Articles Tagged with Settlement

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FAQ-03-25-18In most cases, there will come a time when your lawyers have negotiated the settlement offer as high as it will go—the insurance adjuster or defense lawyer tells us that there will be no further offers (whether true or untrue—we’ll help you determine whether we believe it or not).  The question becomes:  Do I settle or move forward.

Answering this question depends on you—I frequently tell my clients that they are in the driver’s seat—my job is to give the best advice that I can, but in the end, we will do what the client wants.  As the lawyer, we cannot settle a case without a client’s permission.  So, here are the facts that we give the client:

  • What does the settlement mean for you? I want my clients to know the amount of money they will receive in their pocket after a settlement.  This means, I tell them where every penny is going to go.  What medical expenses are outstanding, what health insurance liens exist, how much are case expenses and attorneys’ fees.  Depending on the stage of the case, some of that might not be fully ascertained, but we can usually give a very close idea (for example, Medicare liens take a long time to resolve).  Most clients don’t care what the final settlement amount is, they simply want to know, importantly, how much money they will get in their pockets after all expenses are paid.
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Calculator-III-03-25-18-278x300Every now and then we get a call from someone who has been slugging it out with the insurance company on their own in an effort to save legal fees and handle it themselves.  These calls often come at the time that negotiation is wrapping up because the callers want some advice about whether the settlement offer is a good one.  We try to be helpful to people who call us, and we take the position that lawyers should be responsible members of the community, so we will usually try to give some helpful general advice.  The truth that some lawyers won’t tell you is that yes, you can settle your own personal injury case.  Here are some criteria to determine whether you forgo a lawyer and settle a case on your own.

The main question that people have when talking to a lawyer while simultaneously trying to settle their own case is this:  “What happens if I hire you and we get more, but I personally get less?”  This is not a question with a simple answer. Until we evaluate your case, we cannot always make you a guarantee.  Every case is unique, and we will come up with an agreement that reflects the work you did on your case.  Without all the information about your claim, we don’t know whether the insurance company is undervaluing it or valuing it correctly.

The client needs to provide the attorney with as much information as possible regarding their case. This includes all treatment facilities, lost wages, and factors that have changed in the clients life due to the accident.

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Prince-Georges-County-Circuit-CourtWe had a pre-trial conference in Cecil County earlier this week.  As I was discussing with my clients what to expect, I was reminded that, as “old hat” as these pre-trial conferences are for me, most people have never been through the process.  This is a good place to describe what they are all about.

One caveat before we start–there is some variation between the counties, and sometimes even between judges in the same county.  Your lawyer should know (either by experience or by asking other lawyers with experience) exactly what to expect in your case.  Here is a sample scheduling order for Baltimore City Circuit Court, which sets the pre-trial conference: Scheduling Order (02-24-18)

Some frequently asked questions:

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Norwood jury box 2.jpgSo your lawyer made a claim to the insurance company, and the case didn’t settle. Cases don’t settle for several reasons, including:

  1. The insurance company denies liability, thinking that their driver wasn’t at fault
  2. The insurance company believes that you were at fault for the collision
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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).

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Personal injury protection (PIP) is insurance that comes from the car you are in when you are hurt. It is sometimes referred to as no fault, and if you have PIP coverage it will provide benefits regardless of whether you caused the accident, or the accident was caused by someone else. It is also quick–in most cases, you can start to recover money from a PIP policy within 30 days after you submit the documents to the insurance company. Those documents might include an application, lost wage statements from your supervisor, medical records and medical bills.

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How do I know if I have PIP?

In most cases, if you are driving your own car, and you have insurance coverage, your insurance company will provide you with PIP benefits.

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Norwood jury box 2.jpgWe’ve discussed how the strength of your case (liability and negligence) affects your case value, and we’ve discussed how the economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages, impacts your case value. Now we’ll talk about non-economic damages.

Most people think of non-economic damages as “pain and suffering.” Each state has its own rules, but in Maryland, non-economic damages are much more. The Maryland jury instructions explain that non-economic damages are recoverable for past and future:

The “Noneconomic Damages” sustained in the past and reasonably probable to be sustained in the future. All damages which you may find for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of consortium, or other nonpecuniary injury are “Noneconomic Damages.”

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distracted driving accident attorney.jpgThe New Jersey couple who were hit by a texting driver while riding their motorcycle settled their case against the driver for $500,000. Both Mr. and Mrs. Kubert, who were on the motorcycle, lost a leg because of the motorcycle accident.

We wrote about this story in May (Distracted Driving Lawsuits: Suing the Sender, and Lawsuits Against Text-Senders: Conclusion). There, the trial judge ruled that the plaintiffs did not have a case against the person who sent the text message, only the driver who read it. The lawyer in the case is appealing that decision, though I still wonder how he will get paid if he wins.

The $500,000 settlement only applies to the driver of the car. It looks like that is the policy limit, so the driver’s insurance paid everything it had.

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Colossus of Rhodes.jpgColossus is a software program used by many insurance companies to determine the value of automobile accident claims and lawsuits. The software program gets a bad rap from plaintiff’s lawyers–probably because it undervalues those claims. Now, a former Allstate and Encompass Colossus expert and a former Texas insurance commissioner are informing the Consumer Federation of America’s latest report, Low Ball: An Insider’s Look at How Some Insurers Can Manipulate Computerized Systems to Broadly Underpay Injury Claims.

That report details the means by which adjusters can use the software to produce lower evaluations of claims. Insurance adjusters can discount medical bills, evaluate injuries differently than doctors, ignore the likelihood of future medical care, and decide that the claimant/victim was partially at fault for the auto collision.

It sounds like the report is concerned that insurance adjusters might be doing their job.

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Child auto injury lawsuit.jpgThe State of Maryland protects minors. In lawsuits, the State has established rules to help ensure that children (age 18 and under) who receive money, by settlement, have protection against misuse of those funds.

First, if the minor is receiving less than $5,000 (not including attorneys’ fees or costs), the check may be made out to the child’s legal guardian. Typically this will be written something like “Hester Prynne, mother and natural guardian of Pearl Prynne-Dimmesdale.” The parent may deposit the check in their bank account without any special arrangements, and may use the money as they see fit for the child’s benefit.

If the minor receives $5,000 or more (again, exclusive of attorneys’ fees and costs), the State has decided that special protections must be observed. There, the check would read like this: “Hester Prynne, trustee under Title 13 of the Estates and Trusts Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, for Pearl Prynne-Dimmesdale, minor.” The trustee is anyone who will be responsible for the money–there is no other court paperwork required to create a trustee. That check must be deposited into an account set aside for the child–it cannot be deposited into the parent’s or trustee’s account. The money must be held in the interest-bearing account until the child turns 18, at which point the child gets sole access to it.