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In the context of auto accident insurance claims, the acronym SIU refers to “Special Investigation Unit.” All the big auto insurance companies have an SIU of some type. The primary purpose of these investigation teams is to uncover fraudulent claims activity in auto accident cases.

siu claimsInsurance companies seem to think that auto accident claim fraud is widespread and pervasive. I disagree with this view as to how prevalent claims fraud is. However, there is no dispute that many car accident claimants either exaggerate their injuries or even make them up entirely.

What is an SIU?

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.

MillerAndZoisLogo-150x150When 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.

More states are joining Maryland are creating laws against using handheld devices in cars. In turn, automakers are rapidly developing new hands-free technology to assist drivers with texts, calls, and navigation by using voice commands or touch screens.

Is this a good thing?  Certainly, these interactive programs in vehicles are supposed to make it easier for drivers to multitask without losing their focus on the road. However, a new study has come out that suggests these new “infotainment” systems may increase the risk of car accidents in older drivers by limiting their response time and causing distractions while driving.

The New Report

The Maryland high court granted certiorari in an unreported Court of Special Appeals opinion that has great ramifications for Maryland accident lawyers and their clients.

Facts of Dackman v. Robinson

This is a lead paint case.  The plaintiff alleged a brain injury as a result of lead paint exposure at the defendant’s property.  At the close of discovery, Dackman filed a motion for summary judgment claiming there was no dispute of material fact because the plaintiff did not adequately meet his burden of establishing that his elevated blood lead levels were from exposure at the defendant’s property.

In Gables Construction, Inc. v. Red Coats, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals earlier this month addressed the issue of whether a party can be liable for contribution as a joint tortfeasor even if that party was able to avoid direct liability because of it passed along its responsibility in a contractual waiver of subrogation.

In other words, can you sneak out of responsibility as a joint tortfeasor if someone else has accepted your responsibility for the loss?   This is the first time a Maryland court has ever addressed this issue.

Facts of Gable Construction

All litigation attorneys in Maryland are probably very familiar with the Maryland Pattern Jury Instructions (“MPJI”). The MPJI published by the Maryland State Bar Association through the efforts of a special MSBA committee comprised of practitioners.

Both the Criminal and Civil MPJI are widely used by judges across the state to give written instructions to juries. The Court of Appeals has repeatedly clarified that the Pattern Jury Instructions have “no official status” and trial courts are not obligated to use or adopted them. Armacost v. Davis (Md.2019) However, the reality is that the MPJI are universally relied on by judges and attorneys alike when instructing juries.

The Maryland Pattern Jury Instructions are intended to provide short, understandable, and accurate statements of certain points of law in Maryland. The original version of the Pattern Jury Instructions was first published back in the 1980s. Since then the MPJI has been periodically revised and republished to reflect significant changes and developments in Maryland law. The most recent revision of the MPJI is the 5th Edition which the MSBA published in the fall of 2017. Among the many changes and revisions in the 5th Edition of the MPJI is a new definition of proximate causation at § 19:10.

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Pedestrian Deaths Rose in 2018

Pedestrian deaths in Maryland jumped 25 percent in 2018 to a 28-year high.  We had 48 pedestrian deaths in 2017 and that jumped to 60 in 2018.

We are not the only ones.  The national average is also at a 28-year high, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association report published Thursday.

Our law firm handles a lot of brain injury cases, both from childbirth and from traumatic collisions like a car or truck accident.  Below are questions we are frequently asked about these claims.

Traumatic brain injury overview

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by force impact or force to the head disrupting normal brain activity and causing neurologic damage. TBIs account for about 30% of injury deaths in the United States. According to the CDC, about 153 people die from TBI-related injuries every day in the United States.

snowbaltimore-300x141It is not explicitly illegal, but it is recommended by all jurisdictions that you should clear snow off your car. The driver’s manuals in Maryland and Virginia both include snow removal.

Is there a Maryland law that says that you should not be able to have snow on your car so it does not come flying off and blind me?   Sort of.  Transportation Code §21-1104 states that a person may not drive a vehicle if obstructs the driver’s view of the front or sides of the vehicle. They may not drive a vehicle if it interferes with the control of the driver’s. However, the law would likely have a broad application in cases involving snow on top of cars. But no one will pull you over for having too much snow on your case.

About a decade ago, the D.C. city council approved legislation that required drivers to remove snow and ice from their vehicles. However, the law never became permanent.