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

Auto Accident Blog

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.

It’s A Fall And Injury, Not A Slip And Fall

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In addition to motor vehicle collisions, another type of case commonly seen by personal injuries attorneys is the “slip and fall.” First, I don’t call them slips and falls; that is too general and carries a negative connotation with some of the general public and especially with tort reformers. Plus, many “slip and fall” injuries are really trip and fall injuries or fall-in-a-hole-and-break-your-ankle-and-fall injuries. I call them what they truly are, a Fall and Injury. It is much more accurate.

Fall and Injury cases can be very difficult to prove, but not impossible. In the case of a slip on a wet surface, you may have to prove the following:

  1. What you slipped on;
  2. How the substance got there;
  3. How long the substance was there;
  4. Who owns or controls the area;
  5. Was there a warning;
  6. What is the standard of care for that area or defect; and/or
  7. Is there insurance.

Although late night television may joke about “slip and fall lawyers”, the truth is, the deck is stacked against you when you fall, and your attorney has a lot of work to do.

Owners of a business, for example, are liable for your fall and injury if you slip on a wet surface and they have actual or constructive notice of the wet surface and they fail to warn or protect the customer. They have actually knowledge generally, if they know the defect is there, or if they create the defect. Examples include employees of the company mopping a floor; if there is a spill that the company or its employees know of; if there is a hazardous condition such as a leaky refrigerator the company knows of. The store has constructive knowledge, meaning even though they did not know of a hazard, they should have known of the hazard due to its characteristics, if the hazard has been in place so long that they should have discovered it. An example is a spill in a grocery store that a surveillance camera shows was present on the floor for an hour, but no one cleaned it up.

Proving your case can be difficult. It helps to have an employee admit fault at the scene before someone tells them to be quiet. For example, after a patron falls at a restaurant, an employee says, “I am sorry, I spilled that water, but I have not had a chance to mop it up.” It also helps to have a video showing an employee mopping a floor, but without a wet floor sign. Often, the insurer for the store or business will deny these claims, and it will be up to a judge or jury to decide who is telling the truth.

Proving constructive notice can be even more difficult. Stores, businesses, and their respective insurers will NOT give you their video surveillance. To obtain this evidence, you must put the company on notice that they must retain it, and then subpoena the materials once you have filed a lawsuit. Many lawyers do not wish to take a case that can only be proven after a lawsuit is filed. It helps to have a witness who can testify to the condition and how long it is present. I was able to convince an insurance adjustor that a defect had been present because my client took a photograph at the scene. In that case, the client slipped and fell on a soft drink. The photograph, taken immediately after her fall, showed that the borders of the puddle had dried. I successfully argued that the drying of the puddle indicated that the puddle had been present for a prolonged time.

Even if you can prove who caused the spill or that there was knowledge, you must watch out for the insurer’s defenses. Remember, that in Maryland, if you contributed to your injury by just 1%, you are forever barred from recovering, no matter how serious the injury or how obvious the negligence of the other party. Because of that, insurers love to tell you that the defect or hazard was open and obvious. This means that the injured customer was negligent for not seeing the hazard and for not avoiding it. The problem with that defense is that people do not look down at their feet when they walk, nor are we required to. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals really hit the nail on the head in a 1997 decision in which it addressed customers looking at a store’s shelves rather than at their own feet:

The storekeeper expects and intends that his customers shall look not at the floor but at the goods which he displays to attract their attention and which he hopes they will buy. He at least ought not to complain, if they look at the goods displayed instead of at the floor to discover possible pitfalls, obstructions, or other dangers, or if their purchases so encumber them as to prevent them from seeing dangers which might otherwise be apparent. Patrons are entitled therefore to rely to some extent at least upon the presumption that the proprietor will see that the passage ways provided for their use are unobstructed and reasonably safe.

Tennant v. Shoppers Food Warehouse Md. Corp. , 115 Md. App. 381, 392 (1997).

In short, public opinion and prejudice against people that makes claims after a fall, and Maryland Law, make fall and injury claims difficult, but not impossible. Also, remember that the store owner has a special and elevated duty to find hazards and to make them safe. This, unsurprisingly, is not the same for municipalities and state or county owned property. I will address falls on sidewalks and the like in a separate entry.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

I’m Not The Type Of Person To Sue

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Are you affected by TORT REFORM? The short answer is “yes.” We all are, but how do you know? I know because my clients keep apologizing to me when you come into my office. It is very common for me to meet with a new client for the first time and hear, “I am not the type of person to sue anybody.” Already, the tort reform movement has you feeling self conscious about being repaid for medical bills and lost wages, and for being made whole. My general response is that of course you are not; this is the first time you have been injured. Doesn’t an injured person have a right to be made whole? The entire basis of tort law (torts are civil wrongs for which the law provides a remedy) is to make the injured party whole, meaning, to place them in the same position they were in prior to injury. Insomuch as we cannot go back in time and undo a wrong, we instead make up for it monetarily. Generally when one is injured, one is entitled to recover the cost of medical treatment, reimbursement for lost wages, reimbursement for damaged property, future care if required, and payment to offset the pain and suffering experienced by the injured party. These are not new rights. The basis of these rights, and the foundation of tort law, is over 3,000 years old, and arising directly from the Bible. See Exodus chapt. 21 (Mishpatim). You should not apologize for being injured. But, that is what tort reform does. But what is tort reform?

From a trial lawyer’s standpoint, the answer is that it is a national movement organized to prevent my clients from being made whole. It is a national movement organized by very highly paid lobbyists for insurance companies and similar entities, that wish to protect their interests to the detriment of my clients. It is a national movement that can afford to pay for billboards, TV commercials, radio ads, time with politicians, and a host of other very expensive and effective techniques to make you think that anyone who is injured is faking it and just out to get money. It is a national movement backed by large corporations that has changed our laws stripped us of our rights.

Tort reform whether here in Maryland, or in any other state functions by limiting your right to initiate a claim, and then when you get over that hurdle, it caps your right to collect damages. Tort reform stops you from being made whole. Examples include mandatory mediation clauses in contracts, choice of forum clauses, and the Maryland Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office. Many people don’t know that when they sign a consumer contract, whether it is for mobile phone service, a credit card, or even replacement windows, the small print will often include a clause that says that the consumer cannot sue them. Instead, they must submit to an arbitrator, outside the court system. That may seem fair at first, figuring an arbitrator is a professional, the arbitrators do hundreds if not thousands of these for the credit card company, how many do they do for you? Why should you have to give up your right to a trial or trial by jury just to get a cell phone? The purpose is to shift the balance of justice from you to the large corporation. Also, you may not know it, but if you are permitted to file a lawsuit, your Maryland contract dispute may have to be brought in a Delaware court. The purpose is twofold. First, the corporation chooses a forum that is favorable to the corporation. Second, many people will not file suit hours away from their home. It is a win-win situation for the corporation. After all, you signed the contract. Didn’t you read the fine print? But what other choice did you have? If all of the mobile phone providers have the same clause, and you cannot negotiate the terms, what can you do?

Many people do not know that you cannot sue a doctor in Maryland for malpractice until you have first filed a claim in the Maryland Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office (HCADRO). The HCADRO is a State agency which operates out of the William Donald Schaefer Tower in Baltimore. The sole purpose of the HCADRO is to protect doctors, not injured patients or the families of deceased patients. After filing with the HCADRO, you must then file a Certificate of a Qualified Expert for each specialty involved in the claim, stating that the doctor you wish to sue violated a duty owed to the patient, and what that violation was. The State further limits the doctors that you are permitted to use for your Certificate. The doctor you use must be a clinician, the doctor cannot have been retired for more than 5 years, and there is a limit to the amount of forensic work the certifying doctor performs. There is no other profession in Maryland with this type of State protection.

Other ways that tort reform affects you is with caps. Maryland for example has a cap on pain and suffering. No matter how bad your injury is, if your state has a cap, you cannot collect. For example, if today, you are waiting for bus in Maryland at a marked bus stop, on the sidewalk, and you are run over by a tractor tailor, and you are paralyzed from the neck down, the most you can recover for pain and suffering is $755,000.00. Most people would find offensive. The purpose of tort law, or personal injury law, is to make people whole, these caps simply protect negligent parties, mostly large corporations, from taking responsibility for their negligent actions.

Another tactic by tort reformers is to damage the reputation of trial lawyers. If you go online, you can find a host of websites illustrating frivolous lawsuits and stories of how trial lawyers are ruining the economy. If you, however, research these websites on snopes.com or similar sites, you will find most of these stories are false. They are made up by tort reformers to libel trial lawyers and convince the public that there is a crisis, and that tort reform is needed. In reality, it is the trial lawyers, not the tort reformers, that are concerned with the safety of the public. It was trial lawyers that uncovered the fact that Ford had done a cost benefit analysis on the Pinto and had decided it was cheaper to pay off families of those killed or injured in the vehicles rather than making their cars safe. It is trial lawyers that keep doctors, businesses, and pharmaceutical companies in check, reminding them that there are consequences to their negligent actions.

When a new client comes into my office and tells me that they are not the type of person to sue someone for an injury, I think to myself, “Lucky for you, I am.”

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

Car Crash Case Study Part I

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Not long ago, I had a case where a husband was driving in Baltimore City on a Saturday morning with his wife in the front passenger seat. As the husband approached an intersection, he faced a green light. At the same time and place, on the intersecting street, another motorist (other guy) approached the intersection facing a red light. The other guy had a passenger, his cousin, whom he was taking to the bus station. As the husband entered the intersection, so did the other guy.

The cars crashed violently. There were pieces of bumpers, turn signals, and other parts everywhere.

Immediately after the collision, the husband checked to make sure there were no life-threatening injuries to anyone in either car. He then pulled his damaged vehicle to the side of the road and made sure his car was in a safe place. He then called the police. An officer arrived but refused to make a report; he only did an information exchange. In addition, while the other guy apologized no fewer than half a dozen times prior to the police officer’s arrival, he told the police officer and later his insurance company that it was the husband that ran the light. While the police officer was at the scene, the husband took photographs of the scene, damages, and parties.

There were several witnesses to the collision including a car directly behind the husband, but no one stopped to provide their contact information. In the excitement, neither the husband nor the wife took down the license plate numbers of any of the potential witnesses. Eventually, the cousin admitted that admitted that the other guy was on the phone, was lost because he could not find the bus station, and was not paying attention. Even with her admission, however, a lawsuit had to be filed.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

Case Study Part II: The Husband

Thursday, December 30, 2010

As you recall, we were following a husband and wife involved in a motor vehicle accident. The husband had immediate pain in his neck at the scene of the accident. The pain was not severe so he decided to go home, take some Advil, and see how he felt the next morning. When he woke up, he had severely stiffened and was in significantly more pain than the day before. This is very common with sprains and strains. Since it was a Sunday, and he was in pain, the husband went to the emergency room, where he was examined and x-rays were taken. He was released with medication and told to follow up with his doctor.

As it turns out, the husband had a prior sports injury to his lower body and was already under the care of chiropractor. On Monday, he contacted his chiropractor and went to see him. Because the husband already had a pre-existing injury, unrelated to a motor vehicle accident, it was important for the chiropractor to define exactly what the husband’s condition was prior to the accident so he could give an opinion as to the worsening of the husband and the changes that he underwent.

The chiropractor’s examination showed spasm and trigger points (essentially knots). The chiropractor prescribed conservative chiropractic care including chiropractic manipulation, massage, and electrical stimulation. After about three to four months, he was back to his pre-accident condition. Several months after that, a demand was sent to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The demand described the accident and how the husband was thrown forward and backward and into the driver’s side door. It included property damage photographs showing the totaled vehicle. It included a summary of the medical records and bills and further described the inconvenience and pain the husband endured during after the accident. The insurance company made an offer, I negotiated with them over a week or so, and eventually, the insurance company made a reasonable offer to which the husband agreed and the case settled. All in all, the husband was happy with the result.

The husband’s case was a typical soft tissue case. He followed the doctor’s instructions, he got better, and the case settled. The wife’s case was another story.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

Case Study Part III: The Wife

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The wife’s case was a bit more difficult than the husband’s. Although she felt pain immediately in her neck and shoulder, she did not go to the emergency. When the pain increased the following day, she figured Advil and hot showers would be sufficient. After about two or three weeks, she decided that she should see a doctor. She contacted a local orthopedist and scheduled an appointment for the following week. The doctor noted pain in her neck and shoulder and diagnosed her with a sprain/strain and an impingement of her shoulder (inflammation in the rotator cuff of the shoulder). She underwent physical therapy, but did not improve quickly.

After treating about a month of physical therapy, the wife had a second accident. She was stopped in traffic and was rear ended. The property damage was not severe, but the wife was thrown forward and backward and suffered a worsening of her prior injury.

The wife went to the emergency room that night due to the pain and to the orthopedist the following day. The doctor confirmed that there was no new damage but that the second accident exacerbated the first. The wife required months of physical therapy.

Once the wife was better, the time came to send demand packages to the insurers. I obtained a written opinion from the treating orthopedist explaining which accident was responsible for which part of the wife’s injury. The wife was able to settle part of her claim initially, but I had file a lawsuit to force the insurance company to pay her for the second part of her injury.

As often happens with insurance companies, once the lawsuit was filed, they came to their senses and we were able to settle the case. The insurance company raised two major defenses against the wife. The easy one, was the second defense, that she had a second injury and that cut off any liability relating to the first accident. This was not in the wife’s control, she did not ask to be rear-ended. However, the first defense, and a very common defense used by insurance companies was that the wife did not seek treatment for the first injury until almost four weeks had passed and therefore she obviously was not really injured in the crash.

For non-life-threatening injuries many people do not go to the emergency room, but if you do not, the insurance company will conclude that you are not injured. Further, many people self treat for a week or have to wait over a week to get an appointment with a doctor. Again, the insurance companies cite these “gaps” in treatment or delays in treatment when denying claims. The wife should have gone to the emergency room and should have seen the orthopedist sooner. As a result, her case took a year longer than the husband’s. In the end, however, I obtained good results for both the husband and the wife.

By Craig I. Meyers, Esq.

What To Do In The Event Of A Crash

Thursday, December 30, 2010
  1. Check for life threatening injuries. This includes you, your passengers, and the other vehicle. Call 911 if anyone requires emergency assistance.
  2. Make sure you are in a safe location. Pull off to the shoulder, or walk to an area of safety. Do not remain with your vehicle if it is not safe to do so, but do not go too far.
  3. Call 911 if you have not done so already. You should note that if no one is complaining of injuries and the vehicles are functional, the police may refuse to respond. But, you should still call. If you truly believe you need their assistance, don’t be afraid to demand it. But, be prepared to wait.
  4. Identify witnesses. Sometimes people witness accidents and do not give you their information. If there are vehicles in the immediate area and you believe someone witnessed the crash, get their information. If they refuse, take down their license plate numbers. Your attorney can run the tag and locate them later.
  5. Exchange your information including name, address, and insurance information.Do not forget to take down the make, model, and license plate number of the other car.
  6. Do not admit fault. This may seem to go against what your parents taught you, but your understanding of the law may be incorrect. You should not admit fault if you are not truly at fault for the collision. If it turns out that the collision was your fault, then you and your insurance company can take responsibility later, but only after analyzing the facts and applying the law. A common example is as follows: A driver is travelling on a through highway at 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. He is clearly and intentionally exceeding the speed limit. A vehicle with a stop sign attempts to cross the through highway and would have made it across if the speeding driver had been traveling slower, but instead, the two vehicles collide. The speeding driver may feel responsible and may wish to apologize for the collision. BUT, under Maryland law, the speeding driver had the right-of-way and was not at fault, even though he was speeding. Do not admit fault until you are sure you really are.
  7. Take photographs. Use your camera or cell phone to take photographs of the scene, witness vehicles, and the crash vehicles, especially if they have not been moved.
  8. Seek medical help. If you are injured go to the emergency room. Go by ambulance if necessary. If you go home and realize you need medical care, it is not too late to go to the emergency room. Go.
  9. Contact your attorney. We are here to help. Don’t make a mistake early on that you cannot fix later. These mistakes include giving recorded statements, talking to people you shouldn’t talk to, and accidently disposing of evidence. Don’t do it, call us.
  10. Contact your insurance company. But, DO NOT give a recorded statement to any insurance company until you have contacted your attorney. DO NOT speak with the other driver’s insurer unless you have first discussed it with your attorney.

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.


" wanted to thank you, in writing, for your kindness and prompt response. Customer service is a dying art, and you gave me hope for my family."

Karla


"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.


"I would like to express my thanks to Amanda Knott and Gretchen Rogers for their patience with me through my ordeal with my workers comp claim. I was impressed from the very beginning when I spoke with G. Rogers on the phone and although she did not have to, she met with me personally and walked me through the steps of what to expect in this process."

Mr Sagal


"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.


"I wanted to compliment your law firm on having Amanda Knott as a paralegal. She worked tirelessly for almost 2 years making sure I understood what was happening and at the same time keeping all my records straight and in order, which allowed Gretchen Rogers to represent me in the best way possibl"

Terrye G


"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


TOP