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Recorded Statements

recordedstatements

Recorded Statements Rarely Help

I’m getting another case ready for trial where I have to explain honest and consistent statements given in good faith to the insurance company that their lawyer is not trying to take completely out of context to make them stand for something very different than I originally contemplated.

The answer, as always, is don’t give a recorded statement to the at-fault carrier. This rule should be followed in 98% of the cases I have prepared where a statement was given.

The insurance companies lure you in with the idea that “C’mon, you are a honest person. Can you just tell us what happened so we can help you?” It is a hard proposition to turn down. But, ultimately, if you are 100% honest you are still going to get a raw deal at trial because the insurance company is going to take those statements completely out of context, just like they do with you deposition testimony. (And, let’s be honest, we do it to defendants, too.)

The answer is avoid a recorded statement absent a law or other compelling reason.

Devices to Protect Infants in Cars Just Don’t Work

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a study this week, showing that three separate devices designed specifically to alert drivers when infants and children are left alone in a car do not work properly. Part of a campaign to raise awareness and prevent heatstroke, the study results say that these devices are unreliable when used on their own.

According to the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences, in 2012, 15 children and infants have died from hyperthermia from being left alone in a vehicle. Since 1998, almost 550 children have died, half of them under the age of two years old. These tragic deaths are unnecessary and several companies released products that are supposed to alert the driver if he or she walks away from the vehicle without extracting the child.

Three of those devices were tested by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. They tested the ChildMinder Smart Clip System, the ChildMinder Smart Pad, and the Suddenly Safe Pressure Pad. The main problem they discovered was that carseats with lots of padding made it hard for the sensor to work properly.

Another problem was when the clip system would beep or malfunction, users frequently turned it off, which makes it useless. In sum, the whole thing is a mess that does not work. Nice idea, thought.

By the way, I have been out of the blogging business and we made some structural changes to our blog. They are fixed and I am back!

Stopping Texting and Handheld Phone While Driving

This is a great way to stop people from texting and using handheld phones while driving.
On the other hand, is a call or a text at a stop light a big deal? They are tough in Canada.

10% Contributory Negligence as a Matter of Law?

The Louisiana Supreme Court this week overturned a jury’s verdict in a sidewalk slip and fall case. The court found that, as a matter of law, the defect on the sidewalk did not present an unreasonable risk of harm.

For slip and fall cases, plaintiffs’ lawyers want the story to begin in a good way. This one does: “Plaintiff was walking home from church when….” As she was walking, Plaintiff slipped and fell on a section of sidewalk and sustained a comminuted fracture of the radius of her right arm.

The sidewalk ran into a driveway. Two sections had become, or were installed, depressed in relation to the rest of the sidewalk . So they sat a few inches lower than the remaining sidewalk. The elevation change was approximately one-and-one-quarter to one-and-one-half inch in addition to the elevation change created by the depression.

In a bench trial, the municipality was found by the judge to be 100 percent at fault for the accident. Plaintiff was awarded $346,214.39 in damages: She had $56,616.17 in past and future medical expenses, and about $57,000 in past and future – mostly future – lost wages.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals of Louisiana affirmed the portion of the trial court’s ruling that provided that the elevated differential created an unreasonable risk of harm, but it amended the judgment to attribute 10 percent fault to plaintiff. I find this pretty bizarre. As the court points out, the allocation of fault is not an exact science but, instead, is the search for an acceptable range that a reasonable finder of fact could have found.

Okay, so the trial judge was not reasonable in finding 0% but 10% is reasonable? That’s goofy and it flies in the fact of the court’s understanding that this is not an exact science. But the court found that plaintiffs’ own expert believed that the plaintiff had “probably been lulled into inattention” and seemed to anchor its opinion on this fact and the fact that plaintiff could have seen what was in front of her had she been looking.

With our contributory negligence rule in Maryland, this same holding would be that plaintiff cannot recover as a matter of law in this type of slip and fall case.

You can find the full opinion here.

Barron Hilton DWI Verdict

Barron Hilton got hit with a $4.9 million verdict after he hit a gas station attendant while he was driving drunk.

The news media identifies Barron Hilton as “the brother of Paris Hilton.” Crazy, right? His great grandfather builds an empire to the point where everyone knows the name Hilton yet he is identified as “Paris’ brother.”

Anyway, Barron did something he shouldn’t do, namely get drunk and hurt someone really bad. His blood-alcohol level registered .14%. He was 18 at the time. You deserve a pass for almost anything at 18. But someone is permanently disabled because he went out and got wasted. So senseless. His driver couldn’t take him home?

Not mentioned: how much insurance coverage there was. Obviously, there are assets behind the claim but I wonder if the insurance company tendered the limits. Even the ultra rich rarely have car insurance policies that exceed $2 million.

Accident News

  • Several Baltimore police officers were steering drivers who had been in accidents to a towing company from which they got kickbacks.
  • SCOTUS term not so good for consumers and accident victims. Gasp.

We Need More Women Drivers

When a couple goes out to dinner or whatever, who drives? Even among progressive people, the man usually drives.

This is probably a bad idea. Here’s why, according to accident statistics (source – Google statistics that seem legit):

  • Men are 77 percent more likely than women to die in a car accident. Before you say anything, this is based on miles driven. So it builds in the math the fact that men drive more often.
  • And while the study found that the highway death rate was higher for an 82 year-old woman, she is less likely to have an accident on the road than a 17 year-old boy
  • Women are 50 percent less likely to get a DWI
  • Women are 10 percent less likely to get a moving violation
  • Men get in 25 percent more accidents while looking at themselves in the rear view or shade mirrors

I only made up the last one. The bottom line is in driving down the road separated by a double yellow line, I’d breathe a little easier if I knew that driver was a woman.

Bus Accident Verdict

“Hey, I got a call today on a great bus accident case.” Honestly, accident attorneys don’t say this too often. The vast majority of intakes in bus accident cases are not meaningful claims worth pursuing. If you throw in the phrase “client fell getting off the bus”, the chances of that claim being a case are about the same as Brett Favre winning the husband of the year award.

But there is a reason why smart lawyers listen to the whole story. A California jury awarded a man $6.4 million in a lawsuit stemming from brain injuries he suffered getting off of a bus. The man, tragically already a quadriplegic, was dropped while getting off the bus, causing a severe brain injury. Under California’s comparative negligence, the city will pay 17 percent of the damages and the bus company will pick up the balance. In Maryland, both would be jointly and severally liable because they are both proximate causes.

MAMSI v. Wu

I have been trying for a while to find the time to summarize MAMSI v. Wu, a Maryland Court of Appeals opinion holding that health insurance companies may make benefits secondary to PIP benefits available for medical bills suffered in a car accident. You can read the full opinion here.

Atlanta Auto Accident Lawyer

If this blog is named Maryland Accident Lawyer, why are our lawyers talking about car accident cases in Atlanta? We are based in Maryland, not Atlanta. Our car accident cases are always going to be predominantly from Maryland. But we do have a lawyer who is a member of the bar in Georgia and we are looking to expand our practice to be competitive nationally.

To be honest, our lawyers are not looking for soft tissue injury car accident cases in Atlanta. If you call with one of those, we are most likely going to refer you to a local Atlanta car accident lawyer who is qualified to handle your claim. We are looking to get involved with clients who have extremely serious injuries from a car accident in the Atlanta area. Actually, we are looking at the entire state of Georgia, but certainly the bulk of the serious injury cases are going to come from the greater Atlanta area, which also has jury pools more conducive to large jury verdicts.

Towards this end in Atlanta, we have started an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer page on our website summarizing car accident law in Georgia. I think it is informative and I think it is the most comprehensive summary of law as it relates not only to auto accident cases in Atlanta but to malpractice and products liability claims in Georgia – cases that we will also be putting on our radar screen.