Recently in Discovery and Trial Tactics Category

Virginia Accident But Maryland Lawsuit: Is There a Cap?

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We have a case where the accident occurred in Virginia but we sued in Maryland because the defendant driver lived in Baltimore City which is generally a place where juries are more fair then they are in southern Virginia where the accident occurred.

The question is does the cap on economic damages in Maryland apply to the case?

The answer is no.  Under Maryland law, the substantive law of Virginia will apply to the case.  That means Virginia traffic law will be applied. But because caps are considered substantive, Virginia's lack of the cap will also control in this Baltimore Circuit Court case.  Which is a good thing for our client. 

Spoliation in Truck Accident: Most Commonly Cited Case

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I have written and read a good bit about spoliation in truck accident cases.  A common case cited nationally in these cases is J.B. Hunt Transp. Inc. v. Bentley, 207 Ga. App. 250, 427 S.E.2d 499 (1992).  In this truck accident case, the defendant trucking company did what many trucking companies do after an accident: destroy the logbook.  There was no conspiracy: this was a destruction in the normal course of business.  Plaintiff' filed a lawsuit alleging that the accident was caused because of driver fatigue.    bigtruck.jpg

Plaintiff's lawyers screamed that the defendant should have - given the notice of a potential claim - preserved the trucking logs.  The trial court agreed, telling the jury that they should presume that the trucking logbook would have shown that the driver did not have sufficient rest. 

The court relied I'm sure in no small part on the fact that the trucking company was clearly a bad seed.  It was a "habitual violator" of the hours-in-service requirements of the Georgia Public Service Commission for its vehicles.   One-third of the company's logbook violations which were penalized were because of driver excessive driving.  Incredibly, and this is over-the-top even for poorly run trucking companies, it operated a "forced dispatch" system, under which drivers could be terminated for not driving a load upon demand. 

That said, destruction of trucking logs after an accident is common, even when the company knows that a potential claim may follow.  Good truck accident lawyers use this lack of evidence to their advantage and seek an instruction that the destroyed evidence would have helped plaintiff's case.  

Social Security Liens in Accident Cases

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Social Security liens seems to be a difficult beast to beast for Maryland car accident lawyers to get their mind around.  They can be tricky and you can't screw it up: the client's rights to benefits are at risk.  

A starting point is the Social Security Release of Information form, which if completed and sent in, SSA will provide the types and amounts of benefits the client receives, which will make identifying potential lien holders easier. Here is a link to the form.

This is one Social Security subrogation lien fact that I think a lot of accident lawyers do not fully appreciate in wrongful death cases:  there is no right of subrogation from Social Security for survivor's benefits.

Defense Experts in Accident Cases

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Sometimes, I think victim's advocates are too reluctant to challenge doctors on the medicine.   So many "independent medical exam" doctors in Maryland perform tests and draw conclusions that are not based in science, particularly "frequent flyer" independent medical exam doctors who are on auto pilot and just don't match the patient with the medicine.

Maryland car accident lawyers are often reluctant to challenge doctors on the medicine.  The lawyer does not need to know more about being a doctor than the doctor. But good accident counsel can get a better handle that many IME doctors on the medicine that matters in a specific case.

Accident Depositions Outside of Maryland

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When a deponent in an auto accident case is outside of Maryland, the Maryland Rules provide that the deposition may be held in a foreign jurisdiction in accordance.  This makes depositions far more complicated for Maryland accident lawyers, often requiring the retention of local counsel to enforce the subpoena; determining the date, time, and place and feasible location to hold the deposition.

This 2001 Utah Bar Journal article continues to be a good resource for lawyers trying to depose out-of-state witnesses. 

  • Sample depositions
  • Sample trial transcripts
  • Sample Discovery