2023 Maryland personal injury victims will benefit from new jury trial law
It's a new year and new laws are going into effect and some of these will have beneficial impacts on victims of personal injury.
Most significantly, the new threshold for jury trials has gone from $15,000.00 to $25,000.00 This may not seem all that significant but for smaller auto accident cases it means injured plaintiffs won't be delayed by the insurance defense bar's predilection for requesting jury trials in cases that don't warrant one.
The dynamics are easy to understand. Typically an injured victim of a car crash can get a trial date in Maryland State District Court within 90 days of filing a lawsuit. District Court affords both plaintiffs and defendants advantages.
For plaintiffs the District Court has two advantages. The first is that a 90 day trial date is much faster than a Circuit Court jury trial date which in some jurisdictions is more than a year or more away. The second advantage is that plaintiffs need not bring a doctor to court to testify about the causal relationship of the treatment they received to the collision or other injurious incident.
In Circuit court there is no such rule and all injured parties must pay to bring a doctor to court. Medical experts are expensive often costing three thousand dollars or more to come to trial. As one can imagine, many injured auto accident victims don't have thousands of dollars to gamble on their trial especially when the potential verdict is less than $25,000.00.
For defendants District Court has enormous advantages as well. First, like injured plaintiffs, defendants don't have to pay to bring doctors to court either. If they or their lawyers perceive that the plaintiff is exaggerating, they can introduce a medical report into evidence without paying a dime.
A second major advantage for defendants is that they are protected against verdicts that are more then their liability insurance policy limits by virtue of the District Court jurisdictional limit of $30,000.00. Maryland requires that all drivers have minimum liability insurance limits of $30,000.00 which meshes perfectly with District Court limit.
So who opposed this law anyway? Of course, the insurance industry. For years liability insurers have used their vastly greater capitalization to wear down the victims of their insured's negligence.
The formula was simple. Insurers would drag out negotiations with injured parties and their lawyers and then make settlement offers that were not calculated to actually settle the cases, resulting in litigation. If the injured plaintiff had the temerity to sue for more than $15,000.00 the insurance defense lawyer would request a jury trial and buy another years delay and the prospect of thousands of dollars in additional costs.
Insurance companies could hold on to their policy premiums for years longer and invest them. Injured parties could stew in their economic losses and injuries. Great system.
So the jury demand threshold isn't the systemic answer that changes everything but it will result in quicker, fairer results in run of the mill auto accident and injury cases and make liability insurers more apt to make fairer offer sooner.