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.
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.
t 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:
1. Provide accurate and updated information to your attorney regarding your contact information.Whenever there is any change of address, telephone number or any other contact information, you should always let your attorney know. It is surprising how often even very conscientious clients will forget to do this. Failure of a client to communicate this information to their attorney can lead to delays in their case. Also, if you are out of town or out of the country for an extended period of time and are unreachable, it is important to let your attorney know how to reach you.
2. Keep your attorney updated about your treatment status.If you’re currently receiving medical treatment, you want to make sure that you let your attorney know if you are unable to keep your appointments with the doctor/medical provider. Also, if you have completed your treatment or if your pain has gotten worse, you should let your attorney know right away so that they are aware of your treatment progress. If you don’t, the adverse insurance company will frequently scrutinize gaps in treatment, missed appointments etc. when evaluating the value of your auto accident claim. It will only help you to communicate as much information as possible to your attorney.
3. Keep detailed notes and receipts regarding any out of pocket expenses or lost income.-For example, if you have to travel 20 miles back and forth to the medical provider, and you have to go for treatment three times a week, you should keep track of the mileage for reimbursement. -Make sure you let your doctor know that you have missed time from work so that the doctor can document that properly in your medical record. -If you have to pay co-pays for any treatment or medication that you received, or paid for any medical treatment, please keep receipts. -If you are unable to work, you should make detailed notes of the days and hours you missed. If you are self-employed, it is very important to keep track of the time lost to document the lost income. -If you have to hire someone to work for you because you are unable to work, make sure that this is also documented as well. You may have to provide copies of paychecks that you paid the employee as well as the bank statement confirming that the check was cashed. You will need to document the days the employee worked, the number of hours they worked and their wage amount.
Maryland Slip and Fall LawWhen people think about personal injuries, they mainly think about car accidents. However, one can suffer injuries through other kinds of accidents. While people’s initial reaction to a slip and fall is that no one other than the injured victim is at fault, this is often not the case. Premises liability law sometimes dictates that the owner/occupier of the premises should be held responsible for an injury that resulted due to that owner’s negligence. Visit our Slip and Fall Practice Area Page for More Information on Slip and Fall Accidents Maryland law requires that all property owners owe a duty of reasonable care see that those portions of their property which invitees may be expected to use, are safe and kept in good repair. Additionally, there may be a duty to warn invitees or individuals on the property of known dangers located on the premises. If there is a dangerous condition on their property that the business owner knew about and failed to warn you of, or otherwise reasonably should have known about but failed to detect, then they could be held responsible for causing you injuries.
Most Common Types of Premises Liability NegligenceAmong the most common types of land owner negligence we encounter are some of the following:
- Poor lighting
- Damaged or uneven carpeting or flooring
- Wet floors
- Black ice that was ignored or negligently treated
- Stairs without safety railings
- Outdoor tile stairs not property treated for outdoor use
- Unmarked or camouflaged stairs or curbs
- Negligently designed restaurant booths
- Q. What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP)?
- A. Personal Injury Protection is a type of coverage under one’s automobile insurance coverage that pays for the medical bills, loss of income and other expenses, like copays and deductibles that is incurred as a result of injuries suffered from an auto accident. It is coverage that one pays for as part of the premium for auto insurance in Maryland.
- Q. Who gets covered under the Personal Injury Protection coverage?
- A. First of all, it is also called “no fault” insurance because the PIP insurance covers the medical bills and other expenses of the person covered regardless of whether they caused the accident or not. There are several different types of people that can benefit from the PIP coverage: The person who is named as the insured under the insurance policy, passengers in the insured’s vehicle, family members who live in the household of the insured, persons with permission to use the vehicle involved in the accident and pedestrians who are injured by the insured’s vehicle.
- Q. Is everyone required to purchase PIP coverage on auto insurance policies?
- A. Although Maryland accident law does not require PIP coverage on automobile policies, insurance companies have to offer PIP coverage when you buy auto insurance and you have to reject it or waive it by signing a document saying that you are rejecting it.
- Q. How much of my medical bills and expenses are covered under PIP?
- A. The amount of expenses that will be covered will be dependent on the coverage you purchase in Maryland. Basic PIP coverage in Maryland is $2500.00, but one can elect to purchase a higher amount of coverage.
- Q. How does PIP coverage benefit one involved in an auto accident if the other side is already going to pay for the injuries?
- A. Under the collateral source rule, the law in Maryland allows for one to recover not only from the other insurance company but your insurance company as well. For example, if you have $5,000 total in medical bills and lost wages, and you have $5,000 in PIP benefits, your own insurance company will cover the medical bills. You can then collect from the other insurance company for the same medical bills and lost wages in addition to money for your pain and suffering.
- Q. Is there a time limitation to filing for the PIP benefits?
- A. In Maryland, one has to file a PIP claim within a year of the date of the accident or one may not be able to get those benefits. If our office handles the case, we will not charge an additional fee to file the PIP application on behalf of the client and help ensure that the claims are processed by the insurance company.
Bus Accidents are sometimes much more complicated than a 'run-of-the-mill' car accident case. The law varies in this area depending on the particular facts of each case and therefore it is imperative that you speak with an attorney to determine if you have a case and what rules of law will apply in your particular jurisdiction. There are several reasons for this:
Injuries Can Be SubstantialBecause bus accidents often result in substantial injuries and substantial liability for the bus company, the bus company, typically, is well prepared to respond to the accident scene and perform its own accident investigation to determine the cause of the crash. As plaintiff’s attorneys, it is our view that the bus company’s investigation will often be skewed towards the interests of the bus company in order to limit their own liability. Indeed, we have found that it is very rare that the bus company will attribute the cause of the accident to their own driver's negligence. Therefore, if you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a bus accident, you should obtain an attorney as soon as possible after the accident to aggressively conduct an independent investigation into the facts and to rapidly secure the evidence necessary to prove how the accident happened.
Different Laws May ApplyA different set of laws will apply to the regulation and operation of buses. These are not the same laws that are applicable to regular motor vehicles. For example, unlike cars, most buses are not required to have seat belts. This fact alone is quite disturbing when considering that a majority of injuries and deaths resulting from bus related accidents, result from passengers inside the bus being thrown from their seat. Nevertheless, bus operators and the companies or entities they work for, (which are sometimes referred to as 'common carriers') are typically held to a higher standard of care than regular drivers. Therefore, what may be a reasonable action for a driver to take on the roadway may be entirely unreasonable, when the driver of a children’s school bus takes that same action. Attorneys with experience handling these complicated matters will be well prepared to deal with the specific laws and statutes that apply to bus related accidents.
Traps and PitfallsBus Accident lawyers can help you navigate the pitfalls and complications that lie in wait. Most people do not realize that public transportation systems usually have limited immunity. That is; local government entities have, over the years carved out some form of limited immunity, which usually consists of a. Immunity from lawsuits pursuant to local government tort claims acts or statewide grants of immunity - There are limited time periods in which suits must be filed in claims against most local governments. b. Immunity and/or damage caps may apply c. Limited statute of limitations periods for suits against these entities d. Strict Notice Requirements for bringing a claim against the entity - failure to comply with these requirements to the letter may result in a complete bar of the claim entirely.
Ask These QuestionsThus, if you are deciding on whether to hire a lawyer for your bus accident claim, make sure you ask and get answers to the following questions:
- 1. How much time do you have to file your claim?
- 2. What government or state entity is potentially involved?
- 3. What are the statutory requirements for putting the government entity on notice?
- 4. What damage caps may apply?
- 5. Does the government entity enjoy any kind of limited immunity?
Ask These Questions TooAdditionally, you may want to ask yourself the following questions to ensure the lawyer is competent to handle a more complex accident case.
- 1. How did I come upon this lawyer? Did a family member or friend in the community who has used the lawyer recommend the lawyer?
- What do online reviews say about the lawyer?
- 2. What is the lawyer's reputation in the community?
- 3. What are the lawyer's credentials?
- 4. What are the lawyer's case results?
- 5. Does the lawyer has a reputation for taking cases to trial and getting large verdicts
- 6. Is the lawyer not afraid to take cases to trial?
Laws on this issue can vary from state to state. Therefore, you should always consult directly with an attorney to determine the law that applies to your specific situation. Generally speaking, however, the term, "total loss" generally refers to the value of a vehicle being completely diminished due to an accident. Specifically, the term means that according to an insurance company’s estimate, it will cost them more to repair the vehicle than it will to pay you for the fair market value of the vehicle at the time of the loss. Total losses usually occur when the damage to the vehicle exceeds 75% of the car's fair market value. Both Maryland and Virginia laws use a 75% threshold to determine total loss and the statutes are cited below. Different insurance companies will use different percentages in determining whether a vehicle would be considered repairable. The ratio of damage to the vehicle to the fair market value must usually exceed 70 to 85 percent of the fair market value for the insurance carrier to deem it a "total loss". The insurance companies are only required to give you money for the repair costs or the market value of the car, whichever is less. Maryland defines a salvage vehicle as one whose repair cost exceeds 75% of the fair market value of the vehicle prior to sustaining the damage MARYLAND TOTAL LOSS THRESHOLD STATUTE
§ 46.2-1602.1. Duties of insurance companies upon acquiring certain vehicles.
The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.
Minor Drivers may not operate a cell phone at any time while driving under MD Code, Transportation § 21-1124.2, unless they are calling 9-11. This ban includes the usage of hands free or Bluetooth devices. Adult drivers, may NOT use his/her hands to use a handheld telephone, other than to start or end a call, or to turn the telephone on or off, while the vehicle is in Motion. Read the Law: MD Code, Transportation § 21-1124.2 EXCEPTIONS
- 1. Maryland School Bus Drivers, Minors, or adult holder's of learner's permits or provisional licenses may not use electronic cell phones while driving except in the case of emergency. See MD Code, Transportation § 21-1124.2
- 2. Certain emergency and law enforcement personal are excluded from the reach of these laws in Maryland.
In Maryland every vehicle is supposed to carry at least minimum insurance coverage. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines and penalties. But is the minimum insurance really enough? Before you can determine whether or not you have ample coverage, you need to understand the various types of coverage. Limited liability law requires minimum coverage of at $30,000 for bodily injury to one person, $60,000 bodily injury for each accident and $15,000 for property damage. These coverages are designed to protect you in the event you hurt someone else and need to compensate the person you injured. Uninsured motorists coverage insurance compensates you for personal injury and property damage you suffered in an accident with an uninsured or hit-and-run driver. Where another driver strikes you and does not have sufficient coverage to make you whole, you would need to make a claim against this coverage. Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance reimburses you for medical expenses and lost wages caused by the accident, regardless of who was at fault. Physical damage coverage insurance pays for all types of vehicle damage such as theft, vandalism, flood or other criminal or weather related incident. Collision coverage insurance pays for car repairs or worth of totaled vehicle regardless of who caused the accident. Bodily injury liability insurance pays expenses and damages arising out of an auto accident lawsuit filed against you for personal injury. Property damage liability insurance pays expenses and damages arising out of an auto accident lawsuit filed against you for property damage. This list is not all exhaustive. In fact, the Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance can provide additional information and tips to purchasing adequate insurance. Failure to have the enough insurance could result in expensive repercussions. Not having adequate insurance could result in out-of-pocket expenses or even the cost of having to replace a vehicle that was damaged in an accident. It's is always a good idea to understand what your insurance options are and make sure you have the right kind and amount of insurance coverage.