Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Car accidents generate a lot of harmful force.  When a car suddenly collides with something or gets hit by another vehicle, the occupants inside get forcefully propelled in the direction of the impact.  Inside the confines of a car, this physical propulsion is usually stopped by another impact with a door, window, seat belt or airbag.  Both the sudden forward movement and the sudden stop put acute stress on the spine and neck.  These critically important areas of the body are most vulnerable in an auto accident.

The violent forward and stopping the movement of occupants in a car accident is commonly called “whiplash” and is one of the leading causes of back injuries in an auto accident. Injuries to the lower back can be extremely painful and notoriously difficult to treat and recover from. This article will focus on the possible causes of lower back pain that occurs after a car accident.

Mechanics of Pain in Lower Back After Car Accident

If you have a herniated disc injury, the results of your MRI will be crucial to the settlement value or trial value of your case.  The insurance adjusters and lawyers will likely spend more time debating the significance of your MRI than any other part of your case.

Why so much debate of radiological films we can all see?  The reality is that you can look at two identical MRIs.  One patient will be in extreme pain.  The other will not even know that she has a herniated disc.  This is the backdrop for the battle over the value of these claims.

Our law firm has had a lot of success in these cases.  Let’s talk about herniated disc injury cases and the significance of the MRI results to your claim.

I read an interesting article in the European Spine Journal titled “The association between a lifetime history of a neck injury in a motor vehicle collision and future neck pain: a population-based cohort study.”

Yes, that’s a big title. But the study looked at an incredibly simple issue: are neck injuries in car accident a harbinger of neck pain later in life after the injury has resolved. So the study looked at the association between a lifetime history of neck injury from a motor vehicle collision and the development of troublesome neck pain.

The answer was what plaintiffs’ car accident lawyers were sure to tell you would be the case: patients with a history of neck injury in a traffic collision are more likely to experience future neck pain.

When I’m in another state, particularly on the West Coast, I’m always amazed at how far our culture extends. Going to Starbucks in Seattle is like getting Starbucks in Baltimore; people look the same, act the same, and largely talk to the same way (although they don’t seem to know how to say “hon”).

But, boy, when it comes to the risk of accidental death, its like we all live in separate and very different countries. New Mexico residents are nearly three times more likely to die as a result of injuries than inhabitants of New Jersey. Mississippi residents are about four times (get that, four times!) more likely to die in motor vehicle accidents than those in Massachusetts or New York. Statistics can put you to sleep sometimes, but these are incredible. I’m not even sure I believe it.

You can find the results of the study and see how Maryland does here. (Sneak preview: we are pretty safe here.)

As a matter of law, I believe that the uninsured motorist carrier cannot require any statement – recorded or otherwise – from their insured after a car accident. Notwithstanding the fine print language in almost every Maryland car insurance contract that requires a statement, Maryland law requires your own car insurance company to pay all damages that the insured is entitled to from the person that caused the accident up to the uninsured motorist limit, if the “bad guy” has insufficient insurance.

The Maryland high court has affirmed that Maryland insurance law substantially rewrites car insurance contracts and that provisions that are not authorized by Maryland law are unenforceable. This would clearly seem to fall into that category because, if the insurance company is imposing any additional conditions on payment, then it is not providing the compensation required by the statute.

So you can just ignore your own insurance company’s request for a recorded statement just like you can ignore the at-fault driver’s insurance company’s request for a statement, right? Not so fast. The law I just gave you is what I call “The Law According to Laura.” This law comes with an important caveat: it is often wrong. The Maryland Court of Appeals has never ruled on this issue and could disagree completely or limit the coverage without a recorded statement to the minimal limits.

I disagree with insurance companies as to how prevalent the practice is, but there is no doubt that many people either exaggerate their injuries in car accidents or manufacture the injuries altogether. This we know.

What is an SIU?

Insurance companies set up “special investigation units” called “SIU” (GEICO) or some other similarly covert sounding name to try to determine whether victims in car accident cases are clients that are exaggerating the scope of their injuries, getting unnecessary medical treatment to try to increase the value of their case, or even staging the car accident. The SIU units of insurance companies try, as GEICO puts it, “to detect, deter, and defeat insurance fraud.”

Reason #75,353: Nuggets like this one I just found on how car insurance adjusters view diminished value claims.

    There are rarely statutory guidelines that govern how much is owed, if anything, due to diminution of value. After all, is there really any diminished value until the owner sells the car, discloses the accident and suffers diminished value as a result of the disclosure?

Do you realize you just said this in your out loud voice?

When you settle a large case with a minor in Maryland, the parties typically file what is called a “friendly suit” advising the court of the settlement – and asking the court to bless the agreement.

Maryland law does not require this. This does not, naturally, stop defense lawyers from demanding that you file a friendly suit. They do it this way because, arguably, the law required it before 2004 and because they think – probably incorrectly – that a judge’s blessing gives them more protection in the event that the minor seeks to disavow the settlement.

To file a friendly suit, you file your lawsuit along with a joint motion for settlement and a draft order for the court to sign.

Accident lawyers can’t help but to homogonize insurance companies. But the reality is that they are all very different with different models and agendas.

On our Maryland car accident claim overview on our website, we provide on the bottom right hand side a summary of our lawyers’ thoughts on dealing with 18 – count them, 18! – insurance companies who handle claims in Maryland.

David Stratton, a defense lawyer with Jordan Coyne & Savits, provides a link on his blog to an interactive map that shows the location of road accident fatalities between 2001 and 2009. If you allow yourself to move past the dry statistics and really think about what you are seeing – even for an instant – it is terribly depressing. It makes me wonder: exactly how much would it cost – in time and money – to cut this figure in half? Lower the speed limits? Require car makers to build safer cars? More restrictions on truck drivers? I’m not saying we should do this. But I sure would like someone to do an estimate so we can figure out what the tab would be.