BMORE ATTORNEY BLOG

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

Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney Before Retaining One

I’m a firm believer that a person who’s looking to retain an attorney should interview a few different lawyers/firms before making a decision on who should represent them. If the matter is serious enough to warrant an initial consult with an attorney to begin with, then it’s serious enough to meet with more than one attorney before deciding who to work with. While this idea and the following explanation has the potential to let business walk out the door, I routinely offer to potential clients that they talk to another attorney before signing up with me. Plus, I’m confident enough that my skillset and the services we can provide will be better than the “next guy” such that the potential client will come back anyway. If a potential client balks at signing retainer documents, I always offer that they go home with them, sleep on it, and interview someone else if they desire. But I do so knowing that my courtroom experience and related abilities will stand out against most of my competitors and lead the large majority of potential clients to sign up with our office.

Even if these folks interview another attorney but wind up coming back to us, it will not have been a waste of their time since they at least will have had the benefit of talking with someone else to investigate a different option. Perhaps your personal style and general approach do not comport with that attorney’s way of doing things. While the efficacy of the legal work is important, so is how you get along with the attorney. You and s/he will be working together closely for some measure of time over a very stressful event or issue. It’s important that your attorney is not only intelligent and capable but also friendly and receptive to answering questions.

With that in mind, please consider these questions when interviewing your potential attorney. And yes, you read that right: interview him/her. They want your business, and you have plenty of options in terms of who to select, some good, some maybe not. Make the attorney earn your case. Please note that some of these questions are specific to personal injury law, while others can translate to any area of law you’re interviewing an attorney to represent you for.

How long have you been practicing law? While the answer may not be dispositive, it can tell you a bit about where that attorney is in terms of their practice. Sure, an
attorney may have 30 years’ experience, but perhaps that same attorney has lost a step in the courtroom or his “trial table-side manner” and thinks he’s “too good” for dealing with the
daily client interaction. Likewise, you may be wary of a newly minted attorney who hasn’t handled many cases like yours before. But maybe that inexperience leads that attorney to
overprepare cases to make up for his lack of experience, which can be a positive.

How many cases have you TRIED/LITIGATED like mine? This is a big one. You don’t want an attorney who takes cases but always settles them (or refers them all out to
other attorneys because they don’t actually do the work and were hoping for an “easy” settlement. If he’s doing that, it’s likely because he doesn’t know how to try a case…and the
insurance companies keep track of this information. And so do State’s Attorneys, in criminal matters. (I’m not suggesting there’s actually a log of defense attorneys and how many cases
they’ve tried somewhere in a State database but, instead, making the point that the attorneys who are in “the trenches” every day can easily sniff out an attorney who rarely steps foot
in a courtroom.) They all know who has the guts to try and case and who is just going to bluster prior to trial but then fold when the offer doesn’t get any better.

If I have questions, who will answer them: you or a staffer? There’s nothing wrong with an attorney relying on his staff to assist his clients, but you should not have
difficulty talking with your attorney as you please. If you get any indication that the attorney delegates a majority of client interaction to his staff, it’s probably not a good sign.

(Related) What are YOUR office hours? There are attorneys who spend three out of five business days out of the office. Or others who have practices so large they can
take months off at a time while they vacation. I don’t begrudge them. I work the hours in the office because I don’t want to delegate certain critical client interactions to staff.
(Which is why I’m emphasizing the YOUR versus the OFFICE’s hours.) Further, because I actually try cases versus settling everything, I need to be in the office to prepare for various
court-related proceedings. I don’t covet their hours (ok, maybe an extra Saturday a month out of the office would be nice), but I would be leery of hiring an attorney who’s rarely in
the office. And while working remotely can be suitable, I believe there’s an importance to being in the office, readily available to address any type of issue that may arise
unexpectedly.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Be sure to come back next week for Part II of “Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney Before Retaining One.” If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, please feel free to contact me by phone at 410-793-7040 or email at Jared@BmoreAttorney.com. Until then, take care.

11/01/2017

Elements of Compensation for Personal Injuries in Maryland

There are a few elements of damages an injured party is supposed to be entitled to under Maryland law. I say “supposed to be” because insurance adjusters (and even judges and jurors, on occasion) do not recognize or fully compensate for these elements.

The main categories of damages recoverable after an auto tort or other personal injury are economic damages and noneconomic damages. “Economic damages” means anything that you can identify and verify with documentation, for instance, medical bills, lost earnings, property damage from estimates of damages, and out of pocket expenses incurred because of the injuries- such as paying someone to mow your lawn or care for your home because you were too injured to do so. “Noneconomic damages” are those which are much more difficult to quantify and come with no specific invoice or receipt. It is often termed “pain and suffering,” but that is oftentimes a phrase that, left undefined, is difficult for those trying to determine the value of that part of one’s damages to understand. The best way I’ve found to describe this essential element of damages is the degree of disruption to the injured party’s everyday living and/or quality of life.

“Noneconomic damages” is typically the element of damages that is of the most value in a person’s case (but, ironically, is the portion of a plaintiff’s case that some plaintiff’s attorneys so rarely define for judges and jurors). The medical billing and lost earnings, to some degree, “speak for themselves,” since there’s a piece of paper that tells the adjuster or trier of fact (judge or jury) what the value of that element of loss is, i.e., it cost this person $1,000 to see this doctor, here’s the bill verifying this is true, so they should get their $1,000 back. But noneconomic damages are separate and distinct from the economic losses and hold more value than the “billed” losses, in almost every case. The most obvious way to demonstrate this is through the example of a crash that has led to the loss of life. The deceased/the estate/their family might have an ambulance bill, a doctor’s bill from the ER and funeral costs, but the loss of the value of that life is, beyond any doubt or reasonable argument, worth more than that $15,000 or so dollars inherent in those bills. Insurance companies and the attorneys hired by the family of the deceased are in the unfortunate position of debating the value of the loss of that life to the deceased and those beneficiaries who are left behind to struggle with the tragedy. But the disparity between a case’s value as it relates to economic damages and noneconomic damages is not limited to just the example of wrongful death.

Noneconomic damages also include the emotional impact an injury has had on one’s life. This starts even before the injury has occurred, in some instances, with an element of damages called “pre-impact fright,” where a person, sometimes in the split-second before the injury-inducing event, realizes something catastrophic is about to happen, where the resulting fear hits. After the accident, even if someone does not specifically treat for psychological damages such as PTSD, depression or anxiety, these subjective emotions and their effects on one’s everyday life should be considered and accounted for by the person/persons evaluating the overall impact of the injury and its resultant value. (If one has treated for these issues, not only should the noneconomic aspect of their case be considered- likely at a higher threshold since the element of damages is documented and verified independently of the person claiming the injury- but they would then also have an economic component to the psychological injury, that is, the billing associated with that treatment.)

As with any case, Person A’s case is and should be evaluated differently than Person B’s case, even if they had the same accident and the same injuries. This is so because it is highly unlikely, and I would argue impossible, that the injury affected these two people in the same exact way. As such, their cases should be considered differently and distinctly. It’s critical that you have an attorney who understands that and practices accordingly, personally evaluating your case, discussing your case with you consistently throughout the process, and negotiating your case with all of these important variables at the forefront of his or her mind. If you’d like to discuss your accident, injury or case, please feel free to contact us at your convenience. We never charge for initial consults, and won’t rush you, no matter how small you think your case may be. Likewise, we’re sensitive to working folks’ hours, so if you can’t speak or meet during the day, we’re happy to schedule time in the evenings or weekends to talk. Call us at 410-793-7040 or email us at Jared@BmoreAttorney.com to scheduled a good time to talk.

10/24/2017

What Happens if the Insurance Company Doesn’t Make a Reasonable Offer to Settle My Personal Injury Case?

It happens. Regularly. Insurance companies get a demand package from an injured person’s attorney’s office and make a low-ball offer. Some clients insist on taking it. Unfortunately, some attorneys who claim to know how to practice personal injury law don’t know better and tell their clients to take the offer. Other attorneys, even if they practice personal injury, would rather not step foot in a courtroom, and tell their client that the offer is good in hopes they themselves can avoid the stress, time, and effort devoted to achieving a better result in court.

I’m all for fair and reasonable negotiations. But the fact of the matter is, in the majority of instances, the insurance companies are not going to offer full value pre-suit. They realize that the economic toll of the injury on the victim, and the fact that the process can be so time consuming, weighs heavily on an injured party. The insurance company has nothing to lose by sitting on the settlement money, whereas the plaintiff is at a significant disadvantage in this respect, already out of medical billing, lost time from their employment, and the resulting economic loss, and perhaps a permanent injury that bothers them throughout the day, every day. As such, the insurance companies have leverage in many negotiations knowing that some injured parties and some attorneys are willing to take whatever is thrown at them. Some attorneys who say they practice personal injury take this personally and call the insurance companies evil, unethical, etc., but this is ridiculous and does nothing to solve the problem. The insurance companies are businesses designed to make money by taking in premiums and trying to pay out as little as they can on each and every claim that is presented to them, regardless of whether the claim involves an injured pinky or a tragic death. They’re a business seeking profits. But it’s my job to make sure we’re doing everything to get what each client deserves in each particular case.

I’ve tried hundreds of cases like yours in District and Circuit Courts throughout the state. I’ve negotiated hundreds more to successful settlements prior to the need to trial. And I’ve done so from both sides of the courtroom, that is, as a defense attorney and now as an advocate for the injured party. The insurance companies know I will try my client’s case. They realize I know the value of my client’s case. If they don’t offer a fair settlement, we’ll file suit. And if we file suit, it won’t be just to try to get a settlement. I’ve been preparing my client’s case for trial since the day I was retained. If the insurance company doesn’t offer a fair settlement, they should be prepared to pay whatever a judge or jury says a fair amount is.

If you’re facing a legal issue you’d like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to reach out so I can address whatever question or concern you might have. It’d be my pleasure to discuss your matter with you personally. Call or email anytime at 410-793-7040 or Jared@BmoreAttorney.com.

10/17/2017

Pre-Existing Conditions and their Impact on Personal Injury Cases

If a person has any pre-existing conditions and is involved in a personal injury incident, that person should tell his/her medical provider all relevant medical history, even if the injured party doesn’t see how it could be relevant (a doctor can advise why it’s important to have relevant medical history in terms of diagnosing and treating an injury, but from a legal/litigation perspective, a failure to disclose such information can be detriment, or sometimes a death knell, to a person’s case). A judge or jury, even without hearing from a doctor as to whether the withheld information would have been relevant to the causation analysis or treatment, will often infer nefarious intent on the injured party’s part in failing to disclose the information. Even a simple question like “Do You Smoke,” if answered inaccurately, could come back to haunt an injured person should that person fail to remember the accurate response. The bottom line is that it’s critical to think hard about these responses and to be honest. Something an injured person marks down one day one on a checklist he or she’s rushing through at the doctor’s office waiting to be seen could come back to haunt them three-plus years later, depending on how long the case takes to resolve.

Some people want to ignore any health issues that might have pre-dated the accident/incident because they’ve been trained to believe that health insurance companies will not honor pre-existing conditions. But in Maryland, the law is that a negligent defendant is to be held liable for any aggravation of a pre-existing condition. There’s a lot that goes into that equation, e.g., a medical opinion, a judge/jury willing to believe there was an aggravation, etc., but one doesn’t often get to that point without first being honest with their provider about the existence of a pre-existing condition. For instance, it is often difficult for a doctor to state within a reasonable degree of medical probability that a pre-existing condition was, in fact, aggravated, if no such condition was disclosed by the injured party to that particular treating provider.

So, if an injured party has ever had a neck injury and they’ve injured their neck in a recent accident, from a legal perspective I would recommend s/he talk about it freely with their doctor. This disclosure of the past injury will not that person’s case nearly as much as their hypothetical failure to disclose it would. Insurance companies have databases to search prior injuries before suit is even filed, while they are still evaluating a case. And once a case is in suit, they can issue subpoenas to any medical provider a person’s ever seen- whether s/he disclosed the provider or not. I’ve seen defense counsel issue subpoenas to medical providers within a certain mile radius of a plaintiff’s home, past and present. In short, I’d disclose everything I could remember to a doctor if I were an injured party if I thought there was any chance I’d ever be involved in negotiations with an insurance company for damages or in a later civil case for personal injuries.

If you’ve been injured in an incident involving another’s negligence and have any questions you’d like to discuss, feel free to call me at 410-793-7040 or email me at Jared@BmoreAttorney.com at your convenience, 24/7. I’d be happy to address your questions or concerns.

10/10/2017

What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP)? What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)? What is Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)?

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is coverage offered through one’s own insurance that is “No Fault,” i.e., it will cover the insured and his/her vehicle’s occupants regardless of whose fault the accident was. Unfortunately, many people waive this coverage to save a few dollars on their premiums. If not waived, the coverage will provide for $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000 worth of medical treatment, 85% of lost wages, or a combination of both up to the limits previously noted, whichever that person elected and paid for. This benefit goes through the injured party’s insurance, even if the other driver is insured and is clearly at fault, and it will not harm one’s policy to utilize the benefit. There is a similar benefit that some companies provide, called “Med Pay.” This applies only to reimbursement for medical billing, versus PIP which can also go towards lost wage reimbursement.

Uninsured Motorist coverage (UM) is for those instances where the other driver is at-fault and doesn’t have applicable coverage or where another driver is at-fault and flees the scene. It will provide coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering up to the limits of your policy, keeping in mind that the insurance adjuster determines what is “reasonable” for each of those elements of damage. If an insured disagrees with their insurance company’s evaluation, a judge or jury will have to help resolve that issue in litigation. It should be noted that one can often get this coverage through a family member or member of the household if that family member has a vehicle with such coverage, even if the passenger didn’t own a vehicle themselves. Also, if an injured party is a passenger in a vehicle, s/he is likely eligible for UM benefits under that vehicle’s coverage (as well as his/her own if that other coverage exceeds that of the vehicle the injured party was in).

Underinsured Motorist coverage (UIM) is for those instances where the other driver is at fault and has insurance, but the at-fault vehicle’s insurance is insufficient to cover one’s damages. For instance, if the person who rear-ends the injured party has $30,000 in coverage but the injured party has $100,000 in UM/UIM benefits, the injured party would be entitled to a total of $100,000 in benefits. The at-fault carrier would be “on the hook” for the first $30,000 and the injured party’s insurance would be responsible for the remaining $70,000 in coverage. Again, please see above, i.e., one would still need to prove his/her damages such that just getting hurt in an accident with a $100,000 UIM does not lead to an automatic $100,000 settlement. To the contrary, in most instances, it would require a rather severe injury or permanency to receive a $100,000 settlement. A judge or jury is typically required to resolve these disputes, as insurance carriers are reluctant to make “policy limits” offers absent serious injury, surgery, permanency or a limited policy, i.e., $30,000.

Each of these potential coverages are considered “First Party,” that is, they are contractual and through one’s own insurance carrier as opposed to “Third Party,” where the coverage the injured party is seeking comes from an at-fault party. As such, the terms of the particular policy in play and what the injured party actually bargained for in that agreement will be critical to determining what that particular insurance company is supposed to provide to its insured.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions about this post or any aspect of any case you might have, please feel free to contact me at your convenience at 410-793-7040 or Jared@BmoreAttorney.com. I’d be happy to discuss the matter with you.

10/03/2017

How Long Will It Take to Resolve My Personal Injury Case?

I get this question quite frequently from clients, sometimes as early as our first meeting. I’ve come to understand that someone who is injured and facing a lot of uncertainty is just looking for some “light at the end of the tunnel” in terms of when they can put everything behind them. Unfortunately, if the injury has recently been incurred, the stress is just starting and it will typically get worse before it gets better, which is why it’s so important to have an attorney- and one you can trust- to help navigate you through the various issues that arise at different stages in a case.

The answer to that question though – how long it takes to resolve a person’s injury claim – depends on a number of different factors.

Typically, it will depend on how long it takes a person to recover from his/herinjury. One should not submit their case for settlement until they’ve finished treatment and/or reached what doctors term “maximum medical improvement” or “MMI.” Obviously, if a person does not reach this point until the statute of limitations (the deadline to file a case) is looming, the case will need to be filed with the appropriate court despite the fact they may not have reached MMI by that time.

Once confident that everything needed to effectively proffer your case has been retrieved, then one’s case can be submitted for settlement to the appropriate insurance company, along with a “demand letter” detailing the respective damages and making an argument for why it is believed that person’s case has the value being demanded, as well as the supporting documentation (to include medical records and bills, verification of lost wages, documentation of any out of pocket expenses, photographs, etc). The insurance company receives this and evaluates it according to their internal mechanisms. Some companies use a computer program, where the adjuster inputs various information and codes from the providers, and the computer essentially “spits out” a value; one such program that is popular with insurance companies is called Colossus. Others rely on seasoned adjusters who are familiar with the value typically placed on similar cases in the venue where the case would likely be filed if suit were necessary.

The negotiation process and the resulting length of time involved varies depending on the particular carrier involved, how reasonable the insurance adjusters are with their offers and, in all honesty, how reasonable the injured party and his/her attorney are with the demand. I’ve found that the quickest settlements that are still successful from a value perspective arise when the following factors intersect: an adjuster who is experienced, familiar with the venue where the case will be filed (if necessary), and reasonable; an attorney who is experienced with personal injury claims, familiar with the facts of his/her particular case and the likely value a judge or jury will attach to the case if it were to be tried; and a client who has reasonable expectations and is willing to accept the advice of his/her attorney about the likely value of their case. (It should be noted that “quick settlement” doesn’t always equate to “good” or “successful” settlement. One should be confident their attorney knows the factors involved in evaluating a personal injury claim, along with the specific facts of that case, and is applying appropriate pressure to resolve the case versus “rolling over” and recommending a quick settlement that is not the best that could be achieved.)

If the parties can come to terms on a mutually agreeable settlement, then the entire case will typically resolve about 30 days later. Absent a mutually agreeable settlement, suit will need to be filed. And how long it takes to resolve a case via litigation depends on whether the case is filed in the District Court or Circuit Court (in terms of state courts versus federal court). The major differences between the District and Circuit Courts will be laid out in later blog posts. Rest assured that I have had extensive experience in both courts, having tried hundreds of cases in the District Courts (I tried 87 in my first year of practice alone) and over 130 trials before juries in Maryland’s Circuit Courts throughout the state.

Thanks for reading. If you have a case you’d like me to evaluate, whether you’re an injured person or an attorney with an injured client, please feel free to contact me at your convenience at 410-793-7040 or Jared@BmoreAttorney.com. I’d be happy to discuss your case.

10/01/2017

“How Much Is My Case Worth?” cont’d

Part Two of Two – Please see last week’s post for Part One, as well as the Disclaimer indicating that this post is not to be construed as legal advice, that no two cases are the same, and that you should contact an attorney regarding the specifics of your case immediately if you have any questions or concerns. 

  • the defendant – Is the at-fault party, who may eventually become a defendant if suit is necessary, an individual or a company? Is that individual/company insured such that there’s a viable means of recovery and, if not, are there assets that could be attached in the event of a recovery? A named insurance company or corporate entity is typically a better target than an individual; it is widely held that jurors are less inclined to award significant sums against individuals (as opposed to companies) because jurors aren’t sure if insurance is involved, and the rules of evidence prevent the parties from divulging such information to juries, with limited exceptions. People assume that named insurance companies and companies are “deeper pockets” and better suit to compensate others injured by their negligence or the mistakes of their insureds.
  • the insurance policy, or policies, in play – In many cases, injuries are not properly compensated because the resources available are insufficient to provide the amount that would adequate under the circumstances. Imagine a scenario where a person has a terrible accident, through no fault of their own, and suffers an injury that leads to medical bills in excess of $50,000 and the inability to work for months, leading to lost wages of $25,000. It’s not hard to imagine, aside from our human instinct to ignore such catastrophic possibilities, the strain this injury would cause on one’s life, even aside from the injury itself. But if the at-fault party has a $30,000 policy, which is the only policy required in Maryland, it’s obvious that amount will not cover even the out-of-pocket losses to the injured party, let alone the amount of pain and suffering that a person is entitled to beyond the out of pocket expenses. The at-fault driver with the $30,000 policy is unlikely to have any appreciable assets to go after post-judgment. And even if the injured party has uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of $100,000 (which would provide for $70,000 after the $30,000 is tendered by the at-fault driver’s insurance company), that is only compensating the injured party $25,000 for the pain and suffering attendant with a catastrophic injury. And this says nothing of the likely ongoing or future care that may be required.  Long story short, a case’s value is often dictated by the policy limits in play. Much of what attorneys in this field do (or should be doing) is geared towards trying to find the most amounts of applicable coverage to protect their clients. Even more modest injuries run the risk of not being adequately compensated due to the minimal amounts of coverage required under Maryland law.
  • the property damage – Virtually every insurance adjuster, some judges, and most juries will look at the photos of the vehicles involved in the accident in question and draw a direct correlation between that damage, or lack thereof, and the claimed injuries of the person bringing the claim. If the amount of injury or treatment claimed seems out of proportion, subjectively, to the injury/treatment, there is a significant likelihood that an adjuster/judge/jury will take that into account when rendering his/her/its offer/judgment/verdict. And this is oftentimes regardless of the strength of the medical reports detailing the presence of injury and medical necessity of the treatment. This is simply one of the many hurdles that an attorney in this field of law must know exists and prepare to pass.
  • the costs of medical care – I’ve heard that there was a time that people could expect to settle the “standard” personal injury case (if there is such a thing) for “three times specials.” Under this vestige of times long gone, if one had $5,000 in medical treatment, they could expect a gross settlement of $15,000. I can say with much confidence that this is no longer par for the course. While it is possible, depending on the facts of the case, to have a case settle for “three times specials,” there is certainly no hard-and-fast equation that I’ve been able to discern being applied by adjusters, judges or juries. More often than not, the other factors listed on this page are weighted heavily and seem to have a better predictive quality than simply “what are the total medical bills?”
  • the attorney – Having an attorney who understands these factors and how they apply to distinct and varied sets of facts, and who’s handled countless personal injury matters, trying hundreds to judgment and verdict, certainly can have a positive impact on your case. The adjusters and the attorneys they deploy to keep verdicts and judgments low know the plaintiffs’ attorneys who are prepared to try cases versus those who simply sign clients up to settle their cases. If I were a person looking for an attorney, I’d want an attorney who had ample extensive courtroom experience in that particular field and who was preparing for trial from Day One. It’s the only way to put yourself in the best position to resolve the case the way you want to- on your terms, not those of the insurance company or the person who put you in this situation to begin with.

Thanks for reading. If you have a case you’d like me to evaluate, whether you’re an injured person or an attorney with an injured client, please feel free to contact me at your convenience at 410-793-7040 or jared@bmoreattorney.com. I’d be happy to discuss your case.

10/12/2015