When you go to buy insurance coverage for your home, car, business, etc, you are bombarded with promises that "you are in good hands" or we are "on your side", etc. And in fairness to them, more often than not, you are in good hands because they are on your side. Generally, if an accident occurs through no fault of yours, in many situations, the ducks line up in a row for the victim to lead to a relatively stress free financial resolution to the personal injury case. However, there are specific situations that statistically lead to a higher risk of liability dispute from the at fault party's insurance company. In those situations, notwithstanding what the at-fault party informs their insured, if the insurance company feels that the victim does not have adequate proof of fault, the at fault party’s insurer will deny liability. This puts the victim – who has medical bills that are piling up – in a conundrum of what to do next: file a lawsuit or let it go. Further, if you file a lawsuit with evidence that does not suffice to prove all the required elements needed for success, your chances of success are poor unless you have a witness.
One situation that requires a witness is slip and fall accidents. In a previous blog, I discussed in detail about slip and fall accidents. The specific concern with respect to this blog article is on the issue of proving fault. The victim has slipped on a wet floor in a business/commercial establishment without any ‘wet floor’ sign to provide the victim notice to proceed with caution. Without a witness, the first instinct of the at-fault party is assert all sorts of defenses especially with knowledge that in the state of Maryland, contributory negligence is a complete defense to the plaintiff’s negligence claim. I can write a top 10 list of explanations I have heard from insurance adjusters over the years but the bottom line is they generally instinct is to deny liability if they feel that the victim cannot prove their case – even though they know that their insured (the commercial establishment) was at fault. However, the existence of a witness who corroborates the victim’s version of events more often than not suffices to convince the insurance adjuster to play ball and settle.
Another situation that requires a witness are auto accidents where the victim’s car was side swiped (e.g., a collision that occurred while then at-fault driver negligently changed lanes and hit the side of the victim’s car as opposed to the rear). As you can imagine, this situation happens on a daily basis. What happens next is predictable: the at-fault driver approaches the victim and apologizes then offers to exchange insurance information and sometimes convinces the victim not to dial 911. The human side of the victim yields with the false comfort of the victim is in good hands with inexplicable belief that the defendant’s insurance company will be on your side. Half the time, these victims feel that they do not need an attorney – until they report the accident to the at-fault driver’s insurer and are informed that there is a conflict between the victim’s version of events and the at-fault driver’s version. Without a witness, the victim is effectively stuck in a difficult situation.
Therefore, the rule of thumbs is that regardless of the situation, it is always best to consult with an attorney. Personal injury (PI) consultations are free because PI attorney’s work on a contingent fee basis so it’s a win-win situation for the victim. If additional information is needed on this or any other topics, feel free to contact us at (301)453-7177.