Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

The most common question I get from friends and acquaintances is whether you can sue if you are not injured in a car accident?   The answer is yes, but with caveats.

Most auto accidents do not result in any physical injuries (75% according to the NHTSA). Even when your vehicle is the only thing that is damaged, you can still file a lawsuit after an auto accident if you were not at fault. This is what is known as a “property damage” auto accident lawsuit. If you file a property damage auto tort case, you can get compensation for the full cost of any damage to your vehicle.

Can I Still Sue If I'm Not Insured in the Auto Accident?

Let’s set aside the property damage because I address that below. The question here is do you have pain and suffering in a car accident where you either had no physical injuries or did not seek medical treatment?

In a personal injury lawsuit, the amount of money you receive for your injuries is determined by calculating your damages. The idea behind damages in a personal injury case is to make the victim “whole” or restore them to the position they were in before the accident.

The legal concept of damages is broad and it includes costs and expenses that have already been incurred (e.g., medical bills from last month) as well as costs and expenses that will be incurred in the future (e.g., the cost of surgery you will need in three months). These two types of damages are often referred to as “past” and “future” damages.

Past damages, such as prior medical expenses and lost wages, are usually very simple to calculate. Future damages, however, can be much more complicated. Future damages must be supported by opinions from qualified experts, and they often get disputed by the defense. In this post, we will look at the process of estimating and supporting claims for future damages in personal injury cases.

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.

Why You May Not Want a Car Accident Attorney

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 Maryland car accident 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 car crash 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

In Berry v. Queen the Maryland Court of Appeals held that the cost of getting a rental car must be covered under the uninsured motorist component of auto insurance policies. This is a significant decision that will impact any Maryland drivers who get in an accident with an uninsured driver.  For the first time, we have a clear ruling that uninsured motorist coverage requires the insurance company to provide a rental car.

What Were the Facts in Berry v. Queen?

This was actually two cases involving the same issue that were consolidated for purposes of the opinion on appeal. The underlying facts of the cases had no real impact on the court’s analysis or decision, but they are worth a brief overview.  They both involve State Farm. We have had to battle State Farm many times to get our clients’ a rental car. So it is fitting these are State Farm cases.

Case 1

maryland auto accident lawyerBecoming 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

Uber accident injury
Uber 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

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 dislocation valuesKnee 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 such 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

motorcycle accident claims value

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-Verdicts

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.

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The lure of a settlement loan is clear: upfront money. The interest rate for settlement loans? Imagine the interest rate that Gazzo (Rocky Balboa’s loan shark boss in Rocky I) must have charged. Then double it.  Even the lowest rate lawsuit loans that our lawyers have seen are still unbelievably high.

How the Loan Companies Charge So Much

settlement loans

Victims face challenges in getting a fair loan against their settlement proceeds

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