Gaithersburg: 301-670-7030
Baltimore: 410-769-5400
Frederick: 301-668-2100
Contact Us For Legal Help

Auto Accident Blog

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.

You Always Hurt The One You Love, So Make Sure They Are Covered By Your Insurance

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

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.

How Fast Can I Go?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

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.

Welcome To The Party: Third Party Cases

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

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?

Good question.

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.

Pay My Bills! Or, Brother Can You Spare A Dime, For Just A Little While?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

After you have been injured in a car crash, someone has to pay your bills. That someone is generally YOU. It doesn’t matter whether you were at fault or if someone else caused your injuries, the legal responsibility to pay those bills is yours. So what do you do?

First, if you have personal injury protection (PIP), then you should start with that. But most people don’t have enough PIP to cover all of their bills. Next, you should switch to your private health insurance, if you have it. If you don’t have health insurance, that is a topic for another article.

Under Maryland law, if a private health insurer provides payment for medical services, then it is entitled to recover money from your settlement or judgment. This is called a lien. It is a property right that is created by law for the benefit of the insurer. It is not a debt, meaning, you don’t have to pay it back unless you recover money for your injuries. But, this amount must be paid before you receive anything in your pocket.

The statutory health insurance lien is not as bad as it sounds in that also under Maryland law, you are entitled to a maximum one third reduction of the lien.But watch out, this does not apply to federal liens including ERISA based health plans, GEHA, Medicare, and other similar plans. But generally, you are much better using your health insurance than not.

The real benefit of using health insurance doesn’t come from the lien reduction so much, but really comes from your ability to make use of health insurer’s contracted rate. If you go to your doctor for a checkup and don’t use insurance, it may cost you $250, but if your health insurance pays, they pay a lesser maybe $100. This is the true benefit of your health insurance, because the provider generally cannot bill you for that $150 balance, just your co-pay.

Here is an example: Assume you are injured in a car crash and have $2,500 in PIP coverage plus private health insurance. You treat with a medical provider that is in-network and receive $15,000 in medical care. The first $2,500 will be paid by PIP, leaving you with a balance of $12,500. That remaining balance should be billed to your private health insurer. Of that $12,500, the insurer may only pay $7,000; the remaining balance is written off under the terms of the health insurance contract. You may have already paid a few dollars in co-pays or maybe you used your PIP for that; but for the sake of this article, we will assume the co-pays are negligible. The balance after the $7,000 is written off because you treated in-network. The private health insurer, having paid $7,000, will have a lien on your case for $7,000. There is nothing you can do to avoid this. However, you won’t pay the insurer back the full $7,000; you are entitled to a 1/3 reduction, and will only pay back the insurer $4,666.67. Under Maryland’s Collateral Source Rule, when the time comes to settle your case, you will be able to collect the full $15,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurer, but you will only have to pay back $4,666.67, with a net gain of $10,333.33. If you did not have private health insurance, after PIP paid you would have to reimburse the doctor the full $12,500. This makes a big difference.

It is very important to use your health insurance whenever you can after a car crash. You might face some resistance from the medical providers, but you paid for your health insurance, and should be permitted to enjoy the benefits.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

You Must Replace Your Car Seat After A Moderate Or Severe Collision

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Most car safety seats work by holding your child snuggly in place during a collision, and by absorbing or redirecting the energy in a collision away from your child’s body. Quality car seats also drop the child vertically to redirect the energy from the collision, and prevent the child from striking the backs of the front seats. Much like the bumper of a car, the car seat is designed with materials that break down, and in so doing, reduce the likelihood of injury to your child.

I am a big fan of the Britax child safety seats. These seats are known as some of the safest car seats available, and are generally highly ranked by consumer reports. A quick review of the features will help to understand how car seats function in general to protect your child. First, the seats generally are plastic with a metal reinforced body. Britax, like most other brands utilize energy absorbent foam throughout the seat. Also, like most other brands they use a five point harness that is designed to keep the child in place. Some more technologically advanced features you may find are a staged tether. This device is a strap, much like a seatbelt. It attaches to the top of the seat and to a built-in latch on the rear deck of a passenger car or SUV. Upon impact, the latch stretches, slowing the forward deceleration of the car seat. In addition, it purposefully “gives” at several points to allow the car seat to move forward, but without snapping it back. The seats also have soft “cells,” like a beehive, that sit below the child. In the event of an impact, these cells essentially rupture, and the seat is directed downward instead of simply forward. This absorbs energy and also prevents the child and seat from moving forward and striking the back of the front seats.

It is clear from the technology that once the seats are used, and the energy is absorbed, the seat is damaged. The more energy the seat absorbs, the less energy is directed to your child. Much like an airbag, however, once the safety device is used, it is spent, and cannot be used again. After the seatbelt-like structures and tether have been stretched and after the foam and cells have been damaged, the seat will never function the same again, it is not as safe, and must be replaced.

Insurers generally don’t volunteer this information, but your car seat is covered by your property damage coverage. That means that you are entitled to a new car seat after an accident. Don’t let the insurer tell you that you don’t need one or that it is not covered, it is. Expect, however, for the insurer to collect the old car seat to take it off the market and prevent it from being used in the future.

Remember that any time you have a moderate to severe motor vehicle collision, you MUST replace your car seat.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

Dear Maryland, Please May I Sue You? Or, Rex Non Potest Peccare

Monday, October 07, 2013

Believe it or not, the only reason you can sue the State of Maryland, its counties, or other governmental entities is because the State of Maryland allows it? It is true; the concept arises from when the U.S. was part of England. The legal concept, and of course the latin, is Rex non potest peccare, which translates to, “The King can do no wrong.” In England at the time of King George III and his predecessors to the throne, you could not sue the King.

When the United States was formed and we didn’t start our legal system from scratch, we incorporated laws and concepts we brought with us from England. The inability to sue the King is called sovereign immunity, and it persists today in several forms. First, you cannot sue the State for a purely governmental function. If you feel that you have been wronged by an action of the State, but it is simply the result of how the government works, you cannot sue. Second, for a tort (negligence, battery, assault, wrongful imprisonment, etc.), you can only sue if you place the State on notice within one year of your injury. This notice requirement is strict and requires a certified letter to the treasurer with specific information. If you fail to not only place the treasurer on notice, but fail to do it properly, you will be forever barred from suing the State. Finally, there is a cap. No matter how bad your injuries, in a tort claim, you cannot recover over the cap. Similar to tort claims, you can only bring a claim against the State in contract if you file your lawsuit within one year of the breach. Although the State will allow you to sue it, it places limits, and it protects itself. In a sense, it can do some wrong, but not too much.

Similar to the tort claims against the State, there are limitations in tort claims against local governments. Local governments include the Counties, cities, WSSC, National Capital Park and Planning, and many other entities. Again, like the State, there is a designee to whom you must send notice, only with a local government, you only have 180 days to place the proper designee on notice. If you fail to place the proper person on notice within the proper time, you can never sue.

One might think that in a democratic society, we have abandoned the constraints of the monarchy, but sovereign immunity remains. You can sue the State or the local governments, but only if they let you.

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.

What Does It Mean When A Driver Receives A Citation After A Collision?

Monday, August 19, 2013

After a motor vehicle collision, one or even both of the drivers may receive a citation. Both drivers invariably ask the same question:

“What does this mean in a future lawsuit?” The answer depends what the driver does after the citation.

The law in Maryland is that a guilty plea is an admission against interest. This means that if a person pleads guilty to a crime or citation, it can be used against her later. She is permitted to appear in court at a later civil trial and explain why she plead guilty, but she cannot claim that she did not commit the crime. There are essentially three possibilities:

The Driver Pays The Citation

The fact that a driver paid her traffic citation is not considered an admission of guilt in Maryland. Drivers pay citations for many reasons unrelated to guilt. For example, a driver may not wish to take an entire day off of work to fight a $50 ticket; or, she may be scared to appear in Court; or she may simply have “better things to do.” The Legislature has given her the option of simply paying the ticket, accepting any related points, and not having to appear. For public policy reason, it cannot be used against her in a later civil trial.

The Driver Appears in Court and Pleads Not Guilty

If the driver appears in Court and pleads not guilty, but is found guilty by the judge, the guilty verdict cannot be used against her in a later civil trial. The basis for this is that there is less at stake in a simple traffic citation hearing than a civil trial for damages. Many drivers will defend a traffic citation much less vigorously than a civil trial. The result is that it would be unfair to bind her to a guilty verdict in traffic court, where she plead not guilty. This is also a public policy decision.

The Driver Appears in Court and Pleads Guilty

This is what we are hoping for. If the driver appears in Court and pleads guilty, it is an admission that she did whatever it is she was cited for. It can be used in Court in a civil trial, and is admissible for any relevant purpose. Although this is not an automatic win on liability, it is as close as you get.

No matter what the plea, if the driver appears in Court and gives any testimony, that testimony can be used in a subsequent civil trial. It does not matter what the plea is. For example, if the driver is charged with running a red light, and then pleads not guilty, but admits to running the red light in her testimony, a guilty verdict cannot be used against her. Her testimony, nonetheless, that she ran the red light can be used against her.

Any time there is testimony in Court related to one of my civil cases, I order a copy of the recording from the Court. A simple reading of the docket is insufficient to indicate actual guilt. Even if the opposing driver pleads not guilty, I can often find useable testimony from the traffic Court session to help further my client’s civil case. It is amazing what the cited driver “forgets” about her traffic Court testimony; having the traffic session on CD can change the outcome of a civil case.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

Recent Posts


Tags


Archive

RSS

What Our Clients Say

Known for our unwavering commitment to clients, for our integrity, and for delivering the best results, our clients continue to refer their friends, families and neighbors to us for their legal needs.


"One year ago today I made the call to your office. The best decision I could make. I wanted to share with you how impressed I am with your staff and your professionalism."

Heather P.


"Craig did a great job representing me! He's the lawyer I have trusted with my legal needs because he's professional, knowledgeable, and keeps me informed about my case."

Jaclyn K.


"I would like to express my gratitude for your efforts and dedication for my disability case. It's has been quite a long and upsetting process but you have handled my case in an extremely competent and responsible manner."

Leo H.


"I have recommended Mr. Feldman to several of my friends and colleagues and have heard nothing but excellent reviews. He is the best lawyer I have ever used."

Martin


"I received the check today. I could not believe it until I saw the check. Thank you so much. You have improved my family's quality of life tenfold."

Mike F.


"These guys go above and beyond! They always have your best interest in mind."

Mike W.


"You have been kind throughout this process and I appreciate your professionalism as well as your gentle concern. Thanks for helping us and all the others who need your legal expertise. We are grateful."

Nancy F.


"Thanks to Mr. Shultz's aggressive and professional work ethic style I was able to receive the medical services and compensation pertaining to my case."

Navdeep C.


"I can honestly say this firm is simply TOP NOTCH! They not only have handled countless cases for my members that require their services, they also have gone well beyond their "scope" to help some of my folks in other areas of need. "

Rick H.


"The attention and professional care the staff has taken toward my needs has always been excellent. I have no complaints nor worries that my issues discussed are not addressed."

Tim T.


"I just got off the phone with Craig and let him know how thankful we are to you, him and Ken for all your efforts – you are all really terrific to work with!"

Val K.


Locations Throughout Maryland, Virginia & Washington DC

Gaithersburg Office

481 N. Frederick Avenue, Suite 300
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
301-670-7030 / 800-248-3352
Fax: 301-670-9492

Lutherville Office

1301 York Road, Suite 600
Lutherville, MD 21093
410-769-5400 / 800-248-3352
Fax: 410-769-9200

Frederick Office

30 W. Patrick Street, Suite 105
Frederick, MD 21701
301-668-2100 / 800-827-2667
Fax: 301-668-2000

Subscribe To Our Newsletter


TOP