Virginia Accident But Maryland Lawsuit: Is There a Cap?

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We have a case where the accident occurred in Virginia but we sued in Maryland because the defendant driver lived in Baltimore City which is generally a place where juries are more fair then they are in southern Virginia where the accident occurred.

The question is does the cap on economic damages in Maryland apply to the case?

The answer is no.  Under Maryland law, the substantive law of Virginia will apply to the case.  That means Virginia traffic law will be applied. But because caps are considered substantive, Virginia's lack of the cap will also control in this Baltimore Circuit Court case.  Which is a good thing for our client. 

Montgomery County Taxi Accidents

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Taxi cabs in Maryland generally keep the minimum allowed insurance.  It is just awful.  Cabs obviously are on the road a lot more often than most of us are driving yet they are also the ones with the lease amount of coverage.  I can't figure how this could possibly make any sense.

Thankfully, at least for Montgomery County accident victims, Section 53-225(a) of the Montgomery County Code requires that taxicabs licensed in the county have insurance "in amounts required by applicable regulations" which is $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident (and a property damage liability coverage limit of $35,000), but you should check and see whether those figures are still current.

So if you are injured by a taxi cab in Montgomery County, you at least have that coverage available. 

One thing to know is that a taxicab is not even a "motor vehicle" under Maryland law. Goofy, I know, but it is our law. So you are not going to get an uninsured motorist (or PIP) in a taxi.

Keep in mind the answer to most "is there enough coverage" problems yourself is to make sure you have a high uninsured/underinsured motorist policy and one that covers you were you are in a taxi.

Settled Injury Claim: What About Property?

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Sometimes, when a personal injury case gets settled, a dispute still lingers about the property damage, often involving plaintiff's claim of diminution of value of the vehicle.  What do you do?

The simplest and easiest way to solve this problem is simply note on the release that the settlement excludes any property damage claim to your car that may remain.  

Usually, the personal injury adjuster think that the property damage claim is someone else's probably and allows the modification of the settlement.  

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What PIP Law Is Controlling for Out-of-State Accident?

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List of Washington, D.C. numbered highways

List of Washington, D.C. numbered highways (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We frequently represent clients who have PIP and uninsured motorist claims in Maryland for accidents that happened outside of Maryland.  Maryland does not allow for subrogation of PIP.  Many other states, notably the D.C for Maryland lawyers, does.  So what law controls?

Under our law there is no subrogation for medical payments for PIP policies.  The insurance companies will argue that the controlling law is where the accident happened.  This is a correct statement of tort law but an incorrect statement of contract law.  If the car at issue was principally garaged or principally used in Maryland, then Maryland law will apply.  

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Problems Dealing with Progressive

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Laura Zois points out on her Maryland Accident Lawyer Blog the very obvious: Progressive Insurance is not so progressive in dealing with accident claims. 

Can You File for Bankruptcy with a Pending Car Accident Claim?

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Our law firm does not handle bankruptcy cases.  We had a lawyer that we refer our clients to if they have questions about bankruptcy.  So this post is in general terms; you want a bankruptcy lawyer to evaluate the specifics of any particular case.

But this we can say.  Generally, car accident claims are exempted in bankruptcy.  The key is to make sure you disclose the pending claim as property in the bankruptcy.  This puts the onus on the trustee.  If the trustee does not timely object to the exemption claim, then the exemption should be allowed.  

The most used exemption is the personal injury exemption of $21,625 from a personal injury award or settlement, not including pain and suffering or compensation for monetary losses. 

The biggest thing that can screw you up based on my limited experience with bankruptcy seeking clients is bad communication between the acci
Part of Title 11 of the United States Code (th...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

dent lawyer and the bankruptcy lawyer.  If they don't know each other and have not worked together, the client may have to be the facilitator between the two. Conversely,  many claims lost for failure to disclose accident claims that would have been exempt if only the debtors had listed them.  

Best advice here is easy: talk to your lawyers, disclose everything, and you will have the best chance of success. 

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Black Boxes in Truck Accident Cases

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Fortunately, truck accident lawyers in Maryland representing injury victims have more weapons in their arsenal to prove liability against a trucking company and its driver. Black boxes, which are found on large commercial trucks (and, parenthetically more frequently in passenger cars) are one of these tools. Black boxes are on board information recorders that can capture operational data from the truck's electronic network. A black box records data from an accident that can lead a truck accident lawyer investigating a trucking accident to a wealth of information as to how the truck accident occurred. Most notably, black boxes can often provide information as to the condition of the truck after the accident. It can also provide information on how the truck was operated, such as engine speed, brake applications, throttle position, vehicle speed, seat-belt usage, and airbag performance data. Because the black box's data storage ability is rather limited, the old data usually rewrites over the new data in a loop. Some trucks have very short loops where data is destroyed every ten minutes. On these commercial trucks, if an accident does not occur, the old data is erased and replaced with new data.

Truck accident lawyers in Maryland need to make sure after the truck accident that anyone who has custody of the truck does not try to repair the truck or even move the truck's black box. The possibility of the trucking company retrieving the black box data unilaterally should also be fought.

Instead, the parties should either agree (or the injured victim's truck accident lawyer should seek a temporary restraining order from a Maryland Circuit Court) to a joint inspection of the vehicle so that the black box data can be recovered with all parties of interest present. While it is generally accepted that the vehicle owner owns the data, the truck company cannot knowingly destroy data it believes is relevant to a civil lawsuit in Maryland.

Some insurance polices contain language that gives the insurance company the right to retrieve the black box data. If the truck has been destroyed or the black box data has been erased, you should still request the information because either the trucking company or the insurance company may have preserved the data. If the lawyer does not ask for the information, the trucking company and their insurance company has no obligation to provide it.

Black boxes can also be used by plaintiffs' truck accident lawyers as a weapon against trucking companies that do not you use black boxes to their fullest potential. Almost all of large trucking companies in 2006 use wireless communication and satellite technology to track their trucks and communicate with their truck drivers. But some companies use this same technology to help keep tired truck drivers off our highways. To prove they are complying with Maryland and federal law, truck drivers are required to keep a log of their hours. As you can imagine, some truckers either keep poor logs or fill them out long after they had a real memory of their trips (defense lawyers for trucking companies have the same problem with their time sheets). But at some more progressive companies, the black boxes can compute this information for the trucking company.

If you are bringing a claim against a company that has this technology, if the black box provides evidence that the driver was involved in a truck accident while driving more than federal law allows, it is powerful evidence of the trucker's and the trucking company's liability. If the trucking company does not employ this technology, it is a fair question to asking on cross examination of the trucking company's designee as to why the company does not employ this technology to make its fleet safer.

HIt and Run Car Accidents in Maryland

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You can't run away from the scene of an accident.  It is a pretty simply proposition that is reflected under Section 20-105(a) of the Maryland Transportation Article.  Under this law, it is illegal for the driver of a vehicle to fail to stop after an accident that results in damage to an unattended vehicle or other unattended property. See Conboy v. State, 155 Md. App. 353 (2004) (making reference to the proscriptions provided for in Md. Transp. Art. ยง 20-105). 

If you get in an accident and the other driver leaves the scene, you have a potential uninsured motorist case.  How do you know the other driver was uninsured?  You don't.  But the law typically assumes that the driver was uninsured to pay for an losses that may occur.  

So, in Maryland, if you get hurt in a car accident suffer personal injuries as the result of the negligence of a hit-and-run driver, you may still recover get a settlement for your lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering as if you knew the identity 
My mother took this picture after my car accident

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of the driver by bringing a claim under your own policy's uninsured motorist provision.. Essentially, the law treats that phantom vehicle as an uninsured driver.

Many states require actual contact with the phantom vehicle in order for a Plaintiff to bring a personal injury claim. Under Maryland law, however, contact is not required.  Maryland courts will not enforce any policy provisions from out-of-state insurers that require physical contact between the injured party and the at-fault hit-and-run driver.

Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Laws: They Work

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Twenty years ago in October, Maryland enacted its first universal helmet law.  The number of wrongful death motorcycle in Maryland dropped precipitously.  The statistics:   motorcycle fatality rate dropped from 10.2 per 10,000 registered motorcycles prior to enactment of the law to 4.5 per 10,000 registered motorcycles after enactment of the law.  

I don't have the statistics but I think it is reasonable to assume that there were less traumatic brain injury motorcycle crash after the helmet law was passed.  

Still, it is worth noting.  You are unlikely to get penalized for not wearing a helmet when bringing a claim for the same reasoning that it is not contributory negligence to not to wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle accident.  (t does not make the victim any less stupid for not wearing a helmet or a seat belt.)

Contributory Negligence and Children: Tender Years Doctrine

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In Maryland, the issue of contributory negligence is generally a jury question.  Judges are loathe to make calls as whether the plaintiff's conduct contributed the the injuries suffered.    
One challenge juries face is dealing with the question of contributory negligence of children in pedestrian accident cases.   How do you judge the reasonableness of, for example a 5 year-old child?  

Maryland applies the tender years doctrine to these cases which instructs juries to evaluate children for purpose of contributory negligence by considering the child's "age, experience and training.'" 

The law begs another question.   Are their some ages at which a child cannot be negligence.   Many jurisdictions that apply the tender years doctrine set out age limits as to when a child is presumed to lack capacity for negligence.   The age seems to very largely between 5 and 7 in jurisdictions that have the tender years doctrine.   

Illinois would seem to have the best law for plaintiffs.  In Illinois,a child under seven years of age is conclusively presumed to be incapable of contributory negligence as a matter of law.  Taking it a step further,  children between 7 and 17 years of age have a rebuttable presumption that they were not negligence.  It is hard to say how the Maryland Court of Appeals would address this issue.   I don't believe there are any Maryland high court opinions on point.

Three Maryland Cases Worth Reading