My Vehicle was Damaged or Totaled in a Maryland Car Accident. Now What?

By Jeffrey Butschky, Maryland Accident Injury Attorney

Over the course of more than three decades as Baltimore County personal injury lawyers, we've represented thousands of Maryland motor vehicle accident victims. In crashes involving minor or no bodily injury, victims breathe a huge sigh of relief. Their initial reaction is, "Thank God I'm OK."

When they get a look at their damaged or totaled vehicles, however, that relief can quickly turn to anger and confusion. In Maryland auto crash cases where no one is seriously injured or killed, the first thing most people ask us is, "What about my car?"

In scenarios where the accident seems to be the other driver's fault, victims often assume their insurance claims will be straightforward. They expect the other party's insurance to pay to have their damaged vehicle fixed and to put them in a rental car while they're waiting on repairs.

If their car, truck, SUV or minivan is totaled, they expect insurance to pay the reasonable Blue Book value of their destroyed vehicle. They hope everything will fall into place and move forward swiftly.

About half the time, it works out that way. It all comes down to whether or not the other driver's insurance company accepts liability for the accident. When they don't and they contest your claim -- that's where things get complicated.

Here's where we try to educate folks on the realities of the insurance system.

Let's say you're rear-ended by a truck while driving your car on the Baltimore Beltway. Clearly the fault lies with the truck driver, right? It may seem that way. But if the other driver lies, twists the facts or tells a distorted version of the accident -- his or her insurance company may contest your claim. That's where things can get frustrating and sometimes, downright maddening.

If the other driver's insurance company feels they have a valid defense, they will take their time determining liability. That means your car can be sitting dead in the water in some tow lot while the insurance companies take days or even weeks to make a decision. Storage charges and other fees can build up into the hundreds or even thousands very quickly and, if liability is denied, these charges will not be voluntarily paid by the carrier.

Maryland auto accident attorneys like us help clients navigate this often bewildering insurance claims system. While valid legal defenses certainly exist, your attorney can discuss possible defenses with the insurance claims adjuster or the claims manager, in detail. Frequently, we are able to convince the insurer to take a second look at denied matters and accept liability, when otherwise they might not.

Why Collision Coverage in Maryland is a Good Idea -- Even on Older Vehicles

People love their cars, often driving the same car for five, 10 years or more. Today's vehicles are manufactured to last for many, many more years than our parents' old coupes, sedans and wagons. Now it's not uncommon to drive a car for upwards of 100K or even 200K miles.

What we see happen in Maryland car accident cases is that while our clients love their older cars, trucks, and SUVs, they may have dropped their collision coverage. They figure the book value on the car is so low, why pay for additional, expensive collision insurance?

The reason to KEEP your collision coverage on an older vehicle is this: If you're in an accident in Maryland where the other driver contests liability -- or is uninsured or underinsured -- your own collision insurance will pay for you to get your car fixed or get another car, while things are being sorted out.

In cases where clients have collision coverage, we can help them get the ball rolling with their insurance company. If the other driver is liable, his or her insurance company will reimburse your insurance company (this is called subrogation). If they contest your claim, we may need to bring a lawsuit to seek compensation for your damaged vehicle.

But note: Where a vintage 1999 Honda Civic (or other golden oldie) may be priceless to its driver, it will only be worth a few hundred dollars, in the eyes of the insurance companies. They are only obligated to pay the reasonable Blue Book value on the vehicle. This is another harsh reality we help clients face and cope with.

If you've been in a car accident in Maryland and you need our help, please contact us today.