Articles Posted in Personal Injury

In many personal injury actions which happen on a boat or on the water, the value of the case and the way lawyers approach the case depends on whether maritime law applies. Originally, maritime or admiralty law was applicable when any claim arose upon the navigable waters of the United States. The Plymouth, 70 U.S. 30 (1866). However, several U.S. Supreme Court cases have changed this rule.

Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. City of Cleveland, 409 U.S. 249 (1972): A plane taking off from a runway hit a flock of birds, lost engine power, and crashed into Lake Erie, sinking to its bottom. The plaintiffs sought damages under traditional maritime jurisdiction. The Supreme Court held that, for maritime law to be applicable, a court must find, not only that the action accrued upon or in navigable waters, but that the incident alleged in the claim bears a “significant relationship to traditional maritime activity.”

Foremost Insurance Co. v. Richardson, 457 U.S. 668 (1982): Two pleasure boats collided, resulting in the death of a passenger in one of the boats. The Supreme Court held that the collision was actionable under maritime jurisdiction because there is no requirement that maritime activity be an exclusively commercial one. All operations of vessels on navigable waters are subject to uniform rules of conduct. The Court held that “[b]ecause the ‘wrong’ here involves the negligent operation of a vessel on navigable waters . . . it has a sufficient nexus to traditional maritime activity to sustain admiralty jurisdiction.”
Continue Reading › an experienced Maryland trial lawyer, I have handled a number of cases when a store clerk has attacked a customer. One case involved a male cashier attacking a pregnant women. Another case involved a cashier arguing over price with an elderly lady and jumping the counter and beating her. Under these circumstances, personal injury lawyers struggle over who to sue and who pays? Although the law is complex, I have found that when properly pled, most of the time the company or employer can be found responsible.

Under Maryland law, “an employer is ordinarily responsible for the tortuous conduct of [an] employee committed while the servant was acting within the scope of the employment relationship.” An employer is responsible for willful and reckless wrongful employee acts if that act is performed within the scope of employment and in furtherance of the employer’s business. The Maryland courts have held that “[A]n act may be within the scope of employment, even though forbidden or done in a forbidden manner…, or consciously… tortious (sic).”

In addition to compensatory damages, the employer can also be held responsible for punitive damages for an employee’s tortuous acts committed within the scope of employment, even where the employer does not authorize the employee’s conduct. An imposition of punitive damages on an employer for the tortuous acts of its employees serves to prevent future employee misconduct by encouraging astute supervision. The key issue, most often litigated is was the employee acting within the scope of her employment?
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Maryland plaintiff’s lawyers and defense lawyers are always fighting over venue. Venue in Maryland simply refers to the physical location of the trial. Although it may not seem just, different cases have different values depending on where the lawsuit is brought. Some areas of Maryland have a jury pool which is very conservative while others have a more liberal jury pool. The value of the lawsuit, as opposed to the loss, is drastically affected by venue. The differential in lawsuit value, based upon venue, holds truest in personal injury case. The same case, with the same facts and injuries, is worth substantially less on the Maryland Eastern Shore versus Prince George’s County, for example. We know this because we can track jury verdicts over time and determine a pattern.

A sharp Maryland personal injury lawyer will recognize the importance of venue, recognize the best venue for his client, and file the lawsuit in the best venue for his client. The hard part is often keeping the case in the plaintiff’s venue of choice. Often times a good defense attorney will ask the Judge to move the case to a different venue or court because of inconvenience to the witnesses. This is called a motion for forum non conveniens. I recently had a case involving the wrongful death of a minor which occurred in Carroll County, Maryland. Venue was also proper in Baltimore City because one of several defendants conducted business in Baltimore City. I filled suit in Baltimore City and the defense attorney immediately moved to transfer the case to Carroll County arguing that the trial in Baltimore City would be inconvenient to the witnesses. We won and the value of our lawsuit rose dramatically, even though the facts of the case had not changed.
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When representing a client who my have a potential claim for personal injury against the State of Maryland, Maryland personal Injury lawyers must place the state on proper notice within six months of the incident. Failure to do so could bar any recovery under Maryland law.

Although the doctrine of sovereign immunity generally precludes an action for damages against the State of Maryland, its agencies, or officials, the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) provides for waiver of that immunity in cases of “tortuous acts or omissions committed within the scope of the public duties of state personnel, and committed without malice or gross negligence.”

The MTCA requires that the injured individual “may not institute an action . . . unless: (1) the claimant submits a written claim to the Treasurer or a designee of the Treasurer within 1 year after the injury to the person . . . ; (2) the Treasurer or designee denies the claim finally; and (3) the action is filed within 3 years after the cause of action arises.” MD. CODE ANN., STATE GOV’T § 12-102
In addition, the notice requirement provides the State with early notice of a potential claim, which allows the Treasurer, upon receipt of timely notice, to . . . consider[] the fiscal consequences of the claim, and then decide[] which of several options to pursue. As a result of the early notice required under the MTCA, the Treasurer also has “the opportunity to investigate the claims while the facts are fresh and memories vivid, and, where appropriate, settle them at the earliest possible time.

Finally, Section 12-107 of the State Government Article of the Maryland Code, regarding the form of notice, provides:
(a) Form. – A claim under this subtitle shall:
1. contain a concise statement of facts that set forth the nature of the claim, including the date and place of the alleged tort;

2. demand specific damages;
3. state the name and address of each party;
4. state the name, address, and telephone number of counsel for the claimant, if any; and
5. be signed by the claimant, or the legal representative or counsel for the claimant.

Because the purpose of the statute is to enable the State to conduct an investigation into the underlying circumstances of the claim, and because courts are mandated to construe the MTCA broadly, plaintiffs are not required to submit a notice that exactly mirrors the form set forth in §12-107. This Court, likewise, should construe the MTCA notice requirements broadly in order to provide Plaintiffs a remedy, as envisioned by the General Assembly, and deny Defendant DJS’s Motion to Dismiss.
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When a minor (under 18 years of age) brings suit in Maryland for a personal injury, the lawyer will bring the suit under the “next friend”. This person is either the parent or the guardian of the minor.

Specifically, Md. Rule 2-202 (2006) provides that a parent has the exclusive authority to sue on behalf of his/her minor child for the period of one year of the accrual of the cause of action. After the period of one year and person “interested in the minor” shall have the right to institute suit on behalf of the minor.

While the parent as “next friend” is often the named Plaintiff in the case they are considered a non-party in the eyes of the court. Parker v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City, 129 Md. App. 482 (1999) (“The [next friend] is, in contemplation of law, admitted by the court to prosecute for the infant; though, according to the practice of our courts, never by any actual order passed for that purpose….Maryland Rule 2-423 does not authorize the circuit court to order an examination of a non-party next friend.”).

Experienced personal injury attorneys know there is no question asked more often and as difficult to answer than; What is my case worth? The answer to this question is based upon many factors which an experienced personal injury lawyer can best answer.

Our system of civil justice is terrible at valuing the loss, but rather consistently values the lawsuit. For instance, there are many cases involving horrific tragedies such as the death of a child, the loss of which can never be compensated for. Nonetheless, our judicial system attempts to assign a value to such an incomprehensible losses. Hence, the value of most lawsuits never truly compensate for the irreplaceable loss of life or limb. So how do we lawyers come up with a value for injury cases? Understanding this is an imperfect science, lets get cracking.

Most experienced personal injury lawyers will consider the below factors, as well as personal experience, to provide clients with a range of what a case may be worth. The factors that determine value of a personal injury case include:

1) Strength of liability
2) Venue
3) Severity of Injury
4) Medical Bills: past and future
5) Economic Loss: Wages and Loss of services
6) Aggravating Factors
7) Skill of Attorneys

Strength of liability: The settlement value of a case will often be greatly affected by the strength of the liability. For instance, if two auto accident plaintiffs have the same injury (broken back) the pretrial settlement offers may vary greatly based upon the strength of the liability argument.

If liability is clear (rear end collision), than the pretrial offer will be higher to take into account that there will be a verdict, and it is just a question of how much. On the other hand, if liability is disputed and the defendant has a chance of winning on liability, the pretrial settlement offer will be considerably less to reflect the real possibility that the defendant may walk away paying nothing.
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Nissan recently decided to recall 204,361 vehicles from its 2007 and 2008 model years in the United States due to the possibility that a passenger side airbag could fail to deploy properly in an accident. The recall covers 2007 and 2008 Nissan Altima, Altima Coupe, 350Z, Murano and Rogue; and Infiniti G35 Sedan, G37 Coupe and EX35 built from March 12, 2007 to May 27, 2008. Please click here for the full article.

The defect was in the passenger side “Occupant Classification System,” which figures out whether the front passenger is present, and if so, whether it’s a child or small adult. Apparently, the problem is with Nissan’s “Occupant Classification System,” which didn’t work properly since it was out of spec. As a consequence, the passenger airbag may not deploy in a serious crash.

For more information regarding Nissan’s recall, or to speak with a trial attorney with experience litigating similar product liability claims against automobile manufacturers, please contact us for a free consultation.

All of Maryland is deeply saddened by the weekend crash of a Maryland medical evacuation helicopter over the weekend. Four people were killed in the late-night crash in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The Baltimore Sun reports the victims included the aircraft’s pilot, a crew member, a civilian medic and a patient.

The men and women who heroically serve on Maryland’s medevac teams are instrumental in saving thousands of Marylanders each year by responding swiftly and professionally to accident and vehicle crash sites. The cause of this accident remains unknown and is still under investigation. All 11 remaining Maryland medical evacuation helicopters will remain grounded until the cause of the crash is determined. These medevac helicopters are similar in make and model to the one that crashed over the weekend.

Five people survived this crash and were taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Maryland medevac helicopters fly around 5,000 missions each year. There has not been a major accident or fatality in the past two decades. All Marylanders respect and appreciate the selfless work of the brave men and women of the Maryland medevac team and grieve with them and the families of those who lost their lives.

Each year, more than forty percent of the total number of traffic fatalities are alcohol related. In this country, nearly 17,000 thousand people are killed on an annual basis in accidents caused by drunk drivers.

Sadly, notwithstanding these horrific statistics, Maryland law does not permit a cause of action against a bar owner, restaurant, homeowner or other individual or entity responsible for negligently serving alcohol to individuals who later get behind the wheel of a car and cause serious, and oftentimes catastrophic, injury to others. See Veytsman v. New York Palace, Inc., 170 Md.App. 104, 122 n.11 (2006). Such a claim is known as tavern liability or “dram shop” liability. In fact, Maryland is one of only three states that do not permit such lawsuits. Maryland law also does not allow an injured victim to recover punitive damages in automobile accident cases, even in instances where the driver that caused the injury has consumed excessive quantities of alcohol or other mind-altering drugs. See Komornik v. Sparks, 331 Md. 720 (1993).
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Many individual automobile insurance policies do not provide adequate coverage for catastrophically injured victims. As a result, a product liability case against the manufacturer of the automobile may need to be explored. Such cases can be extremely complicated and expensive to prosecute effectively. As such, it is imperative to consult a trial attorney with significant experience handling such cases.

In addition to a simple “negligence” theory, Maryland law recognizes the “crashworthiness doctrine” and doctrine of “strict liability.” A claim may also be pursued under Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act in appropriate circumstances. Pursuing such avenues may be the only way to obtain full compensation for the catastrophically injured client. Therefore, at the beginning of a case, counsel should take affirmative steps to determine whether a product liability theory of recovery should be considered. At a minimum, counsel should take steps to secure the vehicles involved in an accident and send a “spoliation” letter to any parties involved in the accident to preserve evidence for later inspection.

My law firm and I recently obtained a substantial settlement from an automobile manufacturer in a product liability case on behalf of a woman who was blinded in an automobile accident case by the vehicle’s airbag. For more information regarding your catastrophic automobile injury case, please contact us for a complimentary consultation.

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