Practice Areas


Our clients and cases involve many practice areas such as people who have suffered serious personal harm, the wrongful death of a family member, the violation of their constitutional rights or unjust criminal charges. Learn more about each of our practice areas in detail below.

Practice Areas


Every year millions of people are injured in motor vehicle collisions. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of injury in the United States for people ages 1-34.

Many vehicle manufacturers have made safety improvements to their vehicles including air bags, rollover bars, reinforced frames, better tires, etc. Additionally, many states have passed tougher drunk driving laws. As a result, many lives may have been spared. However, with an ever increasing number of vehicles on the road, motor vehicle accidents still occur with alarming frequency. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every 10 seconds someone in the United States is involved in a car accident.

A high percentage of traffic crashes and deaths involve large trucks. A large truck is any truck whose vehicle weight is over 10,000 pounds. Because of their size, crashes involving large trucks are more likely to result in serious injury and death than are car crashes. Approximately 10% of all those injured in a large truck crash will die. Large trucks are more likely to be involved in multiple-vehicle crashes than are passenger cars.

Both federal and state regulations govern trucking and cover areas such as safety of equipment and hours of the drivers. Trucking companies are required to keep records of such information and it will be necessary to find and research such records. Poor equipment and driver fatigue can be causes of such crashes, and a careful study of the trucking company records may be needed to determine if negligence has occurred.

Each year thousands of construction workers are injured or killed in construction site accidents. Even though construction companies are typically obligated to inspect each site with safety engineers and provide safety programs, accidents still occur.

Generally, an injured worker cannot sue his or her own employer for injuries arising out of work related activities; however, if it can be shown that a third party’s negligence caused the injuries, that party can be held liable. Additionally, in some instances workers may be injured at a construction site due to their own inadvertence or due to a condition that was no person’s fault. When a worker is injured due to his or her own negligence or that of his or her employer, or due to a condition which was nobody’s fault, that injured party can still receive compensation in most states through Worker's Compensation. Worker's Compensation Acts provide benefits to workers who are injured on the job or suffer an occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment. The benefits under Worker's Compensation include weekly payments based on a percentage of the employee's average weekly wage for temporary total disability, partial disability, permanent and total disability and permanent loss of function and disfigurement. Worker's Compensation also covers medical expenses for treatment that is reasonable, necessary and related to the industrial injury and vocational rehabilitation services.

In some instances, however, a third party is to blame for injuries that occur on the job site. When a construction site accident occurs, the owners, architects, and manufacturers of equipment can be held responsible for inadequate safety provisions. The general contractor and all subcontractors are required to provide a reasonably safe site, to warn of hazards inherent in the site and work, to hire careful employees, to coordinate job safety and to supervise compliance with safety specifications.

Manufacturers of construction equipment are responsible for designing and maintaining safe products. Defective or dangerous products may include the following: scaffolding, cranes, power tools, derricks, hoists, conveyors, woodworking tools, ladders, winches, trucks, graters, scrapers, tractors, bulldozers, forklifts, back hoes, heavy equipment, boilers, pressure vessels, gas detectors and other types of construction equipment.

Therefore, it is often possible to find liable third parties in the event of a construction related injury. This is often important because Worker’s Compensation benefits do not provide compensation for the pain and suffering that a person endures as a result of an accident.

Product liability deals with cases involving defective or unsafe products. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of products can be held liable for damages arising from the use of defective products. Products covered by this area of law, include food, drugs, and real estate, as well as virtually all consumer products. The user who is injured and seeks damages does not need to be the original purchaser of the product. Nor does a person seeking damages have to prove negligence in many cases. Product liability frequently is a question of strict liability: that is, if the product is defective and that defect caused injury, the injured user may sue for damages as long as the product was used as it was meant to be used and not substantially changed from its original condition.

If the injured user was using the product in a manner not intended by the manufacturer or retailer, or had altered the product so that safety features were disabled, it may not be possible to prove that injuries were caused by defects in the product. The defendant may be able to successfully claim that the injuries were caused by the acts of the plaintiff.

Questions of negligence and breach of warranty are also grounds for a claim for damages under product liability. In the case of negligence, if it can be shown that a company was negligent in testing its product adequately or in supplying directions for its use, the injured party probably has grounds for filing suit. Similarly, a manufacturer implies a warranty for fitness of use and freedom from defect when an item is sold. If the item proves to be defective, or is unfit for the purpose intended, an injured user can file a product liability case. In a case of negligence, it is important that the plaintiff be able to show that the product was defective when it left the control of the party he is suing. It is not possible to hold someone liable for a defect that occurred after that party had control over the product.

In product liability, there are various areas of defects that can occur. If a claim of strict liability is to be pursued, the injured party will need to show that the product was unreasonably dangerous for its intended use, due to a defect. There are generally three areas in which a product can be unreasonably dangerous:

The manufacturer or seller can fail to warn about angers associated with the products use. Manufacturers and sellers are expected to give adequate warnings about possible dangers, and to provide clear and adequate instructions of use. Failure to do so can cause a useful product to become deadly. For instance, coolants used in automobiles are extremely toxic – failure to print warnings of this toxicity on the product labels could lead to an accidental poisoning and thus to a suit for damages.

The product may have a design defect. This means that the product is manufactured with a defect, even if it is assembled perfectly. An example would be a car gasoline tank that is designed with weak walls such that an impact can rupture the tank and cause the car to catch on fire, even when the tank is correctly assembled and installed.

A manufacturing defect exists when an otherwise safe product is rendered dangerous because it is assembled improperly. A car whose wheel is installed with missing or cross-threaded bolts may lose a wheel at high speed, injuring or killing the driver and passengers. If it is proved that the car was manufactured with that defect, the manufacturer will be liable.

In all cases of product liability, it is essential to the success of the case that the product be preserved and that all paperwork showing the origin of the product be made available. Receipts showing purchase, any repair records, etc., can be vital to building a successful case.

Wrongful death is the term used when someone causes the death of another person. The death may be caused by the actions of someone or by their failure to act (neglect). Wrongful death is a civil action rather than a criminal action. Since the person killed (decedent) cannot file suit or collect damages, it is the family or representatives of the estate that do so. The intent is to recompense family members who have suffered monetarily and emotionally from the death. Damages can be assessed for lost wages and benefits, loss of companionship, and emotional pain and suffering caused by the trauma.

A defendant can only be held responsible for a wrongful death if it can be proved that the defendant's conduct was the cause of the death. It must be proved that the death would not have occurred without the defendant's act. The time between the defendant's action and the death of the decedent is not a factor as long as it can be proved that the defendant's action was the cause of death.

If it can be shown that the decedent was partially responsible for his death, then he may be found to have comparative or contributory negligence and dependent upon the state in which the incident occurred, damages may be awarded based on the percentage of negligence imputed to the decedent. Also, if the decedent failed to seek appropriate medical care and that failure led to his death, there may be no grounds for a wrongful death claim or a reduction to an award.

Different states have different methods for deciding who may file a wrongful death suit and who may recover damages. Generally, it must be shown that the death was caused by another's wrongful act; that the act was such that the decedent would have been due damages from the act; and that monetary damages did arise from the act. If these three criteria are met, it is possible that a wrongful death claim can be filed.

In a case of wrongful death, damages are assessed to compensate family members for their loss. There are many ways in which damages can be calculated. Since damages can be awarded in a number of areas, it is important to examine each one carefully.

The most obvious loss in a case of wrongful death is the actual expense occasioned by medical and death expenses. These are usually easy to determine.

Less obvious but equally important is the loss of future earnings and benefits, as well as the loss of companionship. These damages are more difficult to calculate and include anticipating the lifespan and earnings of the decedent, as well as the relationship to remaining family members.

Loss of companionship is very difficult to calculate since it is totally subjective and does not lend itself to empirical measurements. It is a measure of the emotional pain and suffering experienced by the survivors.

A final area of damages is punitive damages. This is an amount awarded to punish the person who caused the death, rather than to compensate for a specific loss. It can typically only be awarded when the action of the defendant was intentional or grossly negligent.

Traumatic brain injury, also called TBI, occurs when the brain is injured by a sudden force, or trauma. The brain can be driven into the side of the skull by a sudden blow, or by the force of shaking or “whiplash”. In either case, the brain can suffer bruising and swelling, and in some cases the impact will be sufficient to tear blood vessels in the brain, causing intracranial bleeding.

If the trauma results in damage to the skull itself, such as a crack or break, the trauma is considered a penetrating head injury. More difficult to diagnose are closed head injuries, in which the brain is injured but the skull remains undamaged. This can occur from a blow or impact, or from severe back-and-forth shaking, such as whiplash. Babies and small children can suffer such injuries from being shaken, the so-called “shaken baby syndrome”.

In any case of closed head TBI, it is necessary to study the symptoms that follow the accident in order to diagnose the condition. Anyone who has sustained a blow to the head or whiplash-like injuries should be evaluated by a medical professional to determine if TBI has taken place. In many cases the symptoms may be so slight as to escape the victim’s notice, but if treatment is not available, further injury can develop. Often the symptoms may be delayed for many hours, until swelling in the brain reaches a point that if affects the victim.

TBI can cause serious, life-threatening events and can result in permanent irreversible damage to the brain. It can lead to paralysis, seizures, blindness, memory loss, impaired communication skills, and many other disabilities. Symptoms may be as obvious as coma or as subtle as a change in emotional behavior. TBI can have a profound effect on quality of life, including inability to work, inability to interact socially and within the family, loss of normal body skills, etc.

Chemicals can damage our persons and property by exposure through air, water, and bodily contact . Kleinpeter Schwartzberg Boutwell LLC has successfully prosecuted toxic tort cases for more than 25 years on behalf of injured people. Our cases have set legal precedent, clarified the law, and achieved fair compensation for our clients.

Laws passed by the state require that your employer, or your employer's insurance company, compensate you, or your family, for injuries or death that may occur while you are working. You may be entitled to:

  • Weekly benefits while you are temporarily totally disabled and unable to work.
  • Payment of your medical expenses.
  • Weekly payments or a lump sum payment for partial or total disability
    resulting from a work related injury.

What should I do if I am injured?

You should report the injury immediately to your employer. If you cannot reach an agreement with your employer or their insurance carrier, as to what benefits or medical expense payments you are entitled to, you can file your claim with the Industrial Commission.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act provides an injured seaman a remedy against employers for injuries arising from negligent acts of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment on a vessel. Claims brought under the Jones Act can also raise claims against a vessel's owner that a vessel was unseaworthy. If a seaman dies, a wrongful death claim may be based on the Jones Act, general maritime law, or on a separate federal statute, the Death on the High Seas Act.

The Jones Act is a federal law that provides remedies to seamen who are injured while working on a vessel. The Jones Act extends the provisions of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), a statute that provides remedies for injured workers, to provide similar remedies for seamen. As a result, an injured seaman can recover damages from the employer when an employer or a co-worker's negligence causes an injury. The Jones Act applies only to seamen, which are persons with an employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation and who contribute to the vessel's function or mission; that is, persons who do the ship's work. A person whose work is covered under the Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act may be treated as a Jones Act seaman in some cases. A lawyer can help figure out whether someone is a seaman for purposes of the act.

The Jones Act applies to negligence claims against a seaman's employer when the employee is injured or killed during the course of employment.

Seamen may be protected by the Jones Act even if they are not working on a vessel. If a seaman is injured while working temporarily elsewhere, the Act may still apply. However, if the temporary assignment is not "in the service of the ship" when he was injured, the act may not apply.

Failing to provide a safe place to work can give rise to a Jones Act claim, if the unsafe place is the vessel or if it is another place under the employer's control. An unseaworthiness claim also may be pursued if the employer is also the owner of the vessel, and the injury is caused by an unsafe condition on the vessel. An employer can also be liable if there is a violation of a safety statute which is the cause of the injury. An employer can also be liable for failing to provide adequate medical care.

The Jones Act also holds an employer liable for the negligence of other employees or individuals for which the employer is responsible, including the negligence of the seaman's co-workers during the scope of their employment. An independent contractor can sometimes be viewed as an employee under the Jones Act.

The employer must attempt to rescue or search for a seaman if he jumps or falls overboard for as long as it is feasible that the seaman could be alive in the water. Failure to do so can result in liability under the Act.

An employer owes a seaman a higher duty of care under the Jones Act than an ordinary negligence case, and the employer can be liable if its breach of that duty, no matter how small, contributed in any way to causing the seaman's injury. If a seaman contributed to causing his own injury, the employer's liability may be reduced. Even if the seaman assumed the risk of injury by intentionally proceeding with a dangerous activity aware of the risks- this will not reduce the amount of compensation under the Act.

A Jones Act claim must generally be brought within three years of the injury. The claim can be filed as an admiralty claim either in federal court or state court, or as a "law" claim in federal court. A lawyer should decide where to file the claim as this choice can affect the amount of the recovery.

The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act provides Worker's Compensation benefits for maritime workers who are not seamen. The benefits the statute provides, like a state workers' compensation scheme, do not depend on finding that the employer was at fault. These benefits include disability payments and rehabilitation services. The act also provides benefits to survivors when a maritime worker dies from work-related injuries.

The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act

The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act is a comprehensive worker's compensation scheme for maritime workers who are injured on navigable waters. The law fills a gap that exists between the Jones Act, which protects seamen, and state worker's compensation, which cover injuries occurring within a particular state, but not usually on navigable water. The compensation system is administered by the Federal Department of Labor, and injured workers who qualify for coverage are entitled to disability benefits. Under the Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act the right to receive benefits does not depend on a finding that the employer was at fault for the worker's injuries much like state worker's compensation law.

The scope of the Act: Who is covered?

The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act covers injuries that occur during maritime employment on navigable waters of the United States. Maritime employment includes loading/unloading vessels, repairing vessels and building a vessel. The term refers to navigable waters as places beyond where a boat could float - navigable water can include places on land that adjoin water. A worker who is injured on a pier, wharf, dry dock, or terminal, can be compensated under the Act. Areas near a pier or wharf can also be included in navigable waters such as areas for loading, unloading, repairing, or building vessels.

The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act provides medical and disability benefits as well as rehabilitation services. The medical services must relate to the injury or illness sustained on the job. Occupational disease that "arises naturally" from marine employment are also included such as a welder who worked in a shipyard who develops a chronic illness as a result of handling asbestos at work. The Act also provides wrongful death benefits to survivors of a worker who is killed on the job.

Rules for claiming the benefits

An employee who is injured on the job has just 30 days to give the employer notice of the injury. When the employee develops a disabling condition or illness that is work related, notice also must be provided. A formal Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act claim for benefits must be filed with the Department of Labor within one year from the date of injury. An employer can dispute the claim or begin voluntary payment within fourteen days of the accident. If an employer disputes the claim there is a conciliation procedure designed to help the parties come to an agreement about how the dispute should be resolved. If the parties cannot resolve the problem, an administrative law judge (ALJ) working for the Department will conduct a hearing and render a decision.

The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act also allows an injured worker to sue persons or entities, other than the employer or a co-worker, whom the worker believes to be at fault for his or her injuries. When a worker is injured on a vessel, for instance, there may be a claim of negligence against the vessel and its owner; however, the worker is not permitted to allege a claim of unseaworthiness, because that claim is reserved to seamen.

Each year thousands of people are injured in boating accidents. Accidents can occur in a variety of situations ranging from ocean-going commercial and cruise line vessels to small pleasure craft on our navigable waterways. When referring to a motor vehicle accident we often refer to the “Rules of the Road” in order to determine what each person’s responsibilities were regarding the safe operation of their vehicle. Similarly, there are rules established by the Coast Guard and various state agencies that outline the rules for safe boating.

What Should I Do If I Am Involved In A Boating Accident?

Boating accidents usually require a report to either the state agency regulating boats or to the United States Coast Guard or both. If an operator is involved in a collision with another boat or an "allision" (which means striking a fixed object or a non-moving vessel), he or she should immediately contact the state agency regulating boats to ascertain if any type of report is required. Failure to remain on the scene, render aid, and report the boating accident to an appropriate law enforcement agency in a timely manner is a crime. If someone was injured or extensive property damage was incurred be sure to contact your insurance company. If someone else was responsible for the collision contact us as soon as possible.

Environmental litigation poses unique legal challenges because of the complex scientific and technical issues frequently addressed, and because of the overlapping authority of numerous administrative agencies and courts at the local, state, and federal levels. Environmental litigation involves reviewing claims for injured persons and property damage caused by the discharge of numerous toxins from large and small companies. Protection of people and their property from large corporate polluters is the main focus.

In 1970, the U.S. Congress passed the landmark Occupational Safety and Health Act. This law established, for the first time in America, a national policy “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources.” Sadly today, 35 years later, that pledge too often is not honored.

Millions of American workers face avoidable illness and injury hazards every day at work. These hazards come from a large number of dangerous chemicals, from toxic dusts and metals, various types of radiation, physical hazards such as excessive noise and heat, and a number of biological agents such as viruses and bacteria. Unsafe conditions often result from machines and tools, poorly maintained or selected improperly, or lacking proper safety guards. Workplaces can have insufficient ventilation, poor lighting, and electrical hazards. Workers may not have proper personal protection such as respirators, work gloves, or chemical resistant clothing when needed. Critical information for workers about the health effects of toxic chemical hazards and vital job safety training may not be given, even though required under the law.

Occupational diseases can affect virtually every organ in the body. Work related diseases have been documented for the heart and lung, the brain and nervous systems, the kidneys and urinary tract, the reproductive system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the endocrine and hormone system. The kinds of well recognized occupational illness include cancers, asthma, heart attack, nerve damage, anemia, bronchitis, brain damage, kidney failure, vascular disease, and psychiatric illness.

Occupational diseases occur in a wide variety of industrial and job settings. They have been documented in chemical processing, construction, transportation, manufacturing, health care, marine and commercial fishing, farming, computer and electronics, and oil and gas drilling industries. Plant workers, carpenters, nurses, roughnecks, technicians, tankermen, truck drivers, assembly line workers, laborers, insulators, and dock workers are just a few of the job categories at increased risk for work related diseases and injuries.

It is estimated that more than 100,000 Americans die each year from job-related injuries and illnesses, but no one knows the exact count. Many more are injured or become ill every year. A significant number of these are harmed permanently, suffering chronic illness, recurrent pain, poor health, and loss of ability to work and enjoy life. This burden of work related disease drains the resources of workers and their families, the health services of communities in which they live, and causes an enormous economic loss for the entire nation every year.

Much of the occupational disease suffered by American workers is unnecessary and preventable and would not occur if the existing laws and regulations were properly followed, and well known safety and health precautions were routinely taken by employers.

Since workers can have job related illnesses that are similar to medical conditions due to other causes, careful diagnosis and investigation is necessary to determine whether a particular disease is work related or not. This is often a complex undertaking, and requires sophisticated legal assistance in order to preserve a worker’s rights.

Attorneys at Kleinpeter & Schwartzberg LLC have more than 20 years experience in providing legal counsel and aid to injured and sick workers with occupational illnesses of many kinds. We are ready to evaluate cases from the straightforward to the most complex circumstances to ensure that injured workers are able to receive appropriate compensation.

Who We Serve

The Kleinpeter Schwartzberg Boutwell LLC law firm requires two conditions from our clients: they must be harmed by someone else's fault, and they must be really hurt.

Many of our clients have been injured in motor vehicle accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, or eighteen wheelers. Other people have been harmed by unsafe products, unsafe work conditions, toxic chemicals, or a corporation's negligence. Sometimes we represent clients when their insurance company refuses to pay a claim such as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, property loss, or health insurance benefits.

Additional Information


Motorcycle accidents cause a much higher incidence of death and injury per accident than do car accidents. In other words, if you are involved in a vehicular accident and you are on a motorcycle, you are 3 times more likely to be injured and 14 times more likely to be killed. Helmet laws, enacted in many states, are helping to reduce these numbers, but motorcyclists still are at greater risk of death or injury than those in passenger vehicles.

It is always wise to take precautions when riding a motorcycle, including:

  • Wear a helmet and require your passengers to do so.
  • Obey the traffic laws, especially in regard to speeding, passing, and following too closely.
  • Remember that you are not as large or as visible as an automobile, so do all you can to increase your own visibility, such as riding with the headlight on at all times and wearing reflective clothing after dark.
  • Be sure you are able to control the motorcycle while carrying a passenger and insist that the passenger obey your directions.
  • Road hazards have a much greater affect on a small two-wheel vehicle, so watch for bumps, cracks in the road, loose gravel or any other condition that might cause you to lose control.

Pedestrian deaths are second only to occupant deaths in vehicular accidents. While crossing the street is a skill everybody learns, it is not something that can be taken for granted. Every year, thousands of pedestrians are injured. If you are injured, you may be eligible for compensation for your injuries. Be sure you get all the information you can about the accident. Secure any evidence available, find out the names and contact information of witnesses, and get the names and insurance information of the driver involved. Witnesses are especially important to furnish evidence as to whose negligence caused the injuries. In general, pedestrians have the right of way. You will be questioned as to whether you used due care in crossing, used proper crossing locations, etc. You may want to contact an attorney to assist you.

When a small delicate organism like the human body is involved in the collision of two or more large solid objects like automobiles, something has to give – and that something is frequently the neck. The human head is relatively heavy in relation to the neck and a sudden impact gives you no time to brace yourself to prevent the forceful head movement known as “whiplash”. Whiplash is the term used to describe the motion of the neck when an impact causes the head to be “snapped” (moved quickly in a direction opposite the direction of impact). It is also known as CAD (cervical acceleration/deceleration) trauma or syndrome. The sudden sharp movement can cause damage to the joints of the neck, as well as the nerves, muscles, and discs. In extreme cases, not only is the neck damaged, but the brain is bruised. These injuries can include dizziness, headache, pain in the body and arms, and, in the case of brain injury, blurred vision, tinnitus, nausea, vertigo, and numbness. All of these injuries can lead to long-term pain and disability.

Any passenger in a vehicular accident is considered free of liability for the accident, unless they committed an overt act that distracted the driver, or in any other way contributed to the accident. Additionally, if you get into a vehicle knowing that the driver is intoxicated, you may have “assumed the risk” of being in an accident. If you are a passenger and you are injured in a vehicular accident, you may receive compensation for your injuries. Be sure that you see a doctor immediately. As a passenger, you may have a claim against all negligent parties, which can include the driver of the car you were riding in when the accident occurred, as well as the drivers of other vehicles involved. It is vitally important that you get as much information about the circumstances as possible – who was driving each car, what happened, the weather or road conditions, any witnesses, etc. Your independent information may be the key to receiving compensation for your injuries.

Speeding is the most common cause of vehicular accidents in this country and the economic cost of speeding accidents is significant. Laws setting top speeds vary from state to state, but each state expects drivers to travel at prudent speeds based on the situation. Such things as road conditions, weather, and amount of traffic are more important in determining the safest speed as opposed to the posted speed limit. Traveling at an unsafe speed reduces the time available for slowing or stopping and makes it harder to control the vehicle, especially in turns and curves. Additionally, speeding drivers are less likely to be using seat belts, thus adding to the potential for severe injury during an accident. If you are injured by a speeding vehicle, whether as a driver, passenger or a pedestrian, you may have a right to compensation for your injuries.

When your vehicle is damaged in a vehicular accident, you will want to have it repaired and on the road again as quickly as possible.

Who decides where it is repaired?

You can decide where your vehicle is repaired. The insurance company decides how much will be paid for the repairs, and it may not be the same amount as the repair shop estimate.

Will the repair shop charge me for storage?

The insurance company of the person who caused the accident will pay towing and storage costs, according to what is reasonable in your area. If the vehicle is declared a total loss, the insurance company will pay to have it moved to a salvage or wrecking yard. If you do not allow the company to move your vehicle, you will be liable for any storage or towing fees.

Who decides if my vehicle is repairable or "totalled"?

The insurance company who is liable for payment can decide that your vehicle is not worth repairing. If the cost of the labor and parts exceeds the market value of your vehicle, the company can declare it a "total loss" and pay you the market value. Market value is determined by the fair market value of similar vehicles in your area, or from an independent source such as the Kelley Blue Book. If you want to keep the vehicle after it has been declared a total loss, you will have to pay the salvage value to the insurance company.

Who pays the bank loan if my vehicle is financed?

You are still liable for any loans on the vehicle. If the fair market value of your vehicle is less than the outstanding loan, you are still required to pay the entire amount of the loan.

Do I get a rental vehicle while my vehicle is being repaired?

You can always get a rental vehicle if you are willing to pay for it. If you want the insurance company to pay for it, while your vehicle is being repaired or replaced, then payment depends on several factors. If you caused the accident, check to see if your own insurance coverage includes rental vehicles. Many policies do not include rental vehicles unless it is specifically stated. If the other driver caused the accident, then you can expect the liable person's insurance company to pay the costs of providing you with a rental vehicle. The vehicle will be a substitute for your own vehicle, that is, a vehicle of similar quality. Be sure to check with your own insurance company about insurance coverage on the rental vehicle.

I just paid for my license plates - do I have to pay for new ones?

The insurance company should pay the prorated amount of any registration fees that are unused, as well as transfer fees for the new registrations.

At some point after an accident, you may be approached by an insurance adjuster who represents the insurance company of the person who caused the accident. No matter how friendly and caring, or aggressive and threatening, this adjuster may appear, he works for the insurance company and his job is to save that company money. He does that by reducing your claim. He may try to convince you that you should accept a lower settlement. He may try to convince you that you were at fault, partially or completely. He may try to convince you that you do not need a lawyer. At no time will he be working on your behalf. His sole job is to protect the insurance company and he will use every technique he knows to do so.

Although you should always be courteous, you are not required to give any oral statement to the other side?s insurance company. Listen to what he says and note the questions he asked, but do not enter into a dialogue with him. Tell your lawyer what was said and have him evaluate your case. He will be able to direct you as to necessary communications with the defendant?s insurance company.

In many states, drivers are required by state law to have a minimum amount of liability coverage. State laws vary as to the amount of insurance a driver is required to carry. This is insurance to pay for damages to others if you cause an accident. You can pay for greater coverage if you wish. This may protect you from loss if you are found liable in a vehicular accident. Remember, liability insurance pays only to settle claims or pay judgments against you if you are found negligent.

To protect yourself against claims from other drivers or passengers in case of a vehicular accident, you can purchase a coverage known as “uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits”. This allows you to receive compensation from your own insurance company if a negligent driver has limited liability insurance. If the amount of your damages exceeds the negligent party’s coverage, you can make a claim under this coverage from your own company.

To cover medical bills, you will need to purchase an additional coverage called “medical payments”. Medical payments coverage may go by various names, but its intent is to pay for the medical needs of a driver or passengers. It only covers those who are in the insured car.

Collision coverage is another type of voluntary coverage you may wish to purchase. This covers repairs or replacement to your vehicle after an accident, regardless of who is at fault. There is usually a deductible on the amount paid. This allows you to have repairs on your vehicle if you are at fault, or if your car is damaged by someone who has no insurance or who flees the scene.

When a motor vehicle accident occurs, it is easy to become confused and forget to acquire necessary information. Even a minor accident can leave people nervous and shaken. It's a good idea to keep a checklist of phone numbers to call and questions to ask in the same folder as your insurance papers, in your car glove compartment or console. Then when you need them, everything will be in one place.

  1. If anyone is injured, call the police for help and tell them you need medical assistance. If anyone involved seems to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, tell that to the police when you call for help. Always call the police whether there are injuries or not. Many insurance companies will not cover an accident unless there is a police accident report. Once everyone is safe, you can get the other information you will need.
  2. Your insurance company will need: Full names, addresses and phone numbers of everyone involved, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians who might have been involved, and any witnesses.
    • Try to find out if anyone is injured or says he is injured; or if anyone said "I am fine."
    • Make as many notes as you can about the accident itself. Get information about the other vehicles involved, such as license plate numbers, make and model. What was the weather and lighting like at the time of the accident? Were any of the involved vehicles damaged? Was any of the damage obviously prior to the accident, such as tail lights or brake lights not functioning? Were any of the vehicles company-owned?
    • Be sure to find out the insurance status of all vehicles and persons involved. If any drivers were not the registered owners, get the registered owners' names, addresses, and phone numbers.
    • Did anyone take blame for the accident?
    • Get the names and badge numbers of any police officers who come to the scene.
  3. You may wish to contact a personal injury attorney immediately. He may wish to examine the evidence at the site and gather as much information as possible.
  4. Contact your own insurance company as quickly as possible. If you feel that, for any reason, your company may not be willing to cover the accident, you should consider contacting a personal injury attorney first. However, do not delay in contacting your insurance carrier. Most insurance companies have requirements in the policy as to how quickly you must contact them, and failure to do so might mean your claim will be rejected. On the other hand, you should not answer any questions or make any statements to the other drivers' insurance companies until you have consulted an attorney. Be polite, but decline to discuss any aspects of the accident until you have obtained legal advice.
  5. If you have been seriously injured, you will probably be taken directly to a hospital emergency room. If you are not seriously injured, however, do not assume that you are uninjured. Many injuries from vehicle crashes, like whiplash, do not show up right away. If you do begin to suffer ill effects from the crash, notify your health professional immediately, get yourself checked out, and follow the doctor's instructions as to care and follow-up. Failure to get medical care might have serious consequences if you have latent injuries that only show up 24-36 hours later. Do not neglect symptoms that are unfamiliar, or pain that appears hours later. Report any symptoms to your doctor, however slight. Serious back injuries can start out as nothing more than an aching back, but left untreated they can cause major health difficulties. Furthermore, if you do have problems your insurance company will need proof that the problems were diagnosed and treated promptly, and that the problems were related to the accident.
  6. If you can get a camera, it is wise to take as many photos as possible of the accident site, the vehicles, and people involved, and any thing else that might have bearing on how and why the accident occurred. Pictures taken as soon as possible will be the most valuable. If you do not have a camera, you might be able to buy a disposable one at a nearby convenience store, or ask a passenger or bystander to purchase one for you. Don't forget to take pictures of the damage done to all vehicles, license plates, evidence such as street signs or lights, skid marks, etc. If you have an attorney you plan to call, tell him you don't have a camera. He may be able to send someone from his office to take the needed photographs. Be sure to also tell your attorney about any other evidence you think might be important, such as faulty street lights or signage, malfunctioning equipment (seat belts, turn signals, etc.), weather conditions, etc.

Do not make any statement to an insurance adjuster without your attorney present. You have the right not to give a recorded statement. Additionally, be sure not to sign anything until it is reviewed by counsel.