COVID-19 Notice: We are providing FREE consultations via phone or video conferencing for your safety and convenience. Learn More »

Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

elderlysigningBecoming the victim of an auto accident can have a profound effect on your life. Even though an accident can happen in the span of a few seconds, it can cause death or injuries and hardships that last months, years, or a lifetime. With that in mind, victims of auto accidents should seek an attorney to ensure that they are compensated for their injuries and/or losses. However, not every attorney is qualified to handle every case. Clients should ensure that they receive the representation that they deserve.

Here are five things to consider when hiring a Maryland car accident attorney:

History of Results

2019-crash-300x284Uber and Lyft are the new on-demand transportation (or “rideshare”) companies that have revolutionized the for-hire and taxi transportation business in the last few years. Users download the Uber or Lyft app to their mobile phone and set up an account with a credit card for payment.  Once set up, users can request a ride pickup from their phone to which nearby Uber or Lyft drivers in the area respond. The apps allow riders to track the driver and process payment electronically.

Lyft and Uber are relatively new companies, but they have exploded in popularity over the last 5 years. My sister is in Kenya right now, and she is traveling around by Uber. Lyft, Uber’s kid brother, is about to go public and make their founders and estimated $9.4 bazillion.  Car accidents involving Lyft or Uber drivers are becoming more and more common, and these cars flood our roads.

Claims Against Lyft or Uber

Do you want to make a pain and suffering claim without a lawyer?  I believe car crash injury victims are always better off hiring a lawyer for many reasons not worth fully exploring here (but I do here) even in soft tissue muscle, tendon, and ligament injury cases.

But attorneys’ fees are a lot of money, usually taking one-third of your recovery.  If there is any claim where an injured person can justify proceeding without a personal injury attorney, it is in the classic neck or back soft tissue/whiplash injury traffic collision case with pain and suffering but clearly no permanency.

My belief has always been that the benefit of an experienced attorney can bring to a case is proportionate to the severity of the injury. If you have a permanent injury, you are foolish if you don’t hire a lawyer. (I wouldn’t handle my own case, either. Because that is also an awful idea.)

A quality attorney in serious injury and death cases will statistically get the injured party a lot more money.  I’m talking about the money that put in your pocket.  The same is probably true in tendon strain neck/back injury cases, too.

But car accident lawyers cannot run from the fact that the difference is much less significant in smaller cases.  Some people just prefer the path where lawyers are not taking money away from their settlement. So be it. As long as you understand you run a risk just like you run a risk when you try to install your own bathroom floor, just typically with a lot more money at stake.

Continue reading

Knee dislocations are relatively rare in automobile accidents.  But we have seen several of them recently, so I’m writing today about these injuries and to give you some idea of the potential settlement value of these claims.  If you are trying to find the general settlement value of knee injury cases, we provide statistics and verdicts for you elsewhere.

Knee Dislocations in Car Accidents

knee-200x300Knee dislocations are technically a dislocation of the patella. Our lawyers have seen a lot of these cases.  Our knees are in a grove at the end of our thigh bones.  This allows the kneecap to slide back and forth.  When our clients have a knee dislocation, what we see is the kneecap is completely out of the knee’s grove.  You can see it off to the side of the bone. If it is just partially out and perched on the edge, that is a subluxation or partially dislocated knee.

I have long said it is an open question under Maryland law whether you are required to give a recorded statement to your own insurance company if you are making an uninsured motorist claim even if the insurance contract obligates you to do so.

The theory is that Maryland has a statutory scheme that preempts any contractual obligation imposed by the contract.  I didn’t make this up, I stole it from Janquitto’s book on Maryland insurance law.  (You should own if you are a lawyer handling auto tort cases in Maryland.)

I’m not sure whether this argument was advanced in Dolan v. Kemper, a new Maryland Court of Special Appeals case decided last week.  But if it was, the CSA shut the door on it.

Some of the most serious personal injury cases our firm handles involve motorcycle accidents.  Too often, other drivers don’t pay attention or fail to yield to motorcycles.  Even a minor collision can cause significant injury or even death for a motorcycle rider.  Our lawyers have been successful in obtaining significant settlements and verdicts in Motorcycle cases throughout Maryland.  Our singular focus is to assist our clients in getting the maximum amount of financial compensation for their motorcycle accident case.

How Much is a Motorcycle Accident Case Worth?

There is no definitive answer to this question of the settlement value of the average Maryland motorcycle accident cases.   If anyone spends more time trying to figure out how to objectively understand the range of settlement and trial values for personal injury claims, I want to meet that person. I regularly track analytics on average financial awards for many accident cases, not just in Maryland but around the country.  But every case is unique making value comparisons very difficult.  Moreover, the many motorcycle accident cases — including many of ours — are resolved with confidential settlements that are not reported.

A national study published by Jury Verdict Research found that the average verdict amount in motorcycle accident cases is around $575,000.  By comparison, the median motorcycle accident case verdict is about $75,000.

This is the median.  The average verdict is much higher.  This does not speak to the average motorcycle accident settlement amount because these are cases that go to trial.  But this data is instructive in giving you a better understanding of the typical range of settlement values.

Factors that Affect the Value of a Motorcycle Accident Case

Nature of Injuries

settlement motorcycle

Value of Motorcycle Injury Claims in Maryland

Just like any personal injury case, the extent and severity of injuries will be the most important factor in determining the ultimate value of a motorcycle case.  Comparatively minor, non-disabling injuries such as herniated discs and “soft tissue” injuries have less value.

Example Soft Tissue Injury Case:

Plaintiff was on his motorcycle with the right of way when the defendant turned in front of him causing an accident.  Injuries included a torn knee ligament, disc herniations,  and other soft tissue injuries.  The defendant fully admitted fault for the accident but alleged that the plaintiff’s injuries were pre-existing and not really caused by the accident.  The jury awarded $300,000. This is definitely on the high-end of what you can expect to get in a case involving these types of injuries.  This is a Miller & Zois case that I handled.

For obvious reasons, motorcycle accidents often result in very serious injuries or death.  These types of cases can have a very high value.  However, the limits of the insurance policies at issue can sometimes drive down settlement values.

Example Motorcycle Wrongful Death Case

Plaintiff was on his motorcycle with the right of way in Prince George’s County when he was hit and killed by a truck.  In defense, the truck driver alleged that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent because he may have been speeding and did not have a motorcycle license.  The plaintiff was relatively young and left behind 2 young children.  We ultimately settled this wrongful death claim for $750,000.  This was actually lower than what this claim was potentially worth, but the family wanted a quick resolution.  This was a Miller & Zois case I handled.

Liability Dispute

In most motorcycle accident cases, it is very obvious who was at fault for the accident.  For example, if a motorcycle gets rear-ended while stopped at a red light, the other driver is at fault.  The only disputed issue, in this case, would be the extent and value of the resulting injuries. When fault is in dispute, however, it might drive down the value of the case.

Example of Disputed Liability Case

This motorcycle accident occurred on the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) near the Old Court Road Exit. Plaintiff was riding his motorcycle in the left lane of the inner loop.  The defendant made a U-turn from the outer loop through an emergency vehicle crossway and caused the accident with the plaintiff.   Liability for the accident was disputed because the defendant was in a construction vehicle with flashing safety lights at the time of the accident.  The plaintiff’s injuries included several broken ribs; a broken elbow and many cuts and contusions.  The case settled for $390,000.  This was a Miller & Zois case that I handled.

Motorcycle Accident Settlements & Verdicts

Below are summaries of the facts in several significant verdicts and reported settlements in motorcycle accident cases.

  • Fields v Grudzien (Washington 2020) $31,000: A man was riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle as he approached an intersection in Tacoma. A vehicle pulled into the roadway, stopped, and collided with the motorcycle. The impact threw the man off his motorcycle, and he landed on his back 30 feet from the site of collision. He suffered a neck injury and left shoulder radiculopathy. The man sought chiropractic and physical therapy for treatment. The jury awarded a $31,000 verdict.
  • Larson v O’Reilly (California 2020) $615,000: The 72-year-old man was motorcycling on a state highway. After approaching an intersection, a vehicle struck him as it was attempting a left turn. The impact threw him into the vehicle’s hood. He suffered multiple foot fractures. HIs left toe became necrotic and became amputated. The jury awarded him $615,000.
  • Ortiz v Watson-Brown (New York 2020) $1.22 million: The 23-year-old man was riding his motorcycle in Manhattan. He collided with a stopped car that was discharging a passenger. The impact threw him onto the road. A transit bus struck him shortly after. He suffered ankle, leg, and foot injuries. Despite seeking multiple treatments, he continued to experience residual pain throughout his body. He sued the driver, the bus driver, and the New York City Transit Authority for negligence. The driver’s insurance tendered a $25,000 policy and the New York City Transit Authority agreed to settle for $1.2 million. The man’s recovery totaled $1,225,000.
  • Cabrera v MABSTOA (New York 2017) $5.1 million: The 59-year-old plaintiff was a passenger on a motorcycle that was sideswiped by a transit bus causing the motorcycle to slam into a concrete bridge column. The question of fault was very much in dispute at trial. There were conflicting factual accounts from the bus driver and plaintiff about who swiped who.  The jury ultimately found that the bus driver was 30% at fault for the accident.  Under New York law this resulted in full joint and several liability for the damages.  The plaintiff was awarded $5.1 million in damages in compensation for a number of very serious and permanent injuries.
  • Colorio v Laskowitz (New York 2017) $250,000: Plaintiff was on her motorcycle on a single lane exit ramp when the defendant attempted to illegally pass her in his SUV. The SUV struck the plaintiff’s motorcycle.  The defendant’s fault for the accident was not in dispute, and the case proceeded on the issue of damages.  Plaintiff suffered a broken nose and some dental damage (but no lost teeth) and was left with a scar on her upper lip.  The case settled for $250,000.
  • Corbin v Auto-Owners Ins Co. (Florida 2017) $381,000: Plaintiff, 44-years old and unemployed, was riding his motorcycle behind the defendant’s car when they both came to a stop at a red light. After they stopped, the defendant backed his car up and ended up hitting the plaintiff on his motorcycle.  There was a factual dispute because the defendant claimed he only back up 6 inches and therefore plaintiff was liable for stopping too close behind.  Plaintiff did seek any medical treatment until a week after the accident when he went to a chiropractor.  Plaintiff was eventually diagnosed with epicondylitis (tennis elbow) in both arms, for which he received plasma therapy and steroid pain injections.  Plaintiff also alleged cartilage damage in his knee.  After a 3 day trial, a jury in Broward County awarded $381,044 in damages.
  • Sires v Nilsson (Texas 2017) $4.5 million: Plaintiff, a 63-year-old painter, was riding in a group of 3 motorcycles. The defendant was driving an 18-wheeler truck in the left lane when he suddenly made a wide right turn across plaintiff in the right lane.  Plaintiff could not stop in time and slid under the trailer of the truck.  The plaintiff was pronounced dead at the scene from massive head trauma.  The driver of the truck was allegedly fatigued and had lied on his mileage log in order to work additional hours.  The wrongful death action was brought against the driver, his employer trucking company, and a related company.  The jury awarded damages of $4.5 million.
  • Kadylak v Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (Florida 2017) $1.3 million: Plaintiff was part of a motorcycle island tour group in the Bahamas. One of the tour guides, an employee of the cruise line, lost control of his motorcycle and crushed the plaintiff’s leg requiring surgery to repair.  Plaintiff sued the cruise line, claiming that it knew or should have known that the employee was not qualified to be on a motorcycle.
  • Pagan v Fernandez (New Jersey 2013) $2 million: The defendant made a u-turn in order to park on the opposite side of the street causing a collision with the plaintiff who ran into him on his motorcycle. Surveillance video captured the accident and showed that plaintiff was traveling 70 mph on a 25 mph zone when the accident occurred (a common occurrence in many motorcycle cases). Plaintiff suffered massive injuries from the accident and died a few days later. The case settled before trial for $2 million.
  • H. Pro Ami v Lunde (Nevada 2013) $100,000: Plaintiff was a 12-year-old passenger when his stepfather lost control of his motorcycle and went off the road. The stepfather was killed, and the plaintiff suffered a broken wrist, 2 broken fingers, and several broken ribs.  The cases settled for the stepfather’s policy limits of $100,000.  This is another problem with looking at average settlement data — cases like this get lumped into the pool.  Clearly, this case was worth more than $100,000 but sometimes you are stuck with the insurance policy limits.
  • Lim v Middlesex Corp (Florida 2005) $25,000: Plaintiff got in a single-vehicle accident on his motorcycle near a road work site. He sued the state highway department and the construction contractor for failing to maintain a safe work zone.  Plaintiff suffered a herniated disc and other soft tissue injuries for which the jury awarded $25,000.
  • Bryan v Hanson (Florida 2009) $3.9 million: Defendant pizza delivery driver made a left turn right in front of the plaintiff on his motorcycle resulting in an accident that crushed the plaintiff’s leg. Plaintiff’s leg was surgically amputated above the knee.  After a 4 day trial, the jury in Bradford County awarded $3.9 million.

Continue reading

I met a really nice woman last week who young high school son was tragically killed in a car accident in which he was a passenger.  I meet the nicest people in this job and I always wish it was under different circumstances.

Anyone who drives is very familiar with this scenario in this wrongful death case.  You’re out on the road and see another driver who is trying to make a turn or change lanes.  Empathy is natural because you have been in that same situation yourself.  You recognize that you’re in a position to maybe help them out a little so you back up a few feet, make some eye contact, and graciously hand signal for them to “go ahead.”  Most of the time the other driver gladly advances, gives a thanks signal, and everyone drives away with warm, fuzzing feelings of roadway civility (unless they do not give “the wave” which should be a felony).

But what if they proceed with their turn in response to your friendly signal and get T-boned by an oncoming truck in the next lane that neither of you saw coming?  I knew the answer to this question, but it was a sort of “The Law of Ron” type thing — I had no actual source for my conclusion and a few lawyers at my office disagreed.  So I thought my research would make a good blog post for other lawyers.

I wrote last week about a bill pending in the Maryland House of Delegates that would authorize punitive damages against drunk drivers who caused “injury or wrongful death while operating a motor vehicle.” For whatever reason, the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee rejected the bill which means it is not happening.

2018 Update

I wrote this post originally in 2012.  In 2018, this bill keeps getting held up.  Last year, Senator Bobby Zurkin and others sponsored a bill that would allow for punitive damages if the drunk in question caused physical injury or death while driving with a BAC of .15, nearly twice the legal limit.  The burden of proof would be higher — clear and convincing evidence — making the burden higher for plaintiffs.  But the bill failed once again.

hotgirls3Early Saturday morning, the United States Senate passed a bill that, if enacted, will be a boon for car accident lawyers in Maryland and around the country.  The Senate’s tax reform bill included language which would decrease the federal alcohol excise taxes by 16 percent and lead to steep cuts in the cost of beer, wine, and liquor.  It is a “car accident lawyer jobs bill” although sources tell me this is not the official title of the bill.

The newly passed Senate’s bill would, for example, cut the federal taxes on beer from $7.00 to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels and from $18.00 to $16.00 per barrel on the next six million barrels. I am unfamiliar with how big a barrel is, but I know that it will cut the cost of buying alcohol.

Fewer people die in drunk driving accidents than when I was a kid.  Even though billions of dollars have been spent trying to eradicate drunk driving, we have gained little ground.  Every year, over 10,000 people die in drunk driving accidents.  That is not the half of it.  About 88,000 deaths every year are because of alcohol, which makes it the third leading cause of preventable deaths after smoking and poor diet/lack of exercise.  But we are not talking about just deaths.  Alcohol destroys families and leads to crime, illness, and non-fatal car accidents.  Not for nothing for those who are excited about the ostensible economic benefits of this tax plan, alcohol use slows down economic productivity and leads to job losses.

You’ve met your injured client, executed your fee agreement, gathered your facts and put your file together. Your client is asking whether it is time to settle her personal injury case. Is it time to consider a settlement?  If you settle a case too soon, you are leaving money on the table.  If you wait too long, you are wasting time…. or worse.

Be Clear on Notice and Filing Deadlines

when can i settle personal injury case

When can I settle my client’s personal injury case?

When deciding whether it is time to settle your case, first and foremost, check the statute of limitations.  If you have a statute problem, all bets are off. If you have less than six months, file suit.  You can worry about settlement later.  You do not want to lose your right to bring a claim. There are exceedingly few exceptions to a statute of limitations.

You can always serve the defendant, send a copy to the claims representative with whom you’ve been dealing, and agree to take no further action during a fixed time period, during which it is understood that settlement negotiations will be addressed. Also, be sure early on, when opening your file, whether there are any statutory notice provisions with which you must comply pre-suit.  Sometimes they are obvious — clearly county-owned vehicle — and sometimes you will never be able to know unless you file suit and get the defendant’s discovery responses. 

You can always serve the defendant, send a copy to the claims representative, and agree to take no further action during a fixed time period, during which it is understood that settlement negotiations will be addressed. Also, be sure early on, when opening your file, whether there are any statutory notice provisions with which you must comply pre-suit. Claims against state and local governments typically have provisions such as these, which require specific notice to be given to designated officials.  If you are an inexperienced lawyer or a pro se plaintiff, read that last sentence carefully.  Because “Oh, come on, I’m sure it got to the right person” will not fly.

Continue reading

Contact Information