Cecil County’s Top 5 “Hot Spots” for 2016 Accidents #4

We’re continuing out countdown of the most dangerous accident spots in Cecil County, Maryland for the calendar year 2016. Last week we saw the 5th most dangerous accident intersection(s) as rated by the cases my office handled in the 2016 calendar year.

4. Rt 40 and Rt 213 (Bridge St/Augustine Herman Highway)

rt40rt213elkton

If you were to have asked me what intersections I thought were the most dangerous in 2016 without actually looking at the numbers this one would have been my guess for the top spot. Surprisingly, this intersection ranked number 4 on the overall list for 2016 accidents.

Yes. That mean’s there are 3 intersections in Cecil County Maryland that we handled more accidents from than the interchange between Rt 40 and Rt 213!

This is likely one of the busiest intersections in Cecil County, right in the heart of Elkton. The intersection of 2 major county arteries is also the intersection of many many vehicles, not in a good way!

The lights here are on a timed sequence, but they’re not entirely consistent. If you’ve ever tried to turn left onto 213 from the eastbound Rt 40 lane, you know that left arrow lasts maybe 3 or 4 cars…if everyone is paying attention!

Be careful traveling through this intersection, and don’t try to “speed up” and beat any lights here, otherwise you might become a client of ours, or even worse create a client for our office. Don’t just be careful here, but also be careful in our #3 most dangerous intersection for 2016.

If you’re injured in an accident in Cecil County, or anywhere in the State of Maryland please call our office at 410-885-6200. We’re happy to discuss your claim, and handle all dealings with insurance companies on your behalf. Most importantly, we don’t charge you anything up front, and only get a fee if we are successful in getting you money.

Obtaining a Protective Order in Maryland

By: Elisabeth Hellwig, Esquire

Are you eligible for a protective order?

Domestic violence is a serious problem, and victims may wonder what sort of legal protection is available to them to keep their abusers away. In Maryland, a victim of domestic violence may be eligible to petition for a protective order. If a protective order is granted, typically the order will order the abuser to stay away from the petitioner’s home and workplace, and order the abuser not to contact, harass, threaten, and/or abuse the petitioner. If the abuser and petitioner live together, the abuser may be ordered to vacate the residence. If there are children involved, the order can encompass protection for the children, as well.

Any person who either experienced domestic violence in Maryland or who lives in Maryland may be eligible to file for a protective order. To be eligible for a protective order, the abuser must be a current or former spouse, a sexual partner, a relative, or a parent of a child in common of the victim. The form to file the petition may be filed with the District Court clerk during business hours or the District Court commissioner after hours.

What happens after you file the petition?

After you file the petition for the protective order, you will have a hearing in front of a judge. This hearing may be done ex parte, which means it can be done without the abuser’s presence. At this hearing, if the judge finds that the abuse likely occurred, a temporary protective order may be granted. This order will normally be in place for seven days, after which a hearing for a final protective order will occur.

At the hearing for the final protective order, the judge must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the abuse alleged occurred and the petitioner is in need of protection. This means that you have to show the judge it is more likely than not that you were a victim of domestic violence. Here, you are allowed to call witnesses who can help you prove your case. It is helpful to hire a lawyer to assist you at this hearing, as a lawyer will know the right questions to ask. The abuser will also have the opportunity to call and question witnesses.

If a final protective order is granted, it will usually remain in place for one year.

Final thoughts:

If you think you may be eligible for a protective order, file as soon as you are able. After you receive a temporary protective order, consult an attorney who can help you navigate the hearing for the final order. Take pictures of any bruising you may have from the abuse, gather any related police reports, and contact any witnesses who can attest to any abuse they saw occur.

This process can be understandably emotionally challenging and can feel embarrassing, but you should not feel embarrassed for seeking help. Domestic abuse is never the victim’s fault. A good attorney understands this and can help you through the final protective order hearing.

Filing suit in your Maryland personal injury case

Of the Cecil County and Maryland Auto Accident cases that my office handles, not all of them become lawsuits. Many of my clients initially come to me concerned about not wanting to sue anyone, or the concerns that go into such an undertaking. Roughly speaking, no more than 25% of the claims handled within my office require the filing of a lawsuit. Of those, even less actually go to trial. Most of these claims resolve via settlement prior to a lawsuit being filed, or resolve via settlement through the litigation process, but before trial. In Maryland, I believe around 3 or 4 percent of injury claims are actually resolved by a trial.

If your case does require litigation, there are usually two reasons this will happen:

  • There is a dispute or disagreement as to who is at fault for the accident
  • There is a disagreement as to the extent of injuries and/or value of the claim

The reason a case becomes a lawsuit is somewhat irrelevant to the litigation process to follow. Here are some tidbits as to what one would expect, should their case go to suit, as the process is usually new for most clients, and can be somewhat complicated and confusing:

  1. The attorney or law office will file the lawsuit, known as the ‘complaint’ with the appropriate court. Maryland has trial courts for each of the 24 counties(including Baltimore City) and each county has 2 levels of trial courts for these cases, District and Circuit Court. The court usually sets an initial trial date at this time, but that date often changes as the case proceeds.
  2. Within a few weeks, the court will return to the attorney a ‘writ of summons’ to be served onto the defendant(at fault party) in the case.
  3. The law office will usually contract a private process server to serve the writ of summons onto the other party.
  4. Once served, the other party should be communicating with their insurance company, who will assign an attorney to represent the defendant in the proceedings. If you have been sued for an auto accident, you should forward the documentation to your insurance company immediately.
  5. The parties, through their attorneys, will exchange information involving the claim through a process called discovery. Depending on which level of court and the value of the case, this process can be simple and quick, or long and drawn out.
  6. If the matter is not resolved through the early stages of litigation, some courts will schedule a settlement conference or some sort of mediation to attempt to resolve the matter.
  7. If all else fails to resolve the matter, trial will commence as scheduled (or re-scheduled).

Each county is different as far as timeframe and scheduling is concerned. Generally speaking, a district court lawsuit should go to trial within 4-6 months of the initial filing. Circuit Court trials can be quite different from county to county, and can go to trial anywhere from 9 months from filing to as much as 18 months in the more busy jurisdictions. More complicated cases with multiple parties involved, such as medical malpractice or wrongful death cases, can take even longer!

No matter what the scenario is, if a case you’re involved in is part of a lawsuit, it is incredibly important that you are available and accessible to your lawyer or their staff. Often times there are deadlines associated with aspects of these cases.

When care goes wrong

At some point in our lives we most all place our trust in others to care for members of our family on a fairly regular basis. Whether or not this care is provided on a daily basis for our young children while we are at work, or whether we’re discussing the point in our parents’ lives in which they are in need of hands on care in a nursing home or other adult care facility.

When you really think about it, there is a substantial amount of trust that must be placed in these facilities, and the care and attention that they will provide to our loved ones. Some of these concerns we have are somewhat simplistic, in as much as the basic needs of life are provided, but often times some more substantial, but less obvious, needs are overlooked until it becomes apparent that they are not being provided for.

Specifically in adult care facilities, we work with families of the victims of negligent care, and at times outright abuse of our family members being “cared for” in these facilities. It is difficult to make an across the board blanket statement about any one facility, or what we have observed, but there is a vast range of experiences that vary from facility to facility. Some of these places seem to just be lining up bodies to collect medicare payments, with little or no real concern for the wellbeing of their clients. Others are fantastic, and truly seem to have the best interest of those for whom they’re trusted to care for in mind.

We regularly hear about and deal with situations involving patients who are ignored in beds, and end up with horrific bed sores. Other situations result from not enough care and attention to clients/patients who are at a greater risk of falling. Some of these fall cases come to us after someone has fallen at least 3 times that the family has learned of, and suspected numerous more that have been hidden from the family to avoid issue.

These are very serious issues, and they deserve serious attention. Our practice can bring light to these horrible situations, and seek compensation for injuries. We handle these cases with no up front fees, and charge no fee should we be unsuccessful in recovery. Call 410-885-6200 today to discuss and schedule a free initial consultation.

How long will my injury case take?

There are a variety of common questions asked by clients who I represent in their Maryland Injury Cases. In previous articles I’ve discussed the number one question asked, which is what is my accident case worth. The number two question is usually how long will my injury case take. This question is almost as tricky as the case value one, and equally difficult to answer in the early days and weeks of an accident case.

First of all, we’re dealing within injury cases here. These cases are valued, as noted in the previous article, based upon the injuries sustained and the recovery time required for those injuries, you’ll arrive at the baseline time required to resolve on of these cases. There are very few instances in a Maryland personal injury claim where it is appropriate to settle that claim prior to the claimant being completely finished with treatment for injuries. That being said, any discussion of the timeframe for resolving one of these starts with the treatment time for injuries.

Our office does most of the groundwork on these claims within the first days and weeks following the incident, and our being hired by a client. This includes contact with insurance companies, setting up of claims, requesting medical records, requesting additional documentation, etc. Most of this “heavy lifting” that sets the stage for the rest of the claim is done early on, and usually quite efficiently within our office.

Then we wait. We wait until our client has reached a point in their physical recovery process known as Maximum Medical Improvement, often referred to as MMI. This means that either the injured person is back to where they were pre-accident, or they’re at a point in which they’re as good as their going to get, and there is a permanent injury of some sort.

Once MMI is achieved, our office will collect the remaining medical bills and records we need to move onto the next phase of the claim, which would be preparing the demand. Usually we will have all of the bills and records for these claims within 2-4 weeks from the time a patient is discharged, but that varies depending on the medical providers involved.

The demand drafting process is somewhat quick within our office. Depending on the extent of the injuries, this may take a few hours, or a day to get ready. Then, we send it to the insurance company for the responsible party, and we’re in another waiting phase. Typically it takes between 4-6 weeks for most insurance companies to contact us with an offer to resolve these cases. Then, we contact our client to discuss the offer, and take it from there. More on the injury settlement process can be found here.

Then, we’ll either settle the case after a week or two of negotiation, or we’ll prepare to file suit in the matter. Each of these paths are unique to the individual case, and will be discussed in detail with our clients before any decisions are made.

If you’re interested in learning more about the value of your Maryland personal injury or auto accident case, or are concerned with how long it will take to resolve, contact my office as soon as possible (410) 885-6200 to schedule a free consultation with a lawyer.

 

Knowing what your accident case is worth

I wanted to discuss a variation on the common accident case value theme. This is, if you’ve been reading regularly, a fairly common theme with my posts as it is a common question that I get from my clients at many points throughout their claims. The main purpose of this particular post/article is to discuss the medical billing aspect of the process.

Myth: Many people are under the impression that your Maryland auto accident case is worth a multiplier of the total medical bills. That multiplier might be 2x or 3x or some 10x, but it’s a multiplier. This is entirely a myth. There is no hard and fast formula for determining the value of a Maryland auto accident case that fits nice and nearly into some variable type equation.

Each insurance company will use their own criteria to evaluate and make offers on cases, as will each judge or jury member weigh different aspects of testimony in determining a verdict, should a case go to trial and reach the verdict level.

The important thing to be aware of is whether or not the billing being submitted to the insurance carrier, judge or jury for consideration is the complete set of medical billing and/or records.

I receive a lot of litigation referrals from a number of law offices in Maryland. Sometimes, I also have clients who have fired a former attorney, or have had their case dropped, or for whatever reason have come to me after their case has been handled to some point by another lawyer or law office.

I recently took on one such case that was  handled by another firm, and for whatever reason the relationship between attorney and client broke down, and the client hired me. The entire file was forwarded to my office, and upon my review, I realized one major problem: A demand had been submitted to the insurance company, and was lacking no less than $6,000.00 in medical billing and the associated records to go along with that billing, and that’s just what I could determine in about 30 minutes of reviewing the file! Without a thought, the collection and submission of these bills would increase the previous offer by at least 20%. That’s a big number. That number is so big that it would almost offset the entire lawyer’s fees in the case!

The moral of the story is to be sure that a case being submitted to an insurance company, judge or jury for settlement is complete. This can be a daunting task for someone trying to handle a claim on their own, and clearly a difficult task for some that handle these cases professionally.

If you’re looking to have your case or an offer from an insurance company reviewed by someone with experience, contact me at (410) 885-6200. I will no review your settlement if you are represented by an attorney, as that wouldn’t be appropriate, but if you’re attempting to handle a claim on your own, I’ll gladly give you some of my time to take a look, and with no obligation discuss how I might be able to help you maximize the value of your claim.

UNSTOPPABLE REBEL FORCE

It’s on.

Tomorrow I will start taking on some cases. While I will start with some soft-balls, stets and noelle prosqui, it’s time to start getting the feet wet. The goal is to become an all-out litigation machine by the end of this semester. I am already enrolled in trial boot-camp, so to speak. Trial advocacy class kicks into high gear next week when we have direct and cross examinations to prepare and to be critiqued upon. This will continue all semester, polishing the basic skills of setting a theme, getting the story to the jury, and challenging witnesses and their testimony.

Brilliant.

The clinic, while I will be taking on baby cases in the beginning, will have similar training in the classroom component. I am also learning the “rules” aspect of both criminal and civil cases in Maryland in my other 2 classes.

Let’s win.

Yeah, the trial team I was on last year now has 2 full teams from our school, and the gloves come off around September 9th when the competition problem is released.

It’s time to crush it and become a complete machine by November 16th competition date, and beyond.

It is time to bring back the tag I put on the Ravens Superbowl run last season: Unstoppable Rebel Force.

 

Stream of Commerce or Stream of Commerce Plus, we may never know…

This week we’re discussing Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987) a case that is in every civil procedure case book and every law student reads, despite no real law being determined by it.

This case stems from a products liability lawsuit in which a tire blows on a motorcycle, causing serious injuries to the driver and apparently death to the driver’s wife, who was riding on the back of the motorcycle. This story reminds me of a tee shirt that I’ve seen somewhere, probably on the boardwalk of some beach. Something to the effect of “If you’re reading this, the B** fell off?” Well Mr. Zurcher probably felt pretty bad if he was wearing such a shirt at the time of this accident. Regardless, Zurcher files a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the tires, Cheng Shin, a company from Taiwan who is appropriately sued in California as they sell the tires directly in the forum state. However, Cheng Shin files a cross complaint to indemnify another company, Asahi Metal Industry, from whom they buy valves for the tires. The indemnification law suit is basically their way of saying that they feel that Asahi is at least partially responsible for the issue that caused this accident, and should at least contribute to the settlement as deemed appropriate by the court. Cheng Shin settles the underlying claim with Zurcher, but still wants a contribution from Asahi. Asahi sues the Superior court for the personal jurisdictional question, as they claim that they in fact do not have minimum contacts in California, they deal directly with Cheng Shin, and that the venue is not appropriate.

The reason that I make the comment about there being no law determined in this case, is that there is a 4-4-1 split among the justices, no majority means no law.

The first grouping says that when you enter a product into the stream of commerce, and have reason to believe where it may end up, that you are liable to litigation in that forum. The second grouping says that with the stream of commerce that there needs to be another step, another level of purposeful availment, or reaching into the forum to avail one’s self. The final justice seems only to care about the fact that they are subject to this case, despite the fact that the other justices found 2 different ways to get there.

So we start to see two different theories to discuss when breaking down similar cases, and different courts could adopt either method. HINT: When you see a similar fact pattern or hypo, break it down and discuss it both ways.

Ok so very busy today, but more minimum contacts discussion

Today at work I spent a lot of time with the attorney and several consultations with potential clients. Not the least of which being a defense case for someone charged with first and second degree Murder, as well as a number of serious injury claims.

 

Today in Civil Procedure we look at a case that attempts, unsuccessfully, to stretch the boundaries of minimum contacts, in World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980). In this case there is an automobile accident that occurs in the State of Oklahoma, in which the party Woodson was severely injured not only by the negligence tort of the other driver, but because the gas tank in their vehicle apparently exploded due to a defective design. They sought to recover against the manufacturer and sales company that sold them the vehicle in Messina, NY. They claim that the very nature of the automobile in its mobility and the foreseeability that it could travel anywhere should satisfy the minimum contacts test set up in International Shoe v. Washington. The court disagrees. However, we begin to see the stretching and expanding with a dissension of Justice Brennan who feels that the rest of the court is looking at International shoe too narrowly.