COVID-19 Notice: We are providing FREE consultations via phone or video conferencing for your safety and convenience. Learn More »

Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Picture this: You need a medical procedure, for example, having your gallbladder removed. You arrive at one of the area’s fine local hospitals, where you are seen by a doctor and told “Sure, we can help you, as long as you sign this form giving up your right to sue us for damages if you are injured by malpractice.”

Sounds like a great deal for them, and a terrible deal for you, right? The Cato Institute has issued a paper advocating that agreements like this, in one form or another, should be allowed and upheld by the courts. Surely they can’t be serious? Yes, they are, and no, I won’t stop calling you Shirley. RIP, Leslie Nielsen.

Contracts like this are generally unenforceable. They are called “contracts of adhesion”, and are not allowed because of the extreme inequality in the bargaining positions of the patient and doctor, among other reasons.

Maryland has an increasingly diverse population. This means that our court system needs to keep pace with the needs of our residents. By law, this includes providing interpreter services to those who cannot communicate effectively in English.

Here is an article from the Baltimore Sun about how courts in Baltimore City and Baltimore County are addressing this issue.

Because my personal injury practice is statewide, I have noticed that some courts deal with the issue of providing interpreters more effectively than others. I have found Montgomery County to be most effective and best able to provide interpreters in many languages on short notice. I think this is because Montgomery County has long been one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the state, so they have developed substantial experience serving a variety of non-English speaking populations. There are generally Spanish interpreters available on a few minutes’ notice, and there is an established procedure for quickly and simply requesting interpreters in most languages, who actually show up when they are supposed to be there.

Hello, everybody! In case you noticed my absence over the last few weeks, I was away getting married and honeymooning. Now I am back at the blog, albeit a little tired from watching late election results last night.

But as they say, all politics is local. In Maryland, some jurisdictions charge for ambulance service, while others do not. For example, Baltimore City charges a $410 fee for ambulance service, while Baltimore County charges nothing.

In May, the Montgomery County Council approved a $400 fee for ambulance service to assist with a 13 million dollar budget gap. After a trip to the Court of Appeals of Maryland and back, opponents of the fee could get the issue on the general election ballot for a referendum. Yesterday, Montgomery County residents voted against allowing the county to continue to charge fees for ambulance service.

In theory, human life is priceless. Under most belief systems, each human life is uniquely created by God and has an intrinsic value that cannot be measured in man’s terms.

But when you are talking about a death caused by a negligent driver, often the value of a human life ends up being the limit of the insurance coverage. For example, take a look at this Baltimore Sun article about a settlement of a lawsuit for wrongful death caused by an accident on the Bay Bridge in the summer of 2008. This case got tons of local media coverage when it happened. It was alleged that the defendant was driving with a blood-alcohol content of .03 when she crossed into oncoming traffic, causing the death of a truck driver when he swerved to avoid her and went through a traffic barrier and into the Chesapeake Bay.

The value of this truck driver to his family? Immeasurable. The recovery for his loss? $100,000. The limit of the available insurance coverage. And this defendant had five times as much insurance as the State of Maryland requires. Currently, Maryland drivers are only required to carry $20,000 in liability coverage, which will soon increase to $30,000. I have seen death cases where the only recovery is $20,000. Explaining this to grieving family members is an experience that I wish I had never had.

One of the most annoying parts of representing plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits is locating and serving the defendant driver with process. For non-lawyers, “process” refers to the summons issued by the court when a lawsuit is filed. The summons is an order from the court notifying the defendant of the lawsuit and directing her to respond within a particular time period. It is designed to make sure that anyone who is subjected to a lawsuit is given notice of the case and a chance to respond.

serving process defendant abroad
Most often, service of process is made by having a process server physically locate the defendant and hand her the papers. The process server executes a sworn affidavit documenting service, which is then filed with the court.

What if you can’t find the defendant to serve her? Or if the defendant has been served, but has never participated and seems to have vanished? You must consider filing a Motion for Alternative Service or a Motion for Entry of Order of Default.

Medicare liens are a topic of concern for most competent personal injury lawyers. It looks like Medicare is set to begin enforcing a federal law requiring reporting on injury claims made by individuals receiving Medicare.

The key thing about this law for injury lawyers is that if you fail to protect Medicare’s interest, Medicare can go after anyone in the process to recover the payments made: the Medicare recipient, their personal injury lawyer, the defendant, the defense lawyer, or the defendant’s liability insurer. And lets face it- we all know that the client and the defendant won’t have the money by the time Medicare comes looking. The feds are good at protecting themselves, and here they are doing it by putting a target on lawyers and insurers, which should not be a big problem as long as we are doing our jobs the right way.

Related Information

I am working on a few cases involving corporate defendants of various sizes. One of the most effective discovery devices around for these kinds of cases is the corporate representative deposition.

Md. Rule 2-412 allows a corporation or other organization to be deposed through a designated representative. The federal rule is 30(b)(6). The way it works, is that the party seeking the deposition sends a notice, where they “describe with reasonable particularity the matters on which examination is requested.” Then the corporation must designate one or more people who will be prepared to testify regarding those matters “known or reasonably available” to the corporation.

The Benefits of a Rule 2-412 or 30(b)(6) Deposition

Last night, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November raising the jury prayer amount in civil cases. Currently, in any civil case filed seeking more than $10,000.00, the defendant has a right to a jury trial. This provision does not have an escalator allowing it to rise along with the cost of medical care and wages lost.

This bill will permit a Constitutional amendment raising that amount to $15,000.00. Because this law relates to a constitutional amendment, it needed a 2/3 majority to pass. It will now appear on the ballot in November’s general election, where it will hopefully be approved by the voters.

This is an important issue for car accident lawyers in Maryland. As an example, consider a typical soft-tissue injury case. There is an emergency room visit with X-rays and a bill from the ER physician. That’s about $800, conservatively. The client needs 8 weeks of follow-up physical therapy. That’s about $4600. Then include two weeks missed from work, at about $1400 total. That’s $6800 in out of pocket losses. If the client needs an MRI to rule out a structural problem, you are looking at $8,000 in out of pocket damages for a relatively uncomplicated sprain/strain case. Filing for $10,000 does not really provide the potential to make a recovery to adequately compensate that client. But filing for more means that the defendant may pray a jury trial and delay the case for up to a year waiting for a trial date in Circuit Court, and requiring expensive, time-consuming discovery. The plaintiff may need to miss even more time from work to appear at a deposition, a court-ordered medical exam, and a settlement conference.

Why HB 825 Is A Good Bill

HB 825 is a bill being considered by the Maryland House of Representatives this morning. What the bill does is raise Maryland’s mandatory minimum auto insurance requirements. As I write this, I am listening to the debate on the House floor.

Currently, Maryland requires drivers to purchase insurance coverage with limits of at least $20,000 per person and $40,000 per incident. This has been the requirement since 1972 when the mandatory insurance law was passed. That amount has never been changed.

Here is an article about a recent opinion of the Georgia Supreme Court (that state’s equivalent to the Court of Appeals of Maryland) that uphold “tort reform” laws passed by the Georgia legislature. These laws were passed in 2005 as part of a package of “tort reform” laws.

The court upheld a Draconian change in the standard of care for victims of medical negligence where the negligent doctor was providing care in an emergency room. In Maryland, doctors in any setting are held to a negligence standard. If the doctor failed to act as a reasonable health care provider would have under the circumstances, that is negligence.

Georgia has a different standard of care as a result of these 2005 laws. To recover for malpractice against a Georgia ER doctor, a plaintiff must prove “gross negligence” by “clear and convincing” evidence. I think Georgia is the only state in the country with a law like this. This changed the pre-existing law in two crucial ways.