The realm of Laurel, Maryland car and truck accident injury cases can be bewildering to the uninitiated. PIP, Medpay, liability, policy limits, underinsured; so many terms and their interplay can be difficult to grasp especially if your attorney is too busy to explain them.
To be clear, it is important to be proactive in seeking answers to any question you have and to share all the information you have but it still leaves what sort of settlement you can realisticaly expect as a big unknown and a potential area for miscommunication and disappointment.
So this article will attempt to unpack this topic using hypothetical, Laurel, Maryland car accident cases based upon cases handled by Clark and Steinhorn, LLC.
Case 1 involves a crash at an intersection governed by traffic lights in which each motorist states that they had the green signal. Since this resulted in a t-bone crash it seems undeniable that one of the vehicles actually had a red light.
The crash totaled both cars so injuries are unsurprising. Our hypothetical client sustained whiplash injuries and saw an orthopedic physician after a visit to the E.R. and was prescribed physical therapy three times a week for three months for neck and low back pain. She missed two weeks from work for which she used sick leave. The medical expnses total $14,000.00 and had she not used PTO she wold have lost $2.000.00 in income.
Her orthopedic doctor opines in his final discharge visit note that she may have future symptoms from time to time but presently needs no additional care.
The liability insurer for the other driver initially refuses to make an offer at all which incenses the client as she knows she had the green light. Eventually they offer $16,000.00. What should one make of this " specials only" offer?
The answer is not definitive but absent some way of determining which driver was correct about the green light, the offer isn't as bad as it may appear. Why?
First, Maryland has regressive laws regarding legal liability for car and truck accidents including the archaic doctrine of contributory negligence. While this doctrine is discussed at length elsewhere on this website the essence is embodied in Maryland Pattern Jury Instruction 19:12 where it states "A plaintiff cannot recover damages if the plaintiff's injuries result from and are a reasonably forseeable consequence of the plaintiff's negligence."
Which is to say that one driver can be 95% at fault and the injured victim 5% at fault but contributory negligence may mean neither receives a dime.
This catch-all legal doctrine has torpedoed numerous car and truck accident cases in Maryland and is a particular peril for red light- green light cases. The thought is that in such cases jurors often have difficulty saying we believe driver #1 and not #2, absent some independent evidence favoring one driver's conclusion over another's.
The very real risk is that our client will spend some thousands of dollars in deposition costs and expert fees and receive nothing in a verdict. The next step in this analysis is to exclude the possibility that the client will lose and say okay what would they likely get by way of verdict?
The answer is varied but absent a clear medical opinion that an injury is permanent in nature, judges and jurors do not tend to award much in pain and suffering or "non-economic" damages when the extent of the treatment lasts only three months. In such scenarios in Maryland State District Court judges routinely award lost income and medical expenses and then some monetary increment for each month os active medical care.
These increments can be as little as $500.00 per month or as much as $2000.00 per month but the net effect is that such a verdict might typically range from $17,500.00 to $19,000.00
Sympathetic jurors might see fit to award more for pain and suffering but there is no guarantee.
The bottom-line in this case is that where legal liability is a coin toss and the duration of damages is finite, it is often better to accept the $16,000.00 sure thing rather than incurring the expense and susbstantial risk of going to trial and getting nothing.
Tomorrow's case : clear legal liability and permanent injury, what can you expect?