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July 8, 2014

Auto accident 2.jpgSo you've been injured in a Maryland automobile collision, and you want to get a settlement or verdict. What can you expect from the process? How long does it take? When will you get your money?

There are two possible phases--the steps leading up to a pre-lawsuit settlement, and the steps following that leading to a trial verdict or post-lawsuit settlement. We'll talk about pre-lawsuit settlements here.

In general, after an accident and once you hire a lawyer, the lawyer will perform whatever investigation is necessary (ordering police report, talking to witnesses, locating photographs or accident video). He will work on notifying the negligent people/corporations or their insurance companies that they are on the case. At that point, they should not be talking to you, but should communicate directly with your lawyer. Your lawyer will also begin ordering your medical records or bills, so he can see what treatment you've had in the past, and possibly monitor current medical treatment. Finally, he will apply for PIP (personal injury protection) or MedPay (medical payments coverage).

After that, though, the case doesn't really start until you finish medical treatment. Whether you are discharged at 100%, or your doctors tell you that your are at MMI (maximum medical improvement), in general, it is not a good idea to try to settle your case until you are done with medical treatment. When you finish, your lawyer will order final medical records and bills, and the clock starts ticking.

In general, I tell my clients that it takes 30 to 60 days from the time they tell me they finished treatment to the time I can get a demand letter out. This time will be shorter if the medical records come into the office quickly, and it will be longer if the hospitals or doctors need a little more persuading. Once the demand letter goes out, the insurance adjuster will usually evaluate it within 30 to 90 days. Anything earlier than 30 days is fantastic--45 days is a fairly typical response time. Then, we begin negotiating the case. This can happen over the course of hours, or may take a few weeks, ordinarily.

If the insurance company is not willing to negotiate in good faith, or if my client doesn't like the settlement offers (the decision on whether to settle a case is always yours--I'll give you my recommendation, but you get the final say), then we file a lawsuit.

If the case does settle, you will usually have your money within 30 days. The insurance adjuster and I have to agree on language for the release, and you have to sign it. You will also sign a power of attorney (allowing me to deposit the insurance check into my safe lawyer escrow account, from which I will write you a check), and a settlement and disbursement spreadsheet (showing where all the money goes, including attorneys' fees and expenses, medical expenses and liens, and you). I send the release back to the insurance adjuster, they send me the check, I deposit it into my escrow account, and write you your check about two days later.

See What to Expect When You're Suing, Part II: Trial.

How Much Will Maryland Save With Scooter Helmet Law?

October 3, 2012

50cc scooter.jpgWe posted recently about the new law requiring moped and scooter riders to wear helmets, procure insurance and have their vehicles titled (Maryland Helmet Law Now Extends to Scooters). An interesting question is what this will do for Maryland's finances?

One article cites that there are 3,500 scooters in Maryland--with a price tag of $25 for the title and decal, that means the state should get about $194,000 in net revenue.

But wait, there's more! The requirement to wear a helmet means that some injuries will be prevented entirely, and others will be less serious. It is estimated that it will save Medicaid $120,000.00 per year. That's money that they won't have to spend on serious, long-term care of people who were injured. Though, one wonders if there might in fact be more injuries--a rider without a helmet might be killed, though a rider with a helmet in the same accident might have a severe and permanent brain injury. It's hard to know where these estimates come from. Only time will tell, and that's only if someone comes in and analyzes the data.

Texting and Driving Infographic

August 23, 2012

Texting Inforgraphic.jpg

Savings Lives By Restricting Teenage Licenses

June 4, 2012

Teen driver.jpgThe Washington Post published an article last week, Graduated Licenses Can Save Lives, Says IIHS. It discusses the process for teenage drivers to receive a license. Here's the data:

  • Teenage driving fatalities are down over the past few years
  • Estimate: with stronger laws, twelve states could cut their fatal teen driving rates by half or more (500 lives saved, 9,500 collisions prevented)

All states and the District of Columbia now use graduated driver licensing (GDL). This means that teens start learning to drive with a supervised learner's permit, then have approval to drive in non-high risk situations after passing a road test, then receive full privileges.
Data from all states were analyzed, and it turns out that the states with the most restrictive GDL laws have the fewest fatalities. Some suggestions include:

  • Precluding younger teens from driving (South Dakota allows learner's permits at age 14)
  • Setting stricter night-driving provisions with earlier driving curfews
  • Setting bans on teen passengers

The article doesn't give much information beyond this--I wonder if the reduction in fatalities is truly because teens are more dangerous and cause more automobile accidents under certain circumstances (younger, night driving, having passengers) than other "aged" drivers, or whether the life-savings is simply a result of fewer driver-hours on the road. After all, if we restricted licenses to 21 year olds, we would see a massive reduction in collisions and fatalities. Even more if we restricted to 31 year olds. Or, if we imposed a nationwide driving curfew of 8:00 p.m. Fewer cars on the roads equals fewer opportunities for collisions.

Need help with an automobile accident?
If you have been in a Maryland automobile accident, contact John Cord Law, LLC at 443.850.4426, or online. We can help you navigate the complex maze created by the insurance companies.

Motorcycle Death Statistics

May 23, 2012

The Governors Highway Safety Association released statistics on motorcycle accident related deaths for 2011 (Motorcyclist Traffic fatalities by State: 2011 Preliminary Data). The 2011 data goes through September, as the remainder of the year's data is not yet finalized:

  • 2011: 3,580 motorcycle deaths (January to September)
  • 2010: 3,641 motorcycle deaths (January to September)
  • 2010: 4,502 motorcycle deaths (full year)
  • 2010: 65 motorcycle deaths in Maryland (January to September)
  • 2011: 52 motorcycle deaths in Maryland (January to September)
  • 2010: 1 motorcycle death in the District of Columbia (January to September)
  • 2011: 3 motorcycle deaths in the District of Columbia (January to September)

Motorcycle Death Statistics.png
There are some theories about why the motorcycle fatality statistics are not decreasing with the standard auto accident fatalities, which are down 1.7% in 2011. These include:
  • Economy: more motorcyclists on the road to save gas/cheaper transportation
  • Helmet use: there are only 19 states with mandatory helmet laws, and several are considering repealing their laws.
  • Weather: several states had better weather this year, meaning more motorcycle trips, which in turn leads to more motorcycle accidents

The most important factor in preventing motorcycle deaths is helmet use. Motorcyclists in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia are required to wear helmets, but those states are in the minority. Regardless of whether use is mandated, all motorcyclists should wear helmets for their own safety.

Contact Us
If you've been injured in a motorcycle accident or an automobile accident, contact us at 443.850.4426, or online for a free discussion of your legal options.

D.C. Traffic Accident Statistics

May 20, 2012

DC Auto Accident Stats (05-20-12).pngThe nearly mid-year District of Columbia traffic death statistics are out (up through May 11), and D.C. is doing very well. Credit is of course going to D.C.'s safety initiatives: education, better signs, safety officers, speed cameras (Mayor Vince Gray would like one on every corner), etc.... The accident death toll is now six, compared to 14 deaths this time last year. In 2009, there were a total of 16,841 traffic collisions in the District of Columbia.
This could be the result of any number of factors, including general awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Regardless of the cause, we're thrilled that that drivers are somehow safer.

Contact Us
If you've been injured in a District of Columbia auto accident, contact us at 443.850.4426, or online for a free consultation.
For More Information

AT&T Publishes Teenage Texting & Driving Statistics

May 17, 2012

distracted driving accident attorney.jpgAT&T conducted a survey of 1,200 teenagers (ages 15-19) to learn more about driving behavior and attitudes toward texting and driving. Here are some of their conclusions:

  • 97% of teens know that texting while driving is dangerous
  • 70% of teens believe that texting while stopped at a red light is dangerous
  • 54% of Hispanic teens admit to texting while driving
  • 41% of Caucasian teens admit to texting while driving
  • 42% of African-American teens admit to texting while driving
  • 80% of Hispanic teens admit to using their phones while at red lights
  • 71% of Caucasian teens admit to using their phones while at red lights
  • 70% of African-American teens admit to using their phones while at red lights
  • 46% of teens send between 21 and 100 text messages per day
AT&T's Infographic is pretty good--it highlights a lot of information designed to help promote their "Texting & Driving: It Can Wait" campaign. Two things that caught my eye:
  • At 65 mph a car travels the length of a basketball court in a single second
  • Texting takes your eyes off of the road for an average of 5 seconds
Like many providers, AT&T has designed a mobile app (DriveMode) to prevent text messages from reaching a driver.
For more information on distracted driving, check out our Charm City Lawyer Blog posts and past Maryland Car Accident Lawyers Blog posts. If you believe that you have been injured because another driving was driving while texting, contact us at 443.850.4426, or online for a free consultation.

Self-Driving Cars: Maryland Accident Prevention?

May 9, 2012

Self-driving car.jpgWe've all heard about Google's research into self-driving cars. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is getting into the mix, believing that 80% of automobile accidents can be prevented if vehicles are given the ability to communicate with each other (see article, Detroit Free Press).

This "vehicle-to-vehicle" communication and related technologies can be used to implement crash-warning systems, and lane departure alerts. According to the NHTSA's Administrator:

Our research shows that these technologies could help prevent a majority of the collisions that typically occur in the real world, such as rear-end collisions, intersection crashes, or collisions while switching lanes.

Actual self-driving cars aren't really on the NHTSA's radar yet, but they promised to look at the technology as it develops.

School Buses and Seat-Belts: New Indiana Lawsuit Filed

March 21, 2012

Indiana Bus Crash.jpgThe IndyStar reports in Lawsuit in Fatal School Bus Crash Focuses on Seat Belts, that the family of Michael Watkins, Lenae Watkins and Neveh Hobbs filed an automobile accident lawsuit against the Miller Transportation, Inc. Miller owns and operates the school bus involved in the March 12 collision which took the life of another student (not named in the lawsuit), Donasty Smith. The bus collided into a concrete pillar.

The lawsuit includes claims that Miller did not adequately inspect the bus. At this point, the police have inspected the wreck and concluded that the bus passed inspection on January 3, and there was no indication of anything faulty. However, the plaintiffs are obviously preserving their claim and their right to have their own experts inspect the bus.

The lawsuit also makes claims that Miller did not adequately monitor the health of the bus driver, who died in the collision. The autopsy results have not been released, yet.

Indiana's governor expects that the issue of seatbelts will certainly be raised again in public hearings. The issue is going to resolve mostly around cost, I'm sure. Seat belt companies claim that buses can be safer with seatbelts, preventing injury odds by up to 45%. Some calculations indicate, however, that to improve a single bus costs between $3,000 and $10,000. Some question whether the cost is worth it. Parents don't wonder.

For More Information
We've written on buses, school buses and seatbelts before. See our other posts:

More on Mandatory Back-up Cameras

March 19, 2012

Rear Backup Camera.jpgWe posted on March 6 about Mandatory Back-Up Cameras: Worth the Cost? It seems that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been getting a lot of criticism for his delay in acting on the proposal.

The Tampa Bay Times has an editorial pointing out that the cost of backup cameras ranges from $58 to $203 per car (in our post, we only had data about the higher-end dollar figure).

But, is this even a worthy issue? Apparently, back-up cameras are already standard on 45% of all 2012 models. Based on that, it might appear that this is something the public is demanding. If so, why the delay in implementing the rule? And why is the automobile industry fighting back so hard? It appears that there is no objection to back-up cameras, just the nuances of the camera. From USA Today:

It's unclear exactly why the delay, but Drive On knows there has been some disagreement on how long it should take for the backup camera image to pop up on the viewing screen after the driver shifts into reverse. NHTSA wanted no longer than two seconds; some automakers argued for three seconds.

Under the extension, we now must wait to about April 13, 2012, the new deadline requested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That is when the NHTSA wants to finalize the collection of comments on the rule.

A public hearing has been set for March 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the media center at the Department of Transportation West Building, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Washington, D.C., 20590.

Data on Life-Saving Cell Phone Laws

March 9, 2012

Distracted Driving Lawsuits.jpgCalifornia has a new law on cell phones. There, hand-held cell phone use was banned for drivers in July, 2008. According to data kept by the University of California, Berkeley, overall traffic deaths decreased by 22%, and hand-held driver cell-phone related deaths went down by 47%.

Certainly, it can't all be related to the law, but some of these saved lives are because of the public perception that driving while using a cell phone is just dangerous. But, California offers a big stick--in 2011, there were 460,487 Californian convictions for hand-held cell phone use. The data and the California press release are visible here.

In Maryland, it is illegal to talk on a cell phone (unless it is hands-free), and to text or e-mail from a cell phone while driving. These are all primary offenses, and a police officer can give a citation to any driver who engages in this activity without evidence of other offenses. It will be interesting to track the Maryland conviction statistics, to see how aggressive our police officers are. Anecdotally, it doesn't take long to see someone driving down the road, talking on a cell phone without the hands-free device.

In our auto cases, we regularly propound discovery designed to seek out information on cell phone use by the other driver. In the appropriate cases, we will even subpoena that information directly from the cell phone carrier to prove that distracted driving was the cause of the collision. If you have been in an automobile accident, call us at 443.850.4426, or contact us online for a free consultation.

Mandatory Back-up Cameras: Worth the Cost?

March 6, 2012

Backup Camera.jpgI am fortunate that I've never had to litigate a case involving a driver who backed up into a child or a person. Statistically, about 16,000 of these accidents happen every year, with about 300 deaths. The drivers are most often (70%) the parents or family members of children who are injured.

There have been proposals since at least 2008 to require all cars to feature backup cameras. Many thought the rule on rear visibility standards was going to pass this year, but it has been delayed once again. The automobile wants lawmakers to consider other alternatives.

One proponent likens backup cameras to airbags--prevailing wisdom was that the public didn't want them, but they did. Now, we accept that the cost of an airbag is built into the car, and if it increases the price a bit, that's the price for safety. Backup cameras could increase the costs of cars by $200.

To some, the question is a cost-benefit analysis:

An auto alliance presentation noted that the cost of the regulation per life saved is $11 million under the rear visibility rule, compared with $9.8 million per life saved under a roof strength regulation and less than $4 million for side impact regulations.
So, what's a life worth? We actually know the answer to that. In Maryland, the legislature has decided the value of a life by setting the "cap" on damages, including wrongful death. For 2012, a life (in a non-medical malpractice situation) is worth $1,887,500. That doesn't include "economic" damages (lost wages, medical expenses, etc.). It's purely the value of the life and the value of the pain and suffering borne by the surviving beneficiaries. If those numbers are correct (my opinion? They're not), then we shouldn't get back-up cameras because they are too costly. A single Maryland child is not worth $11 million.

Tell that to her mom and dad.

For More Information

  • Stories of children killed because they were in a vehicle's blindzone
  • 60 for Safety: Blindzone Awareness Initiative
  • On a lawyer feelgood note (we're not all bad!), this fall hundreds of lawyers will pledge to give talks to hundreds of organizations in the U.S. and Canada to help increase blindzone awareness. For more information on that initiative, or to help out, click here

Maryland Court Statistics

January 10, 2012

Statistics (12-13-11).jpgWhile doing some other research, I happened upon the Maryland Judiciary's Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Statistical Abstract (it covers July 2009 to June 2010). Whenever I see something law-related with statistics, I stop to take notice. I just have to look. There's a lot of great data here. For example in the Circuit Courts:

  • 107,814 new civil cases filed (5,698 of these (5.3%) were automobile accidents
  • 2010 featured 16,768 more cases than 2009, which was itself 6,129 higher than 2008
  • The number of automobile accident cases filed in 2010 was down 50 cases from 2009 filings
  • The report divides automobile accident cases filed by jurisdiction: 174 (Howard); 91 (Anne Arundel); 966 (Baltimore County); 1,463 (Baltimore City); 531 (Montgomery County); and 1,096 (Prince George's County)
  • We don't know the number of automobile trials, but we do know the number of civil jury trials for each county: 43 (Howard); 420 (Anne Arundel); No data (Baltimore County); 148 (Baltimore City); 172 (Montgomery County); and 295 (Prince George's County)
Compare that to the District Courts (civil cases up to $30,000):
  • Auto accident cases filed: 71,704 (Baltimore City); 133,240 (Prince George's); 87,135 (Montgomery); 47,338 (Anne Arundel); 79,824 (Baltimore County)
  • Sadly, there is no data on auto case judge trials