FAQ

Answers to Your Most Common Auto Accident and Personal Injury Questions—Provided Directly By Our Experienced Attorney

We hope our website will serve as an educational resource for anyone struggling with the aftermath of an auto accident or other personal injury. With that goal in mind, we have put together an informative library of answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Auto Accidents and Personal Injury Law.

Following an accident, your brain will likely be flooded with questions as you strive to understand the complex and often stressful medical, insurance, financial, and of course legal processes that you will be faced with. Our attorney, Meliha Pérez Halpern, has personally provided insightful and practical responses to many of the most common questions we’ve heard from personal injury victims in the past. If you have a specific question that isn’t answered here, we hope you will give us the opportunity to answer it directly and provide you with further guidance regarding your unique situation by scheduling a free consultation today

Answers to Your Most Common Auto Accident and Personal Injury Questions—Provided Directly By Our Experienced Attorney

1. What is the most important thing for me to do now that I have been injured?

Seek medical treatment and recover from your injuries! In fact, the law requires that you do what is necessary to improve your physical condition and recover from your injuries. You must be your own advocate with your medical providers to make sure you seek out and get the medical attention you need. The emergency room treatment is there to give you an initial evaluation. If you continue to experience pain, you should follow-up with your own medical providers and/or physical therapist.    

You also need to report the accident to both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company. Many insurance carriers will ask to record your statement about how the accident happened. While there may come a time when you are REQUIRED to do that with your own insurance company, you are NOT required to do it with the other driver’s insurance company. You have the right to say no to other driver’s insurance company when they ask your permission to record your statement.

 

2. Does my immigration status affect my ability to file a personal injury claim?

In Maryland, DC, and Virginia, a person has a right to make a personal injury claim REGARDLESS of his/her immigration status. You do not have to have a social security number, valid working papers, or a valid immigration status to go forward with a personal injury case.  

Regardless of how you come into the country, you have a right to make a claim for all medical treatment that is reasonable, necessary, and related to the accident. You also have a right to make a claim for your pain and suffering based on those injuries, plus the right to make a lost wage claim for any time you missed from work.

To make a lost wage claim, you must be able to prove you lost wages and a medical provider must confirm that you could not work due to your accident-related injuries. Depending on whether your injury occurred in DC, Maryland, or Virginia, you may or may not be able to make a future lost wage claim.

 

3. My insurance company tells me that I have “Personal Injury Protection” benefits available. What does that mean?

Personal Injury Protection benefits are often referred to as “PIP.” PIP can pay some of your medical bills, lost wages, etc. for injuries resulting for a car accident regardless of who is at fault.  This means that some of your medical expenses and/or lost wages can be paid even if the other driver’s insurance company claims that their driver was not to blame for the accident. PIP is handled solely through your own insurance company or the insurance of the car you were in, regardless of who is at fault for the accident.

Many states require PIP as part of any auto insurance policy. This protects drivers from having to pay their medical bills out of pocket after being the victims of accidents. However, a lot of states do not require PIP. In Maryland, you may waive PIP protection to pay less for your auto insurance. PIP insurance in Maryland, and most states, is not very expensive, so waiving this cheap insurance to save only a few dollars is NOT recommended. You should have this important coverage for the few extra dollars it costs on an annual basis.

Maryland PIP will pay your medical bills and/or 85% of your lost wage claim, up to your PIP policy limit (usually between $2,500 and $10,000). It is important to check your policy to learn your limit of coverage.

 

4. If I use my PIP benefits, will my insurance premium go up?

Since PIP benefits cover you no matter who is at fault of the accident, insurance companies do not increase your insurance premium for using PIP benefits. You pay for these PIP benefits every month as part of your insurance premium. Therefore, they are available to you, and should be used to assist you while you are receiving medical care and while the other driver’s insurance company is investigating the claim.  

Your insurance company will also look at the facts of the case. If you are not the at-fault driver, yet still filed a PIP claim in order to receive the compensation you deserve, then your insurance company cannot change your rate. This does not necessarily apply, however, if you were the at-fault driver. In other words, PIP is not a claim that causes your rates to increase, the reason for this is because PIP is “no fault” insurance. It does not matter who was at fault for you to collect PIP benefits, and therefore your rates cannot increase.

 

5. Do I have to sign the “Medical Authorization” I received from the other driver’s insurance company?

You should only sign the Medical Authorization you received from the other driver’s insurance company if you really do not care who sees your confidential medical records. Of course, you should care.  

The sad truth is that the very person you will have to work with from the other driver’s insurance company is going to be the one trying to give you as little money as possible to compensate you for your injuries. This, of course, is not fair, but the insurance adjuster only cares about keeping their expenses low, including the money you are probably entitled to and should be collecting.

Typically, the medical authorizations sent by insurance companies are very broad and they are capable of delivering to the insurance company all kinds of information about you, whether it is relevant to your injuries or not. They could get 10 or 15 years of your private medical records without you ever knowing! We suggest that you get your own records from the doctors who are treating you for your injuries and make sure the records are accurate. Once you have reviewed them to make sure they are accurate, you can then send those records to the insurance company directly.

 

6. My insurance company tells me that I have “Medical Payment/MedPay” benefits available. What does that mean?

Medical Payments benefits are often referred to as “MedPay.” MedPay can pay some of your medical bills for injuries resulting for a car accident regardless of who is at fault. This means that some of your medical expenses can be paid even if the other driver’s insurance company claims that their driver was not to blame for the accident. MedPay is handled solely through your own insurance company or the insurance of the car you were in, regardless of who is at fault for the accident, but you MUST have gotten the coverage. Unlike in Maryland where this type of benefit is automatic, you have to elect or ask for the coverage to be added to your insurance policy.

Adding MedPay coverage protects drivers from having to pay their medical bills out of pocket after being the victims of accidents. In Virginia, if you add MedPay coverage to your auto insurance policy and have more than one car on that policy, your MedPay coverage stacks. For example, if you bought $1,000.00 in MedPay benefits and have two cars on your policy, you would actually have a total of $2,000.00 of MedPay coverage for an accident. MedPay insurance in Virginia is not expensive, so you should add this important coverage for the few extra dollars it costs on an annual basis.

If you have health insurance, your Virginia MedPay, will pay your out of pocket expenses (i.e. your deductible or co-pays) for your medical bills after they have been process by your health insurance carrier, up to your MedPay policy limit (usually $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 in limits). It is important to check your policy to learn your limit of coverage.

 

7. If I use my MedPay benefits, will my insurance premium go up?

Since MedPay benefits cover you no matter who is at fault of the accident, insurance companies do not increase your insurance premium for using your MedPay. You pay for these benefits every month as part of your insurance premium. Therefore, they are available to you, and should be used to assist you while you are receiving medical care and while the other driver’s insurance company is investigating the claim.  

Your insurance company will also look at the facts of the case. If you are not the at-fault driver, yet still filed a MedPay claim in order to receive the compensation you deserve, then your insurance company cannot change your rate. This does not necessarily apply, however, if you were the at-fault driver.  In other words, MedPay is not a claim that causes your rates to increase, the reason for this is because MedPay is “no fault” insurance, it does not matter who was at fault to receive MedPay benefits, and therefore your rates cannot increase.

 

8. Should I give a recorded statement to any of the insurance adjusters?

Many auto insurance policies require that the insured (YOU) cooperate with them as part of the duties for you to obtain coverage. Sometimes part of that cooperation means you must give a recorded statement. Before giving your own insurance company a recorded statement, you can offer to give them a written statement. If you decide you are comfortable giving your own insurance company a statement, be sure to do it at a time that is convenient to you, where you are not distracted, and when you can pay full attention to the questions so that you provide the most accurate answers possible. Be sure to listen to the question and only answer the question that you are being asked. Try to keep your answers short and to the point.

You are NOT under any obligation to give the other driver’s insurance company a recorded statement. If you do, you are basically giving them free information that they can use while evaluating your claim. Again, you can offer to given them a written statement, or agree to give them a statement, but not authorize them to record the questions and answers.

 

9. How will my medical bills get paid?
a. Health Insurance:

The first place to submit your medical bills for payment is your own health insurance, if you have it. If you went to the emergency room (ER) for treatment, the ER providers will try to submit your bills to your own auto insurance company to be paid under your PIP benefits. Depending on the benefits you have under your health insurance coverage, you may also be able to get the medical bills for the remainder of your treatment paid by your health insurance. If you use your health insurance for your treatment, typically you will have to pay your co-pay or deductible at each visit. Also, you should be aware that most health insurance companies will have a right of subrogation (reimbursement) of the funds they paid out for you if you are able to settle the case with the other driver’s auto insurance company.

If you do not have health insurance, some medical facilities will hold your bill (if you have a lawyer) until your case has concluded. Others, however, will require payment for medical services at the time they are rendered.  

b. Maryland PIP:

In you are in a car insured in Maryland, the second place to submit your medical bills for payment is your own auto insurance company to be paid under your Maryland PIP coverage (see #3 above). Once you have a PIP claim number from your insurance company, you simply provide the claim number to your doctors and they will submit the medical bills to your PIP carrier directly, until you have reached your policy limit! PIP will pay up to 100% of your medical bills and/or up to 85% of your lost wages until you have reached your policy limit.

c. Virginia Medical Benefits (MedPay):

In you are in a car insured in Virginia, the second place to submit your medical bills for payment is your own or the host’s vehicle’s auto insurance company to be paid under your Virginia MedPay coverage (see #6 above). Once you have a MedPay claim number from your insurance company, you simply provide the claim number to your doctors and they will submit the medical bills to your MedPay carrier directly, until you have reached your policy limit!

 

10. How can I figure out what my case is worth?

The truth is that the value of your case is depends on quite a few factors. The first would be the total medical bills from your accident. You won’t know how much those bills are until you are finished with your medical treatment. Next, you may be entitled to recover any wages you lost as a result of missing work due to your injuries. This calculation could include long-term/future lost wages if the injury prevents you from doing your job anymore, such as if you lose the use of one of your arms and you are a mechanic (which requires use of both arms)!

Even after those numbers are added up, there is no mathematical formula that can be used to determine the exact value of your case. Each and every case is 100% different – the value sometimes simply depends upon the people you are dealing with, whether they are insurance adjusters, opposing attorneys, or a jury of your peers. You should speak to an attorney about your case to learn more.

 

11. What is a Contingent Fee Agreement?

A “Contingent Fee Agreement” is an agreement between a lawyer and a client that the lawyer will ONLY get paid for their services IF there is money received by the client at the end of negotiations or trial. The attorney agrees to accept a fixed percentage of the money received at the end of the claim/case.  If you win a case (by settlement or at trial), the lawyer’s fee comes directly out of the money you receive for your injuries. If you lose, however, neither you nor the lawyer will get any money, AND you will not be required to pay your lawyer for the work done on your case.

There are cost and expenses associated with personal injury claims that must be paid regardless of the outcome. Such costs/expenses include, but are not limited to, the copying fees charged by your doctors for providing your medical records, the fee charged by the doctor’s billing company for providing a copy of your medical bill, and court fees (if a lawsuit needs to be filed).

 

12. What could prevent my claim from settling before we need to file suit?

There are usually several reasons why a case does not settle. Examples include:

  1. The insurance company believes that you and your attorney have asked for more money than they are willing to pay for the claim.
  2. There is a dispute/disagreement as to who caused the accident or the insurance company believes that you and/or some other party are solely or partially responsible for your own injuries.
  3. The insurance company does not “believe” that you were injured, or that you were injured as badly as you say.

These situations can be handled by filing a lawsuit after you have finished your medical treatment. Then, the insurance company would be required to pay whatever amount the judge or jury determines/finds is appropriate for your case (with some exceptions).

 

13. What happens if I am a passenger in a vehicle and I am injured?

As a passenger in a vehicle, you have insurance coverage available to you under the vehicle owner’s insurance policy. This applies even if you are injured as a result of your own driver’s negligence.  

There may also be benefits available to you under your own automobile insurance policy, if you own a vehicle. If you are injured as a passenger in a vehicle that is not insured, there are avenues that you may be able to take to seek recovery for your medical bills and related damages. There are strict deadlines in this situation, so you should contact an attorney immediately to make sure you do not miss important deadlines for making those claims.  

 

14. How long will my claim/case take?

Since every personal injury case is different, it is very difficult to determine how long your claim/case will take before reaching a settlement or a verdict. We do not advise negotiating a settlement with the opposing driver’s insurance company until after you have completed all of your medical treatment or a doctor has said that you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (i.e., that no additional treatment will be of benefit to you). The only exception to this standard is if you are getting close to the deadline required by law (i.e. the “Statute of Limitations”). In this scenario, you would file suit to protect your claim and work with your doctors to get proof of how much more treatment you will likely need in the future and how much that treatment might cost.  

It is important that you take your time healing and not “rush” only to try to settle your case. If you finish your treatment and are unable to reach a settlement with the opposing party’s insurance company, you will have to file a lawsuit.

In Maryland, a lawsuit in a personal injury case must be filed no later than 3 years from the date of the accident. Of course, a lawsuit can be filed at any time after it is determined that the insurance company is not going to settle, but simply must be filed before the 3-year Statute of Limitation. If a lawsuit is filed, you will then be at the mercy of the court system.  

In Virginia, a lawsuit in a personal injury case must be filed no later than 2 years from the date of the accident. Of course, a lawsuit can be filed at any time after it is determined that the insurance company is not going to settle, but simply must be filed before the 2-year Statute of Limitation. If a lawsuit is filed, you will then be at the mercy of the court system.  

In Washington, D.C., a lawsuit in a personal injury case must be filed no later than 3 years from the date of the accident. Of course, a lawsuit can be filed at any time after it is determined that the insurance company is not going to settle, but simply must be filed before the 3-year Statute of Limitation. If a lawsuit is filed, you will then be at the mercy of the court system.  

Depending on whether your case is in District Court or Circuit Court, it could take several years to obtain a settlement or a verdict/award from the court. It is important to note that just because a lawsuit is filed, does not mean that the case will go all the way to trial. Sometimes, the insurance company or their attorney will be more willing to settle a case after the lawsuit has been filed.

Regardless of whether your case reaches a settlement or you go to trial, it could take several years for your personal injury case to be resolved.