Determining Fault After an Accident
Following a serious car accident, many people are confused and hurt and are unsure of what to do next. But after getting their bearings together, the gravity of being in an accident hits them, and they may start to wonder just how they will recover money to pay for their medical and property damage bills.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit is the best course of action when you have been hurt and your car has been damaged as a result of someone else’s negligence. But in order to win your personal injury lawsuit and get compensated for your pain and suffering, it must first be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the other driver was responsible for the accident. Therefore, proving fault after an accident is critical in order to be compensated for any injuries you sustained in an accident.
Usually, there are two ways that car accident cases proceed across the country: either the occurrence of the accident—and the circumstances surrounding it—are hazy in the mind of both drivers, or they are incredibly clear to one or both parties. Therefore, figuring out who is responsible—and thereby at fault in a car accident—could be fairly easily determined, or it could be a cause for speculation. When the cause of the accident is obvious, the at-fault driver’s insurance will usually settle before the case goes to trial. But if there is any slim chance that the victim is partially at fault, the whole case could be thrown out.
Determining Fault after an Accident in Maryland
A lot more goes into determining who is responsible for an accident than just the testimony of those involved in the accident. Generally, determining who is at fault in a car accident is relatively simple because the body of principles that will be used in a typical Maryland automobile accident is known as “The Rules of the Road”. These rules are outlined in Chapter 21 of the Transportation Article.
However, depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries sustained, determining fault can take a lot of time due to the processes of gathering of evidence, speaking to eyewitnesses, and obtaining police and medical reports. This is necessary and important because insurance company attorneys are experienced in confusing facts and data in order to influence a jury’s decision to follow the Maryland’s Contributory Negligence law. This is because the more money you are demanding for compensation, the more the at-fault party’s insurance attorneys are likely to try and look for a way to blame you for contributing to the accident in some way due to negligence. Below, we have provided all you need to know about car accident negligence laws in the state of Maryland
Car Accident Negligence Laws in Maryland
The state of Maryland practices at-fault car insurance, meaning that when a driver causes a car accident, he or she will be responsible for paying for any resulting damages and medical bills. These fees are commonly paid through the driver’s car insurance policy.
Essentially, if you are involved in an accident that was caused by another driver’s negligent actions, you have three different options in seeking compensation:
- You can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company;
- You can file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault driver; or,
- You can also file a claim with your own insurance policy if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, but this usually depends on your coverage type.
Regardless of which option you proceed with in filing a case, in order for you to recover full compensation for your losses you need to prove without a doubt that the other driver was solely responsible for the accident. As we stated above, the extent of your injuries and damages—as well as the amount of compensation being sought out—will increase the chances that the at-fault driver’s insurance agency attorneys will accuse you of contributory negligence, thus leading to a formal trial that could go in your favor, or in theirs.
Contributory Negligence and How it Affects Your Personal Injury Claim
Maryland is one of four states to uphold contributory negligence laws, which state that the victim forfeits any right to compensation if they are found to be even partially at fault for a car accident that resulted in their injuries and damages. What this means is that if the at-fault insurance company is able to prove that you are in any way remotely to be blamed for the severity of the accident, you will likely be barred from receiving any compensation.
Many people find the contributory negligence rule to be very harsh to victims. Other states practice a more lenient Comparative Negligence rule, which states that the amount of money received in the compensation will be in direct proportion to the victim’s degree of fault in the accident. There have been several proposed changes to this law in Maryland, but since it is the current default law across the state, getting the legal counsel of experienced personal injury attorneys is one of the first and most important things you should do after being involved in an accident.
As a result of the contributory negligence laws in Maryland, proving that the at-fault driver was completely responsible for the accident—and thus, proving you deserve full compensation for your injuries—is quite difficult unless the necessary steps are taken by experienced personal injury attorneys such as those at Otway Russo.
Speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, and distracted driving are examples of what might be considered contributory negligence. Regardless of how insignificant these actions might seem when compared to the other driver’s recklessness, who was possibly drunk or ran a red light, you will be unable to recover any compensation if it can be proven you were responsible for any of the actions leading up to the accident.
Importance of Proving Fault and Steps to Take After an Accident
Car accident negligence laws in the state of Maryland are very strict, but yet can still be interpreted to either favor the victim (to receive compensation) or the responsible driver (the victim receives nothing). The outcome depends on the expertise of your personal injury attorney, as well as the evidence available to tell a compelling story.
With that in mind, there are some things that can be done right after an accident that will work in your favor, should the at-fault party’s insurance company try to put the blame on you in an effort to avoid paying any compensation. The first thing would be to call the police. The police report is a very important piece of evidence that can be used to sway a jury to your side should the case go to trial. When the police arrive, try not to reveal too much to them if there is any possibility you might be at fault because what you say could be used against you in court. Therefore it is important you let the scene of the accident tell the story.
Another thing you can do is to see if there are any witnesses available who will be willing to go on record and testify against the other driver as being responsible for the accident. Finally, you should take photos of the accident scene yourself. While the police will take photos when they arrive, it will be several minutes after the incident occurred. Taking a picture immediately after the accident is a much more substantial piece of evidence. Other types of evidence that will prove useful in your personal injury lawsuit include:
- Medical records detailing the extent of your injuries and how they may have been incurred;
- Evidence from the scene of the accident such as skid marks, debris, traffic signs that may have been ignored and the speed limit to determine who may have been over speeding;
- Information from the Electronic control module (ECM) installed in both cars; and,
- Video footage from nearby CCTV cameras or mobile phones of eyewitnesses.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney at Your Side
Insurance companies typically want to make as much money as possible, and will use every trick in the book to discredit your claim in order to avoid paying you any compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, damages and pain and suffering. Unless you have an experienced personal injury attorney with a proven record of wins and settlements, they will win in their efforts to not pay you a dime. All they have to do is prove you were contributory to your accident—and thus, your own injuries and damages.
To avoid such a scenario, we encourage you to reach out to us today. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident and wish to file a personal injury lawsuit, it is essential you let one of our experienced attorneys handle your case. You can take the first step today and contact us for a no-obligation consultation before you speak to any insurance adjuster or sign any forms. We have successfully helped other people get claims in Maryland, and we would love to help you too.