We’ve blogged about how to calculate a Maryland automobile accident case value. Our clients understandably want to know exactly what the process is to move a case toward settlement.
When we are initially contacted, we’ll take care of all of the immediate details—work out the personal injury protection (PIP) claim, iron out the property damage issues and send letters to all of the involved insurance companies and medical providers. Serious settlement discussions usually begin after our clients are finished with medical treatment.
Why You Shouldn’t Usually Settle Until You Are Done With Medical Treatment
Most settlements are final. What this means is that a settlement in an automobile accident case is the last thing to happen in that case. If a client accepts a settlement, the negligent driver and his insurance company are no longer on the hook for any damages or injuries. So if a victim settles his case, and then two months later his doctors tell him that he needs surgery, he will not be able to go back to the insurance company and request more money. These settlement agreements (called releases) always contain provisions preventing victims from coming back for more.
So the risk of settling early is that if the medical injuries aren’t completely known or understood, the auto accident victim may be forever prevented from fully recovering for those injuries.
Some accidents cause injuries that can never be completely healed. In these cases, we may wait until the client is at maximum medical improvement before we attempt to settle a case. Maximum medical improvement (MMI) means that there is nothing more a doctor can do to improve his patient’s condition, aside from pain management or routine care. In these situations our client will usually have a claim for future pain and suffering damages.
When our clients end medical treatment because they are 100% better, or because they reach maximum medical improvement, we work to order the remaining medical bills and records. When we have all of the evidence we need to prove the claim (lost wage information, medical information, pictures of the property damage, the police report, witness statements and the like) we send a demand letter to the negligent driver’s insurance company. That letter typically includes the medical records and bills, and evidence in the case. It will usually contain our summary of the evidence, and our position on why the other driver is responsible for the car accident.
Usually within 30 to 45 days (depending on how busy the adjuster is) of sending that demand letter, the insurance company’s adjuster will call us back and make us an offer. We will figure out how much our client will get after accepting the offer—our evaluation will take into consideration outstanding medical bills, PIP payments, insurance liens, attorneys’ fees and case expenses. We want our clients to know exactly what they are getting when they settle a case, and we will make sure they know how much they will get at the end of the day.
Then we’ll call the client up and explain the settlement offer. We give our recommendation about the value of the case, and let the client decide where to go from there. Usually, we will continue negotiations for the next few weeks or months, until an acceptable settlement number is agreed on, or until we decide that further negotiations would be fruitless.
If the insurance company won’t settle the case for what it’s worth, we will file a lawsuit in the appropriate court and prepare our client for trial. These cases sometimes settle later, particularly after a knowledgeable defense lawyer gets involved in the accident lawsuit.
If the case does settle, the insurance company will usually send us a release to be signed by our client. When that’s done, we get the insurance check, which we deposit into our safe lawyer escrow account. When that account clears a week later, we write checks to our client and all of the medical providers (if we are so instructed by our client).
If you have questions after an automobile accident in Maryland or West Virginia, contact our personal injury lawyers at 1-800-776-4529, or send us some brief information about your automobile accident to us through our online portal. We’ll put our expertise to work for you right away.
More Maryland Automobile Accident Information
- Maryland Insurance 101: Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
- Maryland Insurance 101: Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM)
- What’s My Maryland Automobile Accident Worth?
- Ingerman & Horwitz: Main Auto Accident Webpage