Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Maryland is a major transportation corridor for trucking and other interstate travel with Interstate 95 running from North/South and Interstate 70 running East/West. As such, accidents involving tractor trailers and other large motor carriers oftentimes occur on Maryland’s frequently traveled roadways. In many of these cases, the tractor trailer is equipped with a “black box” containing critical information, such as average speeds of travel, top speeds, braking information for “hard stops” or other valuable information just prior to the point of impact. It may also contain information regarding the number of hours the truck was in operation; information that can be compared with the log books the driver and trucking company are required to keep. The black box can be a gold mine of information. The information contained in the black box can be critical to proving liability not just for the negligent truck driver, but for the company that employs him or her. This information can be used to show that a trucking company should have known there were problems with a particular driver.

If you’ve been involved in an automobile accident involving a tractor trailer or other trucking company, it is important to retain counsel early and act quickly. Counsel should send a “spoliation” letter requesting that the trucking company take affirmative steps to preserve evidence, including the data contained in the black box. A substantial amount of the data can be lost if the tractor trailer is put back into service after an accident. Counsel should notice the inspection of the tractor trailer unit. Counsel should also retain expert assistance to download the black box information. You don’t want the defendant-trucking company to beat you to the punch because they can easily erase critical information in the process. In addition to a black box, some trucking companies also use satellite tracking on their vehicles. This too can be a critical resource to explore when prosecuting a trucking accident case.

If you’ve been injured by the negligence of a truck driver, contact an experienced Maryland plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer for a free consultation about how best to pursue your claim.

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An Iowa jury recently awarded a woman $1.5 Million Dollars in a lawsuit she filed against the man who infected her with HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that causes genital warts. Karly Rossiter filed suit against Alan Evans claiming he told her he was free of sexually transmitted diseases in order to coerce her into having unprotected sex with him, when in fact he was carrying the human papilloma virus which causes genital warts.
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It’s a familiar, but fallacious argument. A favorite of defense counsel and insurance companies in automobile accident cases: “There was a minor impact, therefore there can only be minor injury, if any injury at all.” Defense lawyers often try to introduce into evidence distorted, grainy or out of focus photographs of minimal property damage without providing any expert testimony about the causal relationship between the amount of property damage and the victim’s injuries. The purpose of this tactic is to disprove by false implication what has been proven by medical evidence; to rebut the testimony of a licensed physician that has reached an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the victim’s injuries were caused by the accident in question. There is no mention of the sudden and very high energy forces that are transmitted through the vehicle in the milliseconds after the impact. No mention of the fact that most modern cars are built to withstand a 10-15 mile per hour rear impact without suffering significant property damage, particularly if you’re dealing with an SUV or truck.

Armed only with poor quality photos, too many defense counsel will attempt to manipulate the ignorance (or prejudice) of would be jurors. Such a defense lawyer hopes to prove by innuendo what they know they can’t prove legitimately: minimal damage to a vehicle equates to minimal damage to a human in the car.

In reality, a crash with very little visible property damage can cause extensive, painful and permanent injuries. Crash impact forces are transmitted into sudden and high energy forces causing unexpected acceleration of the subject vehicle, while the occupants of the vehicle (heads, necks, etc.) try to stay in place as their seat-belted bodies are thrust forward by the impact. This sequence of events can lead to a myriad of injuries, including, strained or torn ligaments, weakened connective tissue, bulging or blown discs, hyperextension/hyperflexion of the vertebrae and other painful conditions.

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Under Maryland law, an individual or company that entrusts a motor vehicle to another person with knowledge that such person has a propensity for negligent or reckless driving may be held liable for injuries subsequently caused by that person in a motor vehicle collision. For example, a parent that has given a vehicle to a child as a birthday gift (or even if the parent has simply permitted the use of a family vehicle) with knowledge that the child has reckless driving habits may be held liable for personal injuries caused by the child in a motor vehicle collision. The child’s youth, maturity and inexperience behind the wheel may be relevant factors to consider in the appropriate case. Typically, in order to recover under a theory of negligent entrustment it must be shown that the supplier of the vehicle knew or should have known that the driver would operate the vehicle in a manner that posed an unreasonable risk of harm to others.

In some instances, this theory of recovery may apply to an employer that provides an employee with permission to use a company vehicle with knowledge that the employee-driver would be incompetent or reckless behind the wheel. A key component to this theory of liability is the degree of control over the vehicle exercised by the supplier of the vehicle at the time of the accident. The more control exercised by the supplier the better the chance for succeeding on a negligent entrustment claim. In certain circumstances, negligent entrustment can dramatically expand the opportunity to fully and adequately compensate a victim of personal injury.

Experienced Maryland plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers know that it is essential to evaluate whether a negligent entrustment claim can and should be pursued in the appropriate case. Please feel free to contact an experienced personal injury attorney at www.mdattorney.com for a free consultation.

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Experienced Maryland plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers know to sue the employer when its employee commits an act of negligence causing personal injury. Often times the injured victim can recover damages from the employer if the tortuous act was committed by an employee acting within the scope of the employment relationship. In Maryland, this is called the doctrine of respondeat superior.

The doctrine of respondeat superior, in Maryland, allows an employer to be held vicariously liable for the tortuous conduct of its employee when that employee was acting within the scope of the employment relationship. With regard to the negligent use of motor vehicles in a respondeat superior claim, the State of Maryland recognizes that a master can be held liable for the negligent operation of a servant’s motor vehicle if the master expressly or impliedly consents to the use of the automobile, and……had the right to control the servant in its operation, or else the use of the automobile was of such vital importance in furthering the master’s business that his control over it might reasonably be inferred. Thus, the doctrine of respondeat superior may be properly invoked if the master has expressly or impliedly, authorized the [servant] to use his personal vehicle in the execution of his duties, and the employee is in fact engaged in such endeavors at the time of the accident.
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Personal injury settlements involving minors in Maryland are strictly governed by the legislature to protect the minor. Under Title 13, Section 402 of the Estates and Trusts Article, Annotated Code of Maryland “it is public policy of the state that any substantial sum of money paid to a minor because of a claim, action, or judgment in tort should be preserved for the benefit of the minor.”

That according to Title 13, Section 403 of the Estates and Trusts Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, “if a minor or any other person in whose name a claim in tort is made or judgment in tort obtained on behalf of a minor recovers a net sum of $5,000 or more, the person responsible for the payment of the money shall make payment by check made to the order of ‘(name of trustee), trustee under Title 13 of the Estates and Trusts Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, for (name of minor), minor'”.

Simply put, under Maryland law, the proceeds of a personal injury settlement for a minor are to be preserved for the minor until the minor turns eighteen.

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In Maryland, it is possible to admit medical bills and records at trial without calling a doctor or other health care provider to testify. Section 10-104 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Code sets forth the requirements for introducing medical bills and records without the support of witness testimony at trial. This provision can save a client the added expense of having to pay a doctor to testify at trial or in a deposition. In some cases, the cost of such testimony can be considerable. In many personal injury lawsuits or automobile accident cases, particularly in Maryland’s District Courts, it may be more cost-effective to introduce medical bills pursuant to section 10-104. Doing so may actually increase a client’s net recovery because it reduces certain litigation expenses.

Section 10-104 sets forth several technical requirements that must be satisfied in order to present medical bills and reports without testimony. Section 10-104 may be used in any personal injury action in the District Court or in any such action in the Circuit Court in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $30,000.00. Medical bills and reports introduced under section 10-104 are not required to contain a statement as to the fairness or reasonableness of the treatment or associated cost. In order to gain the benefits under 10-104, a party must give advance notice of his or her intention to introduce writings and records without the support of testimony. A party does this by filing a notice with the Court at least 60 days before trial and serving it on all other parties to the action. The notice must list the name of the health care provider for each writing or record, as well as the date of each report or treatment.

In District Court personal injury cases, or Circuit Court personal injury cases where the amount in controversy is not likely to exceed $30,000.00, it is good practice to serve a copy of the notice when you serve a copy of the complaint on the defendant(s). This ensures compliance with the 60-day notice requirement and preserves the right to proceed under 10-104. An experienced trial lawyer, in consultation with his or her client, can always decide whether it makes sense to call a doctor or other healthcare provider at a later date (even if notice under 10-104 has been provided).

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In personal injury cases, damage to personal property may be a component of an injured victim’s overall damages. How do you prove this component of your case? In Maryland, it is well-established that an owner of personal property may express an opinion as to the value of that property without qualification as an expert. See Maryland Casualty Co. v. Therm-O-Disc, Inc. 137 F.3d 780,786 (1998). The experienced personal injury trial lawyer should be well-armed with this authority whenever proving his or her client’s total economic damages in a personal injury case. The experienced trial lawyer will not let defense counsel convince the court that an expert is needed to opine as to the value of personal property. Maryland law contains no such requirement.

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There are several strategies that the best and most successful Maryland trial lawyers do to increase their chances of obtaining significantly higher damages awards at trial. Intense preparation is, naturally, first and foremost among that list. Too many inexperienced personal injury lawyers leave the damages component as an afterthought, focusing all their energy on proving the liability component — i.e., proving who was at fault, who was negligent, who breached a duty owed to the injured victim, and who was at fault for causing the injury. To be sure, proving liability is absolutely critical to prosecuting a personal injury case. Without proving liability, there is no recovery at all. But it is a shame to win a hard fought jury verdict in favor of your client, only to have the jury return a damages award that is too low and does not account for the full extent of pain and suffering that a client has endured, which by the time you get to trial, is usually measured in years.

Building the damages component of a personal injury case needs to start from the day the lawyer meets the client. The personal injury lawyers at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White use an exhaustive damages questionnaire when we meet with clients. We follow-up with our clients regularly to see how they are feeling, how they are managing their pain and how they are recovering. We follow-up with our client’s doctors regularly. We make our clients problems our problems and try to understand what it is like to walk in their shoes. The knowledge that is accumulated by our attorneys during the case preparation phase is absolutely critical to providing an effective presentation of damages at trial. This knowledge allows our attorneys to create an accurate and detailed frame of reference so that the jury understand the full extent and significance of our client’s injuries. With this type of knowledge and understanding, our attorneys are less inclined to accept defense counsel’s argument that jurors in “more conservative” counties won’t award significant damages. Defendants love to use that argument as a settlement tool. I believe, however, that potential jurors in every county truly understand when someone is injured and has been suffering. It is the responsibility of a good lawyer to lay the groundwork for damages from day one so that they can give an effective presentation at trial.

Please contact us for a free consultation regarding your personal injury or accident case.

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Experienced Maryland personal injury lawyers are well aware of the benefit to their personal injury clients who use their health insurance to pay for their medical expenses. Whether injured in an automobile accident, trucking accident or the victim of some other type of personal injury, victims who are advised by their attorney to use their health insurance will significantly increase their financial recovery.

Maryland personal injury law requires that health insurance companies reduce their lien on a case when the insured uses a lawyer to obtain a recovery from a third party. Experienced Maryland personal injury lawyers may be able to save the their client tens of thousands of dollars by maximizing the benefits of health insurance in personal injury cases. For more information on how to maximize recovery in Maryland personal injury cases involving health insurance liens, please contact us for a free consultation.