Maryland car accident claims are suprisingly complex to handle in part due to regressive laws that still prevail in Maryland and also because there are potentially numerous insurance claim avenues to pursue. This article is not intended to be comprehensive but discusses various scenarios to be considered when injured in a Maryland car crash.
First, if you are injured in a collision while in the course of your employment, you likely have a workers compensation claim. Comp claims provide many useful benefits with a relatively quick turn around time. These include lost income or so-called temporary total or partial disability benefits, payment for medical and prescription services, vocational rehabilitation services and permanent disability.
One of the enormous advantages of workers comp over claims against at-fault insurance companies, is that the benefits are virtually immediate. There is no waiting for a settlement, which usually contemplates completing all medical treatment and assembling all the medical records and bills and negotiating with adjusters.
Once a comp claim form is filed with the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission the comp insurer has 30 days to contest the claim or start paying benefits. It is hard to overstate the benefit of this particularly for badly injured people. It also means that medical care is paid for and that too is huge.
The payments are 2/3s of one's average weekly wage with a year to year top weekly limit. The permanent disablity is somewhat misnamed as it is almost always not permanent but is nonetheless helpful. So if you have a legitimate basis for making a Maryland workers comp claim as a result of car or truck accident do so.
If workers comp is unavailable the more traditional claims avenues are claims against the at-fault driver's insurance company, against the at-fault driver's employer if they were working when the accident occurred and against your own auto insurance.
We often hear reluctance from our clients to making claims against their own auto policy for fear that their rates will go up. This is mis-guided as Maryland has a fault based insurance system and if you are making claims out of necessity rather than fault, you should be okay.
The claims against the at-fault driver's insurance or their employer cover a broad range including vehicle repairs or replacement, rental cars, medical expenses, lost income, lost family services and of course pain and suffering.
The problem is that often at fault drivers have insufficient insurance coverage and that is often where your own policy can play an important role.
First, many Marylanders pay for medpay and personal injury protection coverage that can serve to cover accident-related medical costs and time lost from employment. This benefit exists even if you are paid compensation for medical costs and lost work by the at-fault insurer. Failure to avail yourself of PIP and medpay is literally leaving money on the table by not using insurance coverage you have paid for.
A second exceedingly important claim you can make against your own policy involves uninsured motorist coverage. This is obviously vitally important when you are in a crash with a driver who has no insurance but has another lesser known significant benefit.
That benefit is "underinsured" coverage. This benefit is triggered when the at-fault driver's liability insurer tenders it's full amount of coverage in compensation for personal injuries and when this sum is both less than the value of the injury claim and less than the amount of uninsured/underinsured held by the injured victim.
As an example our client K was injured badly in a Maryland crash and ultimately required neck surgery and incurred over $200,000.00 in medical expenses. The responsible driver had Maryland's minimum liability insurance of $30,000.00. This sum was far less than the value of K's claim and fortunately he has $250,000.00 in uninsured/underinsured insurance.
Under, Maryland law the first $30,000.00 in compensation comes from the at-fault driver's insurance and the remainder of compensation is the underinsured coverage minus the amount paid by the at-fault insurer or $250,000 - $30,000= $220,000.
While there are a host of other insurance coverage issues in Maryland car and truck crash cases, the nuances warrant discussing with an experienced attorney.