Recently in Auto Accidents Category

Settled Injury Claim: What About Property?

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Sometimes, when a personal injury case gets settled, a dispute still lingers about the property damage, often involving plaintiff's claim of diminution of value of the vehicle.  What do you do?

The simplest and easiest way to solve this problem is simply note on the release that the settlement excludes any property damage claim to your car that may remain.  

Usually, the personal injury adjuster think that the property damage claim is someone else's probably and allows the modification of the settlement.  

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Maryland Car Accident Wrongful Death Damages

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There are two fundamental limitations on how much a plaintiff can recover in a wrongful death car accident case in Maryland.  The first is our pain and suffering cap which is anywhere between $755,000 and $1,887,500 for accidents occurring today (the high includes a survival action, another claim that can be brought when someone is killed by a negligent driver of a car or truck.

The other practical limitation is often the insurance policies.  Generally not a problem with truck accident cases because commercial policies are larger (by law) and because trucking companies usually have assets to pay settlements and judgments.  

But there are some car accident cases in Maryland where there are insufficient insurance from the at-fault driver and also insufficient uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.  The key in these cases is to uncover every possible stone to find additional insurance coverage.  But that is not always possible.  We have had clients is wrongful death cases whose recoveries are topped out at $30,000.  

The take home message: get high uninsured motorists limits to protect yourself and your family. 

Wrongful Death Award in Cab Case

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A North Carolina jury awarded $1.5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a pedestrian hit by a cab.  Before his death, the man suffered brain damage that ultimately killed him eight months after the accident.   The pedestrian victim was blind - thankfully, there were witnesses to the accident which helped avoid a miscarriage of justice. 

One big problem with cab accident lawsuits in Maryland is the taxi cabs are typically insured for only $20,000 in coverage, an amount below the minimum limits.  How do cab companies get away with having less than the minimum insurance?  They use MAIF which is a Maryland state government operated insurance company that slipped by the legislature when they increased the minimum limits.  Hopefully, this gets fixed in the next legislative session.  

Settlement with State Farm

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State Farm is a tough insurance company if you are trying to settle a car accident case.   We have a little magazine type thing called the Metro Verdicts Monthly which provides interesting summaries of personal injury cases that go to trial in Maryland.  The majority of cases that go to trial are auto and truck accident cases.   I have never gone back and done the math but I suspect that almost half of the auto accident cases that go to trial in Maryland are with State Farm as the defendant. 

State Farm is sending a message: we are going to fight.  The question is whether you are ready to fight back.

Getting 911 Tapes in Baltimore City

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Evidence of a 911 call can be a game changer in a Maryland car accident case.  First, the fact alone that a call was made can be important in some cases.  But, more significantly, the defendant often makes the call and says thing in the heat of the moment that he/she may later recant.   In Baltimore City, you can get a 911 call by sending a fax to 410-984-7024.  Their address is: 

Information Retrieval Unit      
242 West 29th Street                                              
Baltimore, Maryland 21211

In a related/unrelated story, The American Journal of Emergency Medicine published an article on Baltimore City 911 calls, finding that a new strategy helped slow repeated unnecessary 911 calls, which drain manpower and resources of the City's emergency medical services.   A pilot program that identified Baltimore City's top 911 callers and coupled them with a case worker has succeeded in drastically cutting the number of such calls while helping callers get proper care.

Moral of the story: by continuing to try, we can find better solutions to Baltimore's most vexing problems.  

Property Damage Claims: The Bad News

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I was talking to a potential client today who suffered a pretty serious car accident while already facing some existing challenges.  I help people for a living.  So I like being able to tell people in trouble, "I got this. We can solve your problems."

I can't do this on property damage cases.  The reality is the law is such that more often than not, injury victims with significant property damage or a total loss to their vehicle are going to get a raw deal.  Our lawyers can often turn that raw deal into a medium-rare deal (or something like that).  But with respect to the property damage, if justice is getting the car back to where it was before the accident, injustice will outperform justice. 

Our firm handles only (serious) personal injury claims.  So even if you have the world's best property damage case, our lawyers will not be able to help you if you are not hurt.  But if you have a  question about a property damage claim, drop us a line and we will try to give you our thoughts. 

Medical Malpractice After a Car Accident

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What if a doctor commits medical malpractice on a patient while treating the patient for injuries from a car accident in Maryland?  The driver is liable not only for the plaintiff's direct injuries but also for any additional harm resulting from medical providers rendering aid, regardless of whether the treatment is proper or a negligent manner. 

The reasoning behind this Maryland rule is that the at fault driver by his actions put the plaintiff in a position of danger and should be held accountable for the risks inherent in treating the plaintiff's injuries.  Of course, the at-fault driver in an auto accident where there is subsequent medical malpractice can bring a claim against the negligent doctor or health care provider for contribution.  But I have never seen or heard of this happening. 

Maryland Lawyer: Car Accident

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How do you pick a lawyer for your car accident claim/lawsuit?  

First, don't let anyone kid you.  While there are a lot of lawyers out there who will take your accident claim that shouldn't be handling car accident cases of any level of complexity, there are a lot of competent Maryland auto accident lawyers who can handle your accident claim.  

But the key to finding a quality Maryland accident lawyer is to ask the lawyer the tough questions about their experience.  You need to first admit that this task is not as easy as it sounds.  I've asked my own treating doctors about their level of experience and qualifications to perform the job. It is not fun and it is no easy.  But you really have to suck it up and ask the right questions.  Here are three you may want to consider:

  1. Have you every received a settlement or verdict in excess of $1 million?  This question is misleading for lots of reasons but it is still a good question.  Why?   Accident lawyers who have not handled large cases are more likely to blink the moment that the insurance company makes some thing that approaches a real offer. You may want to feel like your accident lawyer's only client but you don't want to be the lawyer's only client.  
  2. How many cases have you tried in the last few years?  Few successful Maryland accident lawyers are trying 10 cases a year.  Good lawyers handle good cases and this means a lot of time put into the case before trial and good accident cases, more often than not, settle.  But if the lawyer and his/her law firm are only rarely trying cases, it is unlikely they take cases to trial.  Even if your goal is to settle your case, you want an accident lawyer who is ready to go to trial (and one the insurance company knows is ready for trial).
  3. What kind of cases to you handle?  If the lawyer handles criminal, domestic,and everything else under the sun, you can reasonably question whether that lawyer has the experience to handle all that comes with a complex personal injury case.  Not to say that some lawyers can't be successful handling many different types of cases.  But it does raise a red flag that should be fully explored.

How Fast Was the Driver Going Before the Accident?

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I read a bar journal in Maine today that provided some good links of some of the literature that is out there to try to determine how fast a driver was doing at the time of impact in a car accident:

 Baker and Fricke's The Traffic Accident Investigation Manual, Northwestern University Traffic Institute (ed. 1986).

- Thomas Bohan's and Arthur DaMasks' Forensic Accident Investigation Motor Vehicles, (1995), which includes an introduction to vehicle accident physics, speed calculations and computer-generated images.

- Daily's Fundamentals of Traffic Accident Reconstruction, Institute of Police Technology and Management University of North Florida (1988), the text utilized by the state of Maine.

 Watts, Atkinson & Hennessy's Low Speed Automobile Accident Reconstruction and Occupant Kinematics Dynamics and Biomechanics, (1996).

- Armentrout's Physics Applied to Accident Reconstruction, Maine College of Physics Teachers, University of Maine (1983).

Knee Injury Settlements and Verdicts

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Metro Verdicts Monthly's graph this month addresses median settlements and verdicts in knee injury cases in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia since 1987. The median settlement or verdict in Maryland knee surgery cases is $37,500. The medians for Washington, DC and Virginia are $75,000 and $52,500.

I'm not sure why Maryland verdicts and settlement in knee surgery cases are half that of Washington D.C. and it makes me question the data.  As always, I pass this along because I think it is interesting.