FREQUENTLY ASKED
QUESTIONS

PERSONAL INJURY

What is a personal injury?

Personal injury is the legal term given to bodily harm. A common example of a personal injury could be a car accident when you were stopped at a red light and were rear ended. As a result, you suffered injuries to your lower back and neck. Another example could include if you have a defective product that is unsafe and causes you harm.

Personal injury can also include a doctors misdiagnosis of a minor bump on your head, that later begins to show signs of a serious brain injury after a slip and fall accident. Nursing home abuse and sexual abuse cases are also included in personal injury. Medical malpractice and permissibility claims also fall under the personal injury umbrella because such cases often involve injuries sustained because another individual or organization failed to provide a reasonable standard of care.

There is no limit on the ways a person can be injured. In many cases, more than one defendant is included and in most tragic cases individuals may die as a result of their injuries which could lead to a wrongful death claim. An experience Maryland personal injury lawyer will be able to assist you in the event you elect to pursue legal action

How much is my case worth/how are damages calculated?

The most frequent question I get asked is “how much is my case worth?” Once the case progresses we will have some idea based on the kind of injury, the amount damage to the car, and mechanism for injury (how the accident occurred). However, the consistency in treatment, and the length of treatment will play the largest role in helping your attorney and adjustor determine the value of your claim.

There are a lot of other factors that are included in the determination of the value of your case. This includes the jurisdiction of the accident. In the state of Maryland, Prince George’s and Baltimore City, they tend to be very plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions. That is if your case does go to court and you have a trial, the judges and juries tend to be generous in compensation to victims of personal injury cases.

Another factor is that adjustors like to view photos and property damage, so it is important to begin documentation of your case early on. You should take photos of the property damage not only to your vehicle, but of the vehicle that struck you causing the accident to occur. It is also important to photograph the crash site and very serious injuries that may have led you to treatment at the hospital or shock trauma, displaying your recovery process. These are just a few variables that are taken into consideration when determining your case value.

Of course, if you have a permanent injury or a severe disabling injury those also increase the value of your settlement/verdict as well. If you are flown off to shock trauma and spend a week or two or more in the hospital, your injuries are more serious, your medical bills will be extremely high, resulting in a much greater settlement. The more injuries and the longer the treatment you have, the larger your settlement will be.

Do I need a lawyer to handle my case?

Not in every case do you need a lawyer. When you have an accident and you have not been injured, but you have minor property damage, I recommend you handle the property damage claim yourself. If the adjustor does not handle the claim fairly, then I would contact a lawyer and arrange to file suit. However, I would highly recommend that if you are injured you do hire a lawyer.

First, if you have been injured, you will be going solo against the insurance adjustor and the insurance company who know how to handle these claims and unrepresented claimants. They will devalue your claim and may try to deny and stall the handling of your claim, which if you are not careful time can run out.

I would highly recommend that you give my firm a call because we are a very experienced and well-known personal injury law firm. A personal injury attorney will be able to handle your claim from cradle to grave. They will be able to process your claim, but more importantly, if your lawyer is highly skilled and has a history of success (winning cases at trial), they can be sure the insurance company is held accountable. If you have severe injuries, disabling injuries, a medical malpractice claim, nursing home abuse/negligence claim, you should hire an attorney.

How should I choose a personal injury lawyer?

If you have had a personal injury I would recommend myself because I have a history of success against every insurance company that I face, as well as extensive knowledge and experience in handling personal injury claims. Personal injury claims are the focus of my law practice. I have over 200 jury trials and over 1,000 bench trials under my belt.

When you are choosing a personal injury lawyer you need to ask that lawyer not only how long they have been in practice and how many claims they have handled, but also when was the last time they tried a case, how many trials they have had in the last six months, and what are the results? If you find a lawyer that has not had more than three trials in the last three to six months, you need to find a new personal injury attorney. If you are with a lawyer who has had more than three personal injury trials in the last three to six months, than you have a personal injury attorney who has the experience to handle your claim regardless of the complexity of your case or the severity of your injuries. Those are the factors I would look for.

If you interview the attorney in a face-to-face you need to see how well you get along with that attorney. Sometimes you can have a great attorney but the individual doesn’t mesh well. Sometimes clients have to change a little bit to meet the personality of their attorneys and sometimes the attorneys have to do the same thing as well.

What are the important factors to look for in a lawyer for a personal injury case?

The factors I would look for in a personal injury lawyer are, first and foremost, how much of their practice is dedicated to personal injury? Secondly, how long have they been doing this? Third, and probably the most important factor, is what kind of history of success they have handling personal injury claims? What that question really covers is how often do you try cases? How many have you actually tried? What is the verdict most of the time?

Ultimately you are dealing with an insurance company who has to decide how much they are going to pay you and whether or not they will run the risk of taking the case to court. An overwhelming factor in that is who you have hired to be your lawyer.

When should I hire a personal injury lawyer?

Not in every case do you need a personal injury lawyer. If you’ve had a minor fender bender and there are no injuries, and the other person is at fault, you need to decide whether or not you are going to hire a personal injury attorney. If you are injured I would recommend that you hire right away. If you have had injuries you will need a personal injury lawyer to handle the insurance companies regarding your injuries. If you deal with the insurance company alone they will often devalue your claim and injuries, minimizing your compensation. If you have severe injuries, permanent injuries that are disabling, have a complex medical history, or if liability is in dispute, you need to hire an experienced successful personal injury attorney.

Why should I pick you over other lawyers/law firms?

First and foremost, we offer personalized representation compared to very large firms that have many lawyers and support staff, where very seldom do you get to deal with your attorney one on one. In my firm you communicate with me, pretty much exclusively. I have paralegals that help work pre-litigation, which is to gather the information and help process the claim. Once the case goes into demand, I deal with the demand and work with you and the insurance companies’ one on one trying to get the case resolved.

Another big factor is that we have an extensive history of successful settlements and verdicts. We do not settle cases unless clients are happy with the amount. If an insurance company is not willing to settle your claim for a reasonable amount, we file suit and try your case.

We take pride in representing our clients in the courtroom, but also enjoy the process that takes place before. We have one end in mind, and that is a positive client experience which can only be achieved if the compensation is more than adequate and the client is satisfied. We have a long list of satisfied, happy clients and 70% of business comes from client referrals.

How much does a personal injury attorney cost?

I am like most traditional personal injury attorneys in that I have clients sign a contingency fee agreement. Basically, you pay no money up front. In fact, if there is no recovery there is no fee. If there is a settlement, we charge 1/3 of whatever the settlement is and if we file suit, we charge 40%. There is an increase simply because we have additional staff that we employ to help handle the litigation which is always more expensive.

As far as costs, my firm advances all the costs. The client is ultimately responsible for the cost that comes from the settlement or verdict. In district court cases this is usually a small amount, however once suit is filed the costs do increase, especially if you have a circuit court case. We usually advance costs of experts, which is why you want to hire a personal injury attorney because we have the resources to pay for the costs up front.

Do I have to pay anything up front?

No. I, like most personal injury attorneys do not charge anything if there is no recovery. However, clients do sign a contingency agreement so that if there is a recovery acquired through settlement I will charge 1/3 of the settlement. If we have to file suit in the case it would be 40% due to the time and effort involved with litigation. There are costs involved in the case such as postage, filing fees, and healthcare fees charged for medical records and bills. We advance the costs and send them off for you because we have the resources to do so. Ultimately, we do collect this out of the settlement or verdict that is obtained in your case.

WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE BEEN IN A CAR CRASH/ACCIDENT?

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle crash you should:

  1. Remain calm and try to proceed in a business-like manner.
  2. Check yourself and your passengers for any injuries and tend to such before proceeding.
  3. Call law enforcement right away. They should be involved to help collect information from witnesses, to obtain information from the other driver, and assist in any type of emergency response that is required.
  4. Collect information if you can at the scene right away. Obtain the other driver’s license, insurance information, address, and telephone number. If they do not cooperate, you should contact the police. Maryland law requires you to provide your name, address, license, and insurance information to the other driver.
  5. If you have been injured and did not go to the hospital right away, see a doctor within 24 hours of the accidents occurrence. You may feel a rush of adrenaline after the accident rather than pain. In fact, some serious injuries do not have symptoms that are apparent immediately following the crash, but you may be sore in the next day or two.
  6. If law enforcement is called, cooperate with them completely. Do not admit fault or impose blame on anyone at the scene, just stick to presenting the facts to the police officer.
  7. You should then photograph all of the property damage, including the other vehicles involved and the crash scene to present where the crash occurred.
  8. Get the name and badge number of the police officers who have responded to the scene. Ask them how to get a copy of the police report.
  9. Contact your auto insurance company promptly to report the accident and follow their instructions for filing a property damage claim. If you have PIP, ask them to send your PIP information and forms to your address.
  10. If it is safe to do so, move your car out of the highway as to not cause more accidents. If your car is towed from the scene, be sure to ask where it will be towed to and how to get it.
  11. Contact our law office for an experience personal injury attorney, Thomas Pyles.

What is an uninsured/under insured motorist claim?

An uninsured motorist claim occurs when a vehicle has struck another vehicle causing a personal injury, when the at-fault vehicle has no insurance coverage. Or, if a phantom vehicle strikes you and drives away in which you are not able to stop them, you have an uninsured motorist claim. If this is the case, you should contact the police right away to report the accident, and to make an accident report. If the other driver is uninsured or is a phantom vehicle, your insurance company will need a copy of the accident report. Your insurance company will need to file an uninsured motorist claim. In Maryland this is required coverage, just like having insurance on your vehicle is also required.

Underinsured motorist claims occur when a driver who causes the accident and your injuries has an insurance policy, but the limits on the policy are smaller than what your claim is worth. Maryland requires you have mandatory insurance coverage on your vehicle. However, they require a minimum coverage of $30,000.00 per individual and $60,000.00 per accident. Some drivers have more coverage than that, but drivers who have the minimum coverage are at risk. If you are in a bad accident and seriously injured your medical bills and whole claim could far exceed the $30,000 minimum. Therefore, if you have enough coverage, more than $30,000.00, you would be eligible to make an underinsured motorist claim against your insurance company. My advice would be to check your coverage to make sure you have enough in place.

What if I am hit by a driver who flees the scene?

If you are hit by a driver who flees the scene, you need to contact law enforcement right away. Make sure that your vehicle is out of the way and that you are not susceptible to another accident.  Have the police come out to do a report, make a statement, and ask the police officer where you can obtain a copy of the police report. Contact your insurance company and report the accident. They will set up an uninsured motorist claim for a “phantom vehicle.” You will need a copy of the police report, because when making these types of claims there are prerequisites set up by your insurance company that you report the accident it to police and that the police have done an investigation. Your insurance company will stand in the shoes of the other driver’s insurance company as if he or she had stopped and cooperated in the exchange. You will proceed against your own insurance company.

Who pays my medical bills and lost wages?

If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle collision that wasn’t your fault, ultimately the negligent driver will be responsible for your damages which will include medical bills and lost wages. However, during that time before your case settles or you take your case to trial to get a favorable verdict, your healthcare providers will want to be paid. If you have personal injury protection (PIP) with your insurance company, you will apply for the PIP benefits. Usually, most people carry up to $2,500.00. However, if you check with your insurance carrier you can get greater coverage if you desire.

Those who have health insurance should attempt to run the medical bills through their health insurance carrier. Ultimately, your insurance carrier will want to have an offset from any recovery made through a third party. We have had great success in getting health care liens reduced. There is one way to look at the effects of having your health insurance carrier pay. They usually pay at a reduced rate and with an experienced personal injury attorney they can get the carrier to take a lesser portion.

Your lost wages are a bit different. Usually, if you are not involved in a workers compensation claim, you will have to seek compensation through your PIP carrier. However, if you have been involved in a work related accident you would want to exhaust your PIP benefits first and then apply for workers compensation. In either case, you should contact the Law Office of Thomas E. Pyles, P.A. at (301)705-5006 for a free no obligation consultation.

How long will it take to settle my case?

We are often asked by clients how long it will take to settle their case. Generally, we do not send the demand off to the insurance carrier until the client has reached maximum medical improvement and completed treatment. During that period of time we collect all medical bills and reports and comprise a demand package to send to the insurance company. It takes the insurance company several weeks or longer to review the material and make an initial offer. The next process of negotiating settlement could take a few days to a few months. My law firm usually allows for a few weeks to transpire before we consider filing suit. However, with certain insurance carriers, we advise clients in advance that suit should be filed within roughly a month after submitting the demand package. Generally the length of time it takes to settle a case depends upon the severity of the injuries and client recovery time.

How is the decision made on whether to settle my claim or file suit?

Once you have completed treatment and have made a recovery, an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to review the medical bills and reports, the daily impact of the accident on your life, as well as your lost wages, and any reports from doctors regarding future medicals to determine what the value of your case is. They will set out to prepare a demand package and provide it to the insurance company and the negotiation period will begin. Whether to settle or file suit will depend upon how the negotiations are proceeding and where the insurance company’s offers begin. An experienced personal injury attorney will know based upon your accident, injuries, length of treatment, consistency of treatment, lost wages, and future prognosis, how to determine what your unique case should receive in monetary compensation.

How does the insurance company make its initial offer?

Insurance companies do not respond with an offer until a demand has been made. Most personal injury attorneys prepare a demand package which includes a letter to the adjustor laying out the facts of the case and a demand for settlement in a certain amount. Insurance companies can take several weeks to months to review these documents and return an offer. They very seldom make substantial offers at the beginning phases which can extend the time frame of negotiations. Assuming there is progress being made every week, lawyers tend to hold off on filing suit. It is my experience that clients would rather settle for a fair amount than to try a case. However, it is my practice that we always let the client know what we think the case is worth and what we think the case would get from a judge or jury if the case is tried.

What impact does it have on my claim if my personal health insurance pays my medical bills?

Our firm recommends that clients with health insurance have their insurance companies billed to help pay the cost of medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident. This alleviates the burden on the client, healthcare professionals involved in treatment, and allow the client to have assurance that they can continue with treatment until they have recovered. This also helps to put more money into the clients pocket once the case is resolved.

Healthcare providers generally take the amount that health insurance company’s pay. The health insurance company will pay a reduced percentage of what the provider has billed. Even if the insurance pays 50% of the bill, the provider usually limits the expense to the payment by the health insurance company. In the end, an experienced personal injury attorney will negotiate with the health insurance carrier to receive a reduction of the lien.

Do I have to report my motor vehicle crash to the police and insurance company?

Maryland law requires that if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision that you provide your name, address, contact information, and insurance information to the opposing driver. It is mandatory that you exchange information to the driver of the other vehicle.

If you would like to seek coverage or some type of benefit from your insurance company, then you will need to report the accident to your insurance company. If the other driver was at fault you will need to report the accident to their insurance carrier so that a claim can be made.

What is PIP (personal injury protection) insurance and do I have it?

Maryland law requires that every insurance policy provide personal injury protection insurance. This generally covers any lost wages and/or medical bills that arise from an accident. It is no fault driven, meaning that it doesn’t matter if it is your fault or the other drivers fault for you to receive PIP benefits. However, this protection can be waived so be careful that you do not waive this benefit as it is necessary if you are ever in an automobile accident.

What does PIP cover?

PIP benefits cover your lost wages and/or medical expenses if you have been in an automobile accident. Most PIP coverages have a limit of $2,500.00, meaning that your carrier will pay for lost wages and medical bills up to that amount. In some cases a client’s wages will exhaust PIP and vice versa for medical expenses. If this is the case, you will want to recover your lost wages first, as doctors generally will wait until settlement to be paid.

Should I talk to the other driver’s insurance company?

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle crash and it is not your fault, I would recommend that you contact the other driver’s insurance company only to report the property damage claim. Do not report any bodily injury claims yourself; you should contact and hire an experienced personal injury lawyer who can handle that claim for you.

What is a diminished value claim?

A diminished value claim is a property damage claim where you are asking the at fault drivers’ insurance company to pay the difference of the amount your vehicle was worth prior to the accident versus the condition your car is in after repairs have been made. It is a claim worth pursuing, especially if you have a relatively new vehicle or one that is close to market value. It is also a claim you should pursue if your vehicle is more of an “antique” stature that you have paid to restore and can prove the value before versus the value after the collision and repairs.

How do you prepare a diminished value claim?

If you are having your car repaired and it has not been totaled, you will need the mechanic to act as your expert. He/she will have to prepare an evaluation of your car attesting to what they believe the worth of your vehicle was prior to the accident and what it has decreased to since being restored to functional condition. The body shop will have to state a value of the present worth and the prior worth, the difference would be the amount you would seek in a diminished value claim.

What are some of the main reasons truck accidents happen?

Due to the mere size of commercial trucks, which include delivery trucks, big-rigs, 18-wheelers and everything in-between, the damage that they can inflict in an accident is immense. Truck drivers face greater challenges than most drivers. Large trucks have blind spots on all sides, make wide turns, and have a greater stopping distance than the average vehicle, which can lead to unexpected collisions.

A few of the major causes of commercial truck accidents include improper truck maintenance,
as well as overloading of cargo, and the pressure placed on drivers to deliver loads as quickly as possible which often leads to driver negligence. Vehicle failure coupled with driver failure make commercial trucks some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road.

Some of the leading causes of truck accidents have been reported to be:

  • Speeding and other traffic violations;
  • Improper training and practice;
  • Sudden deceleration or stops;
  • Driver fatigue;
  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • Road construction.

If I have been involved in a truck accident what type of evidence will strengthen my case?

If you have been involved in a truck accident case, there are certain types of evidence that will strengthen you case. You should obtain photographs of the accident scene from all angles, witness statements, police reports, and medical records to establish liability and damages. You need documentation regarding the truck driver, employment status, and the truck itself. These types of documents also include:

  • The truck drivers’ personal record, including documentation of his or her status as an employee or independent contractor;
  • The truck drivers’ log book;
  • The truck drivers’ accident history;
  • The truck drivers’ driving history including records of any violations;
  • Any data collected from the truck drivers’ on-board recording device;
  • Any safety violations committed by the owner, manufacturer, or other vehicle components.
  • The trucking companies policies and procedures;
  • The speed the truck was traveling at the time of the crash;
  • Truck maintenance records.

If I am in a truck accident, who can I potentially bring a lawsuit against?

If you have been involved in a serious truck accident with a commercial carrier, there is a wide-array of potential defendants who could be subject to lawsuit. Not only would you have a right to bring suit against the driver, but also the employer, the retail company if the driver was hauling goods, and the company who performs maintenance on the commercial vehicle. Each suit is a case by case basis that would depend on the facts of the circumstance.

What is medical malpractice?

First, we have to understand what negligence is. Negligence is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonable prudent personal would exercise in like or similar circumstances. In tort law, negligence applies to harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.
Malpractice is a type of negligence; it is often called “professional negligence.” It occurs when a licensed professional (like a doctor, lawyer, or accountant) fails to provide services as per the standards set by the governing body, which is known as the standard of care, subsequently causing harm to the plaintiff. Cases of negligence or malpractice are filed usually in civil courts to get monetary compensation for mental or physical injuries caused.

What are the requirements for filing a medical malpractice claim?

Filing a medical malpractice claim in Maryland is government by Maryland Code Annotated Courts and Judicial proceedings Section 3-2A-04 (6) (4). Under this statute, medical malpractice lawyers must file a Certificate of Qualified Expert with the Director of the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office within 90 days from the date of the complaint.

The Certificate of Qualified Expert must contain an opinion from a qualified physician stating the physician has reviewed the plaintiff’s medical records and that, in the physician’s opinion, the defendant(s) were more likely than not negligent in treating the plaintiff. The Certificate must state the specific injury complained of, the alleged breach of standard of case, what the defendant doctor or doctors should have done to meet the standard of care, and must infer that the defendant doctor(s) breach of standard of care proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Defendant physicians in Maryland medical malpractice claims must also file Certificates from Qualified Experts indicating that they either complied with the standard of care of that the alleged breach did not cause the plaintiff’s injury.

Arbitration is no longer mandatory; it can be waived, so you can proceed directly to court after filing your Certificate. If both parties agree to try arbitration the arbitrators will decide whether the health care professional has any liability, and will also create an itemized list of damages.

Either party can reject the arbitration and by doing so does involve some risk. All findings made by the arbitration panel are taken into consideration by the judge or jury and are deemed to be accurate unless the judge rules otherwise. Furthermore, if you reject the arbitration panel’s findings and then lose in court, you will be forced to pay the opposing sides cases.

What is nursing home abuse?

There are several fundamental types of nursing home cases. These could include abuse, neglect, and medical malpractice.

Nursing home abuse is defined by federal law as the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with a result of physical harm, pain, or anguish. It may involve assault and battery, virtual imprisonment or unreasonable restraints, deprivation of food, drink, medicine, or other basic necessities. It could also include mental and emotional abuse.

Another form of nursing home cases is neglect. The distinction between neglect and abuse is that abuse is done with intent and neglect is a result of negligence or indifference. Nursing home neglect is defined as failing to care for a resident to the degree, which a reasonable person in the same position would exercise. The standard for nursing home negligence is whether the caregiver acted as an ordinary care provider in the same position would have. Neglect can include any of the following physical or mental neglect, failure to prevent infection or bed sores, unreasonable use of restraints on patients, failure to notify medical doctors of medical issues, and failure to prevent dehydration and malnutrition.

There are a number of physicians who care for nursing home patients. There are times when that care that is provided by physicians is inadequate and can lead to a medical malpractice case. Doctors and healthcare providers do not have the right to ignore or not fully care for nursing home patients. There is a small minority of medical doctors that do not provide the same level of care to someone who is elderly and in a nursing home as opposed to other patients. These individuals deserve the same respect as anyone else.

CRIMINAL DEFENSE

What are my legal rights?

Television shows like “NCIS” or “Law & Order” often show officers pulling out a card and advising suspects of their Miranda warnings, “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law…” But often times people ignore this basic right. When you are arrested you should seek legal counsel right away. This is one of your fundamental rights granted to you under the Constitution. The quintessential right you have is the right to counsel, because without that you couldn’t protect your other rights. Listening to a skilled criminal defense attorney is your number one asset in defending charges against you.

If the officer asks me if they can search my vehicle do I have to consent?

No. If the law enforcement officer has probable cause to search your vehicle they do not have to ask you for consent to search. You are better off telling them no. Oftentimes I see cases when the client told the officer no and the officer continued the traffic stop, issued the traffic violation or ticket, and allows the driver to continue on. However, the unknowing client will consent thinking it will result in a better judgement. You have a right at any time to contact a lawyer and you should do so if the officer is going to delay and take more than the time it would take to issue a traffic ticket.

Do I have to speak to the officer?

No, you do not have to speak to a police officer. In fact, your Fifth Amendment right guarantees you the right to refrain from self-incrimination. You do not have to answer any of the questions asked of you by the officer. This cannot be used against you in the court of law. Often times people who are under the suspicion of a criminal act fail to remain silent, which tends to lead to additional criminal charges.

What should I do if I have been pulled over for the suspicion of DUI/DWI?

The officer has to have a reasonable suspicion as to a traffic violation in order to pull you over. If you have been speeding, weaving in and out of the lanes, or driving to slowly, you could be pulled over. If you are pulled over for a suspicion of DUI or DWI, often the police officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test. If you take the breathalyzer test and it is higher than a .08, you could be charged with DUI/DWI.

The officer may ask you to perform standard field sobriety tests. These tests include the nystagmus test, walk and turn test, and the one leg stand test. You do not have to take these tests. The officer will have to decide, at that point, if he/she believes that you are impaired. If they believe so, then you will be responsible for either taking the breathalyzer test or blood test. If you refuse either, you could be subjected to more severe penalties.

Regardless, you should always be polite and cooperative with the police officer.

Will I lose my driver’s license for DUI/DWI?

Once you are charged with a DUI/DWI in Maryland the officer is required to confiscate your Maryland driver’s license and replace it with a temporary license which will reflect a request for an MVA hearing and provide you instruction.

If your test result is between a .08 and .15 you should request that hearing within 30 days, otherwise you will be unable to do so. The MVA can suspend your license for 180 days if you have a blood alcohol content of that level. You can request through an MVA hearing that your license be modified to permit you to travel to and from work, within work, as well as for educational purposes, and medical purposes.

Additionally, if you are convicted of the crime and do not receive a Probation Before Judgement (PBJ), a DUI conviction carries 12 points, and the DWI conviction carries 8 points. This would exceed the number of points you can have and trigger a suspension notice from the MVA. Again, you would need to request a hearing and a modification to allow you to travel for permitted purposes.

What is the legal limit in Maryland for DUI/DWI?

The legal limit for Driving under the Influence in Maryland is .08. First time offenders could receive a maximum of up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, as well as 12 points, and a suspension on your license. If your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is between a .06 and .079 you could be charged with Driving While Impaired by alcohol. The maximum penalty for this offense is 60 days in jail and/or a fine of $500. Additionally, if you did not receive a Probation Before Judgement (PBJ) for that offense it could carry 8 points and trigger a suspension of your license from the MVA. You would have the right to request a hearing to determine if your license should be modified to allow you to travel for permitted purposes.

What clues do Maryland police officers look for when searching for suspected drunk drivers?

The police generally are looking for erratic driving which includes a variety of factors. This could include excessive speed, driving too slow, following at an unsafe distance, disregarding red lights or stop signs, driving in the wrong direction on the roadway, weaving from lane to lane, unsafe lane changes, and other traffic violations. Any of these violations could provide a reasonable suspicion to an officer that a driver is under the influence.

Should I take the standard field sobriety tests?

If you truly have not been drinking and have not used drugs you should take the field sobriety tests. However, if you have been drinking you do not have to take the field sobriety tests. These are tests that help to officer determine whether or not there is a probable cause that you are under the influence and if it has affected your ability to operate a vehicle. By performing such tests while under the influence, officers will develop evidence admissible in court to support that you were under the influence. Ultimately, if the officer believes that you have been drinking and asked you to take a breathalyzer test, you will incur serious consequences for refusal.

What are the consequences/penalties associated with a DUI conviction?

Driving under the influence and driving while impaired are serious crimes in Maryland. First offenses for DUI carry up to one year in jail and fines not exceeding $1,000.00. The minimum suspension time from the MVA regarding your license is six months. For second time offenders, the penalties get enhanced or doubled, including up to two years in jail, fines not exceeding $2,000.00 and the MVA will suspend your license for a minimum of one year. There is the possibility of the installation of an ignition interlock device. Third offenses carry up to three years in jail, fines not to exceed $3,000.00, a minimum license suspension of up to eighteen months and the installation of an ignition interlock device is almost guaranteed. Other consequences include increased insurance premiums, community service and other probation requirements, and, of course, the installation of an ignition interlock device.

What are the penalties for theft crimes?

  • Stolen property or services of $100.00 or less – a misdemeanor charge with possible imprisonment of up to 90 days and/or fines up to $500.00.
  • Stolen property or services under $1000.00 – a misdemeanor charge with possible imprisonment of up to 18 months and/or fines up to $500.00.
  • Stolen property or services between $1000.00 and $10,000.00 – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 10 years and/or fines up to $10,000.00.
  • Stolen property or services between $10,000.00 and $100,000.00 – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 15 years and/or fines up to $15,000.00.
  • Stolen property or services greater than $100,000.00 – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 25 years and/or fines up to $25,000.00.

If I have a drug charge pending, what are the penalties in Maryland?

  • Possession of marijuana less than 10g – a civil charge with possible $100.00 fine.
  • Possession of marijuana greater than 10g – a misdemeanor charge with possible imprisonment of up to 1 year and/or fines up to $1,000.00.
  • Possession of CDS not marijuana – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 4 years and/or fines up to $25,000.00.
  • Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 5 years and/or fines up to $15,000.00.
  • Possession of CDS not marijuana with intent to distribute – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 20 years and/or fines up to $25,000.00.

Do I have to hire an attorney if I plan on pleading guilty?

If you have been charged with a crime you should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Even if you believe you are guilty, an experienced lawyer will be able to make sure the state is able to prove each and every element beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney will be able to examine your case by analyzing the law and the facts and making a determination as to whether or not the state can meet its burden.

Even if the state can prove its case, you should still hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help mitigate whatever sentence that you would otherwise receive if you had initially pled guilty yourself.

What types of crimes does your firm handle?

The Law Offices of Thomas E. Pyles, P.A. handles a wide variety of criminal charges which include:

  • DUI/DWI;
  • Domestic violence;
  • Fraud and identity theft;
  • Drug offenses;
  • White collar/financial crimes;
  • Misdemeanor traffic offenses;
  • Sex crimes;
  • Weapons and firearm violations;
  • Violent crimes (murder, robbery, aggravated assault).

Regardless of whether this is your first offense or a subsequent offense our firm can help you.

What is probation before judgement (PBJ)?

Under the criminal procedure of the Maryland Annotated Code 6-220 a, a person can be granted a probation before judgement on first offense. A probation before judgement strikes the guilty finding, and the individual is placed on a formal probation. If they adhere and obey all laws and meet the conditions placed on them by the court, they ultimately will be able to expunge (wipe-out) the charge from their record.

Why should I hire your firm?

You should hire my firm because I have over 25 years of experience in handling criminal cases. A large portion of my practice is devoted to criminal defense and I have a wide array of trial experience ranging from murders down to petty theft. Not only do I have extensive experience, but our firm personalizes each case to make this the best experience possible. Unlike large firms, my office is able to devote time, attention, and care to your matter.

One key factor that you should look for in any attorney is there history of success in the courtroom. This is important because whichever practice area you are engaging that lawyer in, they need to be well-known and well-respected in their practice area. In criminal defense, I am well-known among state’s attorneys across the state. I have tried numerous cases in each jurisdiction.

My history of winning cases in criminal court speaks for itself. Most of my clients receive a favorable judgement and often expunge their charges. I have extensive trial experience in the field of DUI/DWI, drug possession, and violent crimes. If you need an experienced criminal defense attorney call my firm at (301) 705-5006.

What are the grounds for absolute divorce?

The grounds for absolute divorce in Maryland are as follows:

  1. Adultery.
  2. Desertion that is continued for at least 12 months without interruption.
  3. A 12 month separation, when the spouse has lived separate apart without cohabitation or interruption.
  4. Cruelty of treatment against the complaining spouse or against the minor child of the complaining spouse.
  5. Excessively vicious conduct towards the complaining spouse or the minor child of the complaining spouse.
  6. Mutual consent if:
    a.) The parties do not have any minor children in common.
    b.) The parties have signed a written settlement agreement that solves all issues related to alimony and property division.
    c.) Neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing.
    d.) Both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.
  7. Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor if the defendant has been sentenced to at least 3 years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution; and the defendant has served 12 months of the sentence.
  8. Insanity resulting at least 3 years of confinement in a mental institution, hospital, or similar institution.

What is the difference between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce?

A contested divorce occurs when both parties are not in agreement as to any issue regarding the grounds for divorce, custody, visitation, child support, alimony, division of marital assets, and attorney’s fees. In an uncontested divorce the parties are in complete agreement. There is no legal dispute on any issue regarding the divorce.

How is child support in Maryland determined?

Child support in Maryland is based on the Maryland child support guidelines which are found in Family Law Article Section 12-204. The child support law requires that both parties monthly income be determined. When this is done then whatever expenses that are paid regarding the children such as extraordinary medical expenses, daycare, after-school and extracurricular activities, and a variety of other approved expenses are factors into the child support calculation. Pre-existing child support obligations are subtracted as well as alimony payments that have been made.

The application of the guidelines will render a child support amount for the noncustodial parent. This process is mandatory in all child custody cases. However, if the parties believe it is in the best interest, the amount determined based on the child support guidelines can be deviated from. Ultimately, the circuit court will be the final decision-maker on whether or not the guidelines will be adhered to. Maryland circuit courts tend to do what is in the best interest of the minor child regardless of if the parties agree or not. However, if there is an agreement between the parties, the courts will generally adhere to that agreement.

What is the difference between joint legal custody and joint physical custody?

Both are legal terms used to describe distinct situations. Joint legal custody is when both parties are required to work together in the major decision making processes of the upbringing of the minor child. That would include religious preferences, education, health, and extracurricular activities. In this agreement both parties stand on equal footing under the law and have equal rights to be involved in the daily and overall aspects of the child’s life.

Joint physical custody means that both parties will share equal access of the minor child. Generally there is a primary physical custodial parent who will have the child most of the time. But, the parties are free to work out various parental access plans. The courts will act in the best interest of the minor child when deciding who shall act as the primary custodian. When the parties cannot agree on a parental access plan, the court will reflect on how the parties have split time previously which can be continued if it is working in the best interest of the child.

How do the courts determine a parent’s visitation access?

First and foremost, if you are a noncustodial parent, the courts will look to make sure you are fit and proper to have access to your child. Generally speaking, the courts would award a joint custody arrangement if both parents are fit and proper and have a good working relationship. However, they will look to see who the primary physical custodian is. If you turn out to be the noncustodial physical parent, the courts tend to award as much visitation as possible without interrupting the child’s daily life activities. If you and your spouse have been using an access plan that has been working well, courts tend to take that plan and include it into their orders. Courts will, when examining visitation arrangements, take into the account of the availability of the parents given work schedules as well as the schedules of the child. Ultimately the court is free to make any determination. So long as it is in the child’s best interest.

How long do I have to be a resident of the State of Maryland to file for a divorce?

Maryland requires that you be a resident for at least one year prior to filing for the complaint.

What is a Magistrate? What is the difference between a Magistrate and a Judge?

A Magistrate is a lawyer who has been selected by the Circuit Court to handle domestic relations matters which will include divorce, child custody, child support, and other domestic related matters. The Magistrate is not necessarily a Judge and is not a member of the judiciary. They do sit with some authority in court to make recommendation to the Circuit Court Judge. It is the Judge that has to ratify the recommendations of the Magistrate.

The Judge is free to deviate and make other rulings and court orders, as they are not bound by what the Magistrate recommends. In fact, Judges are encouraged to make their own independent judgements on these matters. You can file exceptions to a Magistrate’s findings and recommendations, however if you do not agree with the Judge’s decision you would have to file a more formal appeal. But, generally the Magistrate handles the day to day domestic matters, freeing up the Judge’s availability to handle more serious domestic issues.

If my spouse and I own property together what happens to the property upon divorce?

In the State of Maryland, marital property has been defined as that property which is purchased after the marriage, regardless of how it is titled, unless the spouse who is claiming ownership can prove that the funds that were used to purchase the property came from an inheritance, gift from a third party, or was already purchased prior to the marriage. Otherwise, all property purchased after the marriage is considered martial property. The court must first determine if the property is marital or not, if the parties cannot agree on the disposition of that property, the court has the authority to have it sold. The parties could split the proceeds, or the court could make an equitable distribution based on the equities of each case and a portion more or less to each of the spouses depending upon the circumstances.

How can I get alimony?

If you are seeking alimony, you need to request it. If you are going to proceed on an absolute divorce case and ask for alimony, family law article 11-106 sets up the factors. You would have to prove a need of the party requesting it and there has to be an ability to pay it by the non-requesting spouse. The courts tend to look at the financial arrangements between the parties, financial disparities, age and educational level, employment history of the parties when awarding spousal support. You will need an experienced family law attorney to handle these matters.

In the State of Maryland, alimony can be awarded only before the final ending of the marriage. Failure to make a claim for alimony as part of the divorce means that you can not come back later, after the marriage has ended, and make an alimony claim. You must ask for alimony as part

of your pending divorce. There are different types of alimony. There is a pendente lite alimony award. The court can award this type of alimony between the time you file for divorce and the time the divorce is final. Pendente lite is Latin for temporary. The purpose of this type of alimony is to maintain the status quo during the marriage. It does not necessarily mean that you will be awarded alimony after the divorce.

Rehabilitative alimony is the type of alimony that will most likely be awarded. Usually, it is associated with a time limit goal, such as going back to school. The court may reward you rehabilitative alimony for two years while you go back to school and finish a degree program that will enable you to better support yourself. While results will vary based on your individual circumstances, a good range to use for this estimate is an average of three to seven years rehabilitative alimony.

The final type of alimony is indefinite alimony. This is a rare form of alimony that is awarded with no specific end point. You may receive this due to your age, illness or disability, or if you cannot make reasonable progress towards supporting yourself. Even if you can make reasonable progress towards supporting yourself, your ex spouse’s standard of living is “unconscionably disparate”. “Unconscionably disparate” means that there is a very large and unfair difference between your living standards. Alimony awards may be modified, extended, or changed or ended in the future. This may happen if one of the ex-spouses asks the court to consider the alimony amount in the future and circumstances have changed.

What are the factors considered in awarding alimony?

Family Law article 11-106 lists the factors that the court must consider when awarding final alimony award. They include:

  1. The ability of the parties seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
  2. The time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;
  3. The standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;
  4. The duration of the marriage;
  5. The contributions, monetary and non monetary, of each of the party to the well-being of the family;
  6. The circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
  7. The age of each party;
  8. The physical and mental condition of each party;
  9. The ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party’s needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony;
  10. Any agreement between the parties;
  11. The financial needs and financial resources of each party;
  12. Whether the award would cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution, as defined by §19-301 of the Health General Article, and from whom alimony is sought become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.

My spouse has a pension. Will I be entitled to a portion of it upon divorce?

Yes. If you and your spouse have been married and either one of you have accrued an interest in a pension during the marriage, the court will consider from the beginning of the marriage to the time of the divorce, that portion of the pension earned as marital property. The courts use the bank formula, among other things, to determine a spouses’ interest in a pension of another spouse. To find out what your rights are to a pension, you need to consult an experienced family law lawyer to discuss your rights.

BANKRUPTCY

Will I lose everything I own if I file bankruptcy?

If you file bankruptcy, it does not mean that you will lose everything. Under the bankruptcy code, once you file, a bankruptcy stay is issued and all of your possessions belong to the estate. Under Maryland law, you can exempt up to $12,000.00 worth of personal property, regardless of what it is and how it is titled. So, if you have $12,000.00 in the bank you can exempt that. If the fair market value of your total assets was less than $12,000.00, you can keep all of that. If you do have an excess of $12,000.00, the trustee may require you to liquidate some of the assets or turn over some of the cash that exceeds your exemption limit. If this is a substantial amount, you may need to consider filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is a debt reorganization bankruptcy. You should contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney to find out what your options are.

What kinds of bankruptcy can I file?

There are four types of bankruptcies you can file. First is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is a straight up, wipe everything out bankruptcy. There are certain conditions and requirements you must meet before you file for bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will give you a fresh start and it generally wipes out all of your secured and unsecured debts. However, some debts that are not dischargeable, such as alimony, child support, certain taxes, student loans, criminal restitutions, and intentional torts. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy is for businesses that make over $350,000.00. It is a reorganization plan, similar to a Chapter 13, except for businesses. There is a Chapter 12 bankruptcy that is exclusively for farmers. There is a Chapter 13 bankruptcy which is a debt reorganization plan that allows creditors to restructure their debt and to pay it off over a three to five year period of time. This is a highly technical bankruptcy and you need to hire a bankruptcy attorney to perform. This bankruptcy is popular among homeowners that have fallen behind on their mortgages and now are able to make the monthly payments but need help with the past due arrearages. It is also for debtors that do not qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy because their incomes are too high.

How does filing bankruptcy effect my credit?

Actually, filing bankruptcy will be a positive thing. It does wipe the slate clean as far as all the debt you owe will be discharged. You become a better credit risk after filing bankruptcy because you can’t file again for another seven years and your creditors know this. If you were to default on a loan or credit card, the creditor knows that they are more likely to collect the debt through the collections process than if you hadn’t filed bankruptcy.

What happens to my credit score when I file bankruptcy?

Generally, most people who file bankruptcy have low credit scores. This will not effect that. What is does is put a freeze on getting credit while you are in a bankruptcy, meaning that none of the credit companies will loan you money or give you credit cards. However, once you are out of the bankruptcy and receive your discharge, those credit card companies view you as a better credit risk and will extend credit to you.

Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?

You should hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney to help you file. Bankruptcy is not generally something you can do on your own. In Maryland, they must be filed electronically and they are hard to do. You must understand bankruptcy law so that you can file your petition correctly and that it will go smoothly when you go in front of your 341 meeting with the Chapter 7 trustee. There are certain documents that must be given to the trustee prior to the hearing and if you hire an attorney they will be able to walk you through this process.

What is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a bankruptcy that allows you to get a fresh start by wiping out your secured and unsecured debt. By filing this, there are certain income requirements based on your family size. If you own a house but do not own a lot of equity in it, you can file a Chapter 7. This is popular among debtors who want a fresh start and need the ability to start clean. There are some limitations. You cannot discharge certain debts, such as alimony, child support, certain taxes, student loans, criminal restitutions, and intentional torts. There is a means test that has to be applied and you have to satisfy that requirement. Your debt can not be over a certain amount. It will always help to contact a Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney.

Who should file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is for those debtors that find themselves in over their heads with credit card debt or extraordinary medical expenses and need a fresh start. If you own very little and your income does not violate the means test, you should strongly consider filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you are in financial straits. This is a fresh start that wipes out your secured or unsecured debt.

What are the qualifications for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

First and foremost, you must have debt that you can no longer afford to pay. Generally, you must be in that “robbing Peter to pay Paul” situation and your income has to satisfy the means test. If it does not, you would have a hard time qualifying for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It would be a presumption of abuse if your income is over the thresholds that are provided and you would have a difficult time getting a Chapter 7 discharge. But, ideally, this is the typical consumer-debtor bankruptcy for people that do not own homes and are having a hard time making ends meet.

What is a Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a debt reorganization bankruptcy that has a plan. Generally speaking, the plan will be from anywhere to three to five years. Those who file Chapter 13 bankruptcies are generally people who own homes and have fallen behind in their mortgage and have accrued significant arrears. The arrearage is put into a payment plan and is paid back over a three to five year period of time. There is also a formula to calculate how much of your unsecured debt will be paid back. As a general rule in Maryland, there is a 10% payback for every dollar owed of unsecured debt. This can go up to 100% payment plan depending how much equity you have in the property or income you have over the means test. In order to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you really need to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

Who should file a Chapter 13?

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is primarily for homeowners who have become delinquent in their mortgage payments and want to keep their homes. They usually have fallen behind on their mortgage for a variety of reasons and are now in a better place to stay current on their mortgage and catch up based on the arrangements through a payment plan. If you cannot qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy then you should consider filing a Chapter 13. Regardless, you should discuss your options with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

How is Chapter 13 bankruptcy different than Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is straight forward. You file and then you have a 341 meeting and you only have one hearing. At the end, you get a discharge and all of your debts are discharged. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is basically for homeowners who have fallen behind in their mortgage and have accrued significant arrearage and need to make that up in a payment plan. It is also utilized by those whose income is significant enough that it would be considered abuse of the means test for them to file Chapter 7. They would need to file a Chapter 13 and restructure your debt.

How do I stop creditor harassment?

If you file bankruptcy, an automatic stay is issued under the federal bankruptcy code. All creditors must stop whatever activity they are doing against you to collect the debt. If they are calling you and harassing you, that has to stop. If they have filed suit against you, that suit would have to stop. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer would have to file a suggestion of bankruptcy. If you have an experienced bankruptcy attorney, they will file the suggestion of bankruptcy and that will stop the lawsuit in its tracks and lessen your anxiety.

How do I stop wage garnishments?

Obviously, filing a bankruptcy will stop wage garnishments. Once you have filed bankruptcy, you need to contact your payroll department and provide them with your bankruptcy case number and proof of filing. Additionally, you need to notify the creditor of the bankruptcy filing as well as notifying your bank. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you with that process.