Articles Posted in Featured Lawsuits

california bad faith

California insurance law is far more generous than ours in Maryland

I’m glad to say that our firm has had several verdicts in recent years that exceeded the insurance policy of the at-fault driver.   In almost all these cases – there is one exception  – we made a demand for the insurance policy limits.    Why?  Because we knew they would not pay the policy limits, and we were trying to set up our bad faith case after an excess verdict.

Insurance companies have a duty to their insured to try and settle a case within policy limits if it is reasonable to do so.  In every Maryland case, we have had, the “reasonable to do so” never gets flushed out because the insurance company does the right thing and pays the policy.
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religion injury trialsThree years ago when Reptile came out – the book that has revolutionized how many plaintiffs’ attorneys approach a tort case – I wrote what I thought was an interesting post about the use of religion at trial based on the research provided in the book.   The premise was that  the rules of Scripture are power rules that guide the thinking not only of the pious but  command authority as the “ultimate rules” for not only the faithful but the agnostic and even atheists.

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pip insurance premiums

Does a PIP Claim Increase Your Insurance Premiums?

Many of us fear – some irrationally – our car insurance rising. Most people assume that making a PIP claim will lead to an increase in your insurance premiums.  In Maryland, they no longer can. This article explains our law.
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lead paint opinion

The Maryland Court of Appeals issued an important opinion helpful for plaintiffs’ lawyers, albeit attorneys who are not on top of their game for getting their case ready for trial. I just got back from vacation last week and found it interesting enough to put down the 1,000 things that I have to do and read it.
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appellate opinion business organizations

New Maryland Intermediate Court Opinion

Business organization law is not my wheelhouse. It is not something I blog about often. But the Court of Special Appeals just issued a new opinion regarding personal liability for directors of unincorporated businesses that I think has implications for tort lawyers (although probably not my firm).

This breach of contract case involves the PRC (Pikesville Recreation Council), an unincorporated, nonprofit organization. From what I can gather, PRC provided recreational and educational programs to residents in the Pikesville area and was funded mostly by the registration fees that the organization charged (think community-wide soccer tournaments, among other things). PRC also ran a number of preschool programs and employed teachers contractually to teach the children who registered.
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The Court of Appeals has issued an opinion regarding sanctions for bad faith claims that has a lot of lawyers on both sides of the “v” talking.

The case’s background is just plain goofy. Mr. W and Mr. G are neighbors who live in Montgomery County. Sometime in February 2000, Mr. W is shoveling snow in his driveway when a man comes up with a video camera and starts videotaping him as he shovels snow. The man with the camera is actually Mr. G, but because there’s a large camera in his face and he’s wrapped in winter clothing, Mr. W doesn’t recognize him. Mr. W says to the man with the camera, “Can I help you?” but he gets no response. Mr. W then sets down his shovel, walks toward the man, and tells him to stop videotaping. After that, Mr. W realizes the man with the camera is his neighbor, Mr. G, and at that point, Mr. W allegedly pushes the video camera out of Mr. G’s face. Obviously, these are neighbors with a history of bad blood.

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A Prince George’s County jury on Friday awarded our client $5.5 million dollars for the wrongful death of her mother because of medical malpractice. The offer to settle before trial: zero.

Here’s what happens. A woman goes in for a cardiac bypass surgery. Her surgeon and two surgical technicians successfully bypass the problematic areas of her heart with vein grafts taken from one of her legs. Right before they close her up, someone (more on that later) places pacing wires on the surface of her heart. The surgeon and techs finish everything up, and the patient goes to recovery.

Keep in mind the pacing wires are a precautionary measure. When a patient’s chest is closed, the opposite ends of the wires are left outside the body. If a doctor needs to regulate a patient’s heart rate after surgery, the ends of the pacing wires are hooked up to a little machine that stimulates the heart just enough to get it to beat regularly. When the wires are no longer needed, they are gently pulled out of the body or clipped at the skin level and left in.

So, after the surgery, everything goes according to plan. Soon, our client’s mother is out of the ICU and in a regular hospital room. She and her daughter spent Saturday evening watching a TV program with Barbara Walters about open-heart surgery, and the entire family makes plans to watch the Super Bowl together in the hospital room the next day.

Our client and her mother reflect on the past few days as they watch TV, feeling like the worst was behind them. That’s the worst feeling. You think you have made it over the hill only to find out you have not even seen the hill yet. The daughter leaves the hospital to get some much-needed rest, not knowing that she had spoken with her mother for the last time.

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I was expecting and got a call Monday night. My parent Laura Zois was at trial in Frederick County in a rear-end car accident case. I got word of the verdict: $291,000 and some change. A verdict exceeding the at-fault driver’s of $100,000 and the uninsured motorist policy of $250,000. This is not our first excess verdict against State Farm and it won’t be our last.  But it always feels good.

State Farm claims are always a challenge to settle.  More than any other insurance company, they just do not make settlement offers that entice victims to settle before trial.  The settlement offer, in this case, was $8,200. I felt like we should have gotten an even larger verdict in this case.  I was a little disappointed we did not. This speaks volumes of where were are, at least in Maryland, with State Farm. We can get a verdict 35 times the settlement offer and still not view it as an epic victory. Because State Farm’s offer was not even remotely between reasonable.

high jury award

Another Jury Verdict Against State Farm

negotiation insurance companies

Negotiating with Insurance Companies

I’m a big fan of science. I would think there would be one best way to approach a personal injury case. But I’m always amazed at how trial lawyers with such unbelievably different approaches and styles can be successful. But it is not just trial lawyers. If you look at the best of the best among politicians, musicians, actors, athletes, mathematicians, you name it; they are all different and approach their craft differently, albeit with some common threads.

The same is true with insurance companies. They all have the same general idea: take in lots of money in premiums and pay out as little money as in claims. For example, State Farm and GEICO have unbelievably different business models for running their business… including their approach to handling personal injury car accident claims.  Obviously, both companies are making money hand over fist.  But there is not one correct business model when trying to reduce the amount of money you will pay out in claims.  You need to know the model you are facing to figure best our how to maximize the value of the claim.  All roads lead to this Rome: you need to devise the tactics to get as much money for the claim as you can whether it is a $50,000 claim or a $5 million claim.

One of my jobs here is to discuss strategy with our lawyers on the cases they are handling in litigation. It is one of my favorite parts of the job. I’m providing strategy and tactical advice without having to do the heavy lifting. Whether it is an accident or a medical malpractice case, one of my first questions is, “Who is the insurance company?” (and “What are the policy limits?). Because you have to have some idea of who you are dealing with in trying to settle or even when you know you will try the case.

State Farm and Nationwide, for example, could have different approaches to personal injury cases. At Nationwide, a verdict that exceeds the policy limits by a $1 is a federal case. Alarms go off, file audits are conducted, and the world gets turned upside down. At State Farm, they call a day like this Tuesday.  It is just an ordinary thing that happens. This is a critical thing that you need to know when you are going into settlement negotiations.

Where to Find Detailed Analysis of the Insurance Company You are Facing

Below, I have analyzed the insurance companies/adjusting companies we deal with in 97% of the motor vehicle accident cases we handle. You can find it here. Jump on the first link at the top and locate the insurance company you are dealing with on your claim or just look for the box that lists the major insurers at the top of the page.

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