Evaluating Maryland Car Accident Claims

If you have been injured in a car accident in Maryland, you probably want to know the value of your personal injury claim. Quite simply, you want to know, “what is it worth?” Set forth below are the factors commonly considered in arriving at the fair value of bodily injury claims in Maryland automobile accident cases.

If an injury case goes to trial, Maryland law requires that the judge or jury itemize their verdict and allocate the award to economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses commonly include past (and future) medical expenses and lost income. Non-economic losses include the injuries, physical pain, mental suffering, effects on the injured person,
scarring or disfigurement, and any permanency.

1. Fault.

Whether another person is at fault, and to what extent, is the first and most important factor. In most car accidents it is obvious and undisputed which driver is at fault,
whether from rear end collisions, failing to stop at stop signs, going through
red traffic lights, or failing to yield the right of way.

In some cases, insurance companies will look for any way to avoid or minimize their insured driver’s responsibility. Maryland is one of the only states left that recognize
the affirmative defense of “contributory negligence,” which is where the injured
person failed to exercise reasonable care for their own safety, and caused or
contributed to the cause of their injuries. Contributory negligence completely
bars an injured party from recovery, even when the other party is at fault.

A common situation involves multiple vehicle, or “chain” collisions. For example, assume three cars are involved in a rear end collision. If the first driver in line states
that they felt two impacts, the insurance company for the third car may argue
that the second car rear ended the first car, and then the third car rear ended
the second. The insurance company may argue that the property damage to the
front of the second car was not caused by their insured. In addition, the
insurer may refuse any payment on the injury claim by claiming that the driver
of second car was contributorily negligent, or only accept responsibility for
one-half of the injury claim.

An experienced Maryland car accident attorney can evaluate your claim, and fight
aggressively for you.

2. Nature and Extent of Impact.

The nature and extent of the impact, and the resulting property damage, can carry a lot of weight in determining whether an insurance company will offer a settlement and, if so,
the amount. Special attention must be paid to those accidents resulting in
minimal damage. An insurance company will reason that if the damage to the
vehicle is minor, then it is unlikely that a driver or passenger sustained any injury
or anything more than a minor injury. Insurance companies litigate thousands of
cases and know from experience that judges and juries frequently award nothing
or perhaps only out of pocket expenses only, in these cases

.

A rough rule of thumb is that if the damage is difficult to see, or appears minor, in a photograph, or the repair estimate or bill is less than $1,000.00, it will be difficult or
impossible to obtain any personal injury settlement voluntarily from a car
insurance company.

On the other hand, if the damage in a photograph appears extensive, or if the vehicle is declared a total loss, then this will cause greater value to be placed on the claim and
usually result in a higher settlement.

3. Initial Injury and Treatment.

The nature and extent of the injuries is an important factor in evaluating a car accident claim. Many accidents cause neck and back strains, or bruises from seat belts and air bags
that deployed. These “soft tissue” injuries will not be valued as much as more serious injuries such as fractures, ruptured or herniated disks, facial fractures, serious lacerations resulting in scarring and disfigurement.

Another important factor is whether the injured party was treated and/or transported by an ambulance to a hospital emergency room, or whether the first medical treatment
occurred within a couple of days after the accident, or much later. The longer a person waits to see a medical provider, the more likely questions will be raised whether they were in fact injured in the accident.

The best scenario is when the injured party is transported by ambulance to a hospital emergency room, and then receives prompt follow-up treatment by their primary care
physician or a specialist, such as an orthopedic surgeon.

4. Follow-up Treatment.

In cases where the injured claimant is treated at the emergency room, followed by a couple of doctor visits, the claim will be evaluated as minor. Often, experienced car accident lawyers will not handle these cases because the time and expense to open a file, obtain police reports and medical records and bills, is not worth the eventual fee.

People who are treated at an emergency room, regularly see treating physicians, receive physical therapy, and undergo common diagnostic tests such as x-rays, MRI’s, and CT
scans will have their claims evaluated much higher. The most serious cases involve treatment for fractures, in patient surgeries, long term treatment and rehabilitation, and are evaluated higher. Car accidents involving fatalities are evaluated as the most serious and usually receive the highest awards. It is critical to have an experienced Maryland wrongful death lawyer to represent you.

Insurance companies also consider the identity of the treating physician. Does the health care provider treat a high volume of injured claimants? Do personal injury lawyers regularly refer clients to the provider? Was the injured party referred to the doctor or chiropractor by their attorney? Insurers also consider the nature and extent of the treatment. Physical therapy or chiropractic treatment lasting no more than two to three months is considered reasonable. Long term therapy, or therapy initiated or repeated many months after the accident is considered unnecessary or unreasonable and will be discounted or ignored in the evaluation of the claim. Under Maryland law, a negligent party is responsible only for the “reasonable and necessary” treatment of the injured person.

5. Effects on Claimant and Activities.

One of the most important elements of an injury claim is the physical pain, and emotional
suffering, that a person sustains as a result of the injuries and any treatment.

An important question is what effects the injuries have on the injured person. This runs the gamut from the inability to work, attend school, engage in the usual activities of daily living, recreational pursuits, social activities, family life, and marriage. The extent of the effects, and the duration, are evaluated. Often, little or no documentation will appear in medical records. An injured party can document this on a calendar, in a journal, or with documents prepared by third parties.

6. Economic Losses.

Economic losses include medical expenses and lost income. Medical expenses includes hospital treatment, doctor’s bills, physical therapy bills, the cost of medical appliances and
prescriptions, and diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, MRI’s, CT scans, nerve conduction studies, etc. A claim can be made not only for past medical expenses, but also for medical expenses that a medical doctor or other expert states are likely to be incurred within a

“reasonable degree of probability.” This is defined as being more likely so than not so (or at least 51%). The mere possibility that an injured person might have surgery, or incur other future medical treatment does not meet this test and is not provable legally.

Economic losses for lost income include lost income from time missed from work, even if the injured party used sick or disability leave and received their normal pay. This is so
because the law recognizes that their sick leave or other work benefit was reduced. Most people return to work. In serious injury cases, the resulting disability may reduce the injured person’s earning capacity. This is compensable and involves experts to prove. Often experienced personal injury attorneys will have the client evaluated by a vocational rehabilitation expert to assess the estimated income the injured person would have received if the injuries had not occurred, compared with the estimated income after the injury and disability. Next, an economist determines the respective income streams and
work life expectancy, and reduces the difference to present value.

7. Permanency.

Fortunately, the typical person injured in a Maryland car accident undergoes medical treatment and returns to their normal functional state after reaching their “maximum
medical improvement.”

In more serious cases, people injured in motor vehicle collisions are left with impairments after treating professionals have done all that is possible. The resulting permanent impairments are significant factors that should result in a much higher settlement. Life expectancy tables can be consulted to determine the estimated time remaining in the injured person’s life during which they will endure the permanent impairment, pain, and effects on activities.

8. “Horrible Factor.”

This refers to a variety of situations where a claim will be given more value than another case where the injuries, treatment, and economic and non­-economic losses are the same. For example, a case where the accident was caused by a drunk driver with a revoked license will have more value than where the negligent driver is a nun driving home from volunteer work at a soup kitchen.

9. The Parties.

Some parties are more presentable, or sympathetic, than others. Accidents caused by tractor trailers, young inexperienced drivers, drivers engaged in texting or cell phone calls,
will be more likely to be won by claimants. Claimants who make a good appearance are more likely to receive higher awards. Race also plays an important factor. An African American claimant in Baltimore City or Prince George’s County is likely to be more successful because jurors are predominantly of the same race.

10. Jurisdiction.

Some Maryland jurisdictions are known to be more likely to award higher verdicts than other more conservative ones where defendants are more likely to win, or where the
awards are lower. Baltimore City and Prince George’s County are known to be more
claimant friendly and juries more likely to award higher amounts. Suburban counties, counties in Western Maryland, and counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore are more conservative.

11. Summary.

There is no book, table, or formula that can provide the value of a personal or bodily injury
claim in a Maryland car accident case. In the past, many insurance companies and adjusters used a rule of thumb where they would multiply the medical expenses by three, and then add the lost income, to arrive at a settlement amount. This type of formula has been abandoned years ago and cannot be relied upon. Every case is unique. An experienced Maryland car accident lawyer can evaluate the case using the factors above, and settlements in previous cases, to arrive at a fair value.

If you have been injured in a car accident or motor vehicle collision in Maryland, you need an car accident lawyer such as Jonathan Scott Smith of the Smith Personal Injury Firm to assist you. Call now 410-740-0101, or contact his office online.

How to Evaluate a Car Accident Claim

Typically in a car accident case, the negligent party’s insurance company pays the claims for any injuries or damages. In order to evaluate what your car accident claim may be worth, viewing it as an insurance company does can be helpful.

As a general rule, an insurance company considers the types and cost of damages and the percentage of fault among the parties to determine settlement amounts. The types of damages an insurance company pays for include:

Medical expenses/costs. Medical expenses are a large factor in calculating damage awards, and keeping accurate records of these costs is important to your claim. These costs must be directly related to your injury and can include costs for:

  • Emergency room visits
  • Hospital stays
  • Doctor visits
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Medication
  • Necessary medical devices

Lost wages. If your injuries cause you to lose work, you may be entitled to recover lost wages.

Loss of earning capacity. If your injuries have reduced your ability to earn an income, you may be entitled to further compensation.

Pain and suffering. Depending on the type of injury, its seriousness, and how long your pain is expected to continue, you may receive compensation for pain and suffering.

Mental anguish. You may also be compensated for mental or emotional distress caused by the accident or your injuries.

Property damage. You may be entitled to recover the value of any property damage and/or have your vehicle repaired.

Insurance companies zealously defend their insured against claims and can be stingy when determining awards. However, claimants with injuries are generally compensated for any costs and losses caused by the car accident. Your Maryland car accident attorney can usually give you a general idea of what your case is worth after reviewing its details. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident contact Jonathan Scott Smith online or call 410-740-0101 to schedule a free consultation today.

Building a Roadside Emergency Kit

Unfortunately, many people hit the road in their vehicles without making provisions for an emergency. And chances are the emergency, when it comes, happens late at night on a lonely stretch of highway.

More and more Americans commute, sometimes long distances on a regular basis, and having a roadside emergency kit can do a lot to get you back on the road and headed for home. Regardless of how much or how little you drive, every vehicle should carry an emergency kit, but unfortunately most don’t. To build your own emergency roadside kit, some of the basic items you should include are:

  • 12-foot jumper cables
  • Four roadside flares
  • Motor oil
  • Antifreeze
  • First aid kit
  • Blanket
  • Extra fuses
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Tire inflator
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Duct tape
  • Spray bottle of windshield fluid
  • Pocketknife
  • Ice scraper
  • Pen and paper
  • Help sign
  • Energy bars or MREs
  • Bottled water

Some companies offer a premade emergency roadside kit and, while they contain some basics in a nice carrier, you should consider adding to this with at least some of the items listed above if they are not already included.

Since you are putting the kit together to use in the event of an emergency, it is a good idea to test items and learn how to use them properly beforehand.

After an accident, contact an experienced Maryland car accident attorney

Roadside emergency kits can be especially helpful if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident. However, it is wise to also consult an experienced Maryland car accident attorney after an accident. Contact Jonathan Scott Smith online or call 410-740-0101 to discuss your car accident.

Recovering Compensation for Victims of Assault & Battery

If you or a loved one is a victim of an assault, you can file a civil lawsuit against your attacker and/or other responsible parties. Civil cases brought by assault victims are not based upon determining the guilt or innocence of the defendant, but rather are an attempt to determine if an offender or other parties are liable for the injuries that resulted from a crime.

As a victim of crime, you have the right to sue the offender for damages in civil court regardless of the verdict in the criminal proceedings. A personal injury attorney represents victims of crimes in civil cases against offenders and third parties. For instance, if you were assaulted in an office building, the owners and property managers of that building may be liable for your injuries because building security was inadequate.

If the defendants are found liable for your injuries, the court may order the payment of monetary damages to you. Although money cannot fully compensate anyone who has endured the trauma of an assault, it can help crime victims get the medical and psychological treatment they need to rebuild their lives. Civil liability cases can also encourage property owners and business owners to implement more effective security measures to prevent future incidents of assault on their premises.

An assault victim may also request restitution from the criminal court. Restitution is a judgment against a convicted offender, which he or she must pay to the victim. If restitution is ordered, it becomes part of the offender’s sentence in the criminal case.

Talk to a professional

If you have been a victim of assault, contact Jonathan Scott Smith online or call 410-740-0101 to discuss your case.

Bedsores & Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing homes are meant to be safe environments for seniors, places where they can be cared for and protected. Unfortunately, many nursing homes neglect the very people they are meant to champion and, through that neglect, threaten the well-being of their residents.

An explanation of bedsores (decubitus ulcers)

Bedsores develop when continuous pressure restricts circulation to areas of the body. Areas of the buttocks, hips and heels are the most common sites where bedsores develop. Restricted or inadequate blood flow to the affected tissue can eventually cause that tissue to die. Nursing home residents who are bedridden or wheelchair bound and cannot change their body position may develop serious bedsores, which can cause infections and become life threatening without treatment.

There are four stages of bedsores:

• Stage 1 bedsores are minor and manifest as a redness of the skin.
• Stage 2 bedsores manifest as blisters or abrasions on the skin.
• Stage 3 bedsores cause damage to the full thickness of the skin.
• Stage 4 bedsores extend into the muscle, tendons and bone.

Through regular preventive care, most bedsores can be avoided by:

• Keeping the patient’s skin clean and dry
• Changing the patient’s position every two hours
• Providing exercise and rehabilitation time for patients
• Keeping patients well nourished and hydrated
• Using pillows and other devices to relieve pressure

Understaffed nursing homes or facilities with improperly trained caregivers and/or neglectful staff often have a higher incidence of patients with nursing home injuries and can be held legally liable.

Get legal assistance

If your loved one is a victim of nursing home neglect, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help. Contact Jonathan Scott Smith online or call 410-740-0101 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) & Personal Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a forceful blow or jolt to the head and/or a penetrating head injury hinders normal brain function. Nearly 2 million Americans sustain serious head injuries annually, and these injuries break down as the following statistics show:

  • 1.5 million people suffer nonfatal injuries without hospitalization
  • 300,000 people suffer injuries requiring hospitalization
  • 99,000 people sustain injuries resulting in long-term disability
  • 56,000 people die of their injuries

The most frequently cited causes of TBI are:

  • Sports injuries
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls
  • Occupational accidents
  • Assaults

Serious brain injuries can manifest symptoms as soon as a few hours after the accident and as long as days following the accident and may include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in extremities
  • Loss of coordination
  • Persistent headaches
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures

Personal injury lawsuit for TBI

Often TBI victims can obtain compensation for a brain injury through a personal injury lawsuit. Many factors determine the success of a brain injury lawsuit, including the cause and responsible parties. If your brain injuries resulted from product defects, you may have a case against the product manufacturer and/or designer. If your injury resulted from a motor vehicle accident or medical malpractice, you may have cause to file a claim with the offender’s insurance companies. An experienced personal injury attorney can review the facts of your case and help you determine if you have cause to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your losses, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Equipment and home modification costs
  • Pain, suffering and emotional distress
  • Disability and disfigurement

If you or a loved one has sustained a serious brain injury, contact Jonathan Scott Smith online or call us at 410-740-0101 today to schedule a consultation.

Nursing Home Malpractice Seminar


News

Mr. Smith developed and moderated a seminar for Maryland attorneys handling medical malpractice or medical negligence claims against nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care institutions. The program, “Hot Topics in Long-term Care Litigation,” was presented by the Nursing Home Section of the Maryland Trial Lawyers’ Association in Columbia Maryland. Speakers included medical experts and attorneys. Mr. Smith was also a speaker at the seminar, lecturing on the topic, “Using Administrative Regulations, Professional Codes, and Health Care Provider Policies and Procedures to Prove Violations of the Standards of Care.” Mr. Smith serves as Chair of the Nursing Home Section, Maryland Association for Justice (formerly the Maryland Trial Lawyers’ Association) for the 2008-09 year. He also served as Chair of the Nursing Home Section for the 2007-08 year, and as Vice-Chair of that Section for the 2006-07 year.

Mr. Smith Speaks at Seminar for Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyers


News

Mr. Smith was a speaker at the annual medical malpractice seminar, “The Maryland Med Mal Case: Learn from the Experts,” presented by the Medical Negligence Section of the Maryland Trial Lawyers’ Association in Baltimore, Maryland. This seminar included presentations on “cutting edge” topics to lawyers who regularly handle medical malpractice or medical negligence cases. Mr. Smith’s topic was “Surviving the Court of Appeals: Certificates of Merit and Reports Post Walzer and Carroll.”

Under Maryland’s medical malpractice law, a legal claim against a healthcare provider, including hospitals, doctors, nurses, and nursing homes, cannot be maintained unless the claimant files a “Certificate of Qualified Expert” and Report from a medical expert. The Certificate and Report must verify that the healthcare provider departed from the applicable standard of care, and that the departure was the cause of an injury or death. Recent rulings by Maryland appeals courts radically changed the custom and practice that had been followed previously in medical malpractice litigation. Mr. Smith reviewed the evolving law and offered practical advice to medical malpractice attorneys on how to comply with current legal requirements.

Mr. Smith Publishes Article on Breaking News in Medical Malpractice Cases

Maryland’s medical malpractice law has strict requirements that must be followed in order to maintain a medical malpractice or medical negligence claim against a healthcare provider, such a hospital, doctor, nurse, and nursing home. Maryland’s highest court issued an unexpected decision changing the accepted interpretation of the law’s requirements regarding medical expert reports in medical malpractice litigation. The court’s opinion in the case of Walzer v. Osborne jeopardized many pending medical malpractice cases. Mr. Smith published an article analyzing the recent court ruling and providing advice to medical malpractice lawyers on how to comply with the court’s ruling. The article, “Expert Report Requirement and Maryland’s Medical Malpractice Statute (Complying with Walzer v. Osborne),” was published in the Maryland Trial Lawyers’ Association Trial Reporter (Summer, 2007).

Appointed Chair of Nursing Home Section


News

Mr. Smith was appointed Chair of the Nursing Home Section, Maryland Association for Justice (formerly the Maryland Trial Lawyers’ Association) for the 2009-10 year, the third consecutive year he has been appointed to the position. This professional group is comprised of attorneys handling medical malpractice or medical negligence cases against nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care institutions. The Nursing Home Section offers continuing education seminars, speakers, literature, and roundtable discussions for attorneys. Mr. Smith previously served as Chair of the Nursing Home Section for the 2008-09 and 2007-08 years, and as Vice-Chair of the Nursing Home Section for the 2006-07 year.

ADDRESS :

  • Jonathan Scott Smith 10490 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 200 ,Columbia, MD 21044-4960

  • Call for consultation 410-740-0101