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Do You Really Know Your Automobile Insurance Policy? – Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

The State of Maryland requires any person who is operates a vehicle upon the roadways of the State to be insured. There are many different types of insurance offered by many different companies licensed to sell insurance in the State. Knowing more about the types of coverage offered to you is something that should be considered before you are involved in any type of automobile accident.

One of the most common questions asked by an injured party after an automobile accident relates to how their medical bills and/or lost wages will be paid. One such source of payment is through Personal Injury Protection (often referred to as P.I.P). Maryland law states that Personal Injury Protection coverage is a mandatory offering by insurance companies when issuing policies in the State of Maryland. Personal Injury Protection coverage is a type of first party coverage, meaning that you purchase the coverage for your own benefit or for the benefit of the passengers in your vehicle. All vehicles are covered by Personal Injury Protection unless the owner has specifically signed a waiver of Personal Injury Protection when purchasing their policy. That waiver is not binding on the passengers in the vehicle, unless they either reside with a person who has waived Personal Injury Protection coverage or they elected, in their own separate automobile insurance policy, to waive Personal Injury Protection.

A person who is eligible for Personal Injury Protection benefits has a minimum of $2,500.00 in coverage to use as explained below. Some companies offer higher limits at an increased cost to the policy holder. It is not uncommon for insurance companies to offer $5,000.00 or $10,000.00 in coverage. It is important to note that just because a person has $2,500.00 in Personal Injury Protection coverage does not mean the insurance company will write the injured party a check for $2,500.00. The amount of coverage represents a MAXIMUM amount the insurance company will pay. Should you be entitled to a lesser amount, the insurance company may keep the unused portion of the policy.

Personal Injury Protection is used to pay for a person’s medical, hospital and lost wages. Maryland Code, Insurance §19-505(b)(2) sets forth what is covered under Personal Injury Protection policies:

“(i) payment of all reasonable and necessary expenses that arise from a motor vehicle accident and that are incurred within 3 years after the accident for necessary prosthetic devices and ambulance, dental, funeral, hospital, medical, professional nursing, surgical, and X-ray services;
(ii) payment of benefits for 85% of income lost:
1. within 3 years after, and resulting from, a motor vehicle accident;
2. by an injured individual who was earning or producing income when
the accident occurred; and
(iii) payments made in reimbursement of reasonable and necessary expenses incurred within 3 years after a motor vehicle accident for essential services ordinarily performed for the care and maintenance of the family or family household by an individual who was injured in the accident and not earning or producing income when the accident occurred.” Md. Code Ann., Ins. § 19-505 (West).

The purpose of the Personal Injury Protection statute and resulting coverage are to minimize the financial burdens placed upon a person injured in an automobile accident. Personal Injury Protection is a no-fault insurance, meaning that even if the accident was your fault, you can recover the benefits listed above (as long as you are not excluded by waiving coverage or for any of the exclusions listed in the statute). Most companies require you fill out an Application of Benefits in order to qualify for Personal Injury Protection. Completing the forms can be tricky and time-consuming. Also, the information included in the Application may be used against you in the future. That is why it is recommended that you seek the assistance of a competent attorney prior to completing the Application for Benefits.

The amount of Personal Injury Protection coverage available to you after an accident depends upon the amount of coverage that you chose at the time you obtained your insurance. While it may cost a few dollars more a month on your premium, having Personal Injury Protection available to you following an accident can not only save you money, it can save you the stress of having outstanding bills and creditors looming over you. That is why it is important to check with your insurance agent to ensure that you carry an adequate amount of Personal Injury Protection coverage before it is too late.


My Neighbor is Being Such a Nuisance!

Under Maryland law a “nuisance” is an interference with the enjoyment of one’s property when that interference is substantial and unreasonable such that it would be offensive or inconvenient to the normal person. A “nuisance per se” is an act, occupation, or structure which is a nuisance at all times and under any circumstances regardless of location or surroundings. “Nuisance in fact” is an act, occupation, or structure, not a nuisance per se, but one which becomes a nuisance by reason of the circumstances, location, or surroundings; for example, noise can become a nuisance if it is substantial and unreasonable.

A Maryland Court was called to address the issue of whether cigarette smoking was either a “nuisance per se” or “nuisance in fact.”  In the case of Schuman v. Greenbelt Homes, Inc. 212 Md. App. 451 (2013), Plaintiff, an Owner of unit in housing cooperative, brought action against the cooperative housing association for, among other things, nuisance. Plaintiff alleged that a neighbor’s smoking, on his balcony, for up to an hour and a half each evening, caused secondhand cigarette smoke to enter his patio and home and constituted a nuisance.  The Court held that tobacco smoke did not constitute a nuisance per se. The Court further held that under the facts of that case, the cigarette smoking did not constitute a nuisance in fact because the Plaintiff could prevent any offensive odor from secondhand smoke from entering his home by closing window and turning on a fan. The only inconveniences to the Plaintiff were that he could not sit on his porch for up to an hour and a half each evening and had to shut his windows at that time. The Court further found that the limited smoking would not cause physical discomfort and annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities, nor would it seriously interfere with the comfort and enjoyment of the average person’s home.

While the Schuman Court did not find the existence of a nuisance under that set of facts, a nuisance in fact is determined on a case by case basis and dependant upon each distinct set of circumstances.

But I Didn’t Get My Day in Court! Collateral Estoppel Versus Due Process

Collateral estoppel is the legal term for the proposition that a Court will not make a decision on the same issue more than once. This theory serves the purpose of avoiding the expense of multiple lawsuits, conserves judicial resources, and generally inspires confidence in the judicial system by minimizing the possibilities of inconsistent decisions.

Collateral estoppel can sometimes raise constitutional issues with respect to due process, when a person was not a party to the earlier litigation. Due Process is a person’s constitutional right to have their case heard. Maryland law does not permit a person’s due process rights to be violated because of collateral estoppel. Maryland Courts have held that findings adverse to nonparties in an earlier litigation cannot be binding upon them. 

This issue was addressed in the case of Bryan v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, 205 Md. App. 587 (2012). In the Bryan case, Plaintiffs, a driver and three passengers, who were Maryland residents, were involved in a motor vehicle accident in New York. Plaintiffs contend that a phantom vehicle changed lanes, cutting off their vehicle and causing their vehicle to collide with two other vehicles.  The driver of Plaintiffs’ vehicle was sued for personal injuries by the driver of one of the other vehicles with which his vehicle collided. None of the passengers were parties to the New York lawsuit. The New York court found that the driver of Plaintiffs’ vehicle, not a phantom vehicle, was at fault for the accident. Subsequent to the New York trial, Plaintiffs (driver and passengers) filed suit against State Farm, pursuant to an uninsured motorist policy, claiming that a phantom vehicle was at fault for the accident. With respect to the driver’s claim, the Maryland Court held that he was barred from bringing his case against State Farm because he was a party to the New York lawsuit, which determined he, and not a phantom vehicle, was at fault for the accident. With respect to the passenger’s claims, the Maryland Court held that their claim could not be barred by collateral estoppel, as they were not parties to the New York lawsuit and therefore would have their due process rights violated if they were unable to bring the lawsuit.

It should be noted that this only applies when the earlier findings are ADVERSE to nonparties. Had the New York court found that a phantom vehicle was at fault for the accident, the passenger Plaintiffs could have used this finding in pursuing their case against State Farm, without having to re-litigate that issue.

Increase In Cap For Non-Economic Damages

-Maryland law imposes a cap on money that can be recovered for non-economic damages on civil cases;

-Statute covering non-economic damages is Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 11-108.

-Separate cap for medical malpractice

-Non-economic damages include pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of consortium, or other nonpecuniary injury.

-Statute was adopted in 1994 and stated that the cap would be $500,000.00 and would raise $15,000.00 on October 1 of each year.

-Cap for accidents occurring from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013 is $770,000.00

-Cap for accidents occurring from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014 is $785,000.00

-Cap for accidents occurring from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015 is $800,000.00

-Cap for accidents occurring from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016 is $815,000.00

-Cap applies to all personal injury cases including slip and fall and automobile accidents.

-The number represents a maximum recovery for pain and suffering.

-If there are 2 or more wrongful death beneficiaries, the state places a cap on the amount recoverable by those beneficiaries to one and a half times the cap.

– Therefore from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013, the wrongful death maximum for claims with two or more beneficiaries is $1,155,000.00.

– Wrongful death maximum for claim with two or more beneficiaries from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014 is $1,177,500.00.

– Wrongful death maximum for claim with two or more beneficiaries from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015 is $1,200,000.00.

– Wrongful death maximum for claim with two or more beneficiaries from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016 is $1,222,500.00.

Overcoming the Collateral Source Rule in Maryland

In Maryland, the Collateral Source Rule exits.  The rule, as set forth in the Maryland Pattern Jury Instructions is as follows:

In arriving at the amount of damages to be awarded for past and future medical expenses and past loss of earnings, you may not reduce the amount of your award because you believe or infer that the plaintiff has received or will receive reimbursement for or payment of proven medical expenses or lost earnings from persons or entities other than the defendant, such as, for example, sick leave paid by the plaintiff’s employer or medical expenses paid by plaintiff’s health insurer.

            In the lawsuit defended by Landsman & Ronald in the United States District Court in Maryland, Plaintiff was seriously injured when a large truck struck, and ran over him.  His medical expenses exceeded one million dollars ($1,000,000.00).  Defendant requested during discovery, the source of payments of the medical expenses.  Plaintiff refused to provide the information claiming that the information was irrelevant based on the Collateral Source Rule.  Defendant asserted that the information was relevant as it appeared that Medicaid paid a huge portion of the medical expenses.  If the Collateral Source Rule applied, Plaintiff would get the benefit of the windfall of collecting the medical expenses, although they had already been paid by Medicaid and did not need to be paid back.

            The Collateral Source Rule doctrine “rests on public policy considerations, particularly that the wrongdoer should not receive a windfall because the Plaintiff received a benefit from an independent source, but also that, to the extent the collateral benefit arises from insurance maintained by the plaintiff, the rule encourages the maintenance of insurance.”  Haischer v. CSX Transp., Inc., 381 Md. 119, 132, 848 A.2d 620, 627 (2004).

            In the case defended by Landsman & Ronald, the Plaintiff had initially advanced a claim for lost wages as a result of his injuries.  During discovery, Defendant asked Plaintiff to provide his income tax returns for the ten (10) years prior to the occurrence.  While Plaintiff did provide his tax returns for the two (2) prior years, the full complement of returns was not provided.  Counsel for Defendant then requested, by subpoena, that Plaintiff appear to answer questions including those involving his tax returns.  At the deposition, Plaintiff informed counsel for Defendant that he was withdrawing his lost wage claim.  Further, during the deposition, Plaintiff’s attorney objected to questions regarding his tax returns and instructed the Plaintiff not to answer, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.   No additional tax returns were provided.

            Landsman and Ronald, as counsel for Defendant, filed a Motion to Compel the tax returns and to have Plaintiff respond to questions regarding his taxes.  The argument advanced by counsel for Defendant was two fold.  First, Defendant argued that since the Plaintiff submitted Answer to Interrogatories, under oath, regarding his income tax returns, that he supplied copies of two (2) years of tax returns, as well as named an expert economist to testify as to his lost income, that Plaintiff had waived his right to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.  The second portion of the argument was, that since Plaintiff had waived his right to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, the income tax information requested was discoverable as it was relevant to the defense of the case due to suspected fraud and misrepresentations believed to be contained in the tax returns and in his discovery responses – thus bearing on Plaintiff’s credibility.

            Upon hearing arguments on both sides, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland Magistrate sided with the Defendant and ruled that the Plaintiff would have to produce his tax returns as part of discovery and be subject to inquiry regarding the contents of his tax returns and his income or otherwise, be forced to plead his Fifth Amendment rights in open court before the jury on the witness stand.

            Counsel for Defendant particularly wanted the tax information to advance the argument that, if Plaintiff did not pay his share of taxes, which he was required to do as an income earner in the State of Maryland, he should not be entitled to the benefit of the Collateral Source Rule since the medical bills were paid by a tax funded source.  Further, since Medicaid is not an insurance that is purchased and maintained by the Defendant, it would not be against public policy to deny Plaintiff the benefit of the Collateral Source Rule because the Court would not be discouraging a person from purchasing and maintaining their own insurance, rather it would be encouraging a person to pay their full taxes in order to get the full benefit of Collateral Source Rule.

            While the case settled prior to the Federal Court issuing its ruling on whether the a person who does not pay taxes, whose bills are paid by a source funded solely by those same taxes, is entitled to claim the benefit of the Collateral Source Rule, Landsman and Ronald feel strongly that the defense asserted helped to settle the case.

Change in Local Government Tort Claims Act

-Approved by Maryland General Assembly on 5/12/15

-Goes in to effect on 10/1/15

-Effects any claim made against a local government entity in the State of Maryland including automobile accidents with local governmental entities and slip and fall injuries sustained on local government owned properties.

-Purpose:  For the purpose of increasing the limits on liability of a local government for certain claims under the Local Government Tort Claims Act; altering the period of time during which a certain notice of a claim under the Local Government Tort Claims Act must be provided; providing for the application of the Act; and generally relating to the limits on liability of a local government under the Local Government Tort Claims Act.

-Acts affected are Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings 5-303 and 5-304.

-Limits of liability before October 1, 2015 were $200,000.00 per an individual claim and $500,000.00 per total claims that arise from the same occurrence.

-Limits after October 1, 2015 will be $400,000.00 per an individual claim and $800,000.00 per total claims that arise from the same occurrence.

-Prior to October 1, 2015, a person is required to put the local government on notice of the claim within 180 days of the injury.

-After October 1, 2015, a person is required to put the local government on notice of the claim within one (1) year of the injury.

Bicycles On the Roadways – Recreational Equipment or Regulated Machinery?

                Riding a bicycle is a great way to get and to stay in shape.  Not only does it help build many of the muscles in a person’s lower body, but it creates an aerobic workout for a person’s heart and lungs.  But, when does a bicycle go from being a great form of exercise to a regulated piece of machinery?  According to the State of Maryland, it is once you put the bicycle on a public roadway.

                The Maryland Transportation Article states that “Every person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter in a public bicycle area has all the rights granted to and is subject to all the duties required of the driver of a vehicle by this title.”  Md. Code Ann., Transp. § 21(c)1202 (West).  Once you put your bicycle on a public roadway in the State of Maryland, you must act as if you were driving your own personal automobile.  Traffic signals, stop signs, one way signs and yield signs all apply to bicyclists.  Maryland courts have made that point clear through their decisions in several cases throughout the years.

                The case of Oddis v. Greene, 11 Md. App. 153, 273 A.2d 232 (1971) in the Court of Special Appeals involved a parent of a Minor child who was seeking to recover damages from the driver of a vehicle who struck his son’s bicycle on the roadway.  In that case, the Minor child approached an intersection with a stop sign in his direction and no stop sign on the highway.  He stopped and looked both ways.  He proceeded to attempt to cross the highway when he was struck by the car.  While the Minor child did obey the traffic control device (stop sign), he violated a basic tenant of motor vehicle law, the boulevard law.  The boulevard law states that a driver on an unfavored road (one with a traffic control device) must yield the right of way to any driver who is already on a favored roadway.  Although the Minor child was not in a motor vehicle, the Courts still applied the motor vehicle law to determine that he was at fault for the accident, and therefore could not recover for his injuries.

                In the criminal case of Cox v. State, 161 Md. App. 654, 871 A.2d 647 (2005), the Court of Special Appeals affirmed that the traffic laws of the State are also applicable to bicycles.  In that case, Mr. Cox was challenging the validity of a stop where he was found to be in possession of drugs.  On the day in question, the police officers noticed, among other things, that Mr. Cox, who was on a bicycle, made a turn down a one way street in the wrong direction.  The court stated about that traffic stop that “the police officers saw appellant violate the traffic law by riding his bicycle in the wrong direction on a one-way street. Although appellant urges us to limit an officer’s right to make a traffic stop to the motor vehicle context, he fails to offer any reason why a police officer may not stop a bicyclist who is observed committing a violation of applicable transportation laws.” Cox v. State, 161 Md. App. 654, 673, 871 A.2d 647, 657©58 (2005).

                In addition to the traffic laws which pertain to motor vehicles which a bicyclist must obey, the legislature of the State of Maryland has created some bicycle specific laws which a person operating a bicycle on a public roadway must obey.  One such law is Maryland Code, Transportation § 21-1205 – Operation of bicycles or motor scooters on roadways.  Maryland Code, Transportation § 21-1205(a) states that:

“Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter at a speed less than the speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing on a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe, except when:

(1) Making or attempting to make a left turn;

(2) Operating on a one-way street;

(3) Passing a stopped or slower moving vehicle;

(4) Avoiding pedestrians or road hazards;

(5) The right lane is a right turn only lane; or

(6) Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motor scooter and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.”

The statute requires, among other things, that a person operate their bicycle on the right side of the road, which will have them driving with, not against traffic.  While that law is similar to one that requires motor vehicles to drive on the right-hand portion of the roadway, it is one of the many bicycle specific statutes specifically passed by the legislature.

                Lastly, there are some portions of the law that the Maryland courts and legislature have left to the province of a local governing body.  One such law is the law dealing with the legality of operating a bicycle on a sidewalk.  Maryland Code, Transportation § 21-1103 sets out a general rule that “a person may not drive any vehicle on a sidewalk or sidewalk area unless it is a permanent or authorized temporary driveway.”  But subsection (b) of the statute leaves wiggle room for each town or city to carve out an exception.   Maryland Code, Transportation § 21-1103 (b)(2) states that “[w]here allowed by local ordinance, a person may ride a bicycle, play vehicle, or unicycle on a sidewalk or sidewalk area.” (Emphasis added).  The statute goes on further to state that in section (b)(3) that “In a place where a person may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk or sidewalk area, a person may also ride a bicycle from the curb or edge of the roadway in or through a crosswalk to the opposite curb or edge of the roadway.”  So, unless the local ordinance allows a person to ride on the sidewalk, they may not ride their bicycle through a crosswalk.

                Knowledge of the bicycle laws of your area is more than just knowing the motor vehicle laws of the state of Maryland.  You must consult your town or city’s local ordinance to determine what is expected of an operator of a bicycle.  While you may just be out on the roadway to get some exercise, knowledge and obeyance of the law is critical to keep yourself and others on the roadway safe.

Client Letter to Mr. Landsman

Dear Mr. Landsman:

I just wanted to take a moment to express our appreciation for your efforts in bringing this most troublesome case to a very successful conclusion. I also want to compliment you for the manner in which you kept me informed and the very cooperative attitude you displayed towards me at the time of our several conversations during the life of this file.

It certainly seems to me that the strategy you employed contributed significantly to the ultimate and very successful conclusion of a file that had tremendous potential.

Again, thank you most sincerely for your efforts and in keeping me closely advised as the case went forward.

Very truly yours,

[Name Omitted]

Assistant Vice President

Client Letter to Mr. Landsman

Dear Mr. Landsman:

Your law firm represents Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. or one of its subsidiaries. We have selected your firm as a “Crises Law Firm”, which means that we will rely upon you for assistance in emergency litigation or regulatory matters. As you may surmise, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. selected your firm because of the special confidence we have in your abilities.

Because of your designation as a Crises Law Firm, we ask that you provide us with the home phone numbers of at least two lawyers in your firm that we can contact in event of an “after hours” emergency.


[Name Omitted]

Chief Litigation Counsel


Client Letter to Mr. Landsman

Dear Ron,

I just wanted to thank you for all the time and caring you put into my case. I’ve told everyone who has asked about the case that in all my years in law enforcement I have never experienced an attorney who did so much and communicated so well.

I spent a lot of time worrying but I always knew what was going on with the case.  The Sherriff  was very impressed with the way you handled everything and is planning to send you a note of appreciation of his own. Again, thank you very much and I hope to see you sometime soon.


[Name Omitted]


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