Miller & Zois focuses its practice on handling serious personal injury cases such as fatal car accidents or cases that involve brain injuries, fractures, disc herniations, or other permanent injuries.
So we don’t handle small casesa anymore. But we still have knowledge we can pass along. Here it is.
Why District Court?
Cases in Maryland in which the amount in controversy (the amount sought by the plaintiff) is less than $30,000.00 can be filed in district court. Each county in Maryland has at least one district court location, sometimes in the same building with the circuit court.
There are several advantages to filing a case in district court if you have a smaller claim. First of all, when a case is filed, the court issues a Summons that contains the trial date, which is usually within three to six months. (A typical circuit court case in Maryland takes at least a year to get to trial.)
Second, in district court, the discovery, the effort to uncover facts about the other side’s case before trial, is very limited absent a court order from a judge (which is extremely rare). There is no mechanism available in district court for depositions (sworn, oral testimony taken through questioning by the other side’s attorney) and independent medical exams (an examination by a physician chosen by the other side’s lawyer for purposes of disputing the personal injuries claimed by the plaintiff). Instead, the parties are limited primarily to propounding fifteen interrogatories (questions) to the other party about the details of the case they intend to present at trial. Further, other discovery tools, such as subpoena of your medical records, are more difficult in district court cases.
Third, the case is tried before a judge rather than a jury. Plaintiff’s counsel gives the judge a copy of your medical records. The judge considers the medical records and your testimony to decide how much money you are entitled to recover. The medical records can be admitted at trial without the need for the testimony of a medical doctor under Maryland law using a provision in the Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code Section 10-104. (This is also the case in circuit court if the case has been filed for $30,000.00 or less).
In contrast, in a Maryland circuit court, where more than $30,000.00 is at issue, in order to introduce medical bills or records, your lawyer must get a medical doctor to testify at trial that your medical bills and treatment were “fair, reasonable, medically necessary and causally related to plaintiff’s injuries.”
Further, the trial of a tort claim in district court typically takes less than half a day to complete. This is, in part, because there is no jury that must be selected and instructed. Judges, unlike juries, do not need to be told what the applicable Maryland law is in the particular case. This is not to say that the attorneys do not argue opposing applicable theories of the case but these arguments are more concise because the judge is already educated in the applicable personal injury/negligence law of the state.
Finally, the judge almost always gives his findings of fact and decision (award) on the spot, immediately following the trial, which is called a judgment. The judgment may be appealed within 30 days. Any such appeal goes to the circuit court and is usually an appeal “on the record” with each side submitting a short brief or memoranda to the court, along with the transcript of the district court trial, followed by a hearing where the parties orally argue the positions articulated in their pleadings.
If you have any further questions, call our lawyers at 800-553-8082 or click here for a free consultation.
- Details of district court personal injury practice for lawyers handling personal injury cases in Maryland)