BMORE ATTORNEY BLOG

Coming Soon – Bmore Bel Air!

The Silberzahn and Bmore Attorney families are proud to announce the next step in the firm’s expansion. In light of our steady growth over the past few years, and in order to continue to provide the top-notch client service that has generated more and more referrals during that time, it was necessary to consider acquiring a second location. We are happy to report that Bmore Attorney will be making its second home in Harford County (Bel Air) once renovations on the property are complete. 

This expansion is a significant benchmark for the firm, the culmination of much hard work and dedication from those a part of the Bmore Attorney team. It is extremely rewarding to look back at our successes and their fruits (as well as the losses, fortunately few, and the lessons they bear) and remember that the late nights and other sacrifices of all those involved will have “built a home” for Bmore Attorney, from which we can help countless other clients in the years to come. 

And yet, it also signals just a new beginning for how we intend to take our practice to the next level. While important to celebrate this success for what it is, it is equally important to not pause long to do so, as there are many other clients who do and will need our assistance, and who will, rightfully, expect the same level of attention and results that they’ve come to expect. Just as any big settlement or verdict deserves to be celebrated, there are others to come that need to be prepared for. 

But before moving on to “the next success,” I’d be hugely remiss if I didn’t recognize all of the people who share in this one. I have learned a lot about myself in this journey into building our practice; one such lesson is that, while I have a tendency to want to do everything myself (possibly why I opened my own firm), the ceiling for growth is low if you’re not willing to ask for help. The following folks have all helped, perhaps more than they know and, for that, I’m forever grateful. I’ve been truly blessed to be surrounded by people who want to help us succeed. 

I know people say “I couldn’t have done it without…” and maybe they mean it. Well, I mean it when I say we could not have done this without the hard work and support of my wife, Jess. From understanding the many, many late nights and other sacrifices our family has endured during this process, to digging deeper into the business from a multitude of different angles (to include our charitable arm, which we’re very proud of), Jess wouldn’t let us be anything but successful. She is the voice that says, “You’ve got this,” in those moments of self-doubt, and has been since I was merely thinking of starting my own firm. I’m invigorated by the prospects of the successes to come as Jess gets even more involved in various Bmore projects along the way. 

It’s also impossible to overstate how much my team at Bmore Attorney has meant to our growth and to this specific expansion. Our clients expect and deserve the same level of service that the friends who referred them got or that the former client in the review that led them to us received. I’m proud that my team brings a consistently high level of commitment and diligence to the office each day, delivering to our clients the impeccable service, with empathy and great skill. We don’t have an advertising budget, so we grow because people refer us to their friends, family, and colleagues. They have done so on a large scale because no matter who they’re speaking with, our clients know they can have confidence that their matter will be handled with the same focus as if it was literally our own case. 

My financial dream team, comprised of Scott and Diane Mattingly of Mattingly & Associates and Mark C. Pallack of Harvest Investment Consultants, LLC deserve high praise and were an integral part of making this recent dream become a reality. Being able to lean hard on folks who are experts in areas I am not, and being able to trust 100% what they’re saying, is a blessing to have had during a sometimes difficult process. 

And, of course, I cannot end without thanking countless others who have helped get us to this recent success “mile marker”: 

My own friends and family, who have not only provided much needed moral support but have also referred people they know who have been injured and are in need of legal services to our office;

Colleagues (and some who have become friends that could be considered in the above group) who have recommended our services to their own clients when a death or injury has unfortunately occurred after a negligent act;

Insurance adjusters and insurance defense attorneys (supposedly “the enemy,” depending on some of my competitors’ views of what we’re doing) for also recommending us to their clients or family and friends. All referrals are valuable and appreciated, but there is something exceptionally rewarding when an adversary who has “done battle” against you has enough respect for your abilities to send a referral your way.

And last, but certainly not least, my own family deserves much credit for this success, as with any other. I was blessed to be raised in one that ingrained in me the belief that working hard, treating people the right way, and doing my best day in and day out is always a recipe for success and, in time, will get you where you want to go. I not only heard this growing up; I had role models showing me. I’m hopeful that the lessons I learned from my mother, father and brother are being passed down to my boys and that they recognize that the sacrifices I make in time away from the family are not only for my clients but for them, as well. But whether I’m doing that part of my job at home or not, my family needs to be recognized for their understanding, when it seems as though the family business is all-consuming.  

Thank you all for your enduring support. We appreciate and are grateful for your referrals and recommendations and look forward to serving them, whether out of our Towson office or, soon, out of our Bel Air location. We’re proud that we’ll have two locations in the years to come to better serve our deserving clients. 

09/18/2019

Honoring a Friend’s Lasting Legacy

I’ve spoken and posted about an upcoming event that means a lot to me and, thankfully, some close friends have asked for more details. It made me realize that, if I shared a bit more about WHY it means a lot to me, perhaps more folks would get behind this very worthy cause. 

On October 16th, from 5-9 p.m., the Y of Central Maryland is hosting an event at the gym at Leadership Through Athletics, to raise funds in order to renovate the gym at Cardinal Gibbons School, my alma mater, into a state-of-the-art facility for the community’s use for years to come. That strikes home because that acreage is hallowed ground- not just to me personally, but also to the hundreds of others who spent their formative years mentored under knowledgeable men who guided us to future successes with daily teachings and role-modeling. 

But even more importantly, especially for this initial event, is the cause at hand. On October 16th, the event is designated to honor the memory of one of Gibbons’ finest. This is a strong statement, particularly since this individual was not even a Gibbons alum. But more important than where he graduated from, he embodied the spirit of the Gibbons community and lived it, in his daily interactions with his family, friends, and colleagues, and on the campus when he came to impart his wisdom to students fortunate enough to have known him. I am one such fortunate soul.

Neil Jones became my basketball coach in sophomore year of high school. I had dreams of playing D-I basketball. At 5-7, you can imagine how that panned out. Nonetheless, Neil made an instant impact on the team. I was best friends with his younger brother, Brandon, who was also on the team. We had a solid JV squad that year that routinely won in a highly competitive Catholic League. But more important than winning were the lessons he imparted to us on a daily basis, win or lose. 

Neil came in as an assistant to a much more established head coach who’d been in the program for a long time. Everyone loved this coach, and for good reason. But most realized that his strength was management and motivation as opposed to the Xs and Os. But Neil didn’t just barge in and take over. He was patient in expressing his ideas. He was diplomatic in how he entered the team dynamic. He was careful to assuage any feelings that might’ve been hurt if he had exerted more control right away. It was an important lesson in leadership that I’ll never forget, i.e., knowing when and where to insert yourself, understanding team dynamic, suppressing one’s ego for the betterment of the larger group, knowing when and how to speak one’s mind and stand ground when necessary, and maximizing the impact of interpersonal relationships. 

Neil also taught by example. He led by showing and doing as opposed to just by talking or yelling. When the court would clear after any (all) practice, Neil would start working out. As a player who’d just worked out for 2+ hours, it was infectious to see someone else how had also poured themselves out for that time to continue on. A few dedicated others would grab a ball and press on with their training, motivated by Neil’s example. I’ll never forget that example of continuing to do what needs to be done, even when everyone else has called it quits- and you’d like to, too. 

Neil knew how to motivate. And he knew how to motivate each particular player differently. He was keenly aware that each individual responded differently based on different situations. I’d be motivated by his hollering. I’d been motivated by his boisterous cheering. I’d been motivated by his ass-chewings. The messages might have been different each time. And they were definitely delivered with different tones. But I can affirm that, outside of my immediate family, Neil’s the only person who’s chewed me out in public where I thanked him for it 30 minutes later…while working out with him after practice, one-on-one. I knew I deserved it, and I thanked him for getting in my stuff. Neil was that voice in my head telling me to quit my bitching and push on when my own voice had convinced me to quit. 

Neil taught these lessons to many more kids after I’d moved on. Brandon and I parted ways. We played against each other a few times in college. Brandon scored 1,732 points and broke the scoring record at St. Mary’s College. I scored maybe 12 points at Salisbury and broke my ankle running a secondary fastbreak in sophomore year. Maybe Neil saved some of the secrets for his brother. 

But the shame with this life is that the people who should stay the longest- the ones who are so dedicated to those around them- aren’t promised their time. Neil was shot and killed in Baltimore in 2005. A family man, married with children-  Kameron (then 5-years-old), Kai (then 2-years-old) and Kolby (then just 6-months-old) – was murdered while walking to his car after hanging out with a friend in Canton, earlier having played in an adult-league basketball game. Neil could have impacted hundreds, if not thousands, more with his time here, but for this senseless act. Neil’s parents, Gerald and Martina, forgave their son’s killer in an unprecedented act of forgiveness. Their powerful and, in my opinion, supernatural ability to forgive another for taking something and someone so precious from them (and us) is a true testament to Neil’s lasting legacy. 

Neil’s ability to impact young men like me was taken from him. But his memory continues to inspire, and this upcoming event is geared towards raising funds to affix Neil’s name to the lobby area of the Y to-come. It gives me comfort knowing that the money raised in his name will go towards a foundation that will continue the work that Neil was so passionate about: mentoring, sharing skills, giving time to others, being an example to others who need that example, and so much more. 

I realize that these words fail tremendously in doing Neil’s memory justice. I only hope that my failure in better demonstrating Neil’s impact on me and those around him does not deter my friends and colleagues from donating to this very worthy cause. If you are interested in donating, attending, or otherwise supporting this worthy cause and event, please feel free to contact me. Also, https://fundraise.ymaryland.org/event/paying-tribute-to-our-beloved-friend-brian-oneil-jones/e229907 to the event’s contribution page; I’d be humbled if you’d consider giving.

08/06/2019

Bmore Attorney Advocates For Injured Parties

When I’m in the courtroom, I’m advocating for one specific injured party. A few weeks ago, before the House Judiciary Committee, I had the privilege of being an advocate for many injured parties when I testified in support of Senate Bill 102. The bill, if passed as it left the Senate Judiciary Committee, would allow Plaintiffs to sue insurance companies directly instead of the individual wrongdoer, as is currently required in Maryland (assuming the Plaintiff was willing to cap his/her recovery at the insurance proceeds of the applicable policy). A few other states already allow this. The law, if passed, would protect many individuals from having their personal assets subject to potential judgments, so it would be a great outcome for consumers. 

Instead of looking out for their insureds, however, the insurance companies fought the bill. Instead of fighting for a bill that would protect their insureds from the prospect of potential excess judgments, saving consumers considerable angst and, in some situations, actual economic peril, the insurance companies lined up to fight AGAINST it, spending considerable resources to make sure that their insureds are still subject to excess verdicts. Why? Because the insurance companies perceive that, if jurors know the truth, that is, that they are paying verdicts, not the consumer, verdicts will go up. Imagine that- insurance companies fighting for profits over policyholders. Priorities. 

It’s past time for jurors to know the truth about insurance involvement in these cases, instead of allowing the defense to perpetrate the myth that individuals themselves are going to have to pay certain verdicts in negligence cases, which is exactly what happens in these cases at trial. Jurors are kept in the dark about insurance companies’ roles in these trials, from paying the defense attorney to paying the verdicts. 

I’m proud to have been part of a group of attorneys (a few pictured, some still inside the hearing room) who took time away from their practices to advocate for individuals over the insurance companies. It’s important to remember that we’re not just personal injury attorneys- we’re advocates for the injured and consumers at large. Hell, in this particular instance, we were also trying to help every insurance company insured, in that this bill would have protected them from the prospect of excess verdicts in the overwhelming majority of these cases. If only the insurance companies could have seen that over their stacks and stacks of profits. 

04/10/2019

What Does It Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?

The question gets raised often by injured parties worried that they don’t have the resources to hire a lawyer to fight for their compensation following an injury: how am I going to be able to afford an attorney? These folks, no matter their financial status prior to the injury, are at a disadvantage after an injury because they are oftentimes facing economic stressors due to an inability to work because of the injuries, the loss of their vehicle, or disparities between what their vehicle was worth and what they’ve been compensated (in the case of an auto crash).

The good news is that personal injury attorneys should be operating off of a contingency fee model, which means that a) there is no retainer fee owed up front, b) there are no hourly fees owed along the way, and c) the attorney is only owed a fee if s/he recovers a settlement/judgment for the client. And that eventual fee comes from the settlement/judgment itself.

Therefore, there’s no valid reason not to look into hiring a personal injury attorney to fight on your behalf. The only risk lies in not retaining an attorney.

When confronted by those who indicate a willingness to “go it alone” against the insurance company, believing that their case is “cut and dried” and will be easy to resolve, or believing that they’re going to profit more by not paying an attorney, I tell them this: I’m confident that my presence in the case and the skillset I’ve developed over the 16+ years I’ve been in the personal injury field will increase that person’s potential recovery by more than the 1/3 of the settlement they will eventual pay me if I’m retained. Plus, my office will do all of the heavy lifting, allowing that person to focus on their treatment and everyday living to decrease the disruption to that life as best as possible. As such, the better question is “what is the cost if I DON’T hire a personal injury attorney”?

That, I think, is easier to quantify. You could lose very valuable segments of your case, if you attempt to negotiate the matter on your own. The insurance companies aren’t obligated to tell you what they’re supposed to pay out. You could lose earnings, if you think that, since your sick time paid your lost time from work, that you’re not entitled to recover it. You could lose the diminished value of your vehicle if it’s repaired but lost its resale value and you’re not aware that that is a compensable element of your recovery (or you don’t know what expert to use to prove that element of your case). You could lose the amount of reimbursement of medical billing if you fail to retrieve all of your medical bills prior to the settlement discussions. You could wind up paying some of your settlement back to your health insurer months after that settlement, if you’re not familiar with the concept of liens and when your health insurer has a right to recover amounts it paid out related to your treatment. And, perhaps most importantly, you are not likely in a good position to know what your pain and suffering is worth. The number one question I get, even above “can I afford an attorney with your experience,” is “what is my case worth?” That answer rests on many different factors that are heavily case-dependent. It would be almost impossible for the average person, even one who’d had prior cases, to know with confidence what value they should be seeking from the insurance company as fair compensation for their claims.

If you have questions about your claim, feel free to contact me so that I can address your questions or concerns. And, as this article has shown, there is no fee owed unless and until your case is concluded in your favor, so you have nothing to lose by retaining our services in a personal injury matter. There’s a lot for you and your family to lose by not doing so, though. We look forward to being able to help.

02/11/2019

I Don’t Want to Be One of Those People

I hear it at least once a week, or some variation of it. “I’m just going to let it go. I don’t want to make a claim.” When I inquire why they want to surrender their ability to exert their legal right to protect themselves after an injury caused by someone else’s carelessness, they often say something about not wanting to be “one of those people.” Another common one: “I’m not litigious. I’ve never made a claim.”

Well, making a claim for your legal right for reimbursement, whether it be for personal injury or property damages or lost earnings or pain and suffering, is not being litigious. More often than not, these claims are resolved via amicable settlement negotiations. This, of course, presumes that the insurance company involved is reasonable, which is not always the case. In those instances, yes, litigation may be warranted. But otherwise, a settlement is typically the end result. Making a claim does not involve litigation.

For those people that say, “I’ve never made a claim,” they’re either extremely lucky to never have had any injury or property damage EVER or they’re basically admitting to being taken advantage of. Because if you’ve paid into a fund for later reimbursement in the event of a certain event (the purpose of insurance), that event occurs, and you’re entitled to recover, but you ignore your right to recovery, you’re either letting the insurance company make your financial decisions for you, or you’re donating your money to the wrong “charity.” When you die, and your life insurance policy is getting ready to issue its payment, do you want your family to say, “Well, we don’t want to profit from our loved one’s death”? It’s the same thing, but somehow the insurance companies have twisted our thinking on the issues at play.

Another common refrain: “I don’t want to seem like I’m taking advantage of the situation.” Trust me, the average person fighting with an adjuster will not get what’s fair, let alone get enough to come even close to ever being accused of taking advantage of the situation. Even by getting an attorney who’s trained in this field, you won’t be able to “take advantage” of the situation. An attorney is going to still have to fight to get you just what you’re owed. Bottom line: if you’re thinking like this from the start, you’re the one being taken advantage of. The insurance company has already groomed you to help them increase their margins by not collecting funds that you or someone else has paid into for this very occasion. (All of this presumes what is true in 99.9% of instances, that is, that there is a legitimate injury and right of recovery.) When you go to a car dealership to get a new car, do you negotiate the price or let the dealership take advantage of you by paying the sticker price? It’s a similar mindset if you’re foregoing a right to legal recovery.

But this goes to prove the point that the insurance companies have largely won the battle of perception in the public eye, meaning that they’ve been able to portray anyone who needs to make a claim as someone who’s somehow less of a person than someone who just “goes away” and declines to seek the compensation that they’ve oftentimes already pre-paid for in their insurance policies.

When you get sick and go the doctor, and the front desk tells you that you only owe a $50 co-pay because your insurance covers the balance of the $250 visit, does this person who “doesn’t want to take advantage of the situation” politely decline to use his or her insurance and, instead, pay the full $250? Of course not. They’ve paid into the fund for just this situation. It’s not “taking advantage” to recoup what you’re entitled to receive.

Are there instances where abuses exist amongst those who make claims or file suit? Absolutely. But for every one of those cases, I’d argue there are hundreds more that are either wrongly denied by the insurance company or otherwise devalued by its adjusters. And for every one of those instances of abuse of the system, there are another hundred cases where the insurance companies get off scott-free from making any payments because someone has volunteered to relinquish their rights to what they’re owed. The trouble for personal injury attorneys and claimants is that the news loves sharing that one-in-a-thousand case that is, even amongst personal injury attorneys, regarded as baseless or perhaps worse, absurd.

So, let’s take the typical auto collision where someone is rear-ended, has property damage to their vehicle, and is injured. I’ve spoken with a small, but significant, subset of folks who insist that all they want is to make sure their vehicle is repaired but refuse to make a claim for personal injury…despite significant and, sometimes, permanent injuries (though they don’t often realize how lasting the injury is going to be at that point). I ask them: what is the difference between making a claim for property damage and making a claim for personal injury? Why are you “only seeking what’s deserved” in the property damage half of the case but “being litigious” when seeking reimbursement for reimbursement for personal injuries? Why are you willing to hold the insurance company accountable for their insured’s negligence when it comes to the property damage but unwilling to hold them accountable for something much more valuable? Put another way, why is your vehicle more important than your physical health and wellbeing?

The answer is, quite obviously, that it’s not. You can get another car. But you’re “stuck” with your body for the rest of your time here on this planet, for better or worse. But the insurance companies have done a hell of a job portraying personal injury as a dirty word (or phrase). They make it seem like they hold a firm spot atop moral high ground when they take this position but, in all reality, it’s only geared towards increasing profits by decreasing the amount of people that recoup what they’re otherwise entitled to after an injury.

Have personal injury attorneys helped the insurance companies sell this pitch to the public? No doubt. The cheesy commercials and the attorneys who’ll take any case, even illegitimate ones,  certainly don’t help the general cause of personal injury attorneys who are trying to do what’s right.

But at the end of the day, these attorneys (whether they have terrible advertisements or bring terrible cases) are a small minority of the much greater whole of personal injury attorneys and firms who genuinely care about people, only take legitimate cases, and do what’s right: fighting for fair compensation for clients who are otherwise at a big disadvantage against insurance companies that make billions in profits and train their employees to shortchange claimants at every step of the way.

If insurance companies were serious about tort reform and wanted to get rid of personal injury attorneys, all they’d have to do is start paying people who are owed settlements fair and reasonable compensation, and the need for lawyers like me would cease. And I’d be fine with that. But they never will because, to do what is right and pay people what they’re owed, it will dip into their massive profits. Instead, they’d rather invest time, energy and funds into a public campaign to convince good people that they should relinquish their rights to fair compensation for injuries. And if that doesn’t work and a person brings a claim, they’d rather invest more time, energy and funds to have an adjuster resist the claim. And if that doesn’t work, they’d rather pay an attorney to fight the case in court versus pay what is rightly owed.

In short, if you’ve been injured but are reluctant to make a claim, at least talk to an attorney before giving up your rights. And don’t just talk to any attorney; talk to an attorney who has spent his/her career in personal injury law and knows the intricacies of the law. Better still, talk with a personal injury attorney who has a track record of trying cases, so that the insurance companies know they can’t bully the attorney into a settlement that is less than what otherwise is warranted based on the very specific facts of your case.

If you’d like to discuss a case, please feel free to contact me. There’s never a charge for a consultation, so you have nothing to lose by investigating the matter further before making a decision on what you want to do. Conversely, you have a lot to lose by not investigating your rights and options.

You might be telling yourself you don’t want to be “one of those people” or “take advantage of the system” but, I assure you, if you don’t consult an attorney after an injury, you’ll be the one taken advantage of.

01/14/2019

Stacking is Here

A law passed in the 2017 legislative session requiring insurers writing policies in Maryland to offer “stacking” of underinsured (UIM) automobile insurance coverage. This law went into effect in July 2018, but it hasn’t gotten much, if any, publicity.

What’s Stacking, and Why Is It Important?

Before we get to that, let’s take a quick step back for a brief overview of insurance coverage in general in the auto accident context. If you are injured in a car crash by a negligent driver, their insurance coverage is responsible for covering your damages, to include your personal injuries and other harms and losses. The state mandates that a driver have at least $30,000 in coverage for instances like this, though a person can purchase much, much more (to include personal liability umbrella policies, also known as PLUPs). Unfortunately, many drivers in Maryland carry only the state minimum. In that scenario, if your damages- typically your medical bills, lost wages, and harms and losses (sometimes termed pain and suffering) exceed the $30,000 afforded by the at-fault driver’s $30,000 policy, you would then turn to your own insurance policy’s coverage for Underinsured Motorist (UIM) protection, a protection you pay for every time you pay your premium.

Currently, if your UIM policy matches the policy of the at-fault driver (for instance, if you have a $30,000 UIM policy and they have a $30,000, or if you have a $50,000 policy and they have a $50,000, and so on and so forth up the ladder), then you are not afforded any further coverage for your injuries and damages. Also, currently, if you have a larger policy than the at-fault driver, you are afforded only the difference between those coverages. So, for example, if you have a $50,000 UIM policy but the at-fault driver had $30,000 in coverage, you would be entitled to the $30,000 from the at-fault driver and then $20,000 more from your own carrier under UIM coverage (this presumes your damages warrant these amounts, of course). If you had a $100,000 policy of UIM and the at-fault driver had a $30,000 policy, after you received the $30,000 policy limits from the at-fault driver’s carrier, you would then turn to your own UIM coverage and could potentially receive $70,000, that is, the difference between the two policies.

As of July 2018, however, insurers writing policies in Maryland have to offer stacking UIM as an option to their insureds. This is critical because you are now able to drastically increase your coverage and protection in instances where an at-fault driver causes you or any loved one in your vehicle injuries and other damages.

How Will Stacking Work

Taking our first example above, let’s assume the at-fault driver has $30,000 in coverage and you have $30,000 in UIM benefits. If you do not opt in to stacking, you will not be afforded any more coverage that the at-fault driver has paid for. If, however, you opt into the stacking being offered after July 2018, you will be afforded a total of $60,000 of coverage instead of $30,000. Extrapolating further, if the at-fault had $30,000 in coverage but you have $100,000 in UIM, without stacking you’d be entitled to $70,000 in additional coverage if you proved your case was worth more than the $30,000. With stacking, you would have $130,000 in total coverage available ($30,000 plus the $100,000 in UIM). With stacking, therefore, you’d simply add the amount of the at-fault driver’s policy to the total of your UIM policy to determine the maximum coverage available.

It’s bad enough when someone who is careless causes you harm, but it’s even worse after the fact when you find out that they had limited insurance proceeds to cover your damages. It’s not always possible, no matter how carefully you drive, to avoid another’s negligence. But you can protect against their having opted for a limited insurance policy ahead of time by choosing to protect yourself with adequate insurance in case this happens. Having good UM/UIM coverage and opting in to the stacking option is one way to do this.

What Should I Do?

Call your agent today to speak with him/her to discuss the possibility of opting IN to the stacking provision being offered as of July 2018. While you’re doing so, take the opportunity to review your coverages. For instance, consider adding Personal Injury Protection (PIP) if you have previously waived it. This is another very inexpensive way to better protect yourself in the event of a crash and related injuries that lead to medical bills and/or lost earnings (With PIP, you and your passengers are afforded limited coverage even if you were at-fault. PIP limits are typically $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000.)

Please know, however, that the insurance companies fought this law hard and didn’t want to have to offer this stacking protection in Maryland. Why would an insurance company not want to have another product to sell and make more money, you may ask? Well, you can be assured that they did not believe it was cost-effective for them. Therefore, it’s even more important that you’re proactive about protecting yourself; because the insurance companies do not view this product as being a revenue driver, they will not be the ones advertising this change or incentivizing their agents to make sales of stacking additions to existing policies.

If you’d like to discuss this matter or these issues in greater detail, please feel free to give me a call or email me. Likewise, if you’d like to speak with an insurance agent but either don’t have one or would like to speak with a new one, please contact me, and I’d be happy to make a recommendation or two.

01/08/2019

Insurance Companies Want Jurors In The Dark To Keep Verdicts Lower

Those who bring personal injury claims in Maryland face a number of hurdles in achieving satisfactory recoveries for their damages. Some of these are fair, such as the burden of proof resting with a plaintiff to prove their case (although oftentimes jurors hold plaintiffs to a higher burden of proof than should be applicable, incorrectly raising the threshold of proof as the amount claimed increases). Other obstacles are inherent in the procedural aspects of civil law, leading to jurors being misled, which causes inequitable verdicts that fail to properly compensate injured parties for their losses.

One such example is the fact that jurors are left to believe that, in every case, individual defendants in personal injury suits are personally responsible for payment of the verdicts they render. In the overwhelming majority of cases, however, there is insurance coverage applicable that will pay all amounts eventually allowed by the jury. This is often the case whether you’re talking about a medical malpractice case, a personal injury suffered after a car crash, or an injury sustained on a business’s premises.

But in Maryland, the law requires that a plaintiff file suit directly against the negligent party as opposed to that person’s (or entity’s) insurance carrier. Because of this, a case is captioned as Ben Hurt v. Sally At-Fault as opposed to Ben Hurt v. “INSERT SALLY AT-FAULT’S INSURANCE COMPANY HERE.” Further, the rules of evidence preclude the admission or mention of liability insurance coverage except for limited exceptions, such that a jury will rarely hear the word “insurance,” let alone whether it applies in any particular case.

Let’s take the “average” personal injury case arising from a car crash. A jury hears the case caption of Ben Hurt v. Sally At-Fault. The jurors hear the defense attorney say that he or she represents Sally At-Fault. They never hear anything about insurance during the trial, whether through the course of testimony or in closing arguments. They see the parties individually named on the verdict sheet and, again, there’s no reference to insurance. Sometimes jurors will ask the judge whether insurance is applicable, but they are instructed that they have all the evidence they need to render an opinion and to make their verdict based on what they’ve seen and heard at trial only. Therefore, despite the fact that the average person knows that Maryland is a state that requires insurance coverage on any vehicle being driven on its roadways, jurors are kept in the dark about the matter and, as such, misled into believing that, since it wasn’t mentioned, it must not apply.

This misconception, which is created and perpetuated by the law – and strongly preferred by the insurance companies that are required to pay the vast majority of civil judgments in instances like those described above – leads jurors to believe that an individual defendant who caused an injury is going to be personally responsible for the amount of the judgment. As such, that jury is likely to reduce the amount it otherwise would have awarded had it known the truth, that is, that an insurance company that has already been receiving premiums to cover its insureds for situations like this (and investing and making more money off that premium) is going to pay the verdict (along with the attorney’s fee for the defense attorney).

Insurance companies don’t want this to change, as keeping jurors in the dark leads to lower awards. They argue that, if the jury were to know that insurance was applicable, jurors would tend to award more monetary damages. But the question is, if jurors award less money than they should when they don’t have accurate information available to them, and award “more” in damages when they know the truth, which is the more just outcome? Just because awards are higher when based on truthful information doesn’t mean they are “too high,” exorbitant or otherwise unjust. Rather, the lower awards that are based on incorrect or incomplete information are patently unjust. Put another way, which result is more just: a verdict that is based on complete information or one that is based on incomplete, misleading information?

The law should strive to assist jurors in making the best decision, and that goal requires arming them with more information rather than less, irrespective of whether the awards would then become lower or higher.

12/11/2018

Study Says Playing Tetris Can Help Personal Injury Victims Ease PTSD Symptoms

People involved in car crashes often describe various symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, ranging from mild to severe. One such symptom is recurrent flashbacks of the incident itself, which can interrupt daily activities and disrupt sleep, aggravating the many other symptoms typically suffered. Imagine having a painful injury, trying to continue your typical busy life, caring and providing for your family, and then not even being able to focus or get a decent night’s sleep, because of flashbacks and anxiety from an accident that wasn’t your fault. Life is tough enough without these unexpected, and avoidable, incidents; add a complication like this that affects you each and every day, and a tough task becomes even more difficult.

But a recent study has revealed an unlikely source of relief for some victims of PTSD and similar symptoms: Tetris. The game made popular by Nintendo in the late ‘80s and making a recent comeback has been credited by this study as alleviating, to some extent, the flashbacks suffered by the average car crash victim.

Researchers from the Swedish Karolinska Institute have opined that playing Tetris after witnessing or being part of something one considers traumatic can “reprogram” that person’s brain to an extent that seems to impede flashbacks. Specifically, the study found that those who had been in a crash who played Tetris for 20 minutes after reporting the incident to researches had fewer recurrent memories of that crash over the next week versus the control group. The “gameplayer victims” had been asked to recall their memories of the crash before playing Tetris, whereas the control group were directed to spend an equal amount of time in the emergency room detailing their memories of the crash in writing.

If only the other symptoms suffered by car crash victims, from the physical injuries, to the emotional impact, and the myriad other ways these issues can turn one’s life around, were so easily remedied. I can already hear unsympathetic insurance adjusters barking to me that my clients should have simply bought Tetris on their phones to solve their post-traumatic stress and saved their company some money versus spending the money on co-pays for treatment with a doctor.

The full study, for those interested in the details, can be found at http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp201723a.html.

11/23/2017

The Importance of Credibility in Personal Injury Cases

In legal TV shows and movies of old, judges and bailiffs would administer the oath to a witness or party, stating “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” While the oath (or affirmation) has changed as times have, the sentiment remains the same.

Regardless, credibility is critical in any case where testimony is required. Even if there’s no testimony, perhaps at a motions hearing where the attorneys are simply arguing, credibility is a major factor. Whether you can trust what someone says is key in all of our daily interactions, whether it be marriage, business or in the courtroom. Once someone tells you something false, or even something that seems false, you have a hard time believing anything else that person say from that point forward.

Now think about a court case. Even the longest cases last perhaps a month, but most cases are much briefer. And the time that a judge or jury actually hears from a particular party or witness is just a fraction of that time. So telling the truth, and being consistent with prior statements that person has made, is absolutely critical to the case. If one of the attorneys can paint the perception (just the perception) that one party or witness is playing fast and loose with the truth, their case is doomed – unless the other party or its witnesses are even worse.

So what does this mean for a personal injury victim? First, be honest with your doctors. Don’t exaggerate your injuries- but don’t downplay them either. Also, make sure you think long and hard about your medical history and disclose it with your doctor. It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s relevant or not- you’re not the doctor. Tell him or her about any past medical history you have so he or she can determine what, if any, impact it has on your condition and the medical causation opinion that will be critical to your case later one.

Next, be honest with your lawyer once you’ve retained one (or more accurately, even as you’re interviewing potential attorneys). You’re not doing yourself any favors shading any part of the truth in hopes that your case will be accepted by that attorney if, a year or more later, the truth is exposed and is detrimental to your case. Let the attorney know all the facts- good, bad or otherwise, at the outset. A “bad fact” that’s known and addressed early on is almost always less damaging than one that is learned once it’s too late to plan for.

Finally, the credibility issue is not limited to clients. As a client, you should seek out an attorney who has credibility in the legal community. What does that mean? I suppose it means different things to different people, but is should start with the obvious, that is, an attorney who tells the truth and has a reputation for fair dealing. You should seek out an attorney who does things “the right way” and doesn’t take shortcuts when it comes to ethical considerations. I would offer that having credibility in litigation includes having a track record of trying cases before judges, so that those same judges, hopefully- depending on what attorney you select- know that the attorney is honest, capable, and diligent.

Beyond that, you might take into account other considerations. Do an attorney’s advertisements and marketing material add or detract from his or her credibility? This is obviously more subjective. Does the attorney seem like someone a judge or jury would be willing to take seriously? When you meet with the attorney, does the attorney seek to make a connection with you (as they should seek to do with a judge or jury), or are they too impressed with themselves and too self-important to listen to your concerns.

In short, trust your gut: is this attorney someone that a judge or jury will like and listen to? That connection is a critical key to credibility as it relates to attorneys. And if you don’t even have enough information or interaction with the attorney as you vet his or her abilities to make this decision, then the decision should be clear that that attorney is not the right choice. Don’t trust a 15 second television ad or a banner on a bus to make the decision for you. You wouldn’t select a doctor based on a TV ad, would you? Meet with and literally interview your prospective attorney. Insist on meeting with the attorney himself or herself before signing a retainer agreement. If they won’t meet with you, at least at the outset, what confidence can you have that they’ll ever pay attention to your case and know you well enough by the end to effectively advocate on your behalf. Demand to meet with the attorney who will be the actual attorney on your case from Day 1 until your case is resolved. If the firm can’t meet this simple demand, I’d urge caution in selecting that person or firm.

At Bmore Attorney, we take pride in espousing the client interaction and keys to credibility listed above. If you’d like to see for yourself and compare what we have to offer versus the other options spending all their time and money advertising versus advocating for their clients, please call or email us for a free consultation. I’m confident that, if you do, you’ll decide that our office is the right fit for you and your case. Call us at 410-793-7040 or email me at Jared@BmoreAttorney.com.

11/15/2017

Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney Before Retaining One, Part II

Do you charge a fee to process Personal Injury Protection reimbursements? Personally, I disagree with the business practice of personal injury attorneys charging their
clients a fee to do something that is already part of the job they were retained to do. Yes, it’s a way for attorneys to make more money, even in cases where liability is adverse, but
my personal opinion is that we signed up for this job not to just make money, but to help people. To charge them as much as 10% of their entire PIP proceeds, the processing of which is
largely an administrative task versus a legal one, is difficult to justify. That’s just my opinion, and we obviously do not charge PIP processing fees in my office.

How many jury trials have you tried? How many District Court cases have you tried? Jury trials typically mean that the size of the case was bigger
than the scope of the average District Court case. That’s not to demean a District Court case, because it’s important that your attorney have a firm understanding not just of how the
rules apply in District Court, but also the nuances of each local jurisdiction. One county’s courthouse might have a reputation for being good with cases like yours while the one right
across the county line might have the opposite reputation. Having an attorney who knows the difference can make a huge difference to your case’s outcome. Once you’ve gotten their
response, look the attorney up on the Maryland Case Judiciary Search to see if his/her estimate seems truthful.

How active are you in the Bar, state and/or local? I think this is less important, but it doesn’t hurt to hear from your attorney concerning how active s/he is in the
state and local bar and how often they network with their colleagues and members of the bench. Personally, I find there’s great value in socializing with others who practice in your
same geographic area, with your opponents and with the judges you try cases in front of. Beyond the obvious human element that is of utmost importance, one can learn a lot of important
anecdotal information that benefits one’s clients and practice that can’t be learned if that same attorney spend all of his/her time in the office. That said, this is just one of many
factors, some of which are already noted, to be considered when interviewing a personal injury attorney.

Can I talk with a few of your prior clients? See if the attorney is willing to let you speak with a former client of his/hers before signing up in order that you can
hear, firsthand, how a client has been treated. You’ll have to take the source with a grain of salt to some degree, since the attorney will likely give you the contact information for
his biggest fan but…if s/he won’t or can’t provide this, then you have your answer.

What is your goal in my case? I’m not going to go into too much detail here lest competitors like my response so much they “borrow” these words and ideas as “taglines”
and “tactics” versus the mantra that we treat them as but, needless to say, you want to know that the attorney’s not just saying all the right things but, instead, seems to genuinely
believe them. Do you ever talk to the attorney after hours? Have you had difficulty reaching him to that point? Did he make you wait for your appointment for 15 minutes like you were
in a doctor’s office? Did her staff greet you warmly when you came in? Offer you a drink? Sometimes, it’s the confluence of some seemingly small things that make the big difference. As
I’ve said many times before, all attorneys will tell you they will get you the best result. Some of those people can. But fewer can get you the great result while making you feel like
you’re being cared for during the process. Someone in that “fewer” category is who I’d want to represent me. Contact us if you’re looking for an attorney and are interested in the
complete answer to this question.

There are certainly plenty of other questions you could ask your potential attorney before hiring him or her. But these are a few that I’d like to know the answers to if I were facing the same issue you are. And listen not just to the answer but how the answer is given. Is the attorney aggravated that you’re asking questions? That’s a bad sign. Does the attorney do all the talking, not let you get a word in edgewise, and cut you off? Uh oh. Does the attorney seemed rushed? Another bad sign. Does the attorney let you talk? Does he ask YOU questions about how YOU feel about the matter? Does she ask what YOUR goals are concerning the case? These are the types of things I’d look for in an attorney.

Obviously, we feel we do the right things, in the right way, at Bmore Attorney. If you look back at my first blog post detailing why I started this practice, you’ll get a better feel for who we are and what we aim to do in each and every case, big or small. It’s why I spend countless, valuable hours away from my family to build a practice that’s dedicated to making sure every client I have gets the attention I’d want if I were in their shoes.

If you have a legal issue that you’d like to discuss with me, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 410-793-7040. We don’t charge for initial consults and will gladly take the time to hear you out and discern how we can best assist you. Likewise, please feel free to email me if that suit you better: Jared@BmoreAttorney.com. We look forward to assisting you.

11/08/2017