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Auto Accident Blog

What Does a White Line On The Road Mean?

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

If you search Maryland statutes for the term “white line,” you might be surprised to find that white lane designation lines are only mentioned in reference to tunnels. So the question is, what is your obligation when faced with single or double white lines, and how are you supposed to know?

The Maryland Drive’s Manual taught us that solid white lines are used to mark the edge of the roadway and “the separation of lanes where travel is in the same direction, but where lane changing is discouraged.” But legally speaking, does that mean you can cross it, and what is the significance of lane changing being “discouraged?” The Maryland Driver’s Manual also addresses double solid white lines and tells us that double, or side by side, white lines are used for “separation of lanes where travel is in the same direction and lane changing is prohibited.” But again, if there is no law on the books, how can it be illegal to cross a double white line?

It turns out, the laws relating to single and double white lines are adopted by reference in the Maryland Transportation Code. Essentially, the State has adopted the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), published by the Federal Highway Administration. Instead of listing the laws in our code, Maryland law basically says it will follow the MUTCD. The language in the Maryland Driver’s Manual was then written to reflect the MUTCD, and that is then taught to all new drivers.

So, it turns out, you probably shouldn’t cross a single white line and definitely shouldn’t cross a double white line. You should remember, however, that crossing a single white line may not be a violation, but the result of crossing the might be. For example, if cross a single while line, you will not get a citation for that specifically, but you may fail to drive right of center, make an unsafe lane change, fail to drive on the travel portion of the roadway, or other similar violations that require you to first cross the line.

In Maryland, car accident injuries are the most common type of negligence claim. If you are injured in an automobile accident, the earlier you obtain an attorney, the greater benefits the attorney can provide. Contact us today at 301-670-7030 for a free consultation.

How Long Will It Take For My Auto Accident Injury Case To Close?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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.


Understanding Your Auto Insurance in Maryland

Friday, November 17, 2017

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 them.

Liability Insurance - Bodily Injury and Property Damage

Bodily 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 Coverage

Uninsured 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 Protection

Personal 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 Coverage

This 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 Coverage

This 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.

DECISIVE VICTORY FOR 911 DISPATCHER INJURED IN MOTOR VEHICLE COLLISION OUTSIDE WORK

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

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.

Injuries while in uniform: Am I covered if I am injured in my own personal vehicle?

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

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.

Binding Arbitration As An Alternative To Trial

Friday, June 10, 2016

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.

How Long Will Your Case Take?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. We review the records and write a demand letter to the appropriate insurance company. This takes one to two weeks.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Health Insurance Liens: That’s Not A Get Well Card

Friday, August 30, 2013

After being injured in a motor vehicle collision, you may receive a letter from your health insurer telling you that it looks like you were injured in an accident. At first, you may think, “How nice.” But if you read further, you will see, THEY WANT YOUR MONEY! Even worse, they are entitled to it by law, at least some of it.

The letter will generally tell you that the type of treatment you received is generally consistent with an injury that could have been caused by the negligence of someone else. It will ask you to fill out a form and return it to them. Generally, the form will ask how your injury occurred, it will request the liability insurance information for the person that caused your injury, and it will ask whether you have an attorney. The insurer is looking to exercise its right of subrogation: its right to stand in your shoes and collect back the money it paid for your health care. This may surprise you.

Luckily, the insurer’s subrogation right takes the form of a lien on any money you recover, and is not a debt that you must pay out of your own pocket. A lien is a property interest that the insurance company has in your legal case either created by law, or by your health insurance contract. If you don’t pursue your case, you never have to pay them back.

The lien upsets many injured people, but it is really not as bad as it seems. The reaction I hear the most from clients is, “Why do I have to pay them?” or “What have I been paying for all these years?” On some occasions, clients have not believed me when I have explained the lien to them. But it is true. The public policy behind the lien is that you have health insurance to protect you, but it is not the health insurer’s fault you were injured. It would be unfair to the health insurer if you collected money for your injuries, which includes payment of medical bills, and then did not have to reimburse them. The term is double dipping. But really, if you use your health insurance, for the most part, you are going to wind up ahead, even if you have to pay them back.

Let’s start with the basics of health insurance and its involvement in your personal injury claim. First, you should always use your insurance, don’t let the fear of a lien prevent you from using the benefits that you and your employer have paid for. Although it may seem unfair, if you look at the math, it’s really okay. For example, if you examine a one of my client’s bills, you will see a scenario where a client went to her doctor three times and went to about ten physical therapy sessions. The bills total about just over $3,000. Ignoring other insurance such as PIP (personal injury protection) and ignoring any other treatment (hospital, MRI, etc.), if she did not use her insurance, she would have to pay the medical providers back the full $3,000 at the end of her case, win or lose. Sure, I may be able to negotiate the bill down, but legally, she owes the full $3,000. Now look at the same treatment with health insurance. The providers billed $3,000, but because she had health insurance, the contracted rate is lower, and the insurer might pay $1,800. Then, under Maryland law, when the case settles and the time comes to pay the lien, we only have to pay back $1,200. In our demand to the at-fault driver’s insurer, we are permitted to demand the full $3,000, that is paid (along with lost wages and pain and suffering), but we only pay $1,200 back to the insurer, that nets $1,800. We are permitted to claim the larger amount due to the Collateral Source Rule. This rule states that since the client paid for the health insurance, she gets the benefit. In other words: Why should the injured person pay thousands of dollars a year for insurance that in reality benefits the at-fault party? Health insurance makes a huge difference in the amount of money a client receives at the end of the case.

One issue may arise when the health insurance policy is controlled by federal law as opposed to Maryland law. These policies (for example, ERISA insurance policies) are not controlled by state law, and the insurer may not be required to reduce the lien. Whether they must reduce is contract specific. The attorney must look at the subrogation language to see what her client’s rights are. In addition, she must also check the policy’s legal status to see if it is truly the type of policy that can refuse to reduce.

If you are injured in a motor vehicle collision, or suffer any type of bodily injury, you should almost always use your health insurance. Don’t worry about the liens, relax, take care of yourself, get better, and let your attorney worry about it.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

Don’t Get Run Over

Saturday, June 29, 2013

One of the worst types of collisions is the pedestrian strike. There is no real positive outcome when a 2,000 lb. vehicle strikes or runs over a person. Generally, the law in Maryland is that pedestrians have the right-of-way in a crosswalk, after that, each case has to be reviewed individually. A few years ago, the law was that anyone who crossed the street outside the crosswalk was at fault as a matter of law, until proven otherwise. That meant that a pedestrian struck outside the crosswalk started the case off with the presumption that he or she caused or contributed to her injury and could not win her case until she proved that the collision wasn’t her fault. This was a difficult uphill battle. Although that is no longer the law, the idea that the pedestrian contributed to the injury still prevails among many Maryland citizens and jurists. The shifted burden is difficult but not impossible to overcome.

For a pedestrian to have contributed to a collision, the fact that she was outside the crosswalk must be an actual and legal cause of the injury. In legal terms, this legal cause of the collision is called the “proximate cause.” For instance, if a pedestrian is two feet from the crosswalk, it is often fair to say that the motorist should have seen her, forget that she was outside the crosswalk, and therefore her position did not contribute to the collision. If a pedestrian is crossing mid-block, and a motorist has been traveling straight for a half mile, and a collision happens away from the curb, it is often fair to say that the driver should have seen the pedestrian, and therefore should have avoided the collision. The fact that the pedestrian was outside the crosswalk was unrelated to the fact that the motorist did not see her. This is because if the motorist did not see the pedestrian prior to the strike then she wouldn’t have seen the pedestrian if she was in the crosswalk. Here, the pedestrian was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; and under Maryland law, that is not negligence.

These are very hard cases, but not impossible. Before pursuing such a case, a client must know that there are no guarantees and that the odds of winning and losing are about equal.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

You Can’t Split Your Claims

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I was in court a few weeks ago at the cashier’s window and I overhead a gentleman asking some questions on how to serve an insurance company. I generally try not to listen to other people’s business when in court, it can be personal, but on the other hand, I also try to help if I can. The gentleman was involved in a motor vehicle collision and was unhappy with the offer for the total loss of his vehicle. He was suing the insurance company for what he thought was the fair market value. I asked a few questions and learned that he was also injured as a result of the collision and had started a bodily injury claim with the same insurance company. He was nowhere near the statute-of-limitations, so I stopped him from filing his lawsuit.

The gentleman I spoke to in court that day was splitting his claim. Unless there is a law otherwise, you must file all claims arising out of a single event against the same person (or company) at the same time. That means if you have both property damage and bodily injury claims, you cannot sue for one, wait until the other claim ripens, and then file for the other. The effect is that after the first claim has been resolved, the other claim dies. It is important not to make such a mistake.

Of course there are statutory exceptions. For instance, you are permitted to file a PIP lawsuit separate from any other liability-based or uninsured/underinsured lawsuit. But, it is important not to extinguish one set of rights by pursuing another.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

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