, medical records often provide pre-crash medical history noting prior treatment and complaints, Second, the insurance industry maintains a comprehensive database of prior claims including minor ones or those without injury claims.

It is commonplace for adjusters and defense lawyers to know about previous crashes that our clients have long ago forgotten about. Which is why one of the categories previously mentioned is information on prior crashes and injuries.

Ultimately, judges and jurors understand that crash victims might have been hurt before and don't try and penalize them, as long as they perceive that the injured plaintiff is trying to be truthful. Disclosing prior injuries and claims is essential.

The final two categories involve health insurance and property damage information.

Health insurance information is important for several reasons . The first is that if a health insurer is paying your collision-related medical bills. the odds are that they will want to be repaid. This lien or subrogation, can bite you later if ignored. If you collect settlement proceeds some of which your health insurance contract requires be repaid to them, they can limit or terminate your future health insurance coverage.

That is a bad development that can be avoided by providing your attorney a copy of your health care card and any letters that the health insurer or its agents send you.

This is of particular importance for Medicaid and Medicare insureds. Medicare and Medicaid have no obligation to inform you of their liens, which operate by law. Both the at-fault insurer and your injury lawyer are also tasked with ascertaining lien amounts and what Medicaid and Medicare seek to be repaid.

This is generally a time-consuming process and often cases are settled with the at-fault insurers before the liens are fully known. It is not unusual for a case to settle and then a period of months may elapse before the settlement proceeds can be paid to the injured victim and the lien repaid to Medicare or Medicaid.

The second reason to ensure your lawyer gets your health insurer information is to enable your lawyer to help you get the treatment you need. Healthcare providers want to be paid and often are more inclined to treat you if they see you have insurance or PIP.

The final reason health insurance is important to your prospective attorney is that fairly often it is tricky to track down all the medical bills and if heatlh insurance has either paid them or at least received them. This can save your attorney a lot of detective work and also save you money as medical providers often charge lawyers for providing copies of their bills.

The final category is property damage information. That can include repair estimates and pictures of the damage. It has been very much in vogue for liability adjusters to suggest that crash victims could not have been badly injured because the property damage was insufficiently great as to cause injury. That is baloney but so-called " minimal damage claims" are often the result of misleading pictures or property damage estimates.

Help your lawyer get out in front of such nonsense and provide as much property damage information as possible.Pictures of the at-fault driver's vehicle can also be useful in defusing the assertions by the at-fault driver's insurer that your crash was a minor one. Often the pictures of the at-fault driver's property damage are far worse than the pictures of the injured victim's vehicle.

What should be clear is there are a lot of moving pieces in personal injury claims and the more information you can give your chosen lawyer at the start the easier things will go.



Robert V. Clark
Maryland Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer