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. If you have questions about a car accident you were involved in, contact a personal injury attorney at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. for a free consultation.
Liability means that someone else must be at fault for your injuries. The defendant driver must have violated some driving rules to establish liability in a car accident claim. Some examples of 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)
In most car accidents, one or more of these violations are present. If the other driver did not act unreasonably, proving that they are liable for your injuries might be difficult.
Evidence You May Need to Help Prove Liability
To win a car accident case, you will need evidence to support your claim that the other driver was at fault. An experienced auto accident lawyer will help you obtain evidence to prove that the negligent driver violated one or more of these driving rules.
This evidence can come in many forms, but some of the most common types of evidence in car accident cases include:
- Photos of the accident scene
- Contact information and names of witnesses
- Police reports
- The driver’s insurance information
- Medical records and bills
- Your testimony about what happened
This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of the type of evidence that will help prove your case. In most cases, accident victims have a limited time to take legal action, so it’s important to contact a car accident attorney immediately after the accident.
Do I Still Have a Case If I’m Partly at Fault?
In some states, you can still recover damages even if you’re partly at fault for the accident. This is called comparative negligence or contributory negligence. Comparative negligence laws vary by state, but they typically work like this:
- You can only recover damages if your percentage of fault is less than the other driver’s
- Your percentage of fault reduces your damages
For example, let’s say you were involved in an accident and the other driver was found to be 80% at fault. You would be able to recover damages, but your award would be reduced by 20% because that is your percentage of fault.
Pure Contributory Negligence
Unfortunately, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia have pure contributory negligence laws. Under pure contributory negligence, you would be barred from recovering any compensation if you were even one percent at fault.
Contact our office for a free consultation if you have questions about comparative negligence laws and how they apply to your case. Our car accident attorneys will help you understand your legal rights and options.
If the at-fault driver has broken a driving rule and caused an accident that 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 Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia drive without insurance coverage. If a driver hits you without insurance, you may be able to make an uninsured motorist claim against your own insurance company.
Other Coverage Sources
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., a 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 Washington, D.C. you may be able to recover against a restaurant or bar who served a visibly intoxicated customer. In cases where your injuries were caused by a defective product, you may also be able to hold a product manufacturer responsible for your injuries. These are just some examples of where you might find insurance coverage. You should talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer, who will do a thorough investigation to find any possible insurance coverage or other financial resources.
Finally, your car accident 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 might need to take a closer look at the medical records before accepting the case.
If you went to the emergency room and did not seek additional medical care for several weeks, the auto accident attorney may need an explanation for the delay in treatment. In general, seeking medical care and 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, the pain did not arise until several days after the accident, etc.)
Contact the Auto Accident Attorneys with Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.
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. We work to help our clients obtain fair settlement offers to compensate them for the injuries they’ve suffered, but our attorneys are extremely well-equipped to go to trial if needed.
Our personal injury lawyers have helped clients recover more than $500 million in compensation, and we have more than 100 years of combined experience. All of our partners are recognized by Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers®, and our firm includes three past presidents of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.
Call (202) 659-8600 or contact us online to get the proven legal representation you deserve.