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Today is my favorite workday of the year.

Obviously, I love being home with my wife and family during the holidays, but I can’t shake my affinity for working the days between Christmas and New Year’s. December 26th is the best day of the year to be in the office.

Like many offices, ours is half-empty because a lot of folks have decided to stretch the holidays into a week of family time. My phone will barely ring today because clients, opposing counsel, and insurance adjusters are busy vacationing or just enjoying family time. Other than new case intake (unfortunately, serious injuries don’t take the holidays off) I don’t expect to get many calls today.

There has been some controversy recently in the community of Maryland lawyers who handle personal injury and worker’s compensation claims.

It can sometimes be difficult to locate medical providers who will treat patients who were injured in accidents or on the job. If the patient was injured in an accident, the physician may have to wait for payment until the personal injury case resolves. In the case of a work-related injury, the physician must by law accept payment according to the fee schedule set by the Maryland Worker’s Compensation Commission, which is usually far less than the rates paid by private insurers. Many medical providers aren’t willing to accept these conditions, so the few who will are an invaluable resource for Maryland personal injury lawyers and our clients.

One of the local medical practices willing to treat these sorts of patients has become involved in proceedings before the Maryland Board of Physicians. Some of their doctors have pending disciplinary charges, and some others have already consented to orders resolving the charges. This has attracted the attention of those in the legal community working on those sorts of cases, and has been commented on by industry bloggers.

In the last few years, the use of social media has increasingly become an issue in the legal field. We are seeing social media being used as evidence in civil and criminal trials. There have been recent Maryland appellate opinions on how to admit evidence of social media use.

There have also been cases involving social media use by jurors. Here in Baltimore, there was an issue in the sensational Sheila Dixon trial about jurors becoming Facebook “friends” with one another. It has now become commonplace for jurors to be instructed that they are not to discuss their jury service on social media during the trial.

Here’s at least one tip for lawyers concerned about jurors using social media: there is a way to at least try to see if there are jurors or potential jurors using Twitter from the courthouse. Bing (Microsoft’s answer to Google) has a Twitter Maps feature that allows you to type in any address, and it will show you the location of any Tweets that have recently been made in the vicinity, as long as the user has geolocation enabled. Just go to Bing Maps, type in the address, click on Map Apps, and select Twitter. Voila!

Can you believe this? A juror just left for vacation during deliberations. And then when she came back all she got was a $300 fine! This is inexcusable, especially when you consider that during the jury selection process prospective jurors are given several chances to tell the court about anything that would prevent them from serving, like a pre-planned vacation.

She should have been put in jail, at least for a day, and been assigned some community service. Fortunately the case was able to continue without a mistrial. That’s probably why the judge let her stay out of jail.

I have written in the past that a trucking accident case is much more than an auto accident case with a bigger vehicle involved. Lawyers representing people injured in trucking accidents need to consider the different agency relationships that may be involved between the driver, owner/lessor/lessee of the vehicle, as well as the causes of action and/or insurance issues that arise out of those relationships.

Another difference is that trucks are perceived to be more dangerous on the road than standard automobiles. They are bigger and heavier, have more and bigger “blind spots”, and are operated by drivers who may have fatigue issues from spending hours and hours in the driver’s seat. Most drivers/jurors have had at least one terrifying personal experience out on the road as a result of an encounter with a big rig.

In fact, I nearly had one take me out on my way to work this morning. In rush hour traffic on I-695, the truck was weaving in and out of traffic (always a great idea) and came into my lane without checking to see if it was safe. Since I was on the driver’s side, this can only mean that the driver never checked his mirror before coming over. We’ve all seen those signs on trucks that say “if you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” Well, I could see this guy’s mirrors, which makes me think he would have seen me if he had looked. Thankfully, I was able to avoid a collision, but I am confident the driver had no idea I was there until he heard my horn.

I just ran across an article in the ABA Journal that points out that only one state, Oregon, requires attorneys to be covered by malpractice insurance. There, lawyers must purchase at least $300,000 of coverage through a state fund.

My state, Maryland, does not require it and never has. I know there are many, many lawyers “running bare”. I think this is colossally stupid. If the economics of your practice do not allow for the purchase of malpractice insurance, you might be in the wrong game. It is easy to think that because you are a dedicated, competent lawyer, you will avoid committing malpractice. But what if someone brings a claim that turns out to be unfounded? If you have insurance, it is defended at low or no cost by an attorney who is an expert in legal malpractice defense. You will have access to well-qualified experts to testify in your defense. You will have counsel with experience in assisting you with any bar complaint that may be made. With no coverage, you don’t get any of that, and if you do, you pay as you go.

Whether or not the state requires lawyers to purchase malpractice insurance, its a good idea to have it. I just can’t belive there are lawyers who go without. Why do I suspect that these are probably also the lawyers most likely to need it?

As the Internet Age progresses, I expect personal injury litigation to change in keeping with the times. Naturally, this extends to the “tool kit” that lawyers use to prove liability in car accident injury cases.

Overhead views of highways and intersections can be invaluable in proving liability for collisions. They can be useful for showing the general layout of accident scenes, establishing the location of traffic signals, illustrating sightlines, showing the movement of vehicles between lanes or through intersections, or establishing the location of witnesses. Not long ago, it was commonplace to see questions on bar association listserves looking for sources of aerial photographs of roads and highways for use in car accident cases.

No longer. Google Earth has become the go-to resource for many for overhead photos. They are in color, searchable, and can be zoomed in or out depnding on what view the situation calls for.

Our lawyers are reviewing Topamax birth defect lawsuits in Baltimore.

Topamax or Topiramate has been used to treat everything except the bubonic plague. It is supposed to treat some types of seizures in patients who have epilepsy.

Topamax lawsuits involve birth defects from the children of women who were taking Topamax/Topiramate. The birth defects have most typically been either cleft lips and cleft palates.

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