Welcome to the Party: Third Party Cases

party-hatWhen a worker is injured on the job by the fault of another person, she has the right to make a worker’s compensation claim, but may also pursue the at-fault person for damages.  The claim or lawsuit against the at-fault person is called a third party claim.  Why is it a third party claim?  You (the injured worker) are the first party, the employer/worker’s comp. insurance (employer/insurer) is the second party, and the person that injured you is the third party. Continue reading

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Pay My Bills! Or, Brother Can You Spare a Dime, For Just a Little While?

a woman with unpaid bills has many debts. unemployment and persoAfter you have been injured in a car crash, someone has to pay your bills.  That someone is generally YOU.  It doesn’t matter whether you were at fault or if someone else caused your injuries, the legal responsibility to pay those bills is yours.  So what do you do?

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You Must Replace Your Car Seat After a Moderate or Severe Collision

iStock_000018326347XSmallMost car safety seats work by holding your child snuggly in place during a collision, and by absorbing or redirecting the energy in a collision away from your child’s body.  Quality car seats also drop the child vertically to redirect the energy from the collision, and prevent the child from striking the backs of the front seats.  Much like the bumper of a car, the car seat is designed with materials that break down, and in so doing, reduce the likelihood of injury to your child.   

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Dear Maryland, Please May I Sue You? Or, Rex Non Potest Peccare

king dollarBelieve it or not, the only reason you can sue the State of Maryland, its counties, or other governmental entities is because the State of Maryland allows it?  It is true; the concept arises from when the U.S. was part of England.  The legal concept, and of course the latin, is Rex non potest peccare, which translates to, “The King can do no wrong.”  In England at the time of King George III and his predecessors to the throne, you could not sue the King. Continue reading

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Health Insurance Liens: That’s Not a Get Well Card.

bigstock-Piggy-Bank-with-Bandage-on-Fac-42538342After being injured in a motor vehicle collision, you may receive a letter from your health insurer telling you that it looks like you were injured in an accident.  At first, you may think, “How nice.”  But if you read further, you will see, THEY WANT YOUR MONEY!  Even worse, they are entitled to it by law, at least some of it.

The letter will generally tell you that the type of treatment you received is generally consistent with an injury that could have been caused by the negligence of someone else.  It will ask you to fill out a form and return it to them.  Generally, the form will ask how your injury occurred, it will request the liability insurance information for the person that caused your injury, and it will ask whether you have an attorney.  The insurer is looking to exercise its right of subrogation:  its right to stand in your shoes and collect back the money it paid for your health care.  This may surprise you.

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What Does It Mean When A Driver Receives A Citation After A Collision?

iStock_000007960974XSmallAfter a motor vehicle collision, one or even both of the drivers may receive a citation.  Both drivers invariably ask the same question:  “What does this mean in a future lawsuit?”  The answer depends what the driver does after the citation.

The law in Maryland is that a guilty plea is an admission against interest.  This means that if a person pleads guilty to a crime or citation, it can be used against her later.  She is permitted to appear in court at a later civil trial and explain why she plead guilty, but she cannot claim that she did not commit the crime.  There are essentially three possibilities:

THE DRIVER PAYS THE CITATION

The fact that a driver paid her traffic citation is not considered an admission of guilt in Maryland.  Drivers pay citations for many reasons unrelated to guilt.  For example, a driver may not wish to take an entire day off of work to fight a $50 ticket; or, she may be scared to appear in Court; or she may simply have “better things to do.”  The Legislature has given her the option of simply paying the ticket, accepting any related points, and not having to appear.  For public policy reason, it cannot be used against her in a later civil trial.

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So, You Ignored My Previous Article and Got Hit By A Car.

girl in toy carOne of the worst types of collisions is the pedestrian strike.  There is no real positive outcome when a 2,000 lb. vehicle strikes or runs over a person.  Generally, the law in Maryland is that pedestrians have the right-of-way in a crosswalk; after that, each case has to be reviewed individually.  A few years ago, the state of the law was that anyone who crossed the street outside the crosswalk was at fault as a matter of law, until proven otherwise.  That meant that a pedestrian struck outside the crosswalk started the case off with the presumption that she caused or contributed to her injury and could not win her case until she proved that the collision wasn’t her fault.  That is called burden shifting.  That was a difficult uphill battle for both claimants (injured people) and attorneys.  Although that is no longer the law, the idea that the pedestrian contributed to her injury still prevails among many, if not most, Maryland citizens and jurists.  The shifted burden is difficult but not impossible to overcome.

For a pedestrian to have contributed to a collision, the fact that she was outside the crosswalk must be an actual and legal cause of her injury.  In legal terms, this is called the legal cause or the “proximate cause.”  For instance, if a pedestrian is two feet from the crosswalk, it is often fair to say that the motorist should have seen the pedestrian.  The cause of the collision was not, in such a case, the fact that the pedestrian was not in the crosswalk, simply being a step or two out makes no difference on whether a motorist should anticipate the pedestrian being there or whether the pedestrian was visible.  The failure to walk in the crosswalk did not cause or contribute to the collision.

Another example is if a pedestrian crosses the street mid-block, and a motorist who has been traveling straight for a half mile fails to see the pedestrian and strikes her, the driver should have seen the pedestrian.  In this case, the driver could have slowed, stopped, or otherwise avoided the pedestrian, notwithstanding the fact that she was outside of the crosswalk.  The fact that the pedestrian was outside the crosswalk was unrelated to the fact that the motorist did not see her.  This is because if the motorist did not see the pedestrian prior to the strike then she wouldn’t have seen the pedestrian if she was in the crosswalk.  Here, the pedestrian was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; and under Maryland law, that is not negligence.

From the other perspective, where you have a pedestrian step off the curb directly in front of the and into the path of a moving car, the pedestrian is usually at fault.  It does not matter if the pedestrian steps off the curb mid-block, or in the crosswalk, it is impossible for the car to stop.  Another important fact to remember is that the driver must yield to the pedestrian in the crosswalk, not the pedestrian on the sidewalk who is thinking about crossing.  While the driver owes a duty to the pedestrian, the pedestrian also owes a duty to both herself and the driver.  A pedestrian must make sure it is safe before she steps off the curb.

Pedestrian strike cases that occur outside of a designated crosswalk are difficult, but not impossible.  Before pursuing such a case, a client must know that there are no guarantees and that the odds of winning and losing are about equal.

  • Craig I. Meyers, Esq.
  • BERMAN|SOBIN|GROSS
  • FELDMAN & DARBY LLP
  • 481 N. Frederick Avenue, Third Floor
  • Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877

 

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Middle Car Syndrome.

A cracked egg, with two whole brown eggs, isolated on white.I tried  a case not too long ago in Baltimore County.  My client was the driver of a car that was rear ended and, as a result, was pushed into the rear of the car in front of him.  He was injured and made a claim against the rear driver’s insurance, which was denied.  I then filed a lawsuit to recover his medical bills, lost wages, insurance deductible, and pain and suffering.

When there are three cars involved in a motor vehicle collision, usually one of two things happens:

  1. The Front car (F) stops, and is rear ended by the Middle car (M),.  M is then hit by the Rear car (R), which then pushes M back into F.  This results in two hits to F.  Here, both R and M are at fault and must split the cost of F’s damages.
  2. Or, R hits M and pushes M into F.  The result is one hit to F.  Here, only R is at fault.  R is solely responsible for paying F’s damages.

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The Insurance Adjuster v. the Officer: Who Will Win?

Chess game make your moveI often have clients ask, if the police report says the other driver is at fault, then why won’t the other driver’s insurer pay my claim?  The police report (also known as a Vehicle Accident Report) has nothing to do with whether a judge or jury will find a driver at fault, and therefore has no real bearing on your case.  What happens is that there is a collision, someone calls the police, and the police respond.  In most counties in Maryland, the officer will not file a report unless someone claims an injury at the scene or if one of the vehicles is disabled.

The officer who responds to the collision is not a witness, and so she does not record her personal account of what occurred, but instead, what other people have told her happened.  It is often a compilation of multiple people’s observations, and worse yet, opinions.

Just because the police officer writes in the report that Driver 1 was exceeding the posted speed limit, or that Driver 2 was traveling in lane 1 lane, does not mean that that is what happened.  Sometimes one driver is taken to the hospital, and the report is based on one person’s account; sometimes there is a witness, and the officer only records what that witness says.  The insurance adjustor for the at-fault driver does not have to rely on the vehicle accident report, and even though it says that the other driver is at fault, the insurer does not have to pay.  Remeber, the insurer is not in the business of paying claims, it is in the business of avoiding paying claims.

The police do their best, and 99/100 times, they do an excellent job in obtaining information and recording it in the report; but, since the information is often second hand, it is not admissible in court.

The police report is most helpful when it records the officer’s own observances.  For instance, it may state, “The driver of vehicle 1 stated that  . . . ”  or that the officer arrived on the scene and “vehicle 1 came to a rest at . . . .”  In that case, the officer is a witness, not to what happened, but to the driver’s admission or what she saw at the scene.  The insurer will likely give significant weight to such a report because the officer has recorded her own observances.  If the at-fault driver admits fault to the officer and the officer records it in the report, there is virtually no way for the at-fault driver to escape responsibility.  If the insurer does not accept fault, then the officer’s testimony in court will be enough to win the case.

The police report is a helpful tool, but you  must know how to use and what its limitations are.

  • Craig I. Meyers, Esq.
  • BERMAN|SOBIN|GROSS
  • FELDMAN & DARBY LLP
  • 481 N. Frederick Avenue, Third Floor
  • Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877
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Don’t Get Run Over

bigstock-Crosswalk-Safety-Poster-1943040One of the worst types of collisions is the pedestrian strike.  There is no real positive outcome when a 2,000 lb. vehicle strikes or runs over a person.  Generally, the law in Maryland is that pedestrians have the right-of-way in a crosswalk, after that, each case has to be reviewed individually.  A few years ago, the law was that anyone who crossed the street outside the crosswalk was at fault as a matter of law, until proven otherwise.  That meant that a pedestrian struck outside the crosswalk started the case off with the presumption that he or she caused or contributed to her injury and could not win her case until she proved that the collision wasn’t her fault.  This was a difficult uphill battle.  Although that is no longer the law, the idea that the pedestrian contributed to the injury still prevails among many Maryland citizens and jurists.  The shifted burden is difficult but not impossible to overcome.

For a pedestrian to have contributed to a collision, the fact that she was outside the crosswalk must be an actual and legal cause of the injury.  In legal terms, this legal cause of the collision is called the “proximate cause.”  For instance, if a pedestrian is two feet from the crosswalk, it is often fair to say that the motorist should have seen her, forget that she was outside the crosswalk, and therefore her position did not contribute to the collision.  If a pedestrian is crossing mid-block, and a motorist has been traveling straight for a half mile, and a collision happens away from the curb, it is often fair to say that the driver should have seen the pedestrian, and therefore should have avoided the collision.  The fact that the pedestrian was outside the crosswalk was unrelated to the fact that the motorist did not see her.  This is because if the motorist did not see the pedestrian prior to the strike then she wouldn’t have seen the pedestrian if she was in the crosswalk.  Here, the pedestrian was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; and under Maryland law, that is not negligence.

These are very hard cases, but not impossible.  Before pursuing such a case, a client must know that there are no guarantees and that the odds of winning and losing are about equal.

  • Craig I. Meyers, Esq.
  • BERMAN|SOBIN|GROSS
  • FELDMAN & DARBY LLP
  • 481 N. Frederick Avenue, Third Floor
  • Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877

 

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