Auto injury accident attorney Craig Meyers of Berman, Sobin,
Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP shares his insight in the video below on how long auto accident injury cases can take to come to completion. Learn more about Craig and our attorneys by visiting http://www.bsgfdlaw.com/our-attorneys.
When you are involved in an automobile collision, it can be frustrating to deal with the property damage claim. If your vehicle can be fixed, it’s pretty straightforward; the insurance carrier will typically work directly with an auto body shop and the process can be smooth. However, if your vehicle is declared a total loss, it can be a frustrating process.
The Value of GAP Insurance
GAP insurance is optional coverage that you can purchase, which will cover the difference between the total loss value and the amount you owe on your loan. In addition to situations where your vehicle is determined a total loss, GAP insurance also comes into play if your vehicle is stolen.
When To Purchase GAP Insurance
The question then becomes: should I purchase GAP insurance? The answer depends on a number of factors including: how much you can afford to pay out of pocket if your vehicle is totaled or stolen and how much money you put down at the purchase of your car, among many other factors. You can purchase GAP insurance through many common insurance carriers or the dealership where you purchased your vehicle. It is important to look at every factor before deciding whether you need GAP insurance.
In most states, including Maryland, automobile insurance is mandatory. There are many different layers of automobile insurance
and they can often be difficult to navigate. We have put together a list of the most common options below to help our clients choose what is best for
Liability Insurance - Bodily Injury and Property DamageBodily injury and property damage liability insurance are mandatory in the state of Maryland. This insurance coverage pays for damage to property or bodily injury to another person when you are at fault for a motor vehicle collision. Maryland has established mandatory minimum policy limits as follows: (1) bodily injury - $30,000 per person/$60,000 per incident and (2) property damage - $15,000 per incident. You can choose to purchase higher policy limits for a higher premium, which will help to protect you from personal liability if you cause a collision.
Uninsured Motorist CoverageUninsured motorist coverage is also mandatory in the state of Maryland. This insurance will pay for your injuries and property damage, as well as injuries to your passengers, if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision and (1) the at-fault driver is uninsured or (2) the at-fault driver flees the scene of the collision and cannot be identified. The mandatory minimum policy limits are the same as liability insurance - (1) bodily injury - $30,000 per person/$60,000 per incident and (2) property damage - $15,000 per incident. You can also choose to purchase higher policy limits for a higher premium, but the limits must not exceed your limits for liability insurance. Uninsured motorist coverage also includes underinsured motorist coverage, which kicks in when the at-fault driver’s policy limits are less than your uninsured motorist policy limits and do not satisfy your claim. You can recover above the at-fault driver’s policy limits up to your uninsured motorist policy limit.
Personal Injury ProtectionPersonal injury protection (PIP) is insurance coverage that will cover medical expenses and lost wages which result from a motor vehicle collision, regardless of who caused the collision. If you choose to purchase PIP, the standard amount is $2,500 worth of coverage, although you may choose a higher limit. You can decide to waive PIP for yourself and resident relatives (family members who live in your household) over the age of 16, which will result in a lower premium. The PIP waiver will not apply to family members under the age of 16 or passengers who are not resident relatives. You must make a claim for PIP benefits within a year of the collision or your claim will be barred.
Collision CoverageThis is optional insurance coverage that you may purchase, which provides coverage for your property damage if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision. The higher amount of collision coverage you purchase, the higher your premium is. The rate is based on your vehicle, but not just the value. It is complex and looks into the cost of repairing your vehicle, among other factors.
Comprehensive CoverageThis is optional insurance coverage that you may purchase, which provides coverage for property damage caused by something other than an automobile collision (for example, a storm or theft). As with collision coverage, the higher amount of collision coverage you purchase, the higher your premium is.
Although these are the most common types of insurance coverage available in Maryland, there are many more including but not limited to rental coverage
and medical payments coverage (only covers medical expenses, not lost wages).
If you are injured in a motor vehicle collision and are seeking representation or have a question about your coverage, please contact Elizabeth Shura, Esq. at 301-670-7030.
911 dispatchers are our first line of defense in times of emergency. Sometimes they are called upon to perform special training and can be injured when traveling to and from this training. Ken Berman, Natalie Whittingham and Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP protected the rights of a long time 911 dispatcher who was injured in a motor vehicle collision near his place of work, while traveling to a mandatory training meeting. The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission had found that the Claimant, who was “T-boned” by a truck, sustained an accidental injury as a result of and within the scope of his employment, notwithstanding that he had not yet physically checked in to work. After the Claimant won before the commission, the employer attempted to overturn this Order by filing an appeal and filing a dispositive motion. Ken and Natalie defeated this motion and preserved the claim of the injured worker.
Exceptions to The “Going and Coming” Rule
Ordinarily, injuries suffered while an employee is going to or coming from work (known as the “going and coming” rule), are not covered under workers’ compensation law. However, there are many, many exceptions to this rule. For example, injured workers who are “on duty” at the time of the accident, are in Employer’s vehicle, or on a “special errand or mission” at the request of the employer are covered and not barred by the “going and coming” rule. Ken and Natalie were able to protect the rights of the Claimant in this case by successfully arguing that the Claimant was traveling to attend a “special errand/mission", a mandatory staff meeting. Therefore, this case fell into an exception to the “going and coming” rule because the public safety employee was on his way to attend a monthly mandatory staff meeting, even though it was before his regular work hours given that it was with the consent of his employer. Therefore, he was on a “special errand”.
What this Means for Injured Workers
This case is the perfect example of why injured workers need an attorney with experience in workers’ compensation law. The “going and coming” rule, and the many exceptions that apply to that rule, is a complicated issue.Injured workers who are involved in accidents while traveling to or from work may still be protected, despite the “going and coming” rule. Whether a claim falls under one of the exceptions requires a detailed review of the law and the facts of each case.The attorneys at Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman and Darby LLP are equipped with the expertise to navigate this area of law and protect the rights of injured workers, like Ken and Natalie protected the Claimant in this case.If you are injured at work, contact Ken Berman, Esq. at (301) 740-3300 or Natalie E. Whittingham, Esq. at (301) 670-6546.
It is a fact of life that police officers, on occasion, find themselves in their own personal vehicles but in uniform. Whether it is on the way in to the barracks, on the way home after a shift or for a multitude of other reasons, accidents and injuries do occur under these circumstances. The question arises, under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation law, as to whether these injuries are covered or “compensable.” Generally, the law provides that injuries suffered going to or coming from work are not compensable – this is the “going and coming rule.” Then there are the exceptions to the rule – many of which have created a great amount of litigation.
Act One – Montgomery County, MD v. Pamela Wade (1991) - Montgomery County police officer Pamela Wade was operating her marked police cruiser, off duty - not in uniform and on a personal errand – driving her mother to her grandmother’s house for dinner. She was rear-ended and injured significantly – so much so that she eventually had to retire on disability. The undersigned filed a Maryland workers’ compensation claim alleging that the use of the police cruiser, in full compliance with the County’s personal patrol vehicle program was a significant benefit to the County and that, as such, the “employer conveyance exception” to the going and coming rule applied. A jury and both Courts of Appeal agreed. Officer Wade’s injuries were therefore compensable under the law – and this rule has state-wide application for all law enforcement officers by virtue of the decision of the Court of Appeals.
Act Two – State of Maryland v. Oliver O. Okafor(2014) – Trooper First Class Oliver Okafor was operating his own vehicle, in uniform, while on his way in to the Forestville barracks on January 25, 2013. His purpose – to obtain a fleet vehicle for use on patrol because his assigned cruiser was disabled. The evidence demonstrated that the State provided Trooper Okafor with a take home cruiser for his use - and typically, the officer would call in upon entry of that cruiser - at his residence - that he was “in service.” When Okafor was involved in an accident and sustained injuries on January 25, 2013 while in route to the barracks, it was at a time when he would have been, but for the fact that his cruiser was disabled, operating the take home cruiser and in service. The Court of Appeals considered the “going and coming “rule but determined that the evidence supported a finding that the “free transportation” exception to the “going and coming” rule applied. When the State agreed to furnish free transportation to Okafor to and from work, Okafor’s work day started when his commute to work started and ended when that commute was over. Significantly, the Court noted that the injury would have been covered even if the free transportation was not being used at the time – because the employment begins, under this exception, when the work day began – at the beginning of the commute – whether it was by means of the “take home cruiser”, personal vehicle, or public transportation. (Note: The Court, in part, utilized a 1977 non-public safety case, Ryan v. Kasakeris, to reason that when the employer provides the commute, an injury occurring anywhere during the commute arises out of and in the course of the employment) The Okafor case made significant advances in coverage for law enforcement officers who are provided take home cruisers.
Act Three – The future? There can be no doubt that future cases will deal with accidents with other factual scenarios – such as injuries that occur while an officer, who is assigned a take home vehicle – is injured on his way to retrieve it at the County line – because he/she lives outside the County. Will this commute be compensable given the free transportation exception to the “going and coming” rule? We take the position that this commute is within the course of employment because law enforcement officers have jurisdiction state wide to exercise their powers depending upon the circumstances. If the officer would normally be using the take home cruisier, the fact that he/she lives outside the County and must retrieve it at the County line should be insignificant to the greater purpose of providing law enforcement services to the public at all times when the officer would normally be utilizing a police vehicle. Stay tuned.
Sometimes you can settle a case, sometimes you have to try a case. But there is an in between: binding arbitration. Binding arbitration is a less formal alternative to a trial that is appropriate in cases where both sides have some type of risk they want to limit.
When parties agree to binding arbitration, they agree to submit their evidence and even provide live testimony to an experienced neutral party. The arbitrator is usually an experienced attorney or retired judge. The parties also agree to a hi/low. This means that no matter what the result is, the Plaintiff is guaranteed a certain amount of money, but there is a cap as well. For instance, if the parties agree to arbitration with a high of $200,000 and a low of $25,000, then if the arbitrator awards $500,000, the Plaintiff will only collect the high limit of $200,000, and if the arbitrator awards $1,000, the Plaintiff will collect the low of $25,000. The high and low limits are not disclosed to the arbitrator.
Cases that go to arbitration usually involve complex medical issues or other issues related to the cause of injuries. In these cases, often the Plaintiff has a chance of either a very large recovery or no recovery at all. Imagine a Plaintiff with a disc injury, but she had pre-existing back pain. A jury might award nothing, but a jury might award hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Plaintiff might wish to limit her risk by agreeing to a low that would guarantee some recovery, and also be willing to trade that security for a cap on her award. The Defendant, on the other hand, may be at risk for a jury award higher than her insurance coverage. Often the high limit will be the Defendant’s insurance limits.
Arbitration also reduces the time and costs of a trial. Often a case that would require a two day jury trial can be arbitrated in just a few hours.
Binding arbitration is not appropriate for every case, but it allows for a faster resolution with less risk for both parties.
By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.
I am often asked by clients how long it will take to complete their case. It is a tough question to answer and much of the time depends on how long it takes for an injury to heal.
For minor injuries such as sprains and strains, it may only take a month or two to heal; but for more serious automobile accident injuries such as fractures or herniated discs, treatment may last years.
Generally, the process is as follows:
- Client treats and either gets 100% better or reaches the point of maximum medical improvement. That can be a few weeks to over a year.
- We collect medical records and bills while the client is treating, and collect any outstanding records and bills when the client has completed treatment. This step is generally completed within 30 days, depending on the doctors’ offices.
- We review the records and write a demand letter to the appropriate insurance company. This takes one to two weeks.
- The insurer reviews the demand package and makes an offer. This step varies on the complexity of the medical records and the workload of the individual insurance adjustors. Usually, it takes the insurer 4-8 weeks to make an offer.
- If the client accepts, the insurer send a release and eventually a check. This usually takes 30 days to complete.
Considering the times above, if a client has a minor sprain or strain, then as case make take 6 months. If the medical providers are slow in providing records or if the insurer is slow in producing records, then a simple case could take close to a year to close.
Of course, if the insurer denies the claim or makes an offer that is not worth accepting, then we have to file a lawsuit. In district court, it takes around 3 months to get a trial date. In the circuit court, depending on the county, a trial date may be 12 to 18 months away.
By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.
You may not know it, but your large insurance policy may not cover the people closest to you. This issue comes up occasionally, and involves drivers causing collisions which injury their family members riding as passengers. Recently, I read of an instance of a husband driving his car with his wife as a passenger. The husband caused an accident, which resulted in a substantial injury to his wife. The husband and wife carried a large policy, I think their liability limits were it was either $300,000 or $500,000 per person, per incident, but when the wife made a claim, the insurer informed the wife’s attorney that the coverage for her was reduced to $30,000 (the Maryland state minimum).
The adjuster was not lying. The policy had a VALID EXCLUSION. The policy stated under the Exclusions section that the liability coverage does NOT apply:
To bodily injury to any insured, or to any relative of an insured residing in his household in excess of the financial responsibility limits required by Maryland law. This exclusion does not apply if the first named insured has purchased Supplemental Resident Relative Liability coverage.
This is a big deal. If you cause an accident that injures your husband, wife, child, or other resident relative, there may not be enough money to even cover their bills. You may think you have a $100,000, $300,000, or even a $1,000,000 policy, but when you cause injury to the people that drive in your car the most, you may have the lowest possible coverage allowed in Maryland.
This exclusion has been litigated and held to be valid. The reasoning:to prevent collusion between the driver and the injured family member. What this means is that the Court or the legislature believe that claimants are so likely to conspire to build a claim, that it is okay to permit an exclusion that does not require a written waiver. What the Court or legislature fail to realize is that when damages reach $100,000, $3000,000, and $1,000,000, the injuries are primarily objective and cannot be faked.
My home auto insurance has the above exclusion as well, but my insurer offers separate coverage that can be purchased to cover resident relatives. How much do I pay for that coverage? About $17 every 6 months. It is a terrible exclusion that most people are not aware of until it is too late, so be careful.
My advice is to check your policies. Whether you have Geico, USAA, State Farm, MAIF, the Elephant, or whatever, make sure you have all the coverages you need; read your policy; and make sure you understand it.
If you don’t understand your policy, you may wish to speak to an attorney, and not just rely on your insurer to explain it.
By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.
Pop quiz hotshot. You pull onto a roadway and you don’t know what the speed limit is. How fast can you legally drive?
Many motorists don’t know this but there is a speed set for each and every roadway in the State of Maryland, regardless of whether there is a sign and regardless of if you drove passed it. Imagine you are driving on a side street. You turn onto a roadway, you begin driving, but you have not passed a speed limit sign. You have no idea what the speed limit is. How do you know how fast you can go?
Now imagine that you pulled onto the roadway. You haven’t passed a speed limit sign, and you are going about 50 mph. There are no businesses or homes fronting the road. You feel like you are traveling at a safe speed, and then it happens. Red and light lights start to flash behind you, you are being pulled over. The officer tells you that she measured your speed at 52 mph in a 40 mph zone. Have you violated the law? The answer is easy, yes and no.
There is a statute in Maryland that lists the speed limits for roadways when there is no speed limit sign. Why isn’t there a speed limit sign? Maybe it was knocked down, but most likely, you entered the roadway AFTER the sign, and have not been put on notice by the State of what the speed limit is. In that situation, you are permitted to rely on the statutory speed limits listed in Maryland Transportation Article, § 801.1. These statutory speeds include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Baltimore County alleys: 15 mph
- Highways in a business district: 30 mph
- Undivided highways in a business district: 30 mph
- Divided highways in a residential district: 35 mph
- Undivided highway in other locations: 50 mph
- Divided highway in other locations: 55 mph
In short, always know your speed limit, but if you don’t, at least know the statutory limits.
Craig I. Meyers, Esq.
When a worker is injured on the job by the fault of another person, she has the right to make a worker’s compensation claim, but may also pursue the at-fault person for damages. The claim or lawsuit against the at-fault person is called a third party claim. Why is it a third party claim? You (the injured worker) are the first party, the employer/worker’s comp. insurance (employer/insurer) is the second party, and the person that injured you is the third party. So why bother with the third party claim?
It isn’t always worth it, but mostly it is. Under the Worker’s Compensation Statute, when you are injured on the job, you are entitled to your pay (minus 15%), you are entitled to have your medical bills paid, and you are entitled to compensation for any permanent injury. You are not entitled to any pain and suffering. Under the third party claim, you are entitled to your full lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. This includes those losses in the past, and those that you can show will be incurred in the future. Clearly there is overlap between worker’s compensation claim and the third party claim. Maryland has rules regarding double recovery, so as you may imagine, the employer/insurer will have a lien on your recovery as a matter of law. But much like the situation in which a private health insurer pays for benefits, it is still generally worth pursuing the claim. Just like with private health insurance, medical providers accepting worker’s compensation are paid at a fee schedule that is lower than their a la carte rate. That means that if you go to your doctor, unrelated to an on the job injury, she may charge you $200 for a visit, but under the worker’s compensation statute, that same visit may only be paid at $75. Under Maryland law, specifically the Collateral Source Rule, you are permitted to recover the full $200 from the at fault driver, even if only $75 is paid. The employer/insurer will pay the $75, you will pay nothing, but the employer/insurer will also have a $75 lien on your case. You are already ahead; however, you don’t have to pay the fully $75 back form the proceeds of your case. Under Maryland law, your lien is reduced proportional to the attorney’s fee. That means that if the attorney charges 1/3, then you will only have to repay $50 of that lien, with a net recovery of $150.
It is important to view the worker’s compensation claim and the third party claim as one big claim. Individually the claims may be smaller than a regular car accident case, but when combined, the total recovery and benefits to the client are generally greater.
By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.
- How Long Will It Take For My Auto Accident Injury Case To Close?
- What is GAP (Guaranteed Asset Protection) Insurance?
- Understanding Your Auto Insurance in Maryland
- DECISIVE VICTORY FOR 911 DISPATCHER INJURED IN MOTOR VEHICLE COLLISION OUTSIDE WORK
- Injuries while in uniform: Am I covered if I am injured in my own personal vehicle?
- Binding Arbitration As An Alternative To Trial
- How Long Will Your Case Take?
- You Always Hurt The One You Love, So Make Sure They Are Covered By Your Insurance
- How Fast Can I Go?
- Welcome To The Party: Third Party Cases
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