New Maryland Law- Proof of Insurance Required

Attention Maryland drivers! There is a new law that will go into force this October that you need to be aware of so that you’re not stuck with avoidable fines or trouble from the police during a traffic stop.

Each year Maryland’s legislature meets for a 90 day session that runs from January through April. The laws that are passed during that session typically go into act the first of October that same year.

This year there is a huge push from the legislature to crack down on uninsured drivers. Now, for the first time, there is a new law in place requiring proof of insurance during a traffic stop, should the officer demand/request it.

Beginning on October 1, 2016, all drivers in Maryland are required to carry valid proof of insurance, and present it during traffic stops, at the request of a law enforcement officer. During an initial introduction period, warnings will be issued to drivers who are unable to present valid proof of insurance. Beginning on July 1, 2017, drivers will be fined $50 for failure to provide valid proof of insurance.

For most of us, we keep our insurance cards inside of our glove compartment where the registration, owners manual, napkins from your favorite restaurant and whatever other random stuff is jammed in there. We’re urging you to double check that you’ve not only got your insurance card in that spot, but that it’s the current/valid insurance card. Most insurance companies re-issue a new insurance card with each renewal period that shows an effective date range (usually 6 months or a year). Every time you get one of these the only thing that normally changes is the effective dates, but it’s important that you pay attention when these come in the mail, or print them if they come to you online!

As always, be safe on the roads. Follow our firm on facebook or bookmark this blog for more future updates on important legal topics!

Recovering Wage Garnishments through Bankruptcy

One of the major benefits to filing a bankruptcy petition in Maryland is the automatic stay. It can be helpful in stopping most collection actions against you, including wage garnishments that are not a result of child support or child support arrears, or recent income tax arrears. Not only do some of these garnishments stop immediately upon the filing of the bankruptcy petition, but we are also able to recover up to 90 days worth of garnishment withholdings that were taken prior to the filing of the petition.

In a recent case we handled, which was brought into our office due to the wage garnishment, we were able to not only stop the garnishment, but we eliminated roughly $20,000 in additional unsecured debt for the client, and received a refund from the garnishment that was roughly equivalent to the amount of the fee the client paid our office to handle the proceedings. It was basically a free bankruptcy filing, plus the added benefit of all of the discharged debt!

Should be be in a position where you’re dealing with a non-child support or recent income tax wage garnishment contact our office at 410-885-6200 to discuss your options with one of our Maryland bankruptcy attorneys.

Policy Limits Offer- Motor Cycle Collision

Some of the most difficult claims to resolve can be Motorcycle accident claims in Maryland. Our firm recently represented a victim of a motorcycle accident, and achieved a policy limits result from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Like with many serious claims where we are able to achieve such a result for our client, our focus now shifts to finding other avenues of recovery for the client, and negotiating outstanding expenses on our client’s behalf.

 

A potentially dangerous time on the roads

By now most of us in Maryland and the surrounding areas have “dug out” of the recent blizzard that hit us late last week. While our roadways are seemingly cleared of ice and snow, that doesn’t necessarily mean the dangers that come from such a storm are gone.

While the roadways are mostly cleared, there still remain large piles of shoveled and plowed snow throughout areas along the side of roadways. Medians that were never touched, as there was to be no traffic there, and other adjacent areas that have remaining snow and ice will now begin to melt as the weather heats up a bit.

This can create unrealized dangers on the roadway, and extra care and caution should be used to avoid accidents!

Much like the time directly following the start of a rain storm can be a dangerous time to be on the road, the times of the day where the ice and snow begin to melt and run onto the roadways can be equally dangerous. The same aspect of water mixing with the oils on the roadway will happen whether that water is new rain, or run off of newly melted snow and ice.

Also, the evening hours as the temperature drops can be even more treacherous, as that water on the roadways can freeze, causing ice incidents.

Take extra care in these days and weeks following the blizzard, or any blizzard for that matter. Give yourself extra commute time, and extra follow distance between you and the vehicle in front, just in case a quick stop is required. The last thing you’ll want is to have your brakes lock up, tires skid across the recently melted water, and cause an avoidable accident!

As always, should the other drivers on the roadway not see this, not heed this advice, and put you in a situation where you’re the victim of such an accident, do not hesitate to contact our office as soon as possible at 410-885-6200. We can help navigate the insurance company nightmare, make sure you’re paid fairly for your injures, and in many cases recover for the diminished re-sale value of your damaged and repaired vehicle.

I love a good client success story….

I’ve spend my entire career as an attorney, and much of my career in the industry prior to becoming an attorney working to educate the community and clients of mine or the firm(s) I worked for about how to improve their automobile insurance in preparation for an eventual accident.

The reality of the situation is that accidents are actually happening more and more frequently, as the threats and risks created by distracted drivers texting, emailing and facebooking on their phones while driving have drastically outweigh the improvements designed to make vehicles safer, including those designed to have cars automatically avoid accidents.

Much of the education that I have provided to my clients and prospective clients can be found in the book I published in 2014 entitled ‘Making the most of your Maryland auto insurance policy‘ which is available on amazon.com or can be downloaded electronically via the web at no cost.

The success story for one of our clients comes from this educational outreach. One of the first clients our firm represented for an automobile accident was driving a vehicle owned and insured by his girlfriend. The owner of the vehicle had waived Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage on the policy, but the driver had not waived PIP on any policy he was named on, and was eligible for PIP. I took the opportunity to speak to the owner of the vehicle, even though she was not our client, nor was she involved in the accident herself. One of the major pieces of advice provided to her was to remove that PIP waiver, and increase the PIP coverage as much as she can afford and that her company would offer her.

Apparently she listened to me, and it’s turned out to greatly benefit her, as the advice provided in the book is designed to do. Later on in the year she herself was the victim of an automobile accident. Of course, she called our firm for representation, and as I was working on resolving her claim this morning, I looked through the file and realized that she carried $5,000.00 in Personal Injury Protection coverage, a big change from when she had waived it! In the end, this meant that the vast majority of her hospital, physical therapy, and doctors bills have already been paid. In the end, this means more money in my client’s pocket once the claim resolves! In fact, she will likely put as much as $5,000 more in her pocket than she would have if she had maintained the PIP waiver. That’s a real big deal!

This is the type of success story for my clients that makes me happy that I do what I do, and that I run my practice the way that I do. If you are a client or not, and would like me to take a look at your Maryland auto insurance policy, give me a call at 410-885-6200. I’ll gladly take the time to meet with you in my office, or review over the phone/fax/email and let you know what things I think you can do to improve your policy. No one wants to get into an accident, and I certainly wouldn’t wish it onto any of my clients or even any of my so called “enemies,” but it’s good to know ways you can prepare for the worst that will cost you very little, and in some instances even reduce your premiums. Final note: I don’t sell insurance, so the offer to review your policy is not a sales pitch. Any suggestions I make involving changes to your policy will have to be done through your own insurance agent, or by finding a new agent. So no worries calling for information and having to avoid a hard sell, it’s just not happening!

 

Policy Limits Offer- Rear End Motor Vehicle Accident

We’re proud to discuss a recent case result for one of our Cecil County Automobile Accident Clients. In a rear end loss from earlier in the year, our client suffered a variety of injuries as a result of the accident. We have presented the claim to the insurance company for the at fault driver, who has agreed that they owe the claim, and will be offering the limits of their auto insurance policy.

The next step in the process is to seek additional coverage, and negotiate the outstanding obligations to our client, mainly through the subrogation of the health insurance company.

We hope to have this case entirely resolved within the next two months, but the heavy lifting is over for now! Another great success for our firm and our clients!

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.

Gun and drug possession charges reduced to open container citation

A recent traffic stop in Perryville, Maryland resulted in citations and charges being filed against a client of ours for possession of a handgun in a vehicle, possession of an unregistered handgun, among other drug related charges for suspected contraband found following a search of the vehicle.

Working with the State’s Attorney regarding a number of defenses to some of these charges, as well as some other issues with the stop, we resolve this matter down from what could have been some substantial jail time for for my client to a simple payable non-criminal citation for an open alcohol container in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.

If you’re facing similar charges, or anything that arises out of a Cecil County vehicle stop or search subsequent a stop, contact our office at 410-885-6200 to discuss possible defenses that may be available to you.