Articles Posted in Car Accidents

If you are having back pain after a car crash, you are not alone.  Our law office represents hundreds of victims every year who have suffered back pain – typically low back pain — from a car accident.  I’m hoping this post answers a lot of questions you might have if you have suffered a back injury from a car accident.

What is causing lower back pain after a car accident?

Being involved in a car accident can lead to a wide variety of injuries from bumps and bruises to broken bones and even death.  We have handled all of these types cases too many times. But of all the case we see, back injuries and the subsequent pain are common consequences of car collisions. If you were involved in a car accident, you may have wondered what caused your lower back pain.

Last week, the Baltimore City Department of Transportation announced that it is pushing its chips to the center of the table when it comes to speed and red light cameras.

Baltimore has a program called the City’s Automated Traffic Violation Enforcement System (ATVES).  Not so much to me because I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined by speed and running red lights, but ATVES sounds very Orwellian to many Baltimore City drivers. ATVES is in charge of the automated speed trap and red light enforcement cameras in Baltimore City.

ATVES also does something that troubles people less, particularly those who have seen truck accident statistics in this country. It has a Commercial Vehicle Height Monitoring System Camera Program to enforce violations of commercial vehicles traveling on truck restricted roadways in Baltimore City.  We got a million dollar verdict in a case a few years back in no small measure because the jury was annoyed that the truck was in a place that it clearly should not have been.   This system definitely uses some bring brother technology,  using the truck’s height to determine whether the vehicle is over ¾ of a ton).

A disc herniation is a type of disc injury that is frequently caused by car accidents.  The impact of a car accident often exerts significant force and pressure on the spine.  This pressure can cause a tear and rupture or bulge of the spinal discs, which act as pads or cushions for the spine.  This injury is referred to as a herniated disc.

Our firm has handled scores and scores of herniated disc injury cases.  Our first trial at Miller & Zois was a herniated disc verdict in 2003.  Our doors had been open for about a month.  The defendant offered $25,000 to settle a no property damage herniated disc injury case where the most aggressive treatment was steroid injections.

Laura Zois and I tried the case and we got a $300,000 verdict.  Our firm has handled these cases ever since.  We have earned millions in settlements and verdicts in herniated disc injury cases.

Insurance companies do not think the way you and I think. But, by understanding how insurance adjusters think and what is important to them, you can maximize how much money you receive in a personal injury case.

What Is the Adjuster’s Goal?

Insurance adjusters are trained to try to rip you off. Although, adjusters do not call it that. They also do not think of it in those terms. But, they are not charged with the task of making a reasonable settlement offer to you. An insurance adjuster’s mission is to pay you as little money as possible to settle your claim, which allows the insurance company to keep as much of its money as it can.

Md-reporter-1Anybody who has seen the fantastic HBO series The Wire knows that the Baltimore Police have more than enough to do. Even with the recent drop in Baltimore’s murder rate, our police are still very busy.  The problem is not that they are offended by a subpoena.

This can cause problems for Baltimore injury lawyers who need police officers to appear in court for trials of injury cases. Because of the crushing workload these officers face, it can be difficult to contact them to serve a subpoena or to arrange for testimony.

Best Way to Get a Police Officer to Your Trial

180px-Child_car_seat_By watching TV commercials, it seems that rear-facing backup cameras are all the rage in new trucks and SUV’s. They are supposed to reduce the risk of hurting a child, animal, or anything else that can be behind the vehicle but is short enough that you can’t readily see it through the rear window. But this article points out that backover injuries or fatalities may not really be as big of a problem as the commercials would have you believe, particularly when compared to the number of child fatalities that are caused by children being improperly restrained- not using a seatbelt, booster chair, or car seat. The article also argues that the cost of the cameras may not be justified because backover injuries are not as big of a problem as people think.

According to the article, in 2011 “back-overs” were the cause of 79 child deaths.  You cannot minimize 79 dead children. Each one is a tragedy. Everyone in Baltimore cried with Todd Heap after his tragedy. (Not for nothing, but it probably saved some injuries and lives.  I know I back into my garage very differently as a result.)  And I would push back on the idea that backup cameras are not worth the $2 billion.  Consumers like them and they are saving injuries and deaths every year under any calculation.

But the for the same year 371 unrestrained children under 15 died in car wrecks. I only see these backup cameras in new, usually expensive vehicles. If I am reading the graph in the article correctly, if backup cameras were required in all new vehicles, the estimated cost would be over 2 billion dollars a year. I wonder what it would cost (if it’s even possible) to install something that wouldn’t let you drive the car if a child was unbuckled or unrestrained?

Nobody ever calls me because something good happened. That’s an unfortunate reality for lawyers in my line of work.

Every time the phone rings, it is because something bad happened. At best, the bad thing is a totaled car and a painful, but treatable, injury. At worst, the bad thing is a catastrophic injury or the death of a loved one. Empathy is an emotional quality that is a job requirement for personal injury lawyers. If I can’t imagine myself in my client’s shoes, how can I hope to tell their story to a jury in a compelling, persuasive way? I don’t think I could.

Of course, I also need to retain my objectivity so that I am able to give my client sound, well-reasoned legal advice. Decisions such as whether to settle (or for how much) or to press on to trial should not be clouded by being too close to the case. That’s why it is a bad idea for lawyers to represent close friends or family members. I have been doing this kind of work for a long time, and I think I am generally able to balance the right amounts of empathy and objectivity to get the best results for my clients.

Uninsured/undersinsured motorist cases are probably the most complicated kind of car accident cases you will see. These cases are called “hybrid” actions because they combine contract and tort law. You have the underlying tort case against the negligent driver, along with a contract cause of action against the UM carrrier. You will have the normal concerns about proving liability and damages that you would have in any car accident case. In addition, you must be careful to prove the contract elements that you need to show entitlement to UM benefits.

These are things like the existence and extent of the tortfeasor’s liability coverage, the existence and amount of the UM coverage, and the plainitff’s entitlement to benefits. Obviously, you would send interrogatories to seek to establish one or more of the contractual prerequisites.But another good way to get the needed proof is to use an under-utilized but very powerful discovery device called a Request for Admission.

These are governed by Md. Rule 2-424. Basically, they are a list of facts, the existence of which the defendant is asked to either admit or deny. If admitted, the admission is considered conclusive proof of the existence of the admitted fact for the purposes of the case. They are expecially good for proving the exitence of simple “paper” facts like the ones you encounter in a UM case.

Here is another great real-life trial preparation tip that I have forgotten myself in the past:

Check the weather the day before!

I am finalizing my preparations for a trial tomorrow in a car accident case in Baltimore County Cicuit Court. According to weather.com, there is a 60% chance of rain tomorrow morning. So my trial prep now includes making sure I remember my galoshes, raincoat and umbrella. It is hard to make a good first impression on the jury when you look like you wore your suit in the shower. From a performance perspective, it’s nearly impossible to be at your best when you have wet, cold feet. I know I look like a dork in my galoshes. A warm, dry dork. So I don’t care.

Having the right equipment is worthless unless you know how to use it. That is why the second important element to using multimedia at trial is preparation. I never, ever, ever use anything at trial that I have not practiced with. For PowerPoint, this means doing a complete practice run just as if I was at trial. This starts with unpacking and setting up the equipment from scratch. Then I click through each slide to make sure that they are in the correct order, they all work and that they appear big enough for the jury to see them.

PRACTICE TIP: I hate text slides and bullet points. So do the experts. I only use PowerPoint for images (photos and important documents) and video. I want the jury focused on me, my client and the story I am telling, not looking past me to read text on a screen. I only use text slides in two circumstances: showing jury instructions in conjunction with my argument, and showing the verdict sheet as I believe it should be completed.

The preparation for using video is basically the same, but may be even more important. If you have a malfunction in opening, you can always ditch the PowerPoint and go old school, Moe Levine-style. Heck, if handled gracefully it might even help you with the jury by humanizing you and showing you are cool under fire. Good lawyers can tell a compelling story with nothing but their words, eyes and body language. Expert video is different. You can’t toss it aside if it doesn’t work because then all of your medical evidence is gone. You have a huge hole in your case where the expert testimony on medical treatment and causation should have been. Yeah, I guess you could read the testimony into the record if there was really no other option, but that is just awful. Unpersuasive and irritating.