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Articles Posted in Accident Nuts & Bolts

As I’ve written before, we spend a lot of energy trying to track down defendants. Not in most cases. But when our lawyers can’t find someone with relative ease, it can be a big hassle. In 2020, people are moving more quickly and leave fewer tracks when they move.

Accurint

One effective weapon we have used over the years is Accurint which provides access to over 34 billion current public records that you can utilize to find your man or woman.

insurance policy limitWhen we get a wrongful death or serious personal injury case, our first concern is insurance coverage.  The fear is that you will prove your claim is worth a certain dollar amount.  But then you cannot collect because there is inadequate insurance coverage.

How do you find out what the insured’s policy is in a Maryland car accident?  In the old days, the only way to get the policy limits was to sue.

This was maddening.  Especially when there were laws in other jurisdictions in that refusing to offer the policy limits could be bad faith.  Insurance adjusters would refuse to tell us saying it violated the privacy of their insured which also made me want to throw a brick through a window.

recorded statements accidents

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 from what 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.

I remember learning about spoliation in law school. I never imagined how frequently these issues would affect my law practice. Particularly in truck accident cases where defendants seem to lose everything imaginable. Spoliation, for non-lawyers and new lawyers, is when the defendant purposefully or stupidly destroys evidence that it knows or should know would be relevant evidence at trial. Under Maryland law, there are many means to deter, penalize, and ameliorate the prejudicial effects of spoliation. The most common weapons, evidence sanctions, and/or corrective jury instructions, are available to Maryland trial judges as remedies to deal with acts of spoliation. These judges have wide discretion to deal with these parties that destroy evidence.

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When working up a serious truck accident case, the experienced truck accident attorney starts with a complete background check on the truck driver that you believed caused the accident. Nothing you find will be admissible against the driver. Having an awful driving record is generally not admissible in plaintiff’s case-in-chief against the driver. But such information may very well be admissible against the trucking company in a negligent hiring/training/retention/entrustment case.

There is one other way to get bad, prior conduct from the defendant truck driver into evidence: let him (usually him) lie about it. A lot of truck drivers I have deposed don’t come prepared to tell the entire truth, and although the case is about someone they killed or seriously hurt, they assume the plaintiff’s lawyer has not done their homework and they can fudge history a little bit. This can make a mountain out of a molehill.

Another place you find the truck driver failing to tell the truth is during his criminal trial. You can sometimes find outrageously good nuggets in the transcript when the truck driver was doing anything he could to avoid a conviction. If you have clear lies under oath, the jury will assume – probably correctly – that anything the truck driver says at trial may be a lie.

More and more police departments in Maryland are joining the rest of us in 2012 and making car accident police reports available online. Calvert County police reports for car crashes will generally be available within 5-7 business days after the date of the accident.

This is that rare development in car accident cases that is a win-win for everyone: car accident lawyers, insurance companies, and the drivers themselves can get police reports with much greater ease.

To get an accident report in Calvert County, go to their website.

We’ve all been through it before…trying to locate either the defendant or the “friend of a friend” who was with our client at the time of the accident. When this person appears to be absolutely nowhere, it is worth checking out whether this defendant or witness is a guest of the state of Maryland.

Thankfully, people in jail are relatively easy to find. All but 8 state departments of corrections – including Maryland – makes available to the general public, information and photographs of inmates who are incarcerated. While originally created in the interest of public safety, it has become a tool in which witnesses have been located. There is no charge for these inmate locators, and new states are being added as they become available. You can choose the state you want to search and it will take you directly to their inmate locator. Some states will show pictures, release date, crimes, etc. while others will only list their age with no photo.

You have located your incarcerated witness, now what? If your defendant is in jail, you have an easy means of obtaining service of your Complaint. If you are trying to find a witness to the accident, you can arrange a meeting and can videotape the inmate’s trial testimony by videotape. This can usually be set up by contacting their caseworker, though every detention center is different. In most cases, you will need the warden’s permission, as this process will bring in a lot of outsiders (all counsel, court reporter, videographer, etc.).

Before filing a lawsuit in Maryland, or anywhere for that matter, you need to find and serve the defendant. Usually, this is a breeze. But in a painful minority of cases, it can take real effort. Tracking down and locating defendants can get costly. In this economy, people are moving more quickly and leave fewer tracks when they move. Certainly, the most complete option is to hire a private investigator. Before jumping into that money pit, one effective weapon we use is Accurint which provides access to over 34 billion current public records that you can use to find your man or woman.

What is your next step….a Whitepages search? Perhaps the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation? Well, that will tell you if your Defendant sold his property, if he OWNED the property, but not where he went. Maybe a Maryland Judiciary Case Search? Let’s be serious, not everyone can be found….you may have a fresh defendant that has never been sued, and has never broken the law. And let’s not just pick on the Defendants. I have certainly had clients whose mail is returned as “moved – left no forwarding address”, that’s always appreciated, right?

In my office, Accurint gets used daily, probably hourly. Accurint provides information that allows users to quickly and easily extract valuable knowledge from enormous amounts of data. You can access thousands of data sources, from phone directories to property records to motor vehicle registrations.