From a very broad perspective, if you are looking to hire a personal injury lawyer in an auto accident case, the lawyer will need three things: an injury, liability, and insurance coverage or some other means of recovery. In order to establish liability, the defendant driver must have violated some driving rule.
Typical violations include:
- Breaking the speed limit
- Driving unsafely for the weather conditions (e.g., not speeding but still driving too fast in snowy or rainy conditions)
- Following a vehicle too closely
- Failure to yield to oncoming traffic when making a left turn
- Failure to obey traffic signals or signs (e.g., running a stop sign or red light)
- Not seeing cars around the driver’s vehicle and changing lanes
- Not turning on headlights in dark lighting conditions
- Driving while intoxicated
- Driving the wrong way
- Failure to pay attention to the roadway (e.g., texting while driving)
If the at-fault driver has broken a driving rule and caused an accident which injured another driver or passenger, the next step is determining whether insurance coverage exists. There are a variety of potential coverage sources. The most common coverage source is the at-fault driver’s own insurance. Unfortunately, many drivers in the Washington, D.C. drive without insurance coverage. If you are hit by a driver without insurance, you may be able to make an uninsured motorist claim against your own insurance company.
In addition to the at-fault driver’s insurance, other potential coverage sources include an employer’s insurance policy if you were struck by a company truck, an owner’s insurance policy if you were hit by someone who had permission to use a car, or third parties in certain situations that caused or contributed to the accident (e.g., property owner who negligently allowed trees to grow over traffic signs, state or local governments that negligently designed a roadway). In Maryland, if you were hit by an underage drunk driver who procured alcohol at a party and was knowingly served by an adult at that party, you can also hold that adult liable. In cases where your injuries were caused by a defective product (e.g., Takata air bags), you may also be able to hold a product manufacturer responsible for your injuries.
Finally, the lawyer will examine the injuries. If there was an unusual delay in seeking medical treatment after the accident (more than 1-2 weeks, for example), the lawyer may need to take a closer look at the medical records before accepting the case. If you went to the emergency room and then did not seek additional medical care for several weeks, the lawyer may need an explanation as to the delay in treatment. In general, immediately seeking medical care and subsequently obtaining continuous treatment where necessary makes for a stronger case. But, as always, there are plenty of exceptions and good reasons why medical care was not immediately obtained (no insurance, pain did not arise until several days after the accident, etc.).
Of course, these are broad, generalized factors that play into the viability of a personal injury claim. All claims and individuals are distinct and there are many reasons why a particular individual or case may not fit these factors, but still has an excellent case. If you have been in a car accident, we encourage you to call us for a free legal consultation so we can analyze your unique situation.