Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury in Maryland
When you're seriously hurt in an accident, many questions come to mind in figuring out how best to obtain compensation for your losses. In our personal injury practice at The Law Office of Christopher J. Smith, LLC, we often address the following questions:
- How do I know whether I have a personal injury claim in Maryland?
- Should I accept my first offer of compensation?
- What are the chances of winning a personal injury lawsuit?
- How long do personal injury claims take?
- Who will pay my medical bills?
- What if I was partially at fault for an accident?
- How much is my case worth?
- Can I file a lawsuit on behalf of my child or spouse?
â†“How do I know whether I have a personal injury claim in Maryland?
The basis for a personal injury claim is that you were harmed because someone who had a duty of care breached that duty by behaving negligently or recklessly. As a plaintiff, you must be able to prove these elements by a preponderance of the evidence: duty, breach, causation and damages. Duty means that the circumstances required the defendant to act with reasonable care. Breach means the defendant wasn't careful. Causation means the breach directly caused a chain of events that resulted in injury. Damages are the economic and noneconomic losses you suffered as a result.
â†“Should I accept my first offer of compensation?
Never. Insurance companies approach settlements as a negotiation, so they almost always offer much less initially than the case is ultimately worth.
â†“What are the chances of winning a personal injury lawsuit?
Your chance of success depends on several factors, including the strength of the evidence and the effectiveness by which it is presented. Litigation comes with risks, which is why it's generally safer to settle the case without going to court. However, sometimes the difference between the defendant's offer and a fair settlement is so great that going to court is the best option.
â†“How long do personal injury claims take?
Claims can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years. How quickly a case can be resolved depends on such factors as the strength of the evidence, the extent of the damages and the reasonableness of the parties.
â†“Who will pay my medical bills?
Medical bills are part of your personal injury damages. Initially, your own insurance may cover your medical expenses. If you have paid out of pocket or if you owe a balance, cash from the settlement covers the debt.
â†“What if I was partially at fault for an accident?
Maryland is one of four states that applies the contributory negligence doctrine. This means that if you were are fault for the accident to any degree, you cannot recover damages from another party involved. Insurance companies often invoke contributory negligence to block recovery but proving it is another matter. This is a very strong reason to consult an experienced attorney.
â†“How much is my case worth?
The value of a personal injury case is based on the extent and permanence of the injuries. Court cases that go all the way to verdict can give some indication of what a similar case is worth. However, most injury cases settle and many settlements are confidential. Only professionals who are actively engaged in personal injury negotiations can estimate the value of a potential settlement.
â†“Can I file a lawsuit on behalf of my child or spouse?
Children lack the legal capacity to sue, so their parents must file actions to recover damages for injuries suffered. As for adults, when injuries leave them incapacitated, a representative, such as a spouse, can sue on their behalf.