Amanda is driving out of a shopping center in Annapolis. She stops before entering the street, looks both ways, and then pulls out and makes a right turn. A car coming down the street in Amanda’s direction hits her. Both drivers stop. The other driver claims that Amanda pulled out too fast. Amanda claimed that the other driver was going much too fast and was texting while driving.
Although Amanda felt OK after the collision, a couple of hours later, her neck and back started hurting. After a couple of days, she saw her family doctor, who diagnosed neck and back sprain and strain and told her to rest and take anti-inflammatories. (More: Common Car Accident Injuries.)
Amanda wasn't any better after a week, so she saw a chiropractor. After two months of chiropractic treatment and home exercises, Amanda felt 60% better. She continued with chiropractic treatment for another month, and felt 90% better. After another two months, she felt completely recovered. Amanda works in a dry cleaners. She stayed home from work for three weeks. She went back to work even though she was still in pain because she needed the money.
Amanda needs to be aware of Maryland’s statute of limitations, which is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit.
In Maryland, the statute of limitations for car accidents is three years. So any lawsuit -- whether by a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or anyone else -- must be started in court within three years from the date of the accident, or the right to file it at all will almost certainly be lost.
If you can’t settle your case well before the statute of
limitations expires, it may be time to contact a Maryland car accident
lawyer. (Learn more about Car Accidents and the Lawsuit Process.)
You want to make sure that the adjuster has all of the medical and financial documentation that supports your claim for damages. You also want to make sure that the adjuster has all of the information necessary to evaluate who was at fault in the accident. This is especially important in a case like Amanda’s, where proving liability may be difficult because she pulled out into traffic and the other driver is claiming that Amanda pulled out too quickly.
Unfortunately, Maryland has a very strict shared fault rule for personal injury cases. In fact, Maryland doesn’t allow shared fault. It follows a “contributory negligence” rule, which says that you cannot receive money damages if you are found to have been even the slightest bit at fault in the accident. Even if you prove that the other driver was negligent, and you are found to be only 1% at fault, you can’t recover anything. So, in a case like Amanda’s where the other driver is claiming that Amanda was negligent, she needs to make absolutely sure that the adjuster knows or believes that she was not at fault. (Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)
As mentioned above, you want to settle your claim or file a lawsuit (or at least turn the case over to a lawyer) well before the statute of limitations time period runs out. But you also don’t want to settle it too early -- meaning before you are either fully recovered or are as good as you are going to get. This is known as reaching "maximum medical improvement" or MMI.
In Amanda’s case, she was at MMI, and so she was ready to settle.
It's important to note that the other driver may carry only the minimum amount of liability insurance required under Maryland car insurance laws. If your medical bills and other damages exceed those minimums, but the other driver carries no additional coverage, then an insurance settlement may not cover your losses. In that situation, you may want to talk to an attorney about your other options.
In Amanda’s case, her out-of-pocket (compensatory) damages total $9,750. The breakdown looks like this:
Amanda and her attorney decide that another $17,000 in damages is appropriate to compensate for Amanda’s pain and suffering in connection with the accident, and they make an initial demand of $27,500 to settle the claim. After negotiating with the insurance adjuster, Amanda accepts a final settlement of $12,500.
Learn more about Settling a Car Accident Case.