Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

Published on:

Smartphone Camera (04-10-14).jpgWith smartphones everywhere, Maryland accident victims have the ability to record and document almost every aspect of an accident, almost in realtime. It’s no surprise that witnesses in auto accident cases are scarce, negligent drivers frequently lie about what happened, and testimony in at trial is inconsistent. So what’s a judge or jury to do?

Ideally, the judge or jury will have the opportunity to look at the vehicles, the accident scene, and overhead maps of the collision site. People involved in a collision should take pictures of their cars, the other driver’s cars, and important landmarks that show where the accident occurred. Those photographs should include close-up shots, and wider views (you’d be surprised how hard it is to determine what a narrow angle shot shows). Pictures of the damage are important, but so are pictures of non-damaged areas.

What do these photos show? They can help a judge or jury to determine the exact area of impact, that is, where the cars came into contact. This can be crucial to determining who was at fault. They can help to show how bad the collision was. To be fair, though, the extent of damage does not always correlate with actual physical injuries. We’ve all seen people walk away unharmed from serious accordion-style wrecks; and we’ve also seen people require multiple surgeries from mere “bumper-tap” cases. But, high damage will almost always help in an effort to secure damages.

Published on:

Record Button.jpgAttorneys are an argumentative bunch. We disagree on many things, so when we agree on something, you should take notice. Something we agree on–don’t give a recorded statement to the insurance company after an automobile collision. It doesn’t matter if it is your insurance company, or the negligent driver’s insurance company.

Let’s talk about why the insurance companies want to get you on an audio recording. First, the mundane–they want to know the facts of the accident, the nature of your injuries, and what medical care you have received. They want to know what evidence you have, and whether there is anything that will help them to muster up more evidence.

Now, the insidious–the insurance companies want a recorded statement from you so that they can use it against you. They will take a recorded statement shortly after the accident. Down the road, when you file a lawsuit, you will answer written questions (called interrogatories) under oath. Then you may have a deposition, where they ask you more questions under the penalty of perjury. Finally, you will testify at trial, perhaps two or three or four years after the accident.

Published on:

Crash (2 vehicles).jpgLawyers, like high-pressure used-car salesmen, want you to sign on the dotted line right away. Like all businesspeople, they understand the value of inertia–if you don’t hire them now, then it’s not likely that you’re going to hire them later.

My goal is for you to get good representation when you need it. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s another lawyer. I just don’t want you to lose your case. Partly, this is because I’m a plaintiffs’ lawyer. Helping people is what I do. Partly, this is because I understand that businesses and insurance companies sometimes take advantage of people, which isn’t very nice.

So, understand when I tell you that you should hire a lawyer within 2 weeks of your accident, I’m not trying to round up business for myself (though, that would be nice, and I’d be thrilled to help). I just want you to protect yourself. It’s important to be concerned about Maryland deadlines in car accident cases. If you miss these deadlines, you might lose your claim forever. We’ll start with the earliest deadlines first:

Published on:

This month Maryland drivers will have to live up to the state’s new expectations. There are two important new rules for drivers, effective October 1, 2013.

Cell Phones

In the continuing march of more severe cell phone laws, the legislature has seen fit to increase penalties and make enforcement easier. In 2010 drivers were prohibited from talking on cell phones without a hands free device. These were only secondary offenses, meaning that drivers could only be cited if they were violating some other law (like speeding). In 2011 the use of a cell phone for writing, reading or sending text messages also became illegal, and it was set as a primary offense, meaning that drivers could be cited even without violation of another law.

Published on:

hands free study.jpgThe laws of most states are coming around to what public perception (not to mention science) understands very clearly–drivers are distracted when they use handheld cellphones for talking, texting and e-mailing. Those distracted drivers are more likely to cause accidents. Most states have some sort of cell phone laws. In Maryland, for example, we prohibit the handheld use of cell phones for any purpose (even while stopped at a red light).

So, in Maryland and other states, we rely on hands-free technologies, like Bluetooth. Many vehicles are now coming equipped with their own hands-free devices. My Honda, for example, allows me to push a button on my steering wheel to access my voice-recognition speed dial. Even cooler, when I receive text messages, my car will read the messages aloud, and allow me to dictate a response.

Here’s the problem: these technologies may be no safer than the behaviors they were designed to replace. A new report, sponsored by AAA and conducted by the University of Utah, has determined that hands-free technologies don’t actually make us safer. The CEO of AAA calls it “a looming public safety crisis.” The report (found here). In the study, they used some rather high-tech looking devices to measure driver reactions and brain activity when listening to the radio, talking on a cellphone (with and without hands) and using voice-activated talk-to-text features.

Published on:

18-wheeler truck accidentOften when an auto accident involves a business vehicle, there are two specific types of claim that should be alleged against the business–the first is that the business is liable simply by virtue of employing the negligent driver; the second is that the business is liable because it did something incorrectly.

No. 1: Respondeat Superior

Respondeat superior is Latin for “let the master answer.” Lawyers frequently use Latin, mostly because that’s how lawyers in ages past were trained, and as a profession we are hard-pressed to put things in the regular, understandable English. What it means is that the employer is going to be responsible for the negligence of his employee if the injury occurred in the normal scope of employment. There are many important exceptions to this, but in general, if a UPS driver falls asleep at the wheel and rear-ends another car, UPS is going to be responsible for that accident.

Published on:

Text Distracted Driving.jpgI am not unmindful that, in this business, I profit from the misfortune of others. Sometimes when clients are asking me questions about medical treatment I tell them that what is good for you (getting better quickly) is bad for your legal case, and vice-versa. Honestly, I wish that all of my cases were small, basic soft-tissue cases that resolved after a short week or two of treatment.

But they aren’t.

We see the worst of the worst. We settled one case earlier this year where a gentleman was minding his own business at a stop light, and he was hit from behind by a woman who first claimed that she blacked out, then later hired an expert to state that she fell asleep because of undiagnosed sleep apnea (amazingly, if proven, that is a complete defense to responsibility). The poor guy was in shock trauma and had many surgeries, including one to remove a section of his bowel. That’s a situation he will never totally recover from. Fortunately, there was a good insurance policy, and the case settled before trial for over $700,000.00. Clearly, the defense didn’t place much stock in that argument.

Published on:

Norwood jury box 2.jpgBecause accidental injuries are unexpected, the need for a good lawyer can be immediate and unplanned. Too often people randomly select lawyers based on a television ads, phone book ads, or internet marketing. Selecting a lawyer solely on the basis of advertising precludes a well-balanced understanding of the lawyer’s actual capabilities.

However you find your potential list of lawyers–whether from advertising, a referral from a friend, or even a lawyer you used long ago, it’s a good idea to dig a little deeper to make sure that the lawyer is best equipped to help with your problem. Here are five things to look for:

Number 1: A Lawyer Who Handles Your Kind of Case

Published on:

Text Distracted Driving.jpgI finally replaced my ten-year old car a few months ago, and have been happily learning about all of the new technology in modern cars. It’s like a candy store, especially compared to my old vehicle which was limited to power locks and a car alarm.

One feature that I was surprised to learn about was voice to text. When a text message comes in, the car will connect to my phone and will ask permission to read it. The voice recognition software will pick up my command (yes or no), and the pronunciation, even for uncommon words in text messages, is remarkable. Then, it will extraordinarily ask me if I want to reply. I speak, and it will create a responding text message. This is also amazingly accurate.

Two things: first, this will make things a little more complicated for attorneys who are litigating distracted driving lawsuits. In Maryland, as you know, it is against the law (not to mention unsafe) for drivers to use handheld phones while driving. That means no e-mailing, no texting, and no holding the phone up to your ear. The exception is the hands-free option–right now, we are allowed to use the phone as long as it is through some sort of hands-free technology, like bluetooth. One common source of discovery in accident cases is for the negligent driver’s cell phone data–was the driver receiving or sending texts at the time of the accident? If so, that is important evidence to show distracted driving. Now, however, lawyers must find out if the negligent driver’s vehicle has these voice-to-text features, because those are within the boundaries of the law.

Published on:

Car Accident (2 people)(11-22-11).jpgMaryland has a rule called collateral source. This is an important part of making sure auto accident victims get full value for their claims. It is the reason that accident victims can recover for medical expenses and lost wages through their personal injury protection (PIP) insurance (see our webpage here, and a recent blog post here) and, at the same, recover for those losses from the negligent driver’s insurance company.

Here’s why it matters: let’s assume a car accident results in a hospital visit, some x-rays, and a couple of weeks of physical therapy. The total medical bills are $2,000, and the lost wages are $250. If the auto accident victim has $2,500 in PIP insurance, all of those medical expenses would be paid, and 85% of the lost wages would be reimbursed ($212.50). Then, the auto accident victim could recover full losses from the negligent driver’s insurance company, getting $2,250 for the medical expenses and lost wages, and some other amount for noneconomic damages (pain, suffering, inconvenience, etc…).

Let’s say the total settlement was a very modest $5,000. With PIP, the victim would recover a total of $3,545.83 after payment of all attorneys’ fees (at 33.33%) and medical expenses (and including the lost wages paid through PIP). Without PIP, the victim would only recover $1,333.33, more than $2,000 difference.