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Types of cases I handle

Mostly, what I handle are negligence cases. "Negligence" is a legal term which means simply, carelessness. It means failure to use an ordinary amount of care. A few examples: The average careful person doesn't drive drunk. The average person stops at a stop sign, and then waits for a break in traffic before pulling into traffic. A careless (or negligent) person drives up to the stop sign and goes right through it, or turns into your path.

A. Automobile accidents

These cases are not so simple. It is important to have a clear understanding of the law and the facts. In Maryland, there are probably over 1000 appeals cases discussing automobile accidents. If the cases were that simple, why would there be such contention over what is the law?

Here are some examples

1.You are run off the road by a vehicle that speeds off in the distance. You cannot identify that driver or that vehicle. You are injured. Obviously, you have no case since you have no defendant, right??? Wrong. If you have insurance in Maryland (and in many other states) you have something called "uninsured motorist" coverage. This means that your own insurance company must act as if it insured the fleeing motorist. And, in Maryland, the insurance company cannot raise your rates, or cancel you, or do anything else bad to you when you make this type of claim.

2.Another driver crosses the center line and strikes your vehicle, which is stopped at a red light. You are injured. It turns out that the other driver had a seizure just before the accident, and this is why he crossed the line. You lose this case, because the law says that if the other driver had a sudden and unexpected medical condition, the accident is not his fault. But you win if you can show that this other driver had a seizure problem for years and had failed to take his medication.

3.Sometimes you are injured in a multi-vehicle accident, and there is a fight as to who caused the accident.

4.Sometimes there is no question that you should win the case, but there is a big question as to whether a certain injury is due to the accident, or due to a pre-existing condition. Complicated medical questions arise, and you should have a lawyer with experience in dealing with doctors and complex issues.

5. Many people carry insurance on their own vehicles that can cover some of their medical bills. This needs to be thoroughly explored.

NOTE: I also handle automobile accident cases for insurance companies. In other words, I defend these cases. I think that this helps me get better settlements. This is because since I know what insurance companies are like, and how they think, I know how to best present your case to the insurance company. I know what will impress them, and how to prove your case to them. This can only help. (See insurance defense cases in this website).

B. Other personal injury cases

Slip and fall, trip and fall, assaults, improper security, lead paint poisoning, product liability claims, etc. There are many ways people are injured, and sometimes it is due to the negligence of another person. Homeowner's policies and general liability policies cover these types of claims. In essence, if you are injured and you think someone might be responsible, other than yourself, you really ought to call a lawyer and have the lawyer answer this question: Who is legally responsible for these injuries?

C. Workers' Compensation cases

Unfortunately, workers can be hurt on the job or sustain occupational diseases. In Maryland, such a worker is usually entitled to have the employer pay for medical treatment, wage loss, and permanent impairment. There are complexities in the law. You usually benefit from a lawyer, and the legal fees are capped by the Worker's Compensation Commission and must be approved by them.

D. Medical malpractice cases

Doctors and hospitals do wonderful things in our country, and we have some of the best health care available in the world. However, errors are made. These errors include misdiagnosis. For example, I have a client now who is going to die from breast cancer. Years ago she had a biopsy which was read as benign. Seven years passed, and she began to have leg pain. This was worked up and found to be metastatic cancer, spread from the breast. The slides from the earlier biopsy were reviewed and it turns out the doctor who read the slides missed an area of cancer which was so slow growing that she had a 90% chance of cure had it been interpreted correctly in the first instance.

In Maryland, doctors are not liable merely because a patient worsens following treatment. You have to prove that there was negligence (fault) on the part of the doctor. This means that the doctor departed from accepted standards of practice. It can only be proven through expert testimony. This is expensive. Remember, just because you are worse after treatment doesn't mean the doctor is liable. Also, doctors are not liable for the reasonable judgment call. For example, the flu is going around. You have symptoms. You go to the doctor. He thinks you have the flu. Turns out you have some weird Carribean virus that strikes one in 10 million persons. The symptoms are identical to the flu symptoms. The doctor was wrong. But he wasn't negligent.

Lack of informed consent: These are real tough cases to prove. The Plaintiff (that's the person suing) has to prove that 1) he was not advised of the material risks and complications of the procedure and 2) that he would not have undergone the procedure if advised and 3) that the average reasonable person would not have undergone the procedure if told about the risks. It is easy to prove the first two things. But, how do you prove the third? The Defendant (that is the doctor) will say that he has offered this procedure to 500 people and they all have agreed to have it. How can you now say, that a reasonable person would turn it down? I rarely see good informed consent cases.

Please note that doctors and hospitals do not settle these cases unless they are really convinced that they are going to lose. There is no such thing as a nuisance case, where some insurance company will just throw money at you.

E. Insurance Defense Cases

In addition to pursuing claims on behalf of persons who are injured, say in automobile accident cases, I also handle the defense of these cases for several insurance companies. I have done insurance defense work since 1984, and I believe that handling cases as a Plaintiff's lawyer is wonderful preparation for defending the cases, and vice versa. Not all claims are meritorious. There are frequently issues relating to who is at fault, if anyone, and whether certain damages are really from the accident. If you were sued by someone claiming to have been injured by your negligent driving, you would want a lawyer to defend the claim, and to make the other side prove that you really were at fault, and that the injuries really were from the accident. Usually, all of the expenses of the insurance defense attorney are paid by the insurance company, and the insurance company retains the right to choose a lawyer for you. I am honored that several insurance companies who I used to sue have come to me and asked that I stop suing them, and, instead, start defending them. I feel that defending these cases makes me better at pursuing them, since I can understand both sides of the case from experience.

F. Cases I don't handle (and why I don't)

Why I don't is easy. The practice of law is very complicated, and I want to do the best possible job I can for my clients. Every year many new appellate cases are decided in all areas of the law. The state legislature passes new laws in many areas of the law. Congress passes new laws. The Federal courts decide new cases. It is impossible to keep up with every change in every area of the law. I don't want to do just a good job for my clients. I want to do a great job.

Therefore, recognizing that I can't know everything about everything, I just leave certain areas to others. A warning: Be wary of any lawyer who says that he/she handles cases in every area of the law. No one can do that competently. Can a doctor be a cardiologist, a surgeon, an obstetrician, a pediatrician, a podiatrist, a cancer specialist, and read x-rays too, and know about advances in all of these areas of medicine? No way. For years, the medical profession has recognized this. Doctors specialize, and patients benefit. Some lawyers think they can do everything, and they are just plain wrong.

I don't handle criminal cases, including bank robbery, murder, rape, theft, assault, battery, arson, or any other case. I know these people deserve lawyers. However, it isn't going to be me. Once I defended a man for shoplifting. It was obvious to me that he was guilty, but I guess I did a good job and the judge found him not guilty. I didn't feel good after the case, so I just quit doing criminal cases.

I don't handle divorce, child custody, and/or alimony. There are lots of good lawyers who handle these cases, and people need good lawyers. The law is really complicated. You need someone who handles this stuff on a regular basis.

I don't handle bankruptcy cases. The bankruptcy code is complicated. It goes on and on. Your money is at stake. Don't go to anyone except someone who does this type of case all of the time.

I don't handle real estate cases, I don't handle wills (except for really simple ones), estates or trusts, I don't do name changes, I don't do corporate law and I don't do zoning.

I don't handle traffic tickets. (Mostly, you don't need a lawyer, in my opinion, for speeding tickets, parking tickets, or other minor traffic tickets.) You will benefit from a lawyer in drunk driving cases, or serious traffic matters, like driving without insurance.

If you have a case that I don't handle, you can e-mail me, and I will recommend someone, if I know someone good. Or, you can call:

  • Anne Arundel County Lawyer Referral Service - 410-280-6961
  • Baltimore City Lawyer Referral Service - 410-539-3112
  • Baltimore County Lawyer Referral Service -410-337-9100

Each lawyer referral service works a little differently, but, basically they maintain a list of lawyers in various areas of the law who will meet with you briefly (usually for free) to discuss your problem. If you and the lawyer agree, the lawyer will handle your case and you will pay the lawyer. You have to pay a minimal fee (something like $25) to the lawyer referral service, which covers their overhead, like telephone service and advertising.

Copyright © 1997 Irwin E. Weiss, Esq. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form.
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