December 2011 Archives

December 30, 2011

Metrobus Crash on Rockville Pike

metrobus-crash-closeup_296.jpgOn Wednesday December 28, 2011 there was a terrible car accident involving a WMATA Metrobus driven by Lenitta Bryant, a resident of Silver Spring. The driver of the pickup truck--Nkonou Ayaovi Edorh-a resident of Silver Spring, MD was tragically killed in the crash. The Washington Post reported that an accident reconstruction crew was t the scene and portions or Rockville Pike were closed until about midnight. Numerous passengers on the Metro Bus were injured and taken to the hospital.

Anytime a bus is involved in an accident, it is important to determine whether the bus or WMATA was at fault. In this case, apparently the pickup truck crossed the median and struck the bus causing the bus to run off of the roadway. At first glance, it seems that the pick-up driver was at fault for this incident. If that is the case, and the pick-up driver is the only at fault responsible party, then many of those injured will likely not be compensated for their injuries if they do not have uninsured motorist coverage (and the fact that they were bus passengers makes it likely they do not own cars and may not have UM or UIM coverage). You see, the pickup truck likely has limited insurance coverage of $100,000 or less (it could possibly be more). This amount is likely all that would be available to those injured and/or killed in the crash. That is why it is very important that an expert in car accidents determine whether WMATA and/or the Metro Bus Operator was at fault for this crash. Unfortunately, WMATA Metro Busses do not carry PIP and/or Medpay and/or Uninsured Motorist Coverage for its passengers. If the passengers have private auto policies that they are covered under, they can likely make PIP/UM claims on those policies. It is important ot know that uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage applies not just to the owner of the an insured vehicle, but also typically it applies to all household relatives. The lawyers at Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester are experienced at investigating serious bus accidents and can help families of those injured or killed in any bus accident determine if there may be pip or medpay coverage available.

If it is shown that WMATA and/or the bus operator was even 1% at fault then under Maryland law WMATA would be jointly and severally liable for all the damages to the passengers on the bus. Thus if any of the metro bus passengers in the crash have serious injuries it will be very important to determine what, if anything, the bus operator could have done to avoid the collision. Perhaps the bus operator could have avoided driving the bus off of the roadway. Our law firm has litigated many cases against WMATA and I can tell you that they fight hard and don't pay settlements unless is is established that they are at fault. I am sure WMATA has its own crash investigators at the scene. These internal crash investigators and accident reconstructionists can be biased in favor of WMATA. Therefore, it is important that anyone who has serious injuries from this crash hire a good personal injury law firm to help determine whether WMATA has any responsibility for this crash. Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and charge a fee only if there is a successful recovery in the case.

In conclusion, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those injured and/or killed in the crash.

December 23, 2011

New Maryland Judges Appointment By Governor O'Malley

Congratulations to the new Judges appointed yesterday by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. The Honorable Robert Neal McDonald has been appointed to the Maryland Court of Appeals (he will replace the Honorable Jospeh F. Murphy, Jr. who is retiring). The Maryland Court of Appeals is Maryland's highest Appellate Court. The Honorable Stuart Ross Berger was appointed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals is Maryland's intermediate appeallate court. Both the Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals are located in Annapolis Maryland.

Have you ever wanted to know how much money Maryland Judges earn? This data is public information available on the Maryland Judiciary Website .

District Court Judge: $127,252 (Chief District Court Judge $149,552)
Circuit Court Judge: $140,352
Ct. of Spec. App. Judge: $149,552 (Chief Judge Ct. Spec. App. $152,552)
Court of Appeals Judge: $162,352 (Chief Judge Ct. Appeals $181,352).

I believe that the judicial salaries for Maryland Judges are just too low and should be increased. It is important that we pay our judge's an amount that is at least within striking distance to what they could earn in private practice. Perhaps not quite as much, but it should at least be close. If the Maryland Legislature chooses not to do this, then the pool of individuals who apply to be judges will be extremely limited and this could result in a bench that is non-diverse and/or not as high quality as it should and could be. I see this as beocming a bigger problem in the future as many highly qualified Maryland lawyers have a huge amount of debt from law school loans and cannot afford to take a large decrease in salary to serve as a Judge. This is unfortunate. I personally believe that judicial salaries for Maryland Judges should be closer to $200,000 per year across the board.

That said, based on my firsthand knowledge and experience as a Maryland Trial Lawyer I can tell you that we currently have an amazing bench ("bench" is lawyer jargon for "judges"). Nearly all of the judges I have appeared before do their very best to make fair rulings consistent with Maryland law and the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure. I certainly realize that Maryland Judges have made sacrifices in order to serve the public and serve our profession as a Judge.

I have a great deal of respect for our judges and the role they play in our civil justice system and the criminal justice system. Maryland District Court Judges have to sit through hundreds of cases involving relatively mundane happenings like speeding tickets and parking tickets and hear out each citizen's excuse or reason for getting the citation. The District Court Judges that I have observed have an incredible amount of patience and truly understand their role as being there for the citizens of Maryland to make sure that they are treated fairly by Maryland law enforcement.

For more information about the judicial system in Maryland and for access to published opinions by the Maryland Court of Appeals and Maryland Court of Special Appeals go to the Maryland Judiciary Website.

The other newly appointed Maryland Judges include The Honorable Melba Elizabeth Bowen in Harford County, MD, The Honorable David Wylie Densford in St. Mary's County, MD, The Honorable Justin James King and The Hon. Nancy Maggitti Purpura for Baltimore County Circuit Court, The Honorable Anne Korbel Albright and The Honorable Gary Eugene Bair for the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, The Honorable William Rogers Kicklas, Jr. in the Circuit Court for Frederick County, and The Honorable William Vincent Tucker for the Circuit Court for Howard County, Maryland.

December 20, 2011

Personal Injury Cases in Maryland

I am going to provide an overview of the life of a personal injury case that we typically handle at Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, LLC. First of all, we handle all types of accident cases---car crashes, premises liability cases, slip and fall cases, medical malpractice cases, social security disability cases and workman's compensation cases. Basically if someone is injured we will try to help them (but we do not take all cases). We never charge a fee up front and we only get paid if the client recovers money.

1. Date of Accident. When someone is injured in an accident, it is important to get prompt high quality medical care. One option is to go to the emergency room. Another option is to get an appointment with a doctor or chiropractor within a couple of days of the accident. The longer you wait to obtain medical care after the accident, the better the insurance company's argument will be that you were not injured as a result of the accident. (How many times have I heard an adjuster say "If your client was really hurt he would have sought medical treatment the same day or the next day"). A problem we often see is that people choose not to go to the hospital and instead schedule an appointment with the health insurance provided primary care doctors----unfortunately sometimes clients have to wait up to a month for this initial appointment. This kind of delay in treatment can ruin an otherwise good case. Bottom line---if you are hurt in an accident, get medical treatment as soon as practicable. If you have trouble getting the treatment you need, a good peronal injury lawyer should be able to arrange for you to get the appropriate treatment on short notice.

2. Gathering Evidence. If possible, you should take photos of the accident scene and if it is a car accident, get photos of the damage to both vehicles. If there are witnesses, get their names and numbers. Also, if there are skid marks, photograph them. Maryland accident victims should not count on the police to do a complete and accurate investigation. We have found that police reports are --way too often--wrong, incomplete and full of errors (rarely do they list all of the witnesses). Once you hire a law firm such as Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, the lawyer will likely take on the task of gathering evidenec to establish liability against whoever was at fault for the accident. The law firm hired typically advances the cost of this investigation, and would be reimbursed when the case concludes if the case is successful (every firm is different in this regard). I believe that it is really important to hire a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident. Trust me----in any significant case involving serious injuries---the insurance companies are engaging lawyers of their own and investigators of their own in order to minimize your chance of bringing a successful personal injury claim.

3. Medical Treatment. Every case is different. In order to maximize your chance of having a successful personal injury case, you should follow your doctor's instructions. If you are sent to physical therapy be sure to attend your appointments. If you are sent for an MRI, be sure to get the MRI. If the insurance company sees that a claimant is not following medical advice, it will use that as a reason to make a low settlement offer. In my opinion, the key to having a good personal injury case is two-fold: (i) you need to get excellent medical care so that you can get better quickly; and (ii) you need to have your medical care documented properly in a way that insurance companies (and defense lawyers) understand. There are many good doctors out there who do a very poor job of documenting injury cases. It is important to have the proper diagnostic codes in the bills/reports. A good personal injury lawyer will know which doctors provide good medical care and also know how to properly treat accident related injuries. It is important that you do not overtreat. NEVER GO TO A DOCTOR FOR TREATMENT IF YOU ARE NOT INJURED. THIS CAN BE CONSTRUED AS INSURANCE FRAUD AND YOU CAN GET IN A LOT OF TROUBLE FOR THIS. In a Maryland car accident case, medical bills get paid through a variety of sources: (i) Personal Injury Protection Payments (PIP Payments), (ii) Health Insurance Payments, (iii) Payments from liability carrier at the time of settlement, (iv) Workman's Compensation Payments, (Medicaid/Medicare Payments. If you have health insurance, you should use it. Many hospitals will try to urge you not to use it and bill your PIP. When possible (and it is not always possible) I prefer to have my clients use their health insurance.

4. Demand/Settlement Negotiations: Once you are done treating for your injuries, the lawyer will put together a demand package to send to the liability insurance carrier (In Maryland this would typically be State Farm, Allstate, MAIF, GEICO, Travelers). Once hte insurance company has the demand package, the ball is basically in their court. It takes anywhere from 2 weeks to several months in order for a insurance company to review and demand package and make a settlement offer. A lawyer can be very helpful in this negotiation stage and, in my opinion, can get the insurance company to basically its highest offer that it is willing to go to pre-suit. If there is additional medical treatment after a demand package is sent, its important to supplement the demand package.

5. Litigation: If the case does not settle during the settlement negotiation stage, the next step would be for your lawyer to file a lawsuit. In Maryland a strategic decsiion needs to be made whether to file in District Court or Circuit Court. LItigating a case in District Court certainly has its benefits----a faster trial date and very limited discovery. The most you can sue for in District Court is $30,000.00. If you sue for over $15,000.00 then the Defendant can (and insurance companies often will) remove the case to Circuit Court. In this day and age, insurance companies often make low ball offers and some cases just need to be litigated in order to get proper compensation.

I hope this information has been helpful. If you have additional questions about your Maryland injury case call us at 888-213-8140 for a free telephone consultation.