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Washington DC Medical Malpractice > FAQ > Automobile Accidents

Washington DC Automobile Accidents FAQs

Q: What should I do if I’m involved in a traffic accident?

A: Take notes and report the accident. The most important thing you can do is to document the entire situation by taking careful notes soon after your accident. This step can help make the entire claim process easier on you — and increase your chances of receiving all the compensation to which you are entitled. Having notes to remind you of all the details of what happened, and what you went through, is far easier and far more accurate than relying on your memory. Write things down as soon as you can: Begin with what you were doing and where you were going, the people you were with, the time, and the weather. Finally, make daily notes of the effects of your injuries. You may suffer pain, discomfort, anxiety, loss of sleep, or other problems which are not as visible or serious as another injury, but for which you should demand additional compensation.

Q: What determines who is responsible for a traffic accident?

A: Figuring out who is at fault in a traffic accident is a matter of deciding who was careless. And, for vehicle accidents, there is a set of official written rules telling people how they are supposed to drive and providing guidelines by which liability may be measured. These “rules of the road” are the traffic laws that everyone must learn to pass the driver’s license test. Complete rules are contained in each state’s vehicle code, and they apply not only to automobiles but also to motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.

Sometimes a violation of one of these traffic rules is obvious and was clearly the cause of an accident — for example, when one driver runs a stop sign and crashes into another. In other situations, whether or not there was a violation won’t be as clear. For example, a car crash that occurs when two drivers both merge into a single lane of traffic at the same time.

Q: Can I be found liable if my car is rear-ended in a crash?

A: If someone hits you from behind, the accident is virtually always that driver’s fault, regardless of the reason you stopped. A basic rule of the road requires that a driver be able to stop safely if a vehicle stops ahead of the driver. If the driver cannot stop, he is not driving as safely as the person in front of him.

Q: What should I do after a car accident?

A: The first thing you should do is make sure everyone involved seeks immediate medical attention. You can do this by calling 911 or, if you appear unhurt, by going to the nearest hospital for a complete checkup. You should also call the police. Some important things to remember to get from the accident include:

  • Any other driver’s information including their full name, driving license number, address, phone number and their insurance card information.
  • The make, model, VIN (vehicle identification number), color and license plate number of all vehicles involved.
  • Information from all passengers and witnesses to the accident, sometimes just a business card or email address can be enough.
  • Get the names and ID numbers of all police who arrive at the scene, even if no police report is written.
  • Make a note of conditions in the area including time of day, weather, traffic and any other physical conditions of the area which may include lighting, debris, sidewalks, pedestrians and others.
  • Pictures of the area that the accident occurred in can also help your case. Take as many as possible and if you aren’t able to at the time of the accident, return to the scene and take pictures then.

Q: What if I can’t afford to hire a lawyer?

A: At Bertram & Amell, there is no cost to meet with a lawyer to discuss your case. If we decided to represent you, then we will work your case on a contingent fee basis only. A contingent fee is a small, preset percentage of a successful award. If we are unsuccessful in settling your case you do not pay us these fees. We are only ever paid at the conclusion of your case. Contingent fees allow the general public to hire experienced and professional lawyers without worrying about paying expensive legal fees. We can begin your case as soon as you contact us.

Q: What is uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage?

A: The purpose of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is to protect against situations where one party to the accident does not carry enough insurance or does not carry insurance at all. Therefore, the reason this coverage is required is to protect people against financially irresponsible people who have hurt others while operating an automobile, because of their own fault. If the uninsured or underinsured person is not at fault, most underinsured/uninsured motorist policies will not apply. Most states have statutes that require insurance companies to offer uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as a part of each automobile/vehicle insurance plan. In most places, an individual may be considered underinsured when his or her insurance policy coverage is not enough to fund the full amount of damages he or she is liable for due to an accident or other event covered by his or her policy. In other states, a person is considered underinsured when his or her insurance coverage maximum is less than the coverage maximum of the other individual’s (in the accident) policy. Of course, uninsured persons are those that do not carry automobile liability insurance.

Q: Who is usually included in my uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverage?

A: Generally, uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage will include the named insured (person who has the insurance policy) and the family members who reside in his or her household. Usually, the injured insured person and/or family member must be a passenger in the vehicle, a pedestrian injured by the vehicle or the driver of the vehicle in the accident. In the past, some insurance policies excluded coverage for the insured’s family members. However, these types of exclusions have been found invalid by most state laws. The only time such exclusion may be found valid is when the family members already have a separate insurance policy of their own. This type of exclusion is valid by most state laws because it is in the interests of public policy and the insurer. Along these lines, an insurance policy may not exclude a family member of the insured who is not covered by the policy, but who is injured while in a automobile that is owned by a family member who is covered by the insured’s insurance policy. Attorneys at Bertram & Amell are experienced and knowledgeable in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage laws in Maryland, Virginia and DC jurisdictions.

Q: As an employee, am I covered under my employer’s uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance policy?

A: It depends on the language of your employer’s uninsured/underinsured insurance policy. Depending on what the policy says, it will determine who is covered under that policy. The uninsured/underinsured motorist statute in your jurisdiction may also determine who is covered under your employer’s policy. In some jurisdictions, an employee will be covered by his or her employer’s corporate policy if the employee is using his or her own vehicle for business purposes, at the direction of his or her employer. The employee’s personal vehicle may be considered leased, or hired, by the employer. In other jurisdictions, an employee using his or her personal automobile for work purposes will not be covered under the state law’s definition of a “named insured” (person or persons covered under the insurance policy) under the corporate policy.

If you have question or want more information please call 202-803-5800 or email us to learn more.

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