Do you want to make a pain and suffering claim without a lawyer? I believe car crash injury victims are always better off hiring a lawyer for many reasons not worth fully exploring here (but I do here) even in soft tissue muscle, tendon, and ligament injury cases.
But attorneys’ fees are a lot of money, usually taking one-third of your recovery. If there is any claim where an injured person can justify proceeding without a personal injury attorney, it is in the classic neck or back soft tissue/whiplash injury traffic collision case with pain and suffering but clearly no permanency.
My belief has always been that the benefit of an experienced attorney can bring to a case is proportionate to the severity of the injury. If you have a permanent injury, you are foolish if you don’t hire a lawyer. (I wouldn’t handle my own case, either. Because that is also an awful idea.)
A quality attorney in serious injury and death cases will statistically get the injured party a lot more money. I’m talking about the money that put in your pocket. The same is probably true in tendon strain neck/back injury cases, too.
But car accident lawyers cannot run from the fact that the difference is much less significant in smaller cases. Some people just prefer the path where lawyers are not taking money away from their settlement. So be it. As long as you understand you run a risk just like you run a risk when you try to install your own bathroom floor, just typically with a lot more money at stake.
But the reality is that millions of Americans walk away from a settlement with a car insurance company with a smile without knowing they just got completely ripped off and took much less money than they could have gotten to settle their case. I DON’T WANT THIS TO HAPPEN TO YOU.
Before I get into the list of things you need to do when trying to reach an out-of-court settlement for your case, let’s be clear what you will not find here – or anywhere – that many of you seek: the specific value of your case. It is not hard to figure out who much money you should get for a whiplash-type case. It is really not. But it requires reading the medical records and knowing where the case would go to court. There is not a settlement calculator that will give you a meaningful value of your claim. So, seriously, you can quit looking. I won’t be able to tell you in this blog post how much money your soft tissue case is worth. (You can get some real information, however, here.)
While, obviously, I’m not offering legal advice to you because you are not a client of our law firm, this is a generalized list of what you should consider in handling your own insurance claim in Maryland without a skilled lawyer.
You can settle your own case and still not give a recorded statement. The myth is that if you are honest, a recorded statement can’t hurt you. It is not true, for reasons that are discussed more fully here. There is no obligation to give a recorded statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster after a car accident in Maryland (I do not think there is a state that does).
That is the short answer. The longer answer is more complicated. In some cases, our accident lawyers allow the client to give a statement for reasons that are too complex to address here. In uninsured motorist cases in Maryland, arguably your insurance policy might require you to give a recorded statement to your own insurance provider as a condition of recovery.
Get Pictures of Accident and Injuries
Get photos of your car, any visible injuries that you have, and the scene of the accident. This is critical to establishing liability and the scope of your injuries. There are lots of studies that say there is no correlation between the severity of the property damage and the victim’s injuries. But, intuitively, these studies make little sense to any of us. We all figure that the more serious the accident, the more likely there are to be serious injuries. The amount of money spent on car repairs in an indication to car insurance companies of whether there is a “good impact” and this matters in the adjuster’s evaluation of the fair settlement amount for the claim.
Also, get witness statements from anyone who might have evidence of how the accident happened or the injuries that you suffered. Should you collect receipts for your out-of-pocket expenses? You can. But do not submit them to the insurance company unless they are significant.
Collect All the Medical Records and Bills
The guts of a relatively minor injury car accident claim are the medical evidence contained in the medical bills and records (and police report). Collect them all. Yourself. The insurance company is obligated to compensate you for all medical bills that you incurred from the accident, regardless of whether these bills have already been paid by PIP or health insurance. Insurance companies have made billions pretending this rule–called the collateral source rule – does not exist when settling accident claims with injury victims without lawyers (or with clueless lawyers).
How much medical treatment should you get? If you treat too little, the insurance company says you are not really hurt. If you treat too much, the insurance company says you are milking the bills to try to get a better settlement offer. In a soft tissue case, the insurance carrier is likely to hold it against you either way. That’s the reality of it.
In the end, the best way to maximize the value of your soft tissue injury case is to listen to your body and your health care providers and do what you and they think you should. Serendipitously, this also happens to be the best thing for your case. (Parenthetically, if you are thinking of getting additional medical treatment or tests because you want to increase the monetary value of your case, please stop reading this. I don’t want to help you. You are taking money away from people who are really hurt.)
There is one more thing you should know. Seeing a medical doctor and have her bless your physical therapy or chiropractic care. I know people often love their physical therapist or chiropractor. But you want the medical records to show a doctor supported the case and you may need a doctor to testify for you at trial.
- What are neck and back injury strain cases worth? Get sample verdicts and settlements.
- Herniated disc injury cases are at a higher level when it comes to the settlement value
Figure Out the Statute of Limitations
Again, going forward with a pain and suffering claim without a lawyer—actually, going without a good, experienced accident lawyer – comes with risks.
One of those is getting the statute of limitations wrong. It seems easy enough. MD Cts & Jud Pro Code §5-101 (2020) states:
A civil action at law shall be filed within three years from the date it accrues unless another provision of the Code provides a different period of time within which an action shall be commenced.
Easy, right? But there are so many ways to get it wrong and so many exceptions. Many forests have been burned down with the paper that has been generated in cases that have disputes over the filing deadline. Without having a lawyer review your case, you are taking a risk because there are general deadlines to bring a suit and sometimes more specific statutes in some jurisdictions. In most cases, you will be fine without a full analysis of the details of the filing deadline issues. But obviously, you are running a real risk.
If you think this is a risk worth taking, at least do some research. In many states, including Maryland, the time allowed for bringing a claim against a governmental agency or its agents or employees has a statute of limitations that is a small fraction of the general statute (and it is hard to always know in what capacity the defendant driver was acting at the time of the accident). I’m begging you, don’t assume that justice will be done because the judge will not let you lose your entire claim on some dumb technicality. Believe me, it happens all the time.
- Get more information on the Maryland statute of limitations.
- The statute of limitations in other states
Talking to Your Health Care Providers
Tell your doctors and your health care providers everything that they need to know about your current condition and past medical history. Be honest or it will most likely end up coming back to haunt you. I’ve told clients this who refused to listen.
But… also keep in mind that everything you tell a health care provider may well show up in your medical records. You need not offer specific information unrelated to your motor vehicle accident case. So if you knocked over a convenience store 10 years ago, keep that under your hat.
Don’t Lie to Your Doctors… Or the Insurance Company
I just touched on this already. But it is worth repeating. The big mistake we see people make time and time again is that they shade the truth or flat out lie, thinking no one will ever know. Who could possibly know that I hurt my back 8 years ago in a skiing accident in Colorado? The insurance company – that is who.
It is counterintuitive for some. But the best way to maximize the value of your case is to be completely truthful to everyone at all times. You don’t have to offer up every skeleton in your closet. But it does mean that you should not tell anyone anything or put it in writing unless it is 100% accurate. Forget my high horse for a second. In most cases, 100% honesty will increase the settlement value of your injury claim.
Do liars sometimes get over on the insurance companies? Absolutely. But, I’m telling you, statistically, the liars and exaggerators do not do as well as clients who play it straight. These companies have access to a lot of information, including any prior claims you have made of any kind. Just do the right thing. Play it straight and you will help your case and you can sleep at night.
Is There a Formula I Can Use to Calculate the Value of My Case?
There really is not. But I’ll give you a few anyway. There are 2 different formulas that insurance companies may occasionally use to calculate pain and suffering damages in accident cases: (1) the multiplier method; and (2) the per diem formula.
The multiplier formula looks at your economic damages (lost wages, medical expenses, etc.) and multiplies them by 3 to calculate pain & suffering. So if your lost wages are $2,000 and your medical expenses are $8,000 your total economic damages = $10,000. Using the multiplier method your pain & suffering damages would = $30,000.
The per diem formula calculates pain and suffering based on a daily rate multiplied by the number of days you were injured. So if your daily rate is $100 and you take 50 days to recover from your injury, your pain and suffering would be $100 x 50 = $5,000.
I like the per diem settlement formula better because it takes into account the scope of the victim’s injuries. Just multiply the medical bills and special damages is a completely foolish way to calculate pain and suffering damages and settle cases. Why does anyone even talk about “times bills and specials” as a formula for settling cases? It is the easiest to calculate. But it is just not a good idea to use a formula that might lead to you seriously undervaluing your claim.
- A deeper dive into calculating the settlement value of your case
- Are you having a hard time finding a lawyer to take your case? This is why.
Your Demand Package
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Request all of your medical bills and records, document your lost wages, and anything else you need, and send them to the insurance company. Provide them in an indexed package that chronologically orders the records.
Look organized and serious by how you present the medical records. Include in your letter any particularly important facts about your injuries and your emotional and physical pain and suffering but keep it brief. No insurance adjuster will read a treatise in a soft tissue injury case. Many won’t even read the demand.
How much should you ask for in your demand? I have no idea. Again, there is a downside to not hiring a car accident lawyer. The value of a car accident case is based on a number of factors on pain and suffering damages so when you proceed without a lawyer you do not have anyone to put your suffering into a more global context. Unless you have seen hundreds of personal injury cases and have seen how judges and juries respond to similar facts and injuries, you really are guessing at the value. (Actually, we are all guessing on some level; experienced counsel is just going to have a much better guess.)
But as long as you understand this is the risk you take without a seasoned attorney, figure out what you think is reasonable and pick a figure that is higher than that number, but not so high as to tell the insurance company that you are unreasonable or have no clue what you are doing.
Remember that the first offer that you get from your demand letter is very unlikely to be the final offer you receive if you continue to negotiate.
Understanding PIP and the Collateral Source Rule
Also, in Maryland remember that the collateral source rule means the insurance company cannot hold your personal injury protection (PIP) money that you received against your settlement. So if PIP pays you $10,000 for medical bills, the at-fault driver’s insurance company still must consider those bills if they are related to the accident. (I know this is confusing but it is really important. This blog is awful long at that point but this video explains with greater clarity.)
- How much should I say I want in my demand letter?
- How to write a demand letter
- Here is a demand letter that I wrote that you might want to review.
- 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Personal Injury Settlement Demand Letter (and tons of sample letters)
- How long will it take for my case to settle?
One other point: definitely use the “I’m going to hire counsel if we can’t resolve this” arrow in your quiver towards the end of the negotiations.
Let’s Talk About Soft Tissue Injury Settlement Value
Many of you have come here looking for some sort of soft tissue injury claim calculator. That is fool’s gold. You will not find a formula here or anywhere else that is tailored to your case. I have no idea how to value your case for settlement because I have not read your records, analyzed your claim, or talked to you about the extent of your injuries and how they impacted your life.
But you still want more information on whiplash accident case value. Let me give you some car accident settlement and verdict stories to give you some flavor of the value of these cases. These are circuit court cases in Maryland. But please keep in mind that you cannot use prior case outcomes to value your own case. You also cannot find the average settlement for a neck and or back injury by pulling up verdict and settlement payouts in cases similar to your own. There are just too many variables at play.
- Our Client v. GEICO (Maryland, 2019) $200,000. My client gets rear-ended in a car accident. The damage is not overwhelming and his injuries don’t seem all that bad at first. He had no objective injury and did not get an MRI. He had very limited physical therapy and just a few doctor visits. But the back pain just would not go away and it caused him a lot of mental anguish. Allstate did not care. This insurance provider offered less than $18,000 to settle. That made it easy. We filed suit. Thee offer doubled before trial. Still, we just couldn’t recommend a settlement. So we started the trial against Allstate and GEICO who was the uninsured motorist carrier. Their case was not going very well. Our pain and suffering witnesses were awesome. Their expert was weak on cross-examination. Before the jury could give a verdict, the defense attorneys came up with $200,000 to settle the case. I cannot tell you how many of our settlement stories sound similar to this one.
- Our Client v. Allstate (Maryland 2019) $29,534.33. The injured victim claimed she suffered a knee injury after she was rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic by an uninsured driver. She sought UM coverage from Allstate to pay for her losses. Allstate wanted her prior medical history and records before making a settlement offer. Why? She had a history of pre-existing knee problems and her records noted obesity as a source of those problems, which were unrelated to the crash. So our law firm filed a lawsuit. Her medical bills were only $6,735. But she really was hurt by the crash. Allstate made a “courthouse steps” offer of $10,500. We said no and tried the case in Prince George’s County District Court. The judge understood that the medical bills do not always serve as an indication of the victim’s pain and suffering and awarded $29,534.33. (The most the court could have awarded is $30,000.)
- McGuigan v. State Farm (Maryland 2018) $72.5K: A woman was driving her vehicle accompanied by her minor son when she was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by the defendant. The mother and her son both claimed a neck and back strain because of the rear-end collision. Baltimore City jurors returned a verdict in favor of the victims and awarded them $72.5K.
- Coleman v. Eichensehr (Maryland 2017) $5,000: An adult female suffered cervical whiplash syndrome when the defendant, driving a truck, struck the rear of her vehicle, pushing it to the right. The claimant contended the defendant failed to pay full time and attention to her driving and failed to maintain control of her vehicle, causing her significant neck pain. The defendant initially denied liability but later admitted she was negligent and only contested the woman’s claimed injuries and damages. According to the defendant, she was driving her husband’s truck but was not familiar with how to operate it such that she mistakenly depressed the accelerator instead of the brake. The jury returned a verdict of $5k. This tells us the jury simply did not believe she had significant neck pain. I wonder if they brought the chiropractor to trial. Sometimes, that can make a real difference to have the treater that saw the patient the most explain the impact of a neck strain or back pain on that patient.
- Rashad v. Jones (Maryland 2016) $23,254: An adult female suffered whiplash syndrome, tension headaches, muscle spasms, and tingling in both hands and right leg when the northbound transit bus on which she was a passenger, traveling in the right lane, was struck by a northbound motorist who was in the left lane. The woman contended that the Liberty Mutual insured defendant was negligent for failing to keep a proper lookout and maintain proper vehicle control. The defendant admitted liability but disputed damages. A Prince George’s County jury awarded $23,254.
- Gray v. Combustioneer Corp. (Maryland 2007) $80,000: A man was driving in the far left lane and approached a two-lane flow of merging vehicles. His vehicle was allegedly struck by a vehicle owned by the defendants. He claimed strain injuries and post-concussive syndrome because of the collision. He sued for negligently operating the van and causing his injuries. He stated he was unable to maintain his employment with Deloitte & Touche due to his injury. He sought compensation for medical expenses, loss of earning, and loss of services. The jury found that defendant was negligent and his negligence was a cause of injury to the plaintiff. The panel awarded a total of $80,000 to the plaintiff. I don’t know how much of the verdict was post-concussive and how much was whiplash. It is yet another problem trying to value cases by looking at similar cases.
- Greens v. Edwards (Maryland 2005) $40,000: A man traveling north approached an intersection when the defendant was traveling south, but crossed into the northbound lane and struck plaintiff head-on. The plaintiff sought damages based on the unspecified injuries he sustained in the accident. The defendants answered, generally denying the allegations of the complaint, and argued contributory negligence, assumption of risk, an absence of causal connection, and failure to state a claim. In other words, everything the defense lawyer could possibly think of using a defense. Basically throwing spaghetti on a wall. The jury returned with a verdict for the plaintiff and awarded him $40,000.
- Boynton v. Hofe (Maryland 2004) $34,680.00: plaintiff was operating his vehicle when the defendant reported executed a left turn and collided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff sued the defendant and claimed that she improperly executed her left turn, causing the accident and should be liable for damages he sustained. He claimed that the accident caused him to suffer pain to his neck, back, right arm and leg, pain, tenderness, and sprains to parts of the spine, muscle spasms; and whiplash. The defendant denied liability for the collision, using assumption of risk and contributory negligence as affirmative defenses. The jury awarded the plaintiff $34,680.
How About Cases Outside of Maryland?
- Jimerson v. Ilabnez (Texas 2018) $85,000: plaintiff states his minor daughter was a passenger in a vehicle driven by defendants that became involved in a motor vehicle collision. The plaintiff and his daughter sustained unspecified injuries as a result of the collision. At the time of the accident, the defendant was insured by Allstate Insurance Company. Allstate and the driver denied liability. Nonetheless, Allstate settled the claim for the sum of $85,000.
- Wiggins v. K.L (Virginia 2018) $100,000: minor female rode on the back of a moped operated by a third party. While the moped was within a crosswalk at or near an intersection, the third-party allegedly was involved in an accident with a motorist defendant. K.L reported unspecified injuries due to the accident. The defendant, without admitting liability, offered to pay $100,000 as a compromise settlement for any claims made by K.L. My guess is this was a policy limits offer.
- Winters v. Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company (Ohio 2018) $4,083: an adult female motorist, reportedly suffered whiplash after her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by a phantom driver. At the time of the collision, the plaintiff was allegedly insured with a policy of insurance with the defendant Allstate. The plaintiff contended the defendant failed to fully pay on the uninsured motorist coverage of the policy. The defendant denied liability. A jury found for the plaintiff for $4,083.37.
- Deverell v. Madison (Oregon 2018) $6,300: plaintiff stopped at a four-way intersection, then proceeded into the intersection when it was clear. The defendant failed to stop at a stop sign, resulting in a T-Bone collision. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was exhibiting signs of intoxication and left the scene when she notified the defendant that she had called the policed. The defendant disputed liability, claiming that she was established in the intersection when her vehicle was stuck on the rear driver’s side door by the plaintiff vehicle and that the plaintiff was driving at an unreasonable speed. The jury awarded the plaintiff $6,300 in damages.
- Stricker v. Allstate (Washington 2018) $300,000: A man contended that his vehicle was struck from the rear by an underinsured drunk driver. The plaintiff suffered a neck strain with significant pain. The at-fault driver fled the scene but was later apprehended. The plaintiff settled his claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for $50,000 and brought a lawsuit action against the defendant Allstate. The jury awarded the plaintiff $300,000.
What If I Need a Lawyer? What Will It Cost?
If you cannot handle your own case, call me or another Maryland personal injury lawyer. It shouldn’t cost you anything to hire a lawyer for a car accident case. A personal injury lawyer will handle your car accident case with no money down on a contingency fee arrangement. This means your lawyer receives a percentage of any money collected in your case. If they don’t collect anything they don’t get paid.
Ultimately, if you don’t hire a lawyer, there is a really good chance you are going to get burned and cause irreparable harm to your case. You really want a great lawyer when you have a legal claim that is important to you. But for some, again particularly in smaller cases, it is a chance that you may want to take to settle your case without a lawyer. If that is the spot you believe you are in, I hope this information helps you.
If you want to talk to me about your case, call 410-779-4600 or you can reach me here. (I don’t give my personal email here because so many emails to me end up going into my spam.)