How will your auto accident case settle?

A question that I am often asked by clients and prospective clients is about the settlement process. While questions about the projected value of a Maryland injury claim are difficult to answer at the very beginning, it is easier to answer questions regarding the end process without discussing the numbers. More on what goes into the value of a settlement can be found here.

Once you have completed any and all medical treatment, our office will complete the ongoing process of collecting medical bills, records, and documentation pertaining to time lost from employment to put together what is commonly known as a “demand letter” or “demand package” to send to the insurance company. Once sent, most insurance companies will take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to evaluate the damages in the claim, liability of the claim, and ultimately contact our office with an initial offer for settlement. We do not accept or encourage our clients to accept the initial offer, except in instances where that initial offer constitutes the limits of all available liability insurance.

Next, the negotiating attorney in our office will contact our client, before beginning negotiation with the insurance company. We will discuss this initial offer with out client, discuss the pros/cons of that offer, and also provide our client with real numbers of “if you accepted this, your proceeds would be…” At this point, our clients have a good idea of what the initial offer would mean to them, as well as a fair estimate of what the “high end” might look like through the negotiation process. Your attorney will also tell you their opinion on the offer, and possible top end offer. We will not push you to accept an offer that we feel is too low, or that we have a reasonable likelihood of getting you more by filing a lawsuit.

Then, with your approval and authority to settle for a certain minimum amount, we will reinitiate the settlement process, with the goal to exceed your expectations, of course.

Remember: We get paid a percentage of this settlement amount. It is not only in your best interest for us to get the highest amount possible, but it also helps our office. We’re on the same team here!

Then, we typically will verify our client’s approval of the settlement amount prior to accepting it.

Shortly following this, the insurance company will send a check to our office, which will be placed in our client trust account, and ultimately be disbursed to the client, the firm, and any outstanding medical balances or insurance liens. Our clients receive a full detailed breakdown on every penny of their injury settlement proceeds.

A “grand deal” falls apart, benefits our client!

I recently represented a client who quite frankly did not have the best driving record here in Maryland. Through most of his adult life, he had a license that was on again off again suspended, revoked or expired for one reason or another. Client came to me to help represent him with two separate sets of charges related to driving without his license and/or driving while suspended. Typically, when I decide to take on one of these cases I stress to the client the importance of obtaining a valid Maryland license before the scheduled trial date. Unlike many lawyers I know, I offer to do the footwork for my clients in determining what they need to do in order to obtain a valid license. I won’t pay their tickets, or their child support, or take their driver improvement course, but I can help them navigate the often tricky system that is the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Often times, there are also suspensions arising out of out of state issues on the National Driving Registry. I once assisted another client in finding counsel in North Carolina to resolve some outstanding tickets and failure to appear warrants that were tying up her ability to renew her license here in Maryland.

Overall, in Maryland, most courts will have a degree of leniency if you are able to have a valid license by your court date. This by no means indicates that everything will just “go away” but what most prosecutors and judges are looking for regarding disposition and sentencing is much less if you have a valid license, than if you don’t. This leniency is quite a bit less if you’re a repeat offender, as is with most situations.

My client mentioned above had quite a storied history with the driving system here in Maryland, and had previously done time for these types of charges. An odd scheduling and rescheduling fluke had these 2 separate sets of charges scheduled for court at the same day, at the same time, but at two different Baltimore City Court houses (Patapsco Ave and Wabash Ave.)

I was working with two different prosecutors on 2 different situations, all for the same client. Our efforts were to work out some sort of “grand deal” which would have my client offer a guilty plea to the charges in one court, and be sentenced in such a way to reflect this deal, then the other charges would be dropped entirely.

By the time we arrived at court for the first set of charges, my client was eligible to get his license back. He had to go take the driving test, and we all know how those lines can be at the DMV. When discussing this with the prosecutor, we learned that the State had witness issues on this case, and that we likely would not be able to proceed as arranged. I ultimately convinced the State to drop the first set of charges completely, which rarely happens in situations like this. I had been in on this case at a previous appearance and the prosecutor was once seeking a straight term of 30 days for these same charges.

So, the deal fell apart. Client is still facing the other set of charges, which we go to court on this week. Client has a valid license now, and is poised for an overall much better result, and most importantly should be putting all of this behind him soon!

If you’re charged with driving without a license, driving on a suspended or revoked license, or any other similar charges, call our office at (410) 885-6200. We can not only help handle those charges, but guide you in getting your license back so that this is hopefully the last time you ever have to face charges like this again!

A valid Maryland driver's license is the key to not getting a driving without a license or driving on suspended charge.
A valid Maryland driver’s license is the key to not getting a driving without a license or driving on suspended charge.

Why did your attorney drop your Maryland accident case?

At least once a week I get a call from someone who has received a letter from the attorney who they initially hired to take on their Maryland auto accident or other personal injury claim stating that they can no longer represent them in this matter. There are a wide variety of reason that this may happen, and usually these individuals have no idea why. They haven’t received a call from the attorney, nor have they been able to get ahold of the attorney to get answers to this question.

Did your lawyer drop your maryland accident case? It's possible that he or she was just too busy to investigate properly.
Did your lawyer drop your maryland accident case? It’s possible that he or she was just too busy to investigate properly. We offer free evaluations of cases dropped by other lawyers by calling (410) 885-6200.

Now what?

Sometimes some cases are just not winnable. However, in some instances, there may be another reason, or perspective to be gained by discussing this with another attorney. My best estimate is that I accept one out of every three or four of these cases as they come in. The difficulty for me usually comes from the fact that the injured party really does not know why their case was dropped by the previous attorney, and are having difficulty getting answers. All attorneys are different, and have their own criteria on what cases they want to work with, and what cases they intend to file law suits in. Some lawyers don’t file lawsuits in any of their cases! This isn’t necessarily wrong, but if your case is one that would benefit from the initiation of a law suit, then you’re not going to get too far with a lawyer who doesn’t intend to file one.

I have also received calls from passengers in vehicles whose driver was at fault for the accident, and at the time that vehicle was uninsured. There are some specific measures that can be taken to obtain compensation in these situations, but some of them have a very strict notice requirement.

Some insurance companies will deny paying claims on accidents where the damage to the vehicle is less than some arbitrarily determined amount. While there have been countless studies refuting the correlation of large property damage to injuries, and some that even make the case that lower property damage can result in greater injuries, insurance companies also decide what cases to challenge, and which to pay.

If you’ve found yourself in receipt of one of these letters, do not hesitate to give my office a call at (410) 885-6200. We’re happy to take the time to meet with you and discuss the matter. While I do not guarantee that I’ll take on the claim, I will ask the right questions, dig a little deeper than some will, and if there is a reasonable possibility of recovery, we’ll take it on!

Should you settle your own Accident Case?


Since opening my practice in Elkton, Maryland I have noticed a lot of differences with the way that many accident cases come to my office. Whether these are people injured in auto accidents in Elkton, Maryland or other parts of Cecil County, there is an abundance of individuals who do not come to the law office first. There are pros and cons to this, but my goal here isn’t to discuss those specifically, but merely illustrate the point that things are a little different here, as opposed to Baltimore City auto accident clients. Here, more than in the city, I am more often getting the question from potential clients “Should I hire a lawyer to handle my accident claim?”

It is very rare that a situation is such that you can appropriately handle an automobile accident case on your own. Quite frankly, insurance companies will not respect you, and will assume that you have no idea how to file a lawsuit and carry it out against their driver. They are also in the practice of thinking you’ll settle the case for far less than it’s actually worth, or attempting to convince you that an attorney and his or her fees are too high to make it worth using one of us. The fact of the matter really is, in most cases, there are a variety of ways that having an attorney will be more helpful, and result in more money in your pocket. Not only can we negotiate the true value of a claim, because most attorneys who hold themselves out to handle these types of claims have handled hundreds if not thousands of them, but we also know how to file a lawsuit and keep the insurance companies honest when we need to.

We also bring the added benefit of being able to negotiate other aspects of the claim, such as medical insurance liens, outstanding medical bills, or other things that will put more money in the client’s pocket.

I’ve recently had a number of clients who came to me merely because they felt like they were not getting a fair shake from the insurance company. So far, none of these varied clients have been wrong! Over my years of dealing with these situations, many times I’ve been able to put significantly more money in the client’s pocket(after lawyer’s fees and medical bills) than the insurance company was offering in the first place! If you’ve been trying to handle a Cecil County Auto Accident Case on your own, it might be time to pick up the phone and call me at (410) 885-6200 and discuss what’s going on in your case. You’re never under any obligation to hire me, and I only get paid when I collect money for you!

Weather related automobile accidents and your rights….

It’s that time of year again when mother nature renders her will on all of us who live in the parts of the county that are susceptible to winter weather. This is the time of year where I get numerous calls from locals who were involved in weather related accidents both in Elkton, Cecil County and throughout the State of Maryland. These accidents can happen in a number of ways, and I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the rights that you’ll have in accidents that are either single vehicle accidents, accidents where you or a driver of your vehicle is at fault, or those accidents where someone else is at fault for the loss. Many lawyers will not discuss the rights you have in single vehicle losses and those where you’re at fault (or have contributed partially to) because it does not render an opportunity for that lawyer to make money on that specific claim. The purpose here is to provide some education regardless of the situation, and make sure you’re covered and taking care of yourself the best way you can.

  1. Call the police and have them file a report. Regardless of the fault scenario, or what you think the fault scenario will be, have the police file a report. Especially if multiple parties are involved, this can be important it setting up the appropriate claims after the fact.
  2. Call my office. Again, even if you think you’re at fault for the accident, or if it’s a single vehicle accident, I will help guide you through the process of setting up claims with your insurance company, getting your vehicle fixed, and determining what medical payment/wage loss insurance coverage you may have. If you’re injured, and your insurance will pay for treatment, there’s no sense in not getting the care you need. Fault for an accident and injuries are usually not interconnected. It is important for your own wellbeing to get the care you need.
  3. Don’t call the insurance companies. Again, an offshoot of #2 above, let my office handle that. If it’s a case that we’re going to represent you for against a third party, our fee is a percentage of that recovery whether we make the calls or you make the calls. Why would you do something that you’re paying me to do? If it isn’t a case that I’ll be taking on, like the single vehicle accident, I’ll still call and report the claims for you, and help guide you through the injury and repair process at no charge. Again, I don’t collect a fee on these cases unless and until I get you compensation that isn’t related to the repair to your vehicle or direct payment for your injuries or wage loss.

Assuming the best, and that you’ve dodged the weather bullet this time, what things can you do to be better prepared in the future for any accident, not just a weather related one?

First of all, call my office and request our free guide to maximizing your Maryland auto insurance policy. It’s available on Amazon for $24.99Handling Maryland Auto Accidents Following Inclement Weather, but if you call my office at (410) 885-6200 and mention this article, we’ll send you a copy absolutely free! You can also request a free e-book version by visiting www.marylandinsurancebook.com. If you want the free print version, though, you have to call! We’ll also send you a few accident preparedness kits to throw in your glove box in preparation of an accident.

Save my injury hotline number in your phone under ‘Accident Attorney’ so you’re doubly prepared. The hotline number is 410-975-7000, and in times of inclement weather, nights, weekends or holidays will go direct to my personal cell phone, or someone else in the office who is handling emergency calls during that time frame. This isn’t the regular office number, so if you are a client with a case related question call the normal number, 410-885-6200, for quickest response.

 

 

Should you settle with the insurance company? Do you need a lawyer?

In this profession I am often asked the question about whether or not someone who has been injured in an automobile accident should or should not hire an attorney to facilitate the settlement and/or eventual lawsuit associated with their claim. There are very few instances in which the answer to the question is consistent with self-representation. The bottom line in these types of cases is that insurance companies run a business that for the most part is based on collecting premiums, and keeping that money. They will take any opportunity to decrease the money that they need to pay out, even if the decrease is just a few hundred dollars. If you think about it, some of these insurance companies are HUGE, and likely have millions of claims for injuries each year, or even every month. If they were to save just $100 each claim over one million claims….do the math.

Here’s the real thing you need to realize and think about when considering handling your own Maryland Auto accident case, or especially handling your own Elkton or Cecil County Auto Accident Case. I probably see or hear about more people here in Cecil County trying to settle on their own than in any other county I’ve worked in: Do you pose a substantial and credible threat to litigate your case on your own? If the answer to that question is anything except for a solid YES, then the insurance company will treat you as if you will never file suit, wouldn’t know how to file suit, and they assume you’ll accept the first offer that they make to you.

When you hire an experienced auto accident lawyer, the game drastically changes. In many instances offers to settle immediately multiply by a factor of 5 or 10 times what they were to an unrepresented party. Why? Mainly because I know what the case should be worth, I know how to negotiate with each insurance company(yes, each insurance company negotiates differently than others) and have absolutely no fear or hesitation in my willingness to file a lawsuit on your behalf, and take the right case all the way to trial and get what the case is worth!

Through my years in this business, I have seen clients walk into my office with settlement checks handed to them on the scene of the repair facility by an adjuster for hundreds of dollars. Hundreds! These were claims where we ultimately settled for as much as $20,000 when all of the appropriate medical treatment was had, and the claim was negotiated properly.

Check back for future posts on appropriate medical treatment after an auto accident, the importance of having your vehicle repaired, the impact of a lawyer’s fees on your injury settlement and other important and insightful topics. Do  not try to settle these cases on your own. Call me, (410) 885-6200, especially if you accident happened in Cecil County Maryland. I charge no up front fees in these cases, and there is rarely a case where I don’t put at least triple in your pocket what the insurance company initially offers when you try to settle on your own!

Second Degree Assault- State Drops All Charges

Today I represented an individual accused of having committed assault in the second degree (CR 3-203) in two separate cases with two separate complainant. Second Degree Assault in Maryland carries a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a fine of $2,500.00. Given 2 separate and technically unrelated charges, my client was potentially facing 20 years in jail for these charges. Originally, the State presented a desire to proceed to trial, and there was a possibility that we would have had trial today, or possibly elect to have a jury trial in the Circuit Court. Through some negotiation, and some investigation into one of the alleged victims, the State was convinced to drop all charges in both cases. A very happy client!

Are creditors calling and harassing you?

We often get calls from prospective clients for debt relief and/or bankruptcy by people who are overwhelmingly being harassed by creditors calling to try to receive payments on open accounts, or work out payment plans or other payments.

These calls often are made at all hours, and now are being made on home phones, cell phones, and even at places of employment.

Bankruptcy Can Stop Creditor Calls!

To obtain relief from creditor harassment, you can file for bankruptcy. Telling a creditor you are going to do it is not enough. Creditors know this, and will not stop bothering you until they receive the order from the court. They know that once you file for bankruptcy protection, they will probably be unable to collect all of the debt.

Here are the procedures by which a bankruptcy filing will stop creditor calls:
• Immediately upon the filing of your bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy court issues an order that stops all collection efforts against you. The order issued by the bankruptcy court is called the “Automatic Stay.”
• After you file the bankruptcy petition, the court mails a notice to all the creditors listed in your bankruptcy schedules.
• Creditors will also stop calling if you inform them that you filed the bankruptcy petition, and supply them with case number.
• If a creditor continues to call you or contact your employer, the court may impose fines, punitive damages and even jail time because of the court order violation.
• If your case is discharged, then creditors and their collection companies are permanently prohibited from contacting you unless they have received special permission from the Bankruptcy Court, or your debt is one that is exempted from your discharge.

Filing of a bankruptcy case really does give you a fresh start. Eliminating the debt allows you to start over, rebuild your credit, remove the stress and threat, and move on with your life.

For more information on filing a Bankruptcy, contact our office at 410-885-6200.

 

State drops all charges- Assault Second Degree

In a less serious, but equally important case, I recently represented a client in the District Court for Cecil County, facing accusations of Assault in the Second Degree(CR 3-203) as well as Disorderly Conduct(CR 10-201(c)(2)). These were serious charges, facing the potential maximum sentence of 10 years in jail  and/or a $2,500 fine for the Second Degree Assault, and 60 days in jail  and/or a $500 fine for the Disorderly Conduct. Through ongoing discussions with the State’s Attorney’s office here, issues presented with the veracity and credibility of the alleged victim and witnesses against my client ultimately allowed me to convince the state to drop all charges against my client.

 

There was no known media coverage of this case.

Motion to Suppress Recorded Statements in a First Degree Murder Trial-Granted

Working along side colleague Edward A. Ritchitelli, we recently won a significant motion to suppress evidence that the State felt was key in proceeding against our client, who has been charged with Murder in the First Degree, and other associated charges. On Tuesday, January 20, 2015 we argued to the Circuit Court for Cecil County, and our motion was granted. At this point the proceedings against our client have been stayed, due to the State’s intention to pursue an appeal of this ruling. Our client, a 15 year old boy, has been released from custody on unsecured bond, and depending upon the results of the appeal process, may never have to step foot into a courtroom again.

For media coverage on this case, follow these links:

Murder defendant, 15, free until trial; must return to PVHS -Cecil Whig January 21, 2015

Future of Murder case against teen in limbo after Judge’s ruling– Cecil Whig January 20, 2015