Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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.

Last week I spent three days trying a car accident case in the Circuit Court for Charles County. There were two defendants- the driver who caused the accident, and my client’s insurance carrier. There was a direct suit against the insurance carrier because the defendant driver had the minimum insurance permitted in Maryland (20k per person, 40k per incident), and we alleged that the plaintiff’s damages exceeded the defendant’s policy limit. So we brought in my client’s insurance company as a defendant because there were underinsured motorists’ benefits available to cover the damages that exceeded the defendant driver’s policy.

When you are litigating against the tortfeasor and the UM/UIM carrier, there are two legal issues you should expect to address before the trial begins.

First, it is a near-certainty that the insurance company will make a motion to allow it to try the case without being identified to the jury. This makes sense from their perspective because they do not want the jury to know that any damages will be paid by an insurance company, or that the Plaintiff was forced to sue his own insurer.

I have been away from the blog for a few days because I have been preparing for an oral argument in the Court of Appeals of Maryland. See, when I ignore you readers it is only because I have been doing big, important lawyer-type things.

Yesterday, I argued two consolidated appeals where the issue is the scope of discovery that lawyers can obtain into the financial bias of retained expert witnesses. Nearly every Maryland personal injury case involves some type of expert testimony.

Generally, this falls into two categories. First are treating doctors who are drawn into cases simply because they happened to treat a patient who was injured in a way that later became the subject of litigation. These are not the people I am concerned with. Second, are experts who are only involved in the case because they are sought by one side or the other to give opinion testimony for money, specifically for the purpose of litigation. The way this mostly comes up in what I do is the defense side on an auto or trucking accident case hires a doctor to examine the plaintiff and to testify to one of the following: 1) There is nothing wrong with them; 2) There is something wrong with them, but it is not as bad as they say it is; or 3) There is something wrong with them, and it is as bad as they say it is, but it was caused by anything other than the accident.

The way people think and speak about time is a recurring issue in personal injury lawsuits, particularly those involving auto and truck accidents. All drivers are constantly required to judge speed and distance simply to get where they are going. This leads to the perception that drivers and witnesses can accurately estimate time, speed and distance. However, scientific studies by professional accident reconstructionists confirm that eyewitnesses are most often wrong when they try to estimate these factors.

Often, people speak in a very non-literal way about time. A minute is seen as a very short period of time by most people. A minute is about 1/1400th of a day. When a witness says something took “about a minute” they very rarely mean that it took 60 seconds. More frequently, they mean “not very long.”

This can be extremely important in intersection cases. It may arise in the context of how long the plaintiff or defendant had to see and react to oncoming traffic. Or where a vehicle was when a light changed, or how long it took for a vehicle to travel from point A to point B.

Yesterday I was in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City for a hearing on a motion for summary judgment filed by a defendant in a products liability case.

I think the way the hearing went down contains a lesson for defending against summary judgment motions.

My primary argument in opposition was a legal one. Without getting into the facts of the case, I thought I had a pretty strong legal argument that even if the facts were undisputed, the motion could not be granted because the defendant was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. That was the primary argument I made in the motion papers and at the hearing.