There’s No Such Thing As Too Many Questions
Bob Katz wants Maryland, Virginia and DC accident victims to have all the facts so they can make the right decision when hiring an attorney. Accordingly, this section of our website is meant to provide basic insight into the issues we deal with for our clients on a day to day basis. It is NOT meant to be a substitute for real legal advice or opinion applicable to your particular situation. Please note therefore that the following materials are NOT Legal Advice or Legal Opinion.
All materials provided herein are prepared for a general audience for general informational purposes only. Their sole purpose is to better educate accident victims about a variety of general legal issues so these victims they can become more educated consumers of legal services. Information provided on the Sites should never be a substitute for consulting with a lawyer. Please contact us directly for advice on your specific situation.
After an accident, to get your car repaired, you may be presented with the choice to use either an insurance company recommended body shop or choose one on your own. While the choice is entirely up to the consumer, it should be noted that the advantages of using an insurance company's selected shop may outweigh the disadvantages for several key reasons. 1. If you use the insurance company shop, it might be faster and more convenient. In many cases, you can take your vehicle and drop it off and get a rental vehicle the same day. An estimate is then written immediately, parts are ordered and then work begins. Alternatively, if you choose your own shop, you must take your vehicle to a location and have the estimate done and then take the estimate to the shop of your choice and wait for parts to be ordered before getting in a rental. You must also coordinate submission of those estimates to the insurance company for their approval. 2. Another advantage of using an insurance company preferred shop, is that they will usually guarantee the work for the lifetime of vehicle, whereas personal shops do not may place more limited timelines on their warranty of work. 3. Many vehicle owners are under the misapprehension that by using the insurance companies' shops, their vehicle won’t be fixed the right way. However, that assumption frequently untrue. Many insurance companies’ shops are held to a higher standard because they are guaranteeing their work for life. 4. That said, body work and repair work is, at times, an art. And like in any other industry, some repair shops are more skilled than others. If you have a unique vehicle that requires special knowledge or difficult to obtain parts, you may be better off choosing a specialty repair shop. 5. The bottom line is that we generally recommend owners use insurance company shops in most cases, however, owners can and should always consult with their agents if conflicted when making the decision on whether to use an insurance company body shop or a personal body shop.
The Collateral Source Rule in Maryland By: Natalie Ulrich A question I get asked often is “why isn’t the other drivers insurance company covering my medical bills up front?” Typically, a bodily injury claim is considered pending until your medical treatment is complete. At that time, your attorney will compile a medical demand package to send to the liability carrier for consideration for a bodily injury settlement offer. Whether a settlement is reached, or a verdict rendered in court, any outstanding medical bills would be paid out of that settlement and your attorney’s fee. Some private doctors’ offices will agree to hold your medical billing account until such a time that the case does reach a settlement, however hospitals are less likely to agree to do this without a small payment plan in the meantime. This is where filing a Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) and/or Medical Payments (“Medpay”) claim could be beneficial in keeping those hospital accounts out of collections. Next, clients have asked “if my PIP, Medpay or health insurance carrier pays a medical bill up front does that mean that the other driver’s insurance doesn’t have to pay it?” In Maryland at least, the answer to that question is NO! Even if your PIP, Medpay, or health insurance carrier pays a bill related to the auto accident, the collateral source rule in Maryland (in short) states that you may recover the amount of your bill regardless of if that bill was paid by a first party benefit insurance carrier. In Maryland, the liability insurance company is not given a credit for, nor may they offset for paid bills, as they are able to do in some other states. While every case is a little different, 9 times out of 10 we encourage clients to utilize these benefits that they pay extra for on their own insurance policies. The collateral source rule is only one of the many positives these benefits bring to a case.
Many people involved in automobile accidents believe that all the bills, expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering will be reimbursed to them at the time of settlement. However, insurance policies do not have an unlimited amount of coverage. Anyone who purchases an automobile insurance policy will have a maximum amount of coverage which their insurance company can pay out for a claim. In Maryland you must request the policy limits in writing, providing the date of accident, the accident location, the name and last known address for the at fault driver, and the complaint number for the police report (if there was one). In Virginia, there is more documentation involved. In addition to the written request referencing the same information in the Maryland correspondence, you must also submit medical bills and/or lost wage documentation totaling at least $12,500. What can you expect as a response? A personal automobile insurance policy in Maryland typically is written in the following intervals: $30,000/$60,000, $50,000/$100,000, $100,000/$300,000, $250,000/$500,000, and $300,000/$300,000. The Virginia coverage intervals are similar, except while Maryland’s minimum is $30,000/$60,000, Virginia’s minimum is $25,000/$50,000. Commercial policies may carry a higher amount of insurance coverage.
There can be no question that the travel industry came to a screeching halt in 2020, so more Americans are eager to take trips for business and pleasure in 2021. Especially over the next few weeks of spring and getting into summer, an influx of tourists will be heading to Maryland to enjoy its beaches, parks, and other attractions. The Maryland Tourism Coalition reports that there are more than 41 million visitors to the state every year, spending nearly $19 billion on lodging, food, and rental cars. You might not think too much about these numbers until you realize that more travelers will also mean more vehicles on the road, increasing the potential for serious car accidents. In the context of travel and tourism, there are concerns about two scenarios:
- You rented a vehicle and wonder about your rights after being injured in a crash; or,
- You were hurt in an auto collision caused by someone else driving a rental car.
- Photos of the intersection, stretch of road, damage to vehicles, traffic signals, lane markings, and other physical factors;
- Contact details from all involved drivers;
- Names and contact information from witnesses who may have observed the crash; and,
- Details regarding area businesses, in case they have surveillance cameras that captured video of the collision.
- Medical costs;
- Lost wages;
- Pain and suffering; and,
- Losses based upon how your injuries affect your personal relationships.
- Not fixing issues that lead to a safety risk;
- Failing to conduct inspections to ensure the vehicle was safe; and,
- Neglect in addressing recalls announced by government officials or auto makers.
By Meghan Young One of the most frequent questions that I receive from clients is with regard to the value of their case: "How much is my car accident injury case worth"? Judges will look to a variety of factors in determining the value of your case in court, such as: (1) the amount of medical bills, (2) additional economic loss, such as lost wages, (3) the damage to the vehicles, (4) the causal connection between your injuries and the accident, (5) the severity of your injuries, (6) the reasonableness and necessity of the medical treatment that you received and (6) the non-economic damages sustained which includes your pain, suffering and inconvenience. The insurance companies will look at similar factors when evaluating your case. All cases are different! No two cases are exactly alike. While medical bills and lost wages are generally straightforward to tally, the non-economic portion of claims (i.e. pain and suffering) will vary from case to case. Additionally, there is no standard chart that a judge uses while he is listening to your case to determine how much you should receive for your pain and suffering. This is why it is so important to contact an experienced attorney, who is familiar with the court system and is frequently in a courtroom trying cases just like yours, to provide advice on an appropriate and realistic value for your case. Be wary of online calculators and websites that provide you an instant estimated value of your case, or, relying on the settlement value that your friend's mother received on her case—every case is different! Verdicts can also vary drastically just from one county to the next in Maryland. So, if you're thinking that the insurance company has made you too low of an offer on your case and you deserve more, you need to reach out to an attorney for an evaluation of your case.
By: Kristen Turner PIP, which stands for personal injury protection, is an extra coverage that people elect and pay for in their insurance premiums. PIP is a no-fault coverage that helps pay your medical bills and lost wages regardless of fault. When clients hire us, we explain the PIP process and how it works. The first question many clients ask us is “will it increase my premiums?” Generally, using PIP should not increase your insurance cost because it is a no-fault coverage that you pay extra for in your premiums. However, in practical application, we have sometimes seen insurance companies raise their insured’s insurance premiums when a PIP claim is asserted. So that our clients are not blindsided by insurance companies increasing their insurance premiums as a result of a PIP claim being asserted, we frequently advise our clients to consult with their insurance agent to inquire if their insurance company will increase their premiums if a PIP claim is asserted. However, generally speaking, we seldom see our client’s rates being raised as a result of making this claim.
The purpose of a nurse case manager is to manage the medical care for an injured worker. Generally, a nurse case manager is provided by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier to assist with medical management and the coordination of medical treatment of the injured person. Usually, a nurse case manager is utilized by the employer’s insurer when the injury victim has serious injuries, such as broken bones, or where a surgery is warranted. A nurse case manager’s job is to not only coordinate medical treatment for the injured person; however, they also sometimes work as a liaison to the workers compensation insurance company to report back to the insurer with medical treatment recommendations, status reports. Regarding the claimant’s treatment status and assist the claimant with scheduling medical appointments. A nurse case manager is also useful with facilitating the issuance of benefits to the injured due to their continuous contact with the insurance company that employs them. Nurse case managers generally act independently as independent contractors for the employer’s insurance, however, given the fact that they are sometimes seen as an extension of the employer’s insurer, it is wise to consult with a lawyer regarding putting stipulations and agreements in place with respect to what the case manager can and cannot due on behalf of the claimant, as well as to keep claimant’s counsel informed of the same.
A driver may be relieved of liability in a car accident in some situations in which a medical condition is the cause. The rationale behind the sudden medical emergency defense is that there is no negligence involved and the matter was beyond the motorists control, so he or she should not be required to pay compensation to an injured victim. Generally, a person has the burden of proof in claiming this defense, which includes three elements:
- The Driver Experienced a Sudden Loss of Consciousness: The key time frame for the defense is the moments before the accident occurred, though there is no specific number of minutes. Still, the suddenness is a critical factor. The loss of consciousness must have occurred so abruptly and unexpectedly that the driver had no control over the vehicle, and could not react to mitigate the situation. In addition, this defense requires the person to prove that he or she had no indication of any symptoms before experienced sudden unconsciousness. When the driver notices a medical issue and ignores it, there is no suddenness.
- The Loss of Consciousness Led to Loss of Control Over the Vehicle: For this element, a driver must establish more than simple impairment or lack of control. There must be complete unconsciousness with complete loss of the ability to operate the vehicle.
- Unconsciousness and Subsequent Loss of Control Are Due to Medical Emergency: This factor of the sudden medical emergency defense often involves the use of the driver’s medical records. Typically, the medical condition requires immediate treatment, so healthcare practitioners or emergency medical technicians would include a diagnosis of why the person lost consciousness.
- Myocardial infarction, commonly termed heart attack;
- A sudden drop in blood pressure, often due to a diabetic condition;
- Stroke, resulting from lack of blood flow to the brain;
- Mental delusions; or,
- A reaction to medication.
- Medical bills for your treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care;
- Lost wages, if the accident caused you to be out of work for some time;
- Pain and suffering related to your injuries;
- Losses regarding your personal relationships with your spouse, children, and other loved ones; and,
- Other damages depending on your case.
A product recall is a request from a product manufacturer for consumers to take certain action because of the discovery of safety issues or defects. In some cases, the request involves taking the product in for repairs or updates; in others, the product could be completely unusable due to extreme safety risks. The government may also issue a recall if the manufacturer refuses, but these situations are rare. Companies are typically trying to get ahead of a reputation disaster when they announce recalls, so the government may not need to get involved. In many recall scenarios, there may not be any reports of injury or accident related to a defect. Manufacturers would rather act in advance of a complaint and absorb the costs of repair or replacement, as compared to dealing with the outrageous expenses they face for litigation related to defective products. Still, many more recalls are linked to injuries and even fatalities. In most cases, a recall alone does not establish liability. Claimants must still prove the elements of their claim under one of the following theories of liability:
- Strict Liability: This type of case requires the claimant to show that 1.) the manufacturer had a duty to provide consumers with a safe product, 2.) breach of this duty, and 3.) injures directly resulting from the breach.
- Breach of Warranty: Under this theory, a claimant must prove that the manufacturer 1.) issued a warranty along with a product and 2.) the item did not comply with the warranty obligations. It is also necessary to show that 3.) the failure to comply with the warranty caused injuries.
- Negligence: Though it is often grounds for such personal injury claims as car accidents and slip and fall incidents, negligence is not used as often as a theory of liability for defective products. Proving negligence requires you to pinpoint the act that led a dangerous product to be released into the stream of commerce, and to identify the nature of the breach of duty. This can be challenging, which is why many products liability cases proceed only as strict liability claims. Strict liability does not place at issue the level of care employed by the manufacturer.
When someone is in a motor vehicle accident, and it is not their fault, we typically will contact the insurance company for the at-fault driver and schedule a repair estimate. Typically, the insurance company will have its appraisers coordinate a repair inspection. We usually will try to arrange that inspection so that it is convenient for our client. In most cases, the location will be the home of our clients. The inspector will then take photographs of the damage to the car, and prepare a detailed repair estimate. In certain situations, the vehicle will be deemed a total loss. This occurs when the value of the vehicle in the condition it was in before the accident is less than the cost of repair. For example, if the vehicle cost $10,000 to repair, but was only valued at $5000 before the accident, the insurance company will offer the lesser amount. At that time, if the client wants to accept the total loss offer, we have to arrange to turn over the title to the vehicle to the insurance company and in return they will tender the check. The client, however, could choose to take the total loss check and make their own arrangements to repair the car. While this seldom occurs, it is an option. The value of the car is based on a number of factors including the miles on the vehicle before the accident; the overall condition of the vehicle before the accident; and any special equipment on the vehicle. Our law firm has access to many resources to check on various opinions with respect to the value of the vehicle. Unlike some personal injury law firms, that do not get involved in the handling of property damage claims, we regularly negotiate with the insurance company in order to get a fair offer on the total loss figure. We do not charge any legal fee to handle this aspect of personal injury cases for our clients. Rather, our legal fee is based on the recovery on behalf of the client for their bodily injury claims. It should also be noted that, while the negotiation is taking place on the vehicle repair, if the vehicle is a total loss, we will try to arrange for our clients to be put in a rental car so that they have access to transportation. Ultimately, however, we will seek reimbursement for the rental car from the insurance company for the at-fault driver.
Generally speaking, there are no damage caps on personal injury cases in Virginia. That essentially means that on standard claims, the amount of economic and non-economic damages is not limited by provisions of the state law. However there are exceptions depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Your attorney and the courts will notify you if these rare limitations apply in your case. In particular you should take note of two exceptions as follows:
- Medical Malpractice: These damages are limited to no more than $2 million in Virginia.
- Punitive Damages: These can be no more than $350,000
When you have been injured in an automobile accident though the fault of another person, you should seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case. While the attorney will assist you with your case from beginning to end, there are still many common sense approaches you can take on your own, to make sure that your case is handled in the most efficient way possible. One of those approaches is taking a pro-active role in your own case. You can do this in the following ways: