FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

PERSONAL INJURY

What is a personal injury?

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.