One thing I have been trying to do with our blogs is to give our readers an opportunity to hear from other lawyers. Today, I have another guest post from Anthony Castelli, a personal injury lawyer in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can learn more about Tony’s practice here.

Tony is writing about a topic that is both near and far from my heart: jury selection. I say near to my heart because it is so incredibly important. Sadly, we probably have the most most restrictive voir dire in the country. That may change soon. But I doubt it.

Tony also has some interesting commentary about trying to use the suggestions of other lawyers and trial consultations, most notably David Ball whose work we have written about a great deal.

I read an interesting article in the European Spine Journal titled “The association between a lifetime history of a neck injury in a motor vehicle collision and future neck pain: a population-based cohort study.”

Yes, that’s a big title. But the study looked at an incredibly simple issue: are neck injuries in car accident a harbinger of neck pain later in life after the injury has resolved. So the study looked at the association between a lifetime history of neck injury from a motor vehicle collision and the development of troublesome neck pain.

The answer was what plaintiffs’ car accident lawyers were sure to tell you would be the case: patients with a history of neck injury in a traffic collision are more likely to experience future neck pain.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has firmly stated its opinion: “[t]he trampoline should never be used in home environments or in school physical education classes or outdoor settings or recreational settings.” Yet, in massive numbers, no one follows this advice. Injuries can still occur despite padding and netting.

Trampoline Statistics

  • There are over 90,000 trampoline injuries/deaths in the U.S. every year

This is a guest post by Anthony Castelli, a car accident personal injury lawyer in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A car accident attorney’s primary job is to put as much money as they can in their client’s pocket. It does not benefit the client that has serious injuries and damages to get a large settlement, but after the attorney’s fee, expenses of preparing the case, and payment of medical bills and subrogation claims, there is little left for the client.

The old adage “it takes money to make money is also true.” The good personal injury lawyers know that in most cases they will need to pay a doctor for a comprehensive report detailing the nature and extent of the car accident victim’s injuries, how those injuries will affect the client in the future and the cause of the injuries. This helps drive the car accident settlement amount up, in some cases substantially.

I remember learning about spoliation in law school. I never imagined how frequently these issue would affect my law practice. Particularly in truck accident case 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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In a bizarre story this morning, U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson was charge with felony hit-and-run. Police say Bryson caused two car accidents within minutes of one another in southern California.  He was found unconscious in his car.

If you have a pulse, you first thought was that he was drunk out of him mind. But the preliminary reports show that alcohol was not involved. Let’s put tis together. He causes two accidents. No alcohol. They find him essentially in a third accident because he was found unconscious. My prediction is that the man was either on drugs or, more likely, suffered some sort of seizure.

Let’s wait and see how it plays out. But my prediction is that this is not a bad guy, hit and run case but something very different.

In our practice handling serious car accident cases, we regularly spar with insurance companies over the conditions for “independent” medical exams where an insurance company hires a doctor – usually a doctor they have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to over the years – to testify for them. Some of these doctors take incredibly bizarre and illogical paths to concluding that the plaintiff was not really hurt or, if the injuries are extreme, that the plaintiff has made a full recovery or that the injuries were not caused by the accident. If you are a lawyer regularly handling serious car accident cases, you know what I’m talking about. If you are not, please trust me: this is a ridiculous racket that gives justice a black eye.

It looks like the insurance companies in Maryland workers’ compensation cases want to end run any battles over anything and everything related to independent medical exams. They have proposed a new Code of Maryland Regulation (COMAR), regulation 14.09.01.20, that would pretty much give defense lawyers carte blanche to both schedule and compel plaintiffs claimants IMEs at will with potential stiff penalties for the failure to appear.

Take a look at these regulations. They begin with an insult. “Either party may schedule an independent medical examination.” Gee, thanks for the equanimity but when does the plaintiff schedule an IME in a workers’ compensation case?

When I’m in another state, particularly on the West Coast, I’m always amazed at how far our culture extends. Going to Starbucks in Seattle is like getting Starbucks in Baltimore; people look the same, act the same, and largely talk to the same way (although they don’t seem to know how to say “hon”).

But, boy, when it comes to the risk of accidental death, its like we all live in separate and very different countries. New Mexico residents are nearly three times more likely to die as a result of injuries than inhabitants of New Jersey. Mississippi residents are about four times (get that, four times!) more likely to die in motor vehicle accidents than those in Massachusetts or New York. Statistics can put you to sleep sometimes, but these are incredible. I’m not even sure I believe it.

You can find the results of the study and see how Maryland does here. (Sneak preview: we are pretty safe here.)

As a matter of law, I believe that the uninsured motorist carrier cannot require any statement – recorded or otherwise – from their insured after a car accident. Notwithstanding the fine print language in almost every Maryland car insurance contract that requires a statement, Maryland law requires your own car insurance company to pay all damages that the insured is entitled to from the person that caused the accident up to the uninsured motorist limit, if the “bad guy” has insufficient insurance.

The Maryland high court has affirmed that Maryland insurance law substantially rewrites car insurance contracts and that provisions that are not authorized by Maryland law are unenforceable. This would clearly seem to fall into that category because, if the insurance company is imposing any additional conditions on payment, then it is not providing the compensation required by the statute.

So you can just ignore your own insurance company’s request for a recorded statement just like you can ignore the at-fault driver’s insurance company’s request for a statement, right? Not so fast. The law I just gave you is what I call “The Law According to Laura.” This law comes with an important caveat: it is often wrong. The Maryland Court of Appeals has never ruled on this issue and could disagree completely or limit the coverage without a recorded statement to the minimal limits.

In every state, there is a stretch of the highway or an intersection where car accidents commonly occur. We certainly have them in Maryland.

A group of folks got together (let’s be honest, a creative car accident lawyer got them together) and filed a class action lawsuit against the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The lawsuit claimed that a particular stretch of highway on Interstate 44 was dangerous and the state should have done something to make the road safer.

The trial judge certified a class action finding that there were common questions of fact as to whether the pavement surface lacked proper skid resistance and was otherwise dangerous.