This booklet provides important information that you will need to protect yourself when you are involved in a motor vehicle collision. Failure to take certain actions following an incident will unfairly limit your rights. Combating the dangerous tactics of insurance companies requires the involvement of an experienced and effective legal counselor.
Before you enter the roadway as a passenger or driver, it is wise to understand some basics covered in this booklet, such as:
This booklet is not intended to be a comprehensive thesis on your legal rights. Every situation differs and laws change. However, a knowledge of your legal rights will guide you in aggressively defending yourself after an accident.
Your Fundamental Legal Rights
If you have been involved in a collision, the law provides you with specific legal rights. These rights have developed over hundreds of years through our courts and legislatures. They are intended to ensure that you receive fair compensation for losses caused by the negligence of others.
But as with many rights in our democracy, these rights are only ideals or promises. Without a working understanding of our system, those ideals will not be fulfilled. There are many obstacles individuals will confront opposing their claims for compensation. The other driver will often present a different version of events. A police officer may not have sufficient information to assess the responsible party. Insurance companies will diligently search for reasons to deny your claim. The courts and juries will require strong evidence of the legitimacy of your case. Consequently, it is best to have an experienced advocate at your side through the entire process. And it is important to know your rights.
You have a right to be:
- Compensated for the effect that injuries have on your general physical and mental health;
- Compensated for physical pain and mental anguish suffered in the past, and for related effects which may be experienced in the future;
- Compensated for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment and disfigurement;
- Compensated for an aggravation or worsening of a previous condition;
You have a right to:
- The fair market value of your motor vehicle if the costs to repair exceed the fair market value;
- Reimbursement for all repair costs to your vehicle;
- Repair or replacement of any other personal property which has been damaged or destroyed by the accident;
- Use of a rental car while your automobile is being repaired, at no cost to you.
- Be reimbursed for the transportation cost to and from the medical facility;
- Be compensated for your car’s loss of value because its re-sale value is diminished, even if it has been restored to its former condition.
You have a right to:
- Obtain the medical care of your choice;
- Be compensated for medical expenses reasonably and necessarily incurred in the present, and reasonably expected in the future.
You have a right to
- Recover any lost wages, loss of earning capacity, or loss of income resulting from the accident.
To aggressively pursue these rights, contact the Law Office of Frank A. Kirsh, L.L.C.
A collision is rarely an accident. A collision occurs because a person makes a mistake. If a reasonable person would not make this mistake, our laws characterize this action as negligence. If a person is deemed negligent, they are responsible for all damages connected with the collision. If people would drive safely, there would be very few collisions. All drivers are legally obligated to comply with the rules of the road.
How To Handle A Collision
The increasing number of motor vehicles using our crowded roadways has resulted in more accidents and greater risks behind the wheel. Drivers with long commutes in heavy traffic are often tired, frustrated and in a rush. Under current trends, the probability of the average person being involved in a collision will continue to rise.
You can limit your exposure to the threat of a collision by following all traffic regulations and using defensive driving skills. Additionally, the use of safety belts and the proper adjustment of your head restraint on your seat to a position directly behind your head may reduce injuries.
But unfortunately, you must be prepared for an accident.
The daily routine of safely driving your car quickly evaporates when another person acts carelessly and involves you in an accident. Suddenly, you lose control of the wheel and hear a loud smashing sound as you are hit. Your body is thrown around the inside chamber and when the collision is over, you may experience immediate pain and disorientation.
Initially, you must attend to your own body. Use common sense in assessing your injuries. If you cannot move, do not try to move. In most circumstances, an ambulance will arrive quickly with medical personnel to attend to your condition.
If you are able to leave your car, make sure you first observe the entire scene. You may be in the middle of an intersection or other dangerous area where leaving your car would put you at additional risk. Take a moment to calm yourself. Before you open your door, have a general idea of where you want to go.
Legal Responsibilities at Scene
You must stop when you are involved in any accident. Failure to stop and provide your insurance information is a criminal offense. You should offer assistance to any injured persons. Do not move anyone who is badly injured unless there is danger for greater injury by leaving the person in place. If needed, call 911 and ask for an ambulance.
Both drivers must identify themselves to each other. Copy down information on the other driver’s license, vehicle tag number, vehicle registration and insurance. The forms in this booklet will aid you in getting complete information.
If you are at fault, or contributed to a collision, your rights are very limited. However, determination of legal responsibilities should be made by an experienced attorney. Even if you are at fault, you must act to protect yourself by obtaining this information at the outset.
Using This Booklet to Gather Information
You must do your best to collect evidence at the accident scene, and preserve it. It is extremely important that a permanent record be established describing the circumstances of the collision. Photographs are a valuable addition to this file. Carry a disposable camera in your glove compartment to take photographs of the vehicles and the scene. Remember, you cannot take too many photographs. Use your cellphone to take pictures of the positions of the cars, the entire scene, property damage, insurance cards, drivers’ licenses and any other relevant materials.
The police will not prepare a Crash Report if no person is removed from the scene by ambulance.
With their permission, take videos of the other driver and witnesses explaining their observations concerning the crash.
If possible, do not move your vehicle until a record of the accident has been made. Protect the scene, and help reroute traffic around the accident. Try to warn approaching motorists with flares, hazard lights, raising the hood of your car, etc.
Encourage all drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and other witnesses to remain at the scene until the arrival of the police. If they insist on leaving, write down their names, addresses, phone numbers, license plate numbers, and an account of what they saw. Your attorney should contact these witnesses to obtain signed statements of their observations.
Using the drawings on page __, make a diagram of the accident, showing the positions of the cars before, during, and after impact. Measure skid marks, note the positions of traffic lights and street signs, estimate the respective driving speeds, and record details of both the weather and road conditions.
Every effort should be made to request the police. A police officer will investigate the circumstances of a collision and produce a written report. This report will be of great importance in assessing responsibility. Failing to obtain a report may lead to the denial of your claim by your insurance company. A police report is also required for an uninsured motorist claim.
If you do not have access to a cellular telephone, direct a witness to call 911 for assistance. Upon arrival of the police, you should cooperate in their investigation. Tell all facts to the officer. Do not assume that the other driver and witnesses will agree with your version of events. If you fail to discuss your observations with the police officer at the scene, you may not get a fair evaluation of who is responsible for the accident.
If you receive a citation, you must sign it. This is not an admission of guilt. Before the police officer leaves, obtain his/her badge number along with the report number of this incident. Typically, the police will not prepare an incident report if there is no property damage or complaints of injury.
Dealing with the Question of Who Is At Fault
Whatever your perceptions of the accident may be at the time, do not admit to any fault. Discussion of the events with others at the scene may be misunderstood. Accidents are complicated, and you may need to look at the evidence before completely understanding the sequence of events. Aside from the police citation, do not sign any piece of paper or agree to pay for damages.
If you are experiencing any physical problems in the hours after the accident, it is recommended that you seek immediate medical attention. You should comply with the instructions of the ambulance crew at the scene. If no ambulance attends to your situation, consult with nearest emergency room of a hospital or physician. Obtaining care as soon as possible will improve your chances of a good physical recovery. Additionally, establishing a written record of your injuries and treatment, will minimize legal/insurance questions concerning the extent of your damages.
Contacting Insurance Companies
There are essentially two different claims that arise in the event of a collision. You have a claim with the insurance carrier of the vehicle you were operating or as a passenger. Secondly, you have a claim against the insurance carrier of the person at fault. Before contacting any insurance company, you should discuss your situation with the Law Office of Frank A. Kirsh L.L.C.. We will help you act as an informed consumer in your transactions with these companies.
You need to be aware of techniques that insurers use to reduce your claim. Insurance company employees are trained to limit claims. For example, insurance adjusters often ask drivers to provide recorded statements over the phone. In these conversations, they may encourage you to make statements that suggest you contributed to the collision or the extent of your injuries are minimal. Similarly, they may send you a check for damages before your case is closed which, through your endorsement, could waive important rights. Therefore, to protect yourself, all communication with insurance carriers should be through your attorney.
All drivers in the U.S. are required to maintain insurance coverage on their vehicles. Failure to comply with this mandate is a crime. Thus insurance carriers have a captive audience of millions of premium-paying drivers who are forced to buy car insurance. As a consumer of insurance, you need to know your legal rights so that you can obtain all the benefits of insurance that you are entitled to.
An insurance company, despite friendly appearances, is not looking out for you. An insurance company is in the business of making money for its shareholders. It succeeds by denying your claims, offering low settlements, and directing its own legal staff to minimize the cost of dealing with your auto accident.
When you bring in your own attorney, you strengthen your hand and balance the scales of justice. You also provide your insurer with an incentive to pay everything he is required to pay under law, quickly and without appeals.
Your Free Consultation with Our Law Office
If you have any questions about the accident, you should contact The Law Office of Frank A. Kirsh L.L.C. at (301)340-1049 or toll free at (800)309-4878 for a free consultation. We will advise you on how to best proceed with your claim, and caution you in areas which may affect your rights. When you retain our firm, you will not be committing yourself to out-of-pocket payment of our fees. We are paid on a contingency basis. This means that we receive one-third of your settlement.
Accident Readiness Supplies for Your Car
- Waterproof matches
- Flashlight with batteries
- Tape measure
- Disposable camera
- First aid kit
Following an investigation by the police at the accident scene, your vehicle may be towed if it is disabled or rendered unsafe to drive. If you have any reservations about operating your car, heed them and arrange alternative transportation through family, friends, a cab or the police officer. When your car is towed, it will typically be taken to a storage facility pending a decision concerning repairs. Your insurance carrier is responsible for the costs of towing and storage.
The insurance carriers — both yours and the insurer of the other car — are entitled to inspect your vehicle. You should provide them with the location of your vehicle without discussing the facts of the accident . If it is not convenient for you to transport your car to an inspection site, demand that the insurance carrier go directly to the location of your car. Before the insurance carriers appraise your vehicle, you should have color photographs taken of your car. Sign and date the back of the photographs.
You have complete authority to select the mechanic who repairs your vehicle. If you do not have a trusted mechanic, consult with friends and your attorney before a final selection. Your insurance carrier may recommend a shop but be aware that your insurer’s mechanic give you a low estimate for the repair. A lower estimate will often overlook details such as proper alignment, headlight adjustment, correct matching of paint colors, etc.
Your mechanic and/or body shop is required to provide you with an estimate of the expected costs. The estimate should be submitted to the insurance carrier. Ask your insurance carrier to authorize your mechanic to replace any parts from the original manufacturer. Recent studies have concluded that other grades of materials do not perform at the recommended levels of safety.
Using an Attorney for Maximum Reimbursement
Do not sign any releases until you are sure the insurance company will cover the cost of all repairs to your satisfaction and that they will give a check to the repair shop in a timely manner so that you can get your car back as soon as possible with no out-of-pocket expenses to you. An experienced personal injury attorney should review any release before you sign it.
If the cost of repairs is greater than the value of the car, the insurance company will offer to reimburse you only for what they consider to be the “fair market value” of the car. This figure will often be much lower than the purchase price of the vehicle because the insurance company (1) will deduct for depreciation of the automobile, (2) will not reimburse for your finance or preparation charges, and (3) may use a schedule which does not reflect the current fair and equitable value of the car.
You may lose money when the insurance company assesses the value of your vehicle, and controls how it will reimburse you. In these instances, an experienced and skillful negotiator can save you money by arguing for the true worth of the car to you, and demanding the most generous mode of reimbursement. A good attorney will manage your property damage quickly with the assurance of obtaining the maximum value of benefits.
The Law Office of Frank A. Kirsh, L.L.C. assists clients in negotiating property damage settlements and does not charge a fee or a percentage for this service. All of the money recovered for your damaged vehicle goes directly to you.
The anxiety and frustration of an automobile accident is quite often compounded by the inconvenience of losing the use of your vehicle. You have the right to the use of a rental car while your vehicle is out of commission. All expenses relating to the rental of this vehicle should be paid by whichever insurance company is liable for this coverage. Before you rent a car, you should contact your insurance agent to determine if your insurance coverage will transfer to the rental vehicle. Upon completion of the repairs to your car, the rental car must immediately be returned or you will be personally liable for late charges.
Your health is your most precious asset. After any traumatic episode, you should be thoroughly checked by qualified medical professionals. A visit to a hospital emergency room may assure the most thorough exam. Many doctors are associated with insurance companies that severely limit medical care.
A serious injury will have ramifications that affect many aspects of your life. Insurance companies tend to downplay the gravity of these ramifications. An experienced personal injury attorney is a crucial partner in offering guidance as you grapple with complex issues like permanent disability, prolonged loss of earning capacity, post-traumatic capacity, future medical complications, and more.
Fortunately, most auto accidents do not involve serious permanent injuries. They do, however, create trauma, stress, and pain for millions of people every year. The most common injuries sustained in car accidents are those to the head, neck and back. The impact of being rear-ended by another car, even at relatively low speeds, is sufficient to strain and injure the parts of the body which are connected to a very delicate spinal cord.
Here is what happens: When your automobile is struck from behind, the head is suddenly and forcefully moved beyond its normal extension. Then it abruptly recoils. Damage occurs to soft tissues in the neck and back which could affect ligaments, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, vertebrae and discs.
The medical and legal consequences of this type of injury are complex for several reasons. In most cases, the only evidence of the injury is the victim’s complaint. Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, stiffness, numbness and impaired vision as well as pains in the neck, arms, and lower back may show up immediately, or even days or weeks later. There is often no correlation between the severity of damage to your car and the severity of pain resulting from this type of injury.
Consequently, it is important (1) not to provide an opinion about your condition at the time of the accident unless you feel pain; (2) to be examined by doctors specializing in soft tissue injuries; and (3) to wait to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company until your doctors provide you with a written opinion concerning your future medical health. Many studies have concluded that these type of injuries leave victims with scar tissue, calcium deposits, premature arthritis, and other degenerative changes.
The Law Office of Frank A. Kirsh works with doctors from many disciplines on behalf of accident victims. These providers are capable of diagnosing and treating various symptoms and injuries caused by automobile accidents. Attorney Frank A. Kirsh seeks reimbursement for these medical expenses from all applicable insurance companies.
Post-Emergency Diagnosis and Treatment
Medical specialists, not general practitioners or family doctors, are usually best equipped to handle accident-related trauma because they see it every day. There are a variety of medical professionals involved in the treatment of injuries suffered by victims of automobile accidents. A radiologist interprets x-rays, M.R.I., CAT scans and other diagnostic tests. An orthopedist focuses on the joints, muscles, and bones. A neurologist specializes in diseases and injuries to the nervous system. These injuries may spring from seemingly insignificant events: A bump on the head may cause an injury as serious as a brain concussion. A sprain could result in pinched nerves which leave the patient with symptoms of numbness or tingling in the joints or extremities.
One doctor will oversee your medical case. He or she will interview you. You will be required to provide detailed information regarding your past physical condition and nature of your current complaints. Be sure to completely disclose prior physical problems so that your doctor can treat you effectively, and so that you remain believable to insurance carriers who may try to attack your credibility. Always communicate to your doctor all pain and limitations. This information will be recorded in your medical chart, and can be used to establish your damages.
After your first interview, your doctor will perform a complete examination using a variety of different tests. In a routine case, X-rays of your neck and back will be taken to determine if there is any visible damage. The doctor should review your x-ray film with you and discuss all pertinent findings. Based upon the initial examination and your progress during treatment, your doctor may request further medical tests to obtain more information regarding your condition.
The high cost of medical care requires management of these expenses by an experienced personal injury attorney. The Law Office of Frank A. Kirsh L.L.C. will contact your health care providers periodically updating the status of your case. All potential sources of payment of these bills will be explored. A doctor will typically wait until your case is resolved before demanding payment of his bill. You should seek treatment from those doctors who understand your financial situation and agree to this payment schedule. Because the costs of medical care are constantly rising, your settlement should include money for future treatment.
Maintain a Written Diary of Your Progress
Doctors will maintain a record of your progress during their treatment. However, to fully document the effect an automobile accident has had on your life, our law office strongly recommends that clients maintain a written diary detailing the limitations and problems involved in recovering from injuries. The primary purpose of this diary is to preserve evidence. If your claim is not resolved within a few months, you may not remember all of the difficulties you have encountered. By referring to this diary, your ability to communicate the full dimension of your injuries will be greatly improved.
You are legally entitled to recoup your losses in a number of areas after you have been involved in a collision. Every collision is unique, and our law office will explore every particular area with you. Here is a general description of those areas.
Following an injury and medical treatment, your body will need time to rest. If your occupation makes physical demands on you, you should advise your doctor. The doctor will provide you with a written disability note authorizing you to miss time from work. This authorization is usually limited to one week and will be reissued depending on your circumstances. To protect your job, keep your employer informed of your medical condition by submitting disability notes on a timely basis.
If your employer is pressuring you to return to work against your doctor’s orders, Attorney Frank A. Kirsh L.L.C.will immediately discuss this situation with him or her. Your loss income claim includes time missed from your job while recovering at home or traveling to and from your doctors, and any future impairment in your capacity to earn a living. Your attorney should obtain verification of these losses through your doctors and employer.
If you have Personal Injury Protection coverage though your own automobile insurance carrier, your loss income will be reimbursed at a reduced percentage. You are entitled to these funds even though you are still being paid at work if you have to use sick leave or vacation time.
Your legal entitlement to damages includes:
- All property damage-including repairs to your vehicle
- Use of a rental car
- Recovery of loss wages
- Recovery for future loss income
- Transportation costs to doctors
- Past and future medical expenses
- Any physical or mental disabilities
- Loss of consortium or sexual impotency
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
It is completely impossible for anyone other than yourself to fully understand the pain and suffering that result from an automobile accident. The United States has always recognized the right to receive compensation for pain and suffering when caused by the negligent. Our laws incorporate the obvious concept that human pain is real. It is not something that should be dismissed. It is something we should acknowledge. Insurance companies want the public to dismiss this principle. Fortunately, our laws continue to preserve protection to the people .
The Details of Your Insurance Coverage
The law requires all operators of motor vehicles to maintain an insurance policy. In obtaining a policy for your vehicle, you should consider (1) the value of your car (2) the net worth of your personal assets if you are responsible for an accident, and (3) how much you can afford. It is generally advised that you purchase the maximum level of protection because the small additional premium cost. Here are some highlights of your policy:
- Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability pays damages for which you are legally liable arising from injuries or death, or from damage to the property of others.
- Comprehensive covers loss or damage to your car resulting from perils such as fire, theft, vandalism, glass breakage, explosion, etc.
- Collision pays for damage to your car caused by impact with another automobile or object.
- Uninsured Motorist and Under Insured Motorist: If a driver of the other motor vehicle involved is legally liable, but either has no insurance, is under-insured, or is unknown, this coverage will pay you and occupants of your car for bodily injury.
- Medical Payments/Personal Injury Protection pays for reasonable medical expenses and loss income to certain defined limits resulting from an automobile accident. This coverage protects everyone in your car no matter who is liable for the accident. Additionally, you may be still covered if a resident in your household maintains this type of coverage. Filing a claim under this provision of your insurance policy should not increase your premiums.
- Automobile Liability Insurance coverage of the person/company responsible for your damages.
- Health Insurance obtained by you or your employer may pay for your medical expenses. Since every health plan is different, you should consult with your attorney to determine the qualifications of obtaining benefits.
To qualify for coverage, you must meet a variety of different requirements. Most importantly, each state has a time limit to file legal actions. If you miss these deadline, your rights will be waived forever. The long contracts of insurance carrier contain many provisions which often enable them to avoid paying your damages. Following an accident, I insist that my clients contact me immediately so that we can review all issues related to insurance and claims.
This booklet was designed to provide information concerning the protection of your legal rights. You are probably aware of extensive publicity attacking lawyers and the injured who seek monetary compensation for losses suffered as a result of the unreasonable actions of others. Insurance companies finance these campaigns to discredit attorneys and ridicule victims who rightly expect those companies to pay money in damages. It is in the interest of the insurance industry, like any business, to maximize profits and minimize expenses. Thus your insurer will fight to retain your premium payments and withhold money for your damages. These companies complain about huge damage awards and claim that the nation is in a litigation crisis, yet they aggressively pursue your premium dollars. Why would they continue to want your business if they were not making enormous amounts of money? The fact is that an individual who is unable to collect his rightful damages may be left impoverished and unable to obtain medical help. Attorney Frank A. Kirsh recognizes the necessity to aggressively represent the injured and restore them to the condition they were in before an accident.
As a trial lawyer, Attorney Frank A. Kirsh also understands the power of evidence. This booklet will serve as a guide to preserve and gather the best evidence to support your claim.
The Law Office of Frank A. Kirsh provides legal services to the injured on a contingency basis. If your claim is settled without filing a lawsuit, your only attorney’s fee will be one-third of the amount of the settlement. You should not seriously consider pursuing a claim against an insurance company without legal assistance. When an insurance company is informed that Frank A. Kirsh is your attorney, it will understand that legal action can commence without delay if your damages are not paid in full. If a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company will expose themselves to large judgments and the certainty of paying large fees to their attorneys. This threat of litigation encourages insurance companies to be more fair because it is in their financial best interests..
You should retain an attorney who you trust to protect your rights. Frank A. Kirsh is an attorney who will fight for you against a greedy insurance company.who sincerely cares that you obtain the maximum compensation for your damages.who will personally handle your claim, return all phone calls, mail copies of all paperwork and keep you informed throughout the course of your case. Frank A. Kirsh is also a respected litigator who believes that justice requires effective legal representation, and who will fight in court if a fair settlement is not reached.
For additional information contact us today.