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Allergy Shots Gone Wrong

As personal injury lawyers in Washington DC we understand that medical malpractice cases are complex. Doctors make high-stakes decisions about our health and our lives,and, as such, they obtain comprehensive malpractice insurance plans to protect them from errors resulting from their negligence. Doctors don’t want to make mistakes; they spend years in school, undergo a great deal of training, and do hands-on residencies. Despite their expertise and training, doctors are human and, sadly, that means they are capable of negligent behavior. A doctor’s mistake can lead to devastating consequences for patients and their loved ones. Should this happen, it may be helpful to hire a Washington DC medical malpractice lawyer.

Immunotherapy, or “allergy shots,”is treatment for patients with allergies to environmental factors such as pollen, pet dander and mold. A severe or deadly reaction to immunotherapy is rare because doctor’s office institute extra precautions when their patients are undergoing this type of treatment. However, the reason for this is precisely because there are inherent risks is immunotherapy. This is because immunotherapy is when doctors intentionally inject their patients with a potentially harmful substance. The goal is not to hurt their patients but to allow the patients to help build his/her tolerance to allergens, such as pollen and pet dander, by exposing one’s immune system to the allergen. In this way it works somewhat like a vaccination. Allergy shots will not totally prevent or “cure” allergy symptoms, but, over time, can lessen the negative effects. While consulting with a top Washington DC allergist can improve a patient’s quality of life by undergoing immunotherapy, a too-high dosage of the allergen could cause a patient’s throat to occlude, making breathing difficult or impossible.  An allergic reaction to the intentional injection of the allergen can have painful, uncomfortable and potentially lethal side effects. For this reason, a doctor will typically monitor a patient for a period of time after administering immunotherapy treatment. If an allergist fails to monitor a patient and that patient has an adverse reaction to the allergy shot, that behavior could be classified as negligent and provide the basis for a potential medical malpractice claim.

To further guard against a negative result, a top Washington DC allergist will take your medical history into account before beginning treatment.  Certain patients, such as those with a pre-existing heart or lung conditions generally are not good candidates for immunotherapy. While generally safe with proper monitoring, immunotherapy’s inherent risks can be amplified in certain instances. For example, if the treatment plan involves rush immunotherapy.  This is when a patient receives increasing allergen doses over a course of hours instead of months. Because an adverse effect is more likely to occur with a heavy dosage, doctors must monitor patients very closely during rush immunotherapy and will often give patients medication beforehand to mitigate the allergy’s symptoms. If you feel that your doctor did not monitor you carefully during the rush immunotherapy, or any immunotherapy session, and you suffered as a consequence, you may want to consult with a medical malpractice lawyer.

While allergy shots are a generally safe and common practice, it is wise to know the inherent dangers; and, should you have a negative reaction, you should consider a consultation with a personal injury lawyer to understand what, if any, compensation, you might be entitled to as a result of negligent medical behavior.

Preparing Your Expert Witness for Trial

Wayne Cohen is quoted in this week’s The Expert Institute’s blog featuring the article Preparing Your Expert Witness for Trial.

“First, when you address the jury, pretend that you’re addressing high school students. By that I mean, keep things simple. Don’t use multi-syllabic words, don’t try to impress anyone. We, the lawyers, will point out your credentials. You, the expert, should keep it simple. Use lots and lots of diagrams and other demonstrative aids. People get bored. They get really bored with technical materials. So, bring pictures, diagrams, models, and anything else to keep it exciting.”

Wayne CohenCohen & Cohen

Winter Driving Safety Tips from Our Personal Injury Lawyers

A long, snowy winter is predicted for the Mid-Atlantic states, including Washington, DC. Are you and your vehicle prepared? Each year our personal injury lawyers in Washington DC handle accidents in which dangerous weather conditions play a contributing role. Often the best advice for drivers during periods of inclement weather is simply to just to stay off the road.  We know that this isn’t possible for most people due to work and other responsibilities. So, if it is not possible for you to remain where you are and wait out the bad weather, our personal injury lawyers in Washington DC suggest you follow the below advice from the AAA.

  • Do not use cruise control when driving on snow and ice. Slippery road conditions can easily lead a driver to lose control of a vehicle and if your car hydroplanes with cruise control on, then the car can accelerate to a higher speed. This rule applies to driving in the rain as well. In inclement weather, it is wise that a driver be in full control and manually control the car’s speed.
  • Do not mix radial and non-radial tires. Mixing different tires can lead to inconsistent handling of the vehicle, which can cause accidents. This is especially true in dangerous road conditions caused by inclement weather.
  • Slow down. With slippery road conditions, speeding is even more dangerous and it becomes harder to control a car.
  • Don’t heat up your car in an enclosed space. This is not road-accident related, but we still think this piece of advice very important. It may be tempting to warm your car in a garage before braving the cold. However, the carbon monoxide levels in gas fumes can turn lethal within two minutes when confined to a small space—even if the garage door is open.
  • Whenever possible, avoid using your handbrake in cold, rainy and snowy weather. Handbrake cables are often exposed to the elements and can easily freeze in place. This freezing may lead some to attempt to thaw the handbrake. This can be highly dangerous! Some people have even taken a blow torch to this region, not realizing the open flame was underneath the gas tank.

Accidents can also occur after the snow as cleared, as a result of snow melting and refreezing or falling from the roofs of passing vehicles, which obstructs other driver’s vision. Be sure to clear the snow from your vehicle before getting on the road.

Unfortunately, even when drivers are cautious, accidents related to winter weather occur, especially on busy travel holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. If you find yourself in a winter or snow storm accident, it is advisable that all parties involved seek proper medical attention. After which, you may wish to consult with an auto accident lawyer in Washington DC.

The roads in Washington, DC can be highly dangerous, especially during the winter months. If you have been injured in a winter driving accident, contact Cohen & Cohen PC for a free consultation today.

 

How Much Money Will I Get for My Personal Injury Settlement?

Undoubtedly, if you are injured as a result of the negligence of another person or company you will have many questions. Often one of them is, “If I pursue a claim, how much money will I get for my personal injury settlement?” The personal injury lawyers at Cohen & Cohen PC can help answer all of your questions, including that one. Note that there are many factors that affect the final amount you receive from a personal injury claim. In addition to measurable costs such as lost wages and medical bills, there are less tangible aspects of a claim, such as physical pain and suffering as well as mental anguish and mental pain and suffering. Emotional damages are oftentimes longer lasting than physical damages and the personal injury lawyers at Cohen & Cohen PC will seek compensation for them on your behalf.

If you are injured in a motorcycle accident or a slip and fall a Washington DC motorcycle accident lawyer or a Washington DC slip and fall attorney can evaluate your personal injury claim by looking at your medical expenses, property damage and lost income. These are known as the economic or “special” damages. The special damages include what you have already lost as well as a forecast of what what you will lose in the future as a result of your injury. For instance, if you have already been treated for injuries, but will be required to have future surgeries, physical therapy or other medical treatment, you can receive payment for those expenses as well. Additionally, if your physician determines you are unable to return to work, you may receive compensation for the wages you would have made had you been able to work.

As mentioned above, personal injury settlements may include compensation for emotional pain and suffering. These costs can also be described as the non-economic or “general” damages. The damages are more abstract and harder to measure but factors that will be taken into consideration include whether or not you are expected to fully recover, and if so, when, and while you are recovering, how your life will be affected—will you be able to take care of your family, emotionally and physically? Will you be able to enjoy the activities that you engaged in prior to the injury? Basically, how your quality of life will be affected by your injury.    A Washington DC personal injury attorney will be able to explain this all to you and seek to get you as much compensation as possible for your settlement.

If you wish to know more about evaluating your personal injury settlement, contact our Washington DC personal injury lawyers for a free consultation.

 

What is a Soft Tissue Injury?

If you sustain a personal injury, such as a slip and fall in Washington DC, your injuries may include soft tissue injury and you may be entitled to payment. What is a soft tissue injury?  A Soft Tissue Injury (STI) is defined as damage to ligaments, tendons or muscles throughout your body, and it may result from strain, overuse of a body part, or a blow that results in contusions to the injured area. Soft tissue injuries can include muscle sprains or whiplash and vary in healing time and severity. At times the damage may have permanent effects.

If someone else’s negligent behavior results in a soft tissue injury, you may want to apply the PRICE Principle, which we will discuss shortly, and call a Washington DC personal injury lawyer. According to the PRICE (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) Principle, you should take the following steps to minimize the damage from your soft tissue injury:

  • Protect yourself from further injury by minimizing movement and exposure to subsequent hazards. If someone around you has sustained such an injury, protect this person.
  • Rest from activities that cause pain, even simple movements such as straightening or bending a joint or walking. Do not add any unnecessary strain to the injured area. Use crutches if your doctor recommends. You may even be required to immobilize your injury by using a splint. For the most part, simply limit your actions to what comfort allows.
  • Ice your injuries during the first 72 hours after the soft tissue injury to keep pain, swelling, fluid loss and bleeding at a minimum. It is recommended that you apply ice to your injury for 15 minutes every four hours during those first three days.
  • Compress your injury, that is, apply pressure to the injury site with compression tape, an elastic wrap or bandage. This will help stem any initial soft tissue swelling or bleeding. The sooner you can apply pressure, the better.
  • Elevate the injury. In conjunction with ice and compression, elevating the injured area will help to lessen swelling and bleeding. The best practice is to elevate the injured site above the heart as high and as frequently as possible during the 72 hours after the injury. Longer if swelling continues.

Most importantly, if you have a soft tissue injury, see your doctor for the best advice on treatment. Your doctor will be the most able to assess the extent and long term-effects of your soft-tissue injury. Furthermore, if your soft tissue damage is due to another party’s reckless behavior, doctor’s notes will be useful in making a Washington DC personal injury claim. Keep records of all your doctor visits, medical prescriptions and paper work. They may be useful when your Washington DC personal injury attorney is fighting your case.

Legal Aspects Surrounding Brittany Maynard and Assisted Suicide

On Saturday November 1st, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard chose to end her own life, as permitted under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. The personal injury lawyers at Cohen and Cohen PC have been following this case closely, seeing how Maynard’s actions may affect future nationwide legislation. Maynard had been diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, and had been given six months to live. She died at home, surrounded by her husband, Dan Diaz and mother, Debbie Ziegler, after ingesting a fatal combination of barbiturates prescribed by her doctor. In the month leading up to her death, Maynard had launched a sweeping campaign with Compassion & Choices, advocating for terminally patients to be given the choice to die with dignity.

Doctors told Maynard that her death was inevitable and would be a slow and painful one. Traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy would have prolonged Maynard’s life. However they could not have saved her life and would have severe side-effects that diminished its quality. Thus, Maynard gradually came to the difficult decision to end her life on November 1. “For people to argue against this choice for sick people really seems evil to me,” she said in a statement to People Magazine. “They try to mix it up with suicide and that’s really unfair, because there’s not a single part of me that wants to die. But I am dying.” As medical malpractices lawyers in Washington DC, we know that decisions around patient rights and doctor decisions can become difficult to interpret.

Before her death, Maynard attempted to fulfill many life-long wishes, including traveling, flying over the Grand Canyon, and celebrating her husband’s birthday one final time on October 26. In mid-October, Maynard considered postponing her death, saying that she still enjoyed life, however, she knew her condition was worsening daily. The seizures she experienced became more severe. Whether caused by illness or accident, as DC brain injury lawyers, we are too familiar with the debilitating effects of brain trauma. On November 1st Maynard ended her life as planned, afraid that waiting longer would render her unable to act. Maynard’s story reignited the debate around assisted suicide.

Currently, only five states allow for terminally ill patients to seek physician-assisted suicide. In Vermont, Oregon and Washington State, assisted suicide is legal by legislation. Maynard chose to end her life at her home in Portland, Oregon, having moved there to utilize this law. In 2009, the court case Baxter vs. Montana made assisted suicide legal by court ruling, however, it is still possible for physicians who assist in patient suicide to be prosecuted. New Mexico is the latest state to allow physician-assisted suicide as determined by a 2014 court ruling. The same subject is currently under debate in the state of New Jersey. If physician assisted suicide is legalized there, NJ will be only the second state on the East Coast to allow this practice. Washington DC personal injury lawyer, Wayne Cohen, believes that “in all likelihood, this is a matter to continue to be decided on a state by state basis.”

How to Find a Good Personal Injury Lawyer

How to Find a Good Personal Injury Lawyer

After the trauma of a personal injury, one may feel overwhelmed by the life adjustments and paperwork. How does one simplify this process? First, choose a good personal injury lawyer.

One way to find a lawyer is to ask for recommendations. Talk to people you know and to your insurance company. Your state bar association will also have a referral list. However, the standards for a lawyer to be listed on it will vary from state to state. Ensure your state’s standards are high enough before choosing someone from this list. Do not choose based off of references alone. You must also consult with your personal injury attorney. Generally, personal injury law firms like Cohen & Cohen, PC offer free consultations.

When you have made a list of recommended Washington DC or Maryland personal injury attorneys, research each personal injury lawyer through websites and consultations. How experienced is this personal injury lawyer?  Where did (s)he go to law school? More importantly? What is his/her track record? How many of his/her cases were similar to yours? If you had a brain injury, for example, find an experienced brain injury lawyer or perhaps you need a motorcycle accident lawyer. Has your personal injury lawyer worked with more plaintiffs or defendants? (If you are a plaintiff, you will want someone who has worked with plaintiffs before.)

Some of these questions you can answer from the personal injury lawyer’s website, some may be better answered in person. Consult with your personal injury lawyer. See that the consultation is free of charge. At your consultation with a personal injury attorney, bring every picture, note and document from the incident available. Then, ascertain the following:

  • What is your personal injury attorney’s philosophy?
  • Is (s)he “hands-on” or more of a “legal guide”?
  • Will (s)he manage your case closely or hand it to another attorney? (Note that attorneys do have teams. Get to know those involved in your case.)
  • What is your settlement goal: Do you want maximum compensation or a quick settlement?

Learn as much as possible. A personal injury lawyer should be someone you trust. When you find him or her, decide on a payment plan. Many lawyers work on contingency fee,s which may be the best financial decision for you.

Find out if a lawyer at Cohen & Cohen, PC, is the right DC personal injury lawyer for you. Contact us today to book a free consultation.

How Do I Maximize My Personal Injury Claim?

How Do I Maximize My Personal Injury Claim?

When you sustain a personal injury, insurance providers work to ensure they pay you the lowest amount possible. This is simply a smart business practice. In such an instance, you may ask yourself, How do I maximize my personal injury claim? A personal injury lawyer is there to help you obtain the maximum value to which you are entitled. As an injury claimant, do not try to settle your own case, even after your fees are paid, a Washington DC personal injury lawyer is likely able to get you more money. This is the number one rule of maximizing your personal injury claim.

Make sure your Washington DC personal injury lawyer is someone you trust. Keep him or her up-to-date about the details of the injury, but be careful whom else you speak to about your case. You will likely have to discuss the injury with your insurance provider, but you should certainly never speak to the opposing party’s insurance provider. When discussing the injury to anyone, have a lawyer present and speak as if you are being recorded. If the opposing party hears of anything you said, it can and will be used against you. Speak about the incident on a need-to-know basis.

One place you can speak about the injury is in a journal. If you can write or voice record, keep note of every way in which the injury has affected your life and limited your actions. In this way, we can remember the small actions you take for granted that are now inhibited by our personal injury.

Another way to keep record is to take photos of the injury if possible. If you were in a car accident in Washington DC for example, take photos of the scene, including your car, other cars involved, obstacles in the road, the weather conditions and tire tracks. Also see that you have the insurance information and license plate numbers of all involved.

Remember to go to all doctor’s appointments and see a specialist if necessary. If you are on medication, take it religiously. If you do not, opposing parties can argue this as a sign that you are not as badly injured as you say. See a specialist for each specific injury (i.e. if you have a back injury see a chiropractor). All of this will help make the case that your injuries are real and severe as you say.

Be certain that you make your claim within the statute of limitations. Depending on your location, your injury circumstances, and whether or not you are a minor, you have a limited amount of time to make your insurance claim and, if it is rejected, file a lawsuit. In such an instance, it is best to consult with a  Washington DC personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible to start the proceedings time and see that the facts of the injury are fresh in your mind. For this reason, you also want to see that a police report is filed. Go to the station if you have to. Often the report cannot be filed until you receive medical attention.

For more information on personal injury law, view our personal injury page or contact us here.

What Is a Personal Injury Lawyer?

What Is a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you or someone you know has undergone serious bodily or mental harm due to someone else’s carelessness, you may wish to consult with a personal injury lawyer. What is a personal injury lawyer? Allow us to explain: to seek compensation in a personal injury case in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, you will have to prove that your serious mental or bodily injury is the result of another person’s careless or dangerous actions. A personal injury lawyer pursues justice for the claimant so that he or she may receive funding for resulting medical or other monetary costs.

Personal injury cases may be an option if a person has lost an appendage or any of the five senses, has been severely scarred or disfigured or sustained some other disability. Similarly, a person may receive compensation if he or she has undergone mental harm including emotional trauma or anguish, embarrassment, or lack of enjoyment. Unfortunately, there are many instances that can result in such afflictions.

If a child, for example, sustains damage to the tissues or organs during birth, the parents may have cause to hire abirth injury lawyer. Such birth injuries often result in lifelong disabilities, causing emotional and financial strain for the family. Such an occurrence may happen if a doctor or medical professional fails to perceive an umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, unreasonably delays an emergency Caesarean, or misdiagnoses a medical condition in a pregnant mother, and if the personal injury lawyer can prove another medical professional would have enacted better judgment in the scenario. Medical professionals are often called to make difficult decisions in a short amount of time. It is expected that injuries and fatalities sometimes occur. Therefore you may need atop birth injury attorney to secure the funds to help care for the child.

Vehicular accidents are another common cause of personal injury. These may include pedestrian injury, accidents resulting from:

·         Drunk drivers

·         Hit and run accidents

·         Aviation accidents,

·         ATV accidents

·         Boating accidents

·         Truck accidents

·         Railroad accidents

·         Motorcycle accidents

If you, unfortunately, are in vehicular accident such as acar accident in Washington, DC, it will cost both time and money to heal (not to mention getting a car repaired and finding alternate transport). Insurance companies may delay paying you a settlement and in the end, may not give you all you deserve. Our Washington DC car accident lawyers will fight to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve expeditiously.

Another reason to call a personal injury lawyer may be misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose cancer. Thousands of the 1.4 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year are misdiagnosed. Cancer treatment can have severe, weakening and even painful side effects. This is in addition to the emotional pain one feels when believed to be battling cancer. Misdiagnosis can also mean a doctor’s failure to diagnose cancer in a patient or to correctly diagnose the type of cancer, in both cases losing precious, life-saving time. In such instances, it may be best to consult with a personal injury lawyer.

If you have or a loved one has sustained an injury in any of the aforementioned forms or from any other personal injury, then consult with a personal injury attorney today.

Washington, DC Personal Injury Law Firm, Cohen & Cohen, Hired by Christian Sierra’s Family

Washington, DC Personal Injury Law Firm, Cohen & Cohen, Hired by Christian Sierra’s Family

The parents of Christian Sierra, the 17 year old shot and killed by the Purcellville police department, have hired the Washington DC personal injury law firm, Cohen & Cohen, PC. They and the law firm have been trying to get information form police and other officials, but to not avail.

Tractor Trailer Crashes: Investigations

Tractor Trailer Crashes: Investigations

Trucking is a surprisingly dangerous industry that can affect all drivers.  In D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, truck accidents are common as drivers share most roads with 18 wheelers, whether they are driving downtown or changing lanes on 395. Fortunately, federal regulations have become more stringent as lawmakers try to crack down on trucking in an effort to make our roads safer. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established a number of regulations to improve the safety of the truck driving industry. These regulations apply to things like truck maintenance, driver work hours, proper inspections, and cargo securement.

From the outset, car accidents involving tractor trailers are different than the typical auto accident. Given their size, weight, and the skill needed to maneuver them, tractor trailers tend to cause a great deal of damage when involved in a collision. Tractor trailer accidents are much more likely to cause fatalities than passenger car accidents. Another way in which trucking accidents differ is the consideration of the FMCSR (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations).  After an accident, it is important to determine if any of these regulations were violated by the truck’s driver – this can help to establish liability. Although the FMCSA may not conduct its own investigation, all truck accidents that involve fatalities, injuries, or significant property damage must be reported to the FMCSA – these reports are analyzed and used to monitor truck safety.

Depending on the severity of the accident, it may be investigated by the area State Police, Troopers, or other law enforcement. Some accidents will be investigated thoroughly by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB is a government entity that was established in 1967 to independently investigate major transportation accidents in the U.S. Highway crashes are investigated by an NTSB team including a mechanical expert, highway engineer, weather specialist, and a human performance and survival specialist. The group investigates many different aspects of the truck accident – beginning with the scene and the external factors such as construction, traffic, signage, and weather. The investigation will also include an inspection of the involved vehicles, as well as any electronic data recorders that may have information such as speed and brake usage at the time of the crash.  The group will spend months gathering as much information as possible regarding the accident and its participants before making a report that includes safety recommendations and the probable cause of the truck accident. These reports can take months or years to finalize, and are then posted on the NTSB website: https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/reports_highway.html. Current reports on trucking accidents include a preliminary review of comedian Tracy Morgan’s accident, and a full report on Morgan Lake, the victim of a trucking accident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, who is represented by Cohen & Cohen, P.C.

NCAA Concussion Settlement

NCAA Concussion Settlement

A preliminary settlement was reached one month ago in a class-action suit brought against the NCAA.

Ten separate personal injury cases involving head injuries suffered by college athletes were combined in the federal court of the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). The first suit was filed in 2011 by a former college football player: Adrian Arrington played for Eastern Illinois University from 2006-2009, during which time he suffered five concussions. According to Arrington, he now suffers depression, amnesia, headaches, and even seizures as a result of his injuries, which impairs his ability to work and care for his children. The other plaintiffs include a soccer player, two football players, and an ice hockey player.

The proposed settlement is being reviewed by a judge. If accepted by the Judge and plaintiffs, the NCAA would create a $70 million “medical monitoring fund” and also contribute $5 million toward research on concussions stemming from head injuries. Although there are no compensatory damages for the personal injuries suffered by players, the fund could change the way the NCAA manages concussion and other head injuries. Most importantly, the fund would allow for diagnostic screenings to determine whether athletes have brain damage. It would also require better tracking of head injuries and preseason testing.

The settlement also preserves the right of athletes to bring personal injury claims individually against the NCAA. According to the personal injury attorney involved in the class-action case, the claims will be negatively affected by this settlement. The attorney estimates that a class-action personal injury claim would have netted $2 billion to the plaintiffs. Now, individual claims will settle for much smaller amounts.

Concussion and head injury lawsuits have garnered much media attention in recent years, as players from the NFL, the NHL, and now FIFA have sued the organizations for improper rules, regulations, and policies that have contributed to brain damage caused by head injuries. The lawsuits cover all areas of competition, from children’s leagues to professional leagues.

If you or a member of your family has suffered a traumatic brain injury, concussion, or other injury due to negligence, contact the personal injury attorneys at Cohen & Cohen for an evaluation of your case.

Smoker’s Widow Wins A Personal Injury Claim Against Big Tobacco

Smoker’s Widow Wins a Personal Injury Claim Against Big Tobacco

A Florida jury made history last month when they decided that Cynthia Robinson, a widow, was owed over $23 billion dollars in compensatory and punitive damages from tobacco company R.J. Reynolds. Robinson’s husband died of lung cancer in 1996, after a lifetime of using the company’s tobacco products. Mr. Johnson smoked Reynolds’ Kool brand cigarettes for over 20 years and died at the age of 36.

Robinson filed suit in 2008 on his behalf, claiming that R.J. Reynolds was negligent in their marketing of cigarettes.  Robinson’s suit asserts that the company did not advertise that cigarettes are addictive, or that their ingredients can cause lung cancer.

The suit was originally part of a class-action, in which a jury awarded $145 billion to plaintiffs with diseases caused by smoking or deceased family members. The ruling was later overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, but with an allowance that individual plaintiffs could file again based on the jury’s findings. The jury found that tobacco companies knowingly sold a dangerous and addictive product, and that cigarette smoking causes cancer.

Personal injury attorneys representing Ms. Robinson have said that the goal of the suit was to prevent tobacco companies from targeting teens and children through their advertising. Christopher Chestnut, a personal injury attorney on the case, noted that the jury was swayed by internal documents acknowledging the deadliness of tobacco products, alongside C-Span footage that captures tobacco executives stating that cigarettes don’t cause cancer.

The damages awarded in her case consisted of $23.6 billion in punitive damages and $16.8 million in compensatory damages. Punitive damages are meant to address the wrong actions of the defendant, as a punishment for such actions. The compensatory damages are intended to repay the plaintiff for whatever loss they claim resulted from the actions.

The Risks Of Negotiating Your Own Settlement

The Risks Of Negotiating Your Own Settlement

When it comes to car accidents, negotiating your own settlement offer can be very complicated. Victims of any personal injury case who have no experience with legal matters will almost never correctly evaluate the worth of their case.

It is the goal of insurance adjusters and companies to pay out the lowest possible amount on settlements. Adjusters will often take advantage of the victim’s lack of knowledge about the case’s value, and make an offer that is much lower than the amount they would have presented to an attorney.  Victims also may not consider how much of their settlement will go to their medical bills, and will accept what seems like a large settlement, which in reality puts nothing in their pocket.

Insurance companies will also make use of the time factor. Personal injury attorneys know that cases can often take months to settle, and will use that time to make sure that their clients are getting everything they deserve. However, victims working on their own settlements may not know to expect a lengthy process, and may accept a settlement early on in the interest of closing the case and getting bills paid. These settlements often barely cover the victim’s medical bills, and certainly won’t account for pain and suffering, or wages lost from work. In addition, the types of injuries that develop from car accidents can require a long treatment process, and may continue to worsen over time before getting better.  Adjusters will try to settle before the full scope of injuries and treatment needed comes to light. The same can be true of medical malpractice and birth injury cases – it can take years before the extent of the trauma suffered is known.

Victims who attempt to negotiate their own claims and settlements in personal injury cases like car accidents and medical malpractice will often walk away with bills outstanding and little or no money in their pockets. With representation, victims can rest assured that every possible avenue is being explored to bring the largest possible settlement. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a personal injury matter in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, contact the personal injury attorneys at Cohen & Cohen, P.C., and get the resolution that you deserve.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Accident – One Year Later

Just over one year ago, Maryland drivers on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge watched in horror as a young woman’s car was pushed over the Bridge’s wall into the shallow water below. Morgan Lake, who was 22 years old at the time, crashed into the Bay after falling four stories through the air. Miraculously, Morgan was relatively unharmed. She escaped her car through the broken driver’s side window, and swam to safety.

Morgan was extremely fortunate that her window was broken before she went into the water. When a car is submerged in water, the pressure of the water against the doors is too strong to allow them to be opened. Windows are often the only option to escape the vehicle at that point; however, most car windows today are electric and short out when the wiring is flooded with water. That is why the personal injury attorneys at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. want all D.C., Maryland and Virginia drivers to learn from our client and open their windows over bridges.  If you are in an accident where the only option is self-rescue, open windows could make all the difference.

Car windows can and do act as a protective shield against outside elements, and in Morgan’s case, could have helped her car stay afloat longer by preserving buoyancy. However, they can also cause more damage in some situations. If Morgan’s window was intact, she would have been trapped in her car until help arrived. The shattering of the glass could have also caused additional injury at the time of impact. Closed car windows are only beneficial if the vehicle is stable and emergency responders are nearby. If there is no immediate help, the most important thing is to exit the vehicle quickly. If your car is compromised after an accident, windows are likely the best mode of egress.

One year after her accident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Morgan is well – and credits her broken window for that. The Washington, DC personal injury attorneys of Cohen & Cohen ask that the next time you find yourself on one of the many bridges in the DC, Maryland, or Virginia area, roll your windows down!

Never Leave Children Or Pets In A Hot Car

It’s a hot topic each summer. It seems like no matter how often it’s in the news, people continue to leave children and pets in hot cars, often leading to heatstroke and death.  In the past few weeks, this topic has made headlines due to a Georgia father who allegedly intentionally left his 22 month old son in a hot car to die.  Of course, this isn’t the typical story.  We usually hear of people who leave their child or pet in the car while making a quick stop at the store and come back to find them unconscious.  Even more frequently, we hear of parents who unknowingly leave their young children in the car and by the time they realize it, it’s too late.

With the summer temperatures in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia reaching near 90 or 100 degrees each day, the Washington DC personal injury attorneys at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. want to remind you to take extra precautions to ensure that you do not leave your children or pets in a hot car and give you some tips to avoid the devastating consequence

We’ve all felt what’s it’s like to get in a car that’s been sitting in the sun: the seats get hot, the steering wheel and seat belts burn our hands, and the air feels so hot it’s hard to breathe.  When it’s hot out, the temperature of a car can climb 20 degrees in as little as ten minutes, and keep going up to well over 120 degrees.  Children’s small bodies are more susceptible to heat than adults’ so they can get heat stroke after just minutes in a hot car.

According to USA Today, there have already been 15 child vehicular heat stroke deaths in the United States this summer, which is not unusual.  Kids and Cars, a non-profit organization dedicated to automobile child safety, reports that all reported cases of vehicular heat stroke death, 54 percent of children were unknowingly left in the vehicle, 32 percent got in the vehicle on their own, 12 percent were knowingly left in the vehicle, and the rest occurred in unknown circumstances.

Our personal injury attorneys understand that child vehicular heat stroke deaths can happen to anyone, especially parents who are stressed out and have to juggle a lot of different duties.  Here are some tips to help you keep your children safe during the hot summers.

Leave your work essentials in the back seat of the car

Parents who forget that their kids are in the back seat usually do so because of a change in routine.  For example, a parent who is not used to having to drop a child off at daycare on the way to work may forget that the child is in the car—especially if the child falls asleep in the back seat.  Putting your cell phone, lunch, purse, or briefcase in the back seat forces you to look there before getting out of the car when you get to work.

Place the child’s diaper bag or lunch in the front seat

You’re more likely to remember that you have a little one sitting in the back if you have a visual reminder in the front seat.

Ask the child’s school or daycare to call you if you don’t drop him or her off on time

This will help hold both parents accountable.

Get enough sleep

It’s no secret that parenthood can be exhausting.  Ensuring that you get enough sleep will keep your brain functioning better and will help you remember your daily tasks.

Make a habit out of checking back seat before getting out of car

This will take some getting used to, but it will quickly become a routine and may help save your child’s life. 

Never leave a child alone in the car

Even if you’re just at the gas station or the dry cleaners.  Anything can come up—a phone call, an emergency, running into a friend—that may distract you and delay your return to the car.

How To Prevent Bicycle Accident Injuries In The Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Virginia Metro Area

Always, Always, Always Wear a Helmet…Even If It’s Not Your Bike

They’re hard to miss.  Those clunky red bicycles with the little black baskets have become the preferred mode of transportation for many in Washington, D.C, Maryland, and Virginia.  Capital Bikeshare stations located throughout D.C., Arlington, Alexandria, and Montgomery County are a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to get around for commuters and tourists alike.  However, this popular program puts thousands more bikes on the roads and sidewalks of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. This means that bicycle accidents in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia are more likely to happen.

A recent study by the University of Washington and Washington State University found that there is a 14 percent greater risk of head injuries associated with cities that have bike share programs.  In the study, researchers compared raw head injury data for cyclists in five cities before and after they added bike share programs and found that there was a 7.8 percent increase in the number of head injuries to cyclists, The Washington Post reported.

We’ve all heard the same thing a million times: always wear a helmet when riding your bike.  Given how well-known this rule of biking is, and the fact that they have been proven to prevent head injuries, it’s somewhat surprising that none of the bike share programs across the United States provide helmets for riders.  Of course, helmet sharing brings up some concerns, namely hygiene; nobody wants to wear a helmet soaked in someone else’s sweat.

Boston and Seattle’s bike share programs plan to offer a helmet option soon, which will consist of a vending box.  Riders will have the option to swipe a credit card to take a helmet from the box and return it after the ride.  Helmets will be picked up and taken to a warehouse to be cleaned and inspected before being returned to the stations.

Capital Bikeshare has no plans to offer helmets anytime soon, but when a member signs up online, he or she has the option to buy one for $16 along with the monthly or annual membership.

Even though Capital Bikeshare does not provide helmets, the attorneys at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. recommend that everyone use a helmet.  Bicycle accidents can happen to anyone: children, tourists, and even the most seasoned riders.  These accidents can happen unexpectedly and a helmet will protect your head from injury.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a bicycle accident, in Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, contact Cohen & Cohen, P.C. to speak with one of our experienced bicycle accident attorneys.  Our attorneys can help you find out more about your rights as a cyclist and will fight to receive the compensation you deserve after an accident.

How to Prevent Boating Accidents

How to Prevent Boating Accidents

Summer weekends are a time for relaxing and catching up with friends.  For many in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, this means hitting the Potomac River or the Chesapeake Bay for a day of boating.  While boating is a great way to enjoy the summer sun, it can also be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken.

Boating accidents resulting in injury or death are fairly common in the United States.  According to the United States Coast Guard, in 2013, there were 2,620 reported boating injuries and 560 deaths.  The boating accident attorneys at Cohen & Cohen want to ensure that you enjoy this summer while also staying safe, so here are some tips for your next outing on the water.

Don’t drink and boat

Drinking alcohol can impair your ability to drive a car, and boating is no different.  Alcohol not only slows your reflexes and impairs your judgment, but it also dehydrates you, especially when you’re out in the sun all day.  Last year, alcohol was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in the United States.  Not only is boating under the influence extremely dangerous, but it’s also illegal in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.  The US Coast Guard is authorized to search your boat and perform field sobriety tests at any moment to determine whether you are impaired.  A person operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more may permanently lose his or her boating license, be fined up to $1,000, and face up to a one year jail sentence.

Regularly Inspect and Maintain Your Boat

Just like you need to check your car’s tires occasionally, you need to ensure that all parts of your boat are in good condition.  This includes proper maintenance at the beginning of the season, as well as ensuring that there are no fuel leaks and that all components of your boat are working properly before each use.  This will minimize the likelihood of experiencing mechanical problems that can lead to accidents and injuries when you’re out on the water.  The cold winters in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia can be hard on boats, so our attorneys recommend proper boat storage and maintenance during the winter months as well.

Practice Safe Behavior

There are certain precautions you take to stay safe when driving a car, such as wearing a seat belt and obeying traffic signals, and boating is no different.  Make sure that everyone wears a lifejacket (even great swimmers should take this precaution), drive at a safe speed, and slow down when turning.  Additionally, make sure that passengers only sit in parts of the boat that are designed for seating, balance the load of passengers and gear to prevent tipping, and only boat in good weather.

Following these precautions will certainly help you decrease the chances of being injured in a boating mishaps.  However, not every boater is as careful, which unfortunately can lead to accidents.  If you are involved in a boating accident, call the experienced boating accident lawyers at Cohen & Cohen for a free initial consultation.

What To Do After A Trucking Accident

What To Do After A Trucking Accident

After you are involved in a trucking accident in the Maryland, DC, Virginia area, and suffer a truck accident injury, you may not know where to turn to and what to do, whether it be regarding lawyers and witnesses or information and injuries. The steps that you take can protect your legal rights, as well as gather and preserve helpful evidence to take proceedings against the trucking company.

The first thing that you should consider doing is to ensure the safety of you, and everyone around you. Safety is the number one priority and it is acceptable if you cannot complete all of the steps if you are attending to someone else’s injuries that occurred as a result of being part of the accident. If the safety of you and everyone around is you is in good enough condition, you are going to want to contact an attorney. This is because an attorney can help you in collecting and preserving evidence before it is gone, demolished, or tougher to amass. Contact the police as quickly as possible after the trucking accident, as they will attempt to safeguard the salvation of the scene of the accident. Down the road you will need to obtain a copy of the police report, and if they haven’t finished the report, ask them how you can get it later once it has been completed. Do not speculate as to what occurred and do not admit any fault when providing a statement to the police. Stick to sharing only the facts. Even though you may feel compelled to say something courteous to the truck driver, don’t.  Say as little as possible, because even the smallest “I’m sorry,” can be brought up later in the future lawsuit. Use your phone or other camera you may have in your car to take pictures of the accident, if your injuries allow you to do so. Take pictures of and take note of the license number, the names or other forms of identification of the cab, skid marks made by the truck, condition of the truck’s tires, and the condition of all vehicles involved in the accident. You also should consider taking steps to collect lots of information from around the scene. You need to get truck driver information, such as his license and insurance information, names and contact information of any witnesses, and names and contact information of persons taking pictures.

If you ever are in a trucking accident in the Maryland, DC, Virginia area, remember that safety is the number one priority, and always be smart and alert while on the roads.

What To Do If You Have Been In A Hit And Run

What to do if you’ve been in a hit and run

If you’re in a car accident, you have the legal obligation to pull over and exchange insurance information with the other party.  However, this doesn’t always happen.  When one or more of the people involved in an auto accident drive away from the scene without stopping, it is called a hit-and-run and can have significant consequences, such as fines and jail time.  If a driver flees an auto accident involving pedestrians or bikers, it is also considered a hit-and-run.  The personal injury attorneys at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. understand how frustrating car accidents in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia can be,

After a car accident, you may be concerned about injuries, missing time from work, paying your bills, and more. Our lawyers are prepared to help you if you’ve been injured in a hit-and-run, but here are some steps that you should take immediately following the accident:

Stop and pull over

You may want to chase after the driver who hit you, but you should never do this.  There are many reasons why a driver may flee after an accident, including improper (or no) insurance or license, drugs or alcohol, and fear.  Not only are you required, by law, to pull over, but chasing after another driver may cause more damage and injuries.  Instead, pull over to a spot where you’re not obstructing traffic.  Find any witnesses who may be able to give more information to the police.

Get help

Call the police and get medical help if you have significant injuries.  While waiting for help, write down as much information as you can, including make, model, and color of the other car, any part of the license plate that you can remember, and a physical description of the driver.  Give the police these details, as well as the direction in which you and the driver were travelling, and anything else that may be relevant.  If you can, take pictures of the damage to your car.

Contact your insurance agent or company

You insurance company can help you make towing and car rental arrangements and can begin to process claim.  Many drivers who flee from car accidents in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia do so because of lack of insurance, so you should ask your agent if you have uninsured motorist coverage, which can help cover costs even if the other driver is not insured.

If you have been in a hit-and-run accident in Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, call Cohen & Cohen, P.C. Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the legal system and get the compensation you deserve!

D.C. School Bus Drivers

D.C. School Bus Drivers

The personal injury attorneys at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. know how dangerous our daily commutes can be, especially in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area.  Parents of thousands of Washington, D.C. students entrust their children’s transportation to school to D.C. school bus drivers, some of whom go as far as Annapolis.  But in an alarming article published in the Washington Post, it was revealed that students are not nearly as safe as parents would hope.  The investigation conducted by the Washington Post found that Washington, D.C. school bus drivers, who drive 3,200 special needs students to and from school every day, have been involved with hundreds of accidents and traffic violations.

School bus drivers have received 327 traffic tickets since January 2009 – and only about a dozen have been paid. The bus drivers have been caught on traffic cameras around D.C. running red lights, failing to yield, and speeding up to 30 MPH over posted speed limits.  According to the Post, drivers were not disciplined for their infractions, because the Office of the State Superintendent of Education did not have a system in place to discipline the drivers or follow up on tickets. One bus was seen on traffic cameras speeding and running red lights six times in the course of one month.

More alarming is this statistic offered by the Post: D.C. school bus drivers were involved in 830 accidents from May of 2010 to May of 2013. Almost half of the accidents happened with children on board, leading to the hospitalization of at least 40 children. Most accidents were categorized as minor, but some resulted in severe injuries. One Maryland resident was awarded $400,000 in damages after he was hit by a D.C. school bus while driving. He has since undergone surgery for his injuries and can no longer work. Overall, more than $1 million has been paid to people injured in D.C. school bus accidents since 2010.

The OSSE is now working on reforms to their policies that will hold bus drivers accountable for their traffic violations. Drivers who run red lights will be required to take safety training, and after three violations drivers will be fired. In addition, any driver speeding more than 15 MPH over the limit will be terminated immediately. Any driver who receives a ticket will be penalized.

If you or your child has been injured in an auto accident with a Washington D.C. school bus, contact the experienced car accident attorneys at Cohen & Cohen P.C. to discuss your case.

Tough Mudder Death Prompts Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Tough Mudder Death Prompts Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The Tough Mudder is a race-cum-obstacle course that has become increasingly popular across the world since its inception in 2010. The event consists of a 12 mile race with approximately 25 different “obstacles” along its course, including steeply inclined walls, open flames, and pools filled with ice. Meant to test physical grit and promote camaraderie, the Tough Mudder is popular among corporate groups.

One year ago at a Tough Mudder event in West Virginia, one of the competition’s signature obstacles called “Walk the Plank” proved fatal to a participant. Avishek Sengupta was 28 years old at the time, and reportedly drowned after he leapt into a 13 foot deep pool of muddy water.

Sengupta’s mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tough Mudder and several other corporations involved in the event.  According to the suit, her son’s death resulted from of a lack of proper supervision and slow response from safety personnel on the scene. It also alleges that officials were not monitoring the obstacle to make sure that racers got out of the water. Witnesses said that there was a delay to get the attention of lifeguards, and a further delay before a rescue diver entered the water. Sengupta was allegedly submerged for at least 5 minutes. His death was ruled an accidental drowning and criminal charges were not pursued.

The family, who are residents of Maryland, filed suit on April 18th in Marshall County, West Virginia.

Car Accident Lawyers Know The Importance Of Maintaining Tire Pressure

Car accident attorneys understand better than most people the importance of vehicle maintenance. Car accidents aren’t always caused by drivers – they can result from problems that exist before you even turn the ignition. Practicing good upkeep on your vehicle is one simple way to make sure you are as safe as possible when driving.

Residents of DC, Maryland and Virginia don’t often experience winters as harsh as the 2013-2014 season – most people weren’t prepared for the snow storms and unusual cold of the Polar Vortex. Although the winter weather has passed, there may be lingering damage or problems with your car that are easily remedied. Blowouts are an especially dangerous occurrence that can suddenly lead to a catastrophic car accident and serious injury.  According to an estimate by Michelin, 535 fatalities and 2,300 car accidents are caused by tire blowouts in a single year.

Generally, tire pressure will decrease by about 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) with every temperature drop of 10 degrees, and the PSI rises by 1 with every increase of 10 degrees. The changing temperatures from winter to spring put an increased amount of stress on tires, upping the likelihood of a blowout.  Going into May with properly cared-for tires is very important to driver safety – the month of May is considered the start of the “blowout season” by mechanics. From May to October, the possibility of experiencing a blowout increases greatly due to the rising ambient temperatures that overwork your tires.  At the start of spring, most cars already have unusually low tire pressure due to the long periods of winter cold. Blowouts are usually caused by too little air pressure in the tire – low pressure causes the tire to stretch beyond its elasticity, leading to overheating.

Checking your tire pressure is very simple and could prevent a car accident. The proper PSI for tires can be found in the car’s owner manual. Many gas stations offer free air pumps for drivers to fill their tires. It is also smart to invest in your own tire pressure gauge, so that you can make sure your PSI is safe before driving.

Maintaining your car’s tires is a simple, quick way to prevent car accidents.

Wayne Cohen Lawyer, Attorney | Adam Leighton selected and named as two of Washington, DC’s 2014 Super Lawyers

Wayne Cohen and Adam Leighton were selected and named as two of Washington, DC’s 2014 Super Lawyers. Wayne Cohen was named as a Washington, DC Super Lawyer for his work with Personal Injury cases. This is Wayne Cohen‘s fourth straight year of being selected and named to the Super Lawyers’ list.  Adam Leighton was named as a Washington, DC Super Lawyer for his work with Medical Malpractice cases.  This is Adam Leighton‘s fifth straight year of being selected and named to the Super Lawyers’ list.

                

Best Way To Find The Right Personal Injury Attorney For You

Finding the right personal injury attorney to represent you can be overwhelming, especially if you have never needed legal help before. When it comes to choosing a personal injury attorney, there are several factors to consider.

First and foremost, your attorney should be experienced at practicing law. Personal injury cases can be complex and are better handled by someone who has been practicing for several years, with proven results. You should consider where the lawyer is licensed, and how long he or she has been licensed and practicing in your state. DC, Maryland and Virginia have different laws and statutes regarding personal injury matters and it is vital for your attorney to be familiar with the relevant laws.

A good deal of the right type of experience is also paramount when selecting an attorney.  Personal injury matters can range from medical malpractice to car accidents, and your attorney must have experience with your injury. If you need representation on an auto accident, a lawyer who deals mostly with workplace accidents may not know what to expect.  For example, experienced auto accident lawyers will be best prepared to handle insurance companies, among the other hurdles of accident cases.  The more experience your attorney has with your type of matter, the better he or she can evaluate your case.

In addition, it is important to learn about your potential attorney’s background – credentials matter. What areas does he or she serve? Did he or she go to a top-tier law school, or graduate with honors? Your attorney should also be active in the legal community. For example, leaders of local bar associations are well-respected in the field and passionate about the law, two ideal qualities for any attorney. An attorney in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, should have a wealth of experience in each location, be an industry leader, and have a distinctive and accomplished academic background.

Before choosing an attorney for your injury case, make sure to research the fees and services available. As with any service provider, it is important to know that the fees you’re paying are reasonable. Most personal injury attorneys offer contingency-based fee structures, meaning that your attorney is not compensated unless you win your case. Another service to consider is the consultation. Many attorneys offer a free consultation, so that you can meet to discuss expectations and process. Free consultations are incredibly valuable in choosing an attorney. You need to be sure that you trust your attorney to handle your case and communicate well with you. Meeting your attorney in person before hiring him or her for your injury matter is the best way to know that they are the right attorney for you.

So what should you be looking for in your personal injury or auto accident attorney? Experience, education, and compatibility.

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

What Is A “Black Box” – Event Data Recorder?

For most people, the term “black box”   brings to mind the indestructible recorder found in the cockpit of commercial airplanes.  However, most drivers don’t realize that today, black boxes can also be found in many consumer cars and trucks as well as commercial trucks and other vehicles.

These so-called black boxes are actually Event Data Recorders, or EDRs, and they are much simpler than an aircraft black box. EDRs do not record audio or video, but instead record information about a vehicle in the moments before a car accident (or potential accident).  This data can include:
– vehicle speed
– seatbelt status
– position of throttle/clutch
– status of brakes
– engine RPMs
– airbag information
– ABS information
– tire pressure
– cruise control status

EDRs are constantly recording this information in short cycles, which are overwritten every few minutes. It takes a “crash event” to cause the EDR to save the data – the same event that will cause the airbags to deploy or other safety features to be activated. In most cases, EDRs are a part of the airbag system. A crash event is usually a common precursor to a car accident or trucking accident, a sudden increase or decrease in speed, or a sudden change in direction or rotation of the vehicle. In some cases, the EDR will be activated when the airbags are not.

EDRs were not originally designed to be used in car accident or trucking accident investigations. They were intended to help improve safety technology by providing data about the effectiveness of the safety equipment in cars and trucks in an actual collision. Since 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been gathering information from EDRs to improve auto safety.

Car manufacturers have been building cars with EDRs with increasing frequency since the early 1990’s. Manufacturers like GM, Ford, Toyota, Lexus, Lincoln, and others have incorporated EDR technology into many of their vehicles. Today, 96% of passenger vehicles contain EDRs. EDRs can be found in commercial trucks based on the manufacturer of the engine – producers including CAT, Cummins, Mack, Mercedes Benz, and others.  Information recorded in trucking accidents differs slightly from what’s collected by commercial EDRs. It can include:

– Number of “hard brakes”
– High Speed
– Percentage of drive time using cruise control
– Engine settings such as Maximum Governed Speed

In a serious car accident or truck accident, the information found on an EDR can be the difference between winning and losing a personal injury case. For an injury lawyer, preserving the evidence on an EDR is key. For example, an EDR can reveal whether the at-fault driver was speeding, braking, or accelerating.  To ensure that this data is not lost, the injury lawyer can use a spoliation letter, which notifies involved parties that certain evidence must not be destroyed or tampered with.  In the case of a car or truck accident, the spoliation letter might include:

– records relating to the involved vehicle
– the vehicle itself
– GPS data such as Qualcomm, Highway Master, XATA, and similar systems
– Electronic Control Module data
– Accelerometer Recording System Data
– Radar collision warning system data (such as VORAD)
– Airbag Control Module data, Powertrain Control Module data, and Roll Over Sensor data
– Video footage or still photographs from the accident (such as Drive Cam, Safety Vision)
– Records relating to the vehicle’s driver (qualification files, background checks, personnel files)
– Communications from the driver via CB radio, mobile or satellite

Event Data Recorders can be instrumental in the litigation of personal injury and car accident cases; however, the data can only be retrieved by a trained specialist with the proper equipment.  Several states have also enacted legislation to regulate the retrieval of data.

Five Things You Need to Know to Win Your Cruise Ship Accident Case–Part 4: “Mediation”

I’d like to thank personal injury attorney Spencer Aronfeld for providing this guest blog. Spencer is an attorney with the personal injury law firm Aronfeld Trial Lawyers located in South Florida.  I hope you find the blog informative and interesting!

Five Things You Need to Know to Win Your Cruise Ship Accident Case –Part 4: “Mediation”

In every Florida personal injury case, including in all injury claims filed by cruise ship passengers in Federal Court, the judge will order the parties to attend a settlement conference known as a mediation.  Each judge is different; some force the parties to sit down early on–before unspeakably huge amounts of time and money are spent in litigation–to see if the claim can just be settled.  Others wait to the last minute, mere days before trial.  Either way, both the claimant and defendant at some point will have to attend mediation.

For years I have dreaded these meetings, where my clients and I are forced by court order to sit in some fancy conference room, across from a smug insurance defense lawyer and her claims adjuster, separated by a few feet of mahogany and a cup of cold coffee.

What is a Mediation?

Sitting at the head of the table is a Court-Appointed Mediator, someone who is usually an experienced and semi-retired trial lawyer, former judge, or in some cases just a lawyer who took a seminar to get certification.  In fact, the Florida Bar offers courses and a detailed manual on how to conduct a mediation.  As in everything in life, there are a few great mediators and many poor ones.

At a mediation, nobody decides who is wrong or right or how much or little money a case is worth.  Rather, each side makes a presentation to the mediator.  Those presentations can range from elaborate PowerPoint shows with animated computerized graphics, to nothing.  My fifteen- year-old daughter Sara Rose helped me last week by creating a mediation presentation that used an old CNN story about a rare medical condition called RSD (Reflex sympathetic dystrophy) to educate the mediator in a cruise ship injury case about the alleged injury of a lady we are trying to help.  The case settled.

The presentations also provide the defense lawyers a chance to speak directly to and at the plaintiffs in a manner that would be prohibited in any other setting, since everything that is said during the meeting is privileged and confidential. They often look the plaintiffs in the eyes and tell them how little their cases are worth and how they will lose at trial. It can be quite powerful and terrifying for an unprepared plaintiff.

Following the presentations, the parties are separated into different rooms so that the mediator can speak privately to each side.  That process is called caucusing, and the mediator shuffles back and forth between the rooms, conveying offers and counter-offers that would remind anyone who has ever been to a bazaar or flea market of the haggling over a Persian rug.

Sophisticated negotiation techniques are used, like offering to “bracket” offers.  Scenarios play out, such as if you go to X, then I will go to Y, in an effort to figure out just how much or little one side is willing to take.

How to Settle My Case at Mediation

Most mediations I participate in are not successful; in other words, they do not result in a settlement.  Defense lawyers and I very rarely if ever agree on the value of a case.  I always think the case is worth more than they do, or more than their clients are willing to offer to pay.

I have said for years–in response to pompous defense lawyers, who pretend to know exactly how much a jury will return in a verdict for in a particular case, while making a demeaning offer to my injured client–”If either you or I really knew what the verdict would be, neither one of us would be sitting here right now.”  In other words no one will ever know what a given jury will do with a given case, as that is nearly impossible to predict in most cases, except for those instances when the damages are catastrophic or liability is weak.

Why Mediations Fail?

I used to blame the process, the mediator, or stubborn clients.  I have now turned my focus on myself.  I closely watched a talented lawyer and friend of mine named Bob Brown settle case after case at mediation.  To be sure, he used to be a defense lawyer and has the All-American charm usually reserved for quarterbacks and talk show hosts. But there had to be something more.  How could he settle cases at mediation while mine would always reach impasse, resulting in years of litigation, trials, and appeals?

What did he know that I didn’t?  I asked him, and he told me simply that sometimes, for some people I am trying to help, it is better for them to get the case behind them, even if it may mean taking less today than a jury might give three years down the road.  A trial is not always in the best interest of the client, and by becoming friends with the defense lawyer, I can accomplish more than by always being on the attack.

When Bob first told me he would take the defendant’s lawyer out for lunch, dinner, or drinks to discuss a case, I was baffled.  How could I possibly break bread with the “other side”?  But like any great diplomat, he showed me the power a sit-down can have towards reaching the ultimate goal of serving the client.  For that lesson, I am grateful.

Cruise Ship Accident Mediations

In cruise ship litigation, the dynamic is much different than in a typical slip and fall at Walmart or Publix or a rear-end car accident, because defendant cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, or Disney have such extraordinary resources at their disposal and can afford to pay most verdicts, literally from the profits they make in about six minutes in their respective casinos.

If you have been injured aboard a cruise ship, call our cruise ship accident attorneys.  I would like to help you.  I have successfully helped people in claims against Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Princess, and Norwegian Cruise lines.  We offer a free initial consultation to anyone who may have a case.  Call us toll free at 1-866-597-4529 or email us today.

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer: What Is “Discovery” In A Legal Case?

What is “Discovery” In A Legal Case?

A lawsuit begins when one party files a Complaint against another. The Complaint is basically an outline of what occurred. In a car accident case, the plaintiff would state how the car collision occurred, and the extent of the injuries. In a divorce Complaint, the person filing would state basic facts like how long the parties had been married, and the general reason for the divorce (i.e., irreconcilable differences).

Once the Complaint is filed, the defendant must then file an Answer. The Answer will usually provide the basic defense to the case. The defendant may be contesting the general facts of what occurred, as well as the damages to the plaintiff. After the Complaint is filed, and the defendant files the Answer, then “discovery” begins between the parties.

Discovery Is An Information Gathering Process

Discovery is the process by which the parties to a lawsuit gather information from each other, and from outside sources. The defendant in a car accident case will want to know basic facts like (a) the names of any witnesses to the accident, (b) the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, including the physicians who may have given treatment, and (c) how much money the plaintiff lost as a result of the accident. In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff will want to know key facts such as the physician’s experience with the procedure at issue, as well as whether the doctor has previously had any claims.

Discovery in a lawsuit generally occurs in three ways. First, the parties may exchange interrogatories. These are questions that one side is entitled to ask the other, and the answers are provided in writing. Second, the parties may request documents from each other via a formal “document” request. Third, each party can conduct a deposition. In a deposition, the witness is placed under oath and questions are asked. The deposition may be videotaped in some instances.

Once a lawsuit is filed, a party may also discovery information from entities outside of the lawsuit (i.e., third parties).

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

Will You Please Take My Injury Case?

How The Personal Injury Lawyers Of Cohen & Cohen, P.C. Decide Whether To Accept A Case

The lawyers at our office hear these words often: “Will you take my case?” Sometimes the question is a little different. “Do I have a case?” Or, “What’s the value of my case?” The common thread that runs through all of these questions is the same. Behind the question always lies an injured victim with a very real case. So in this article we have decided to help explain how the lawyers at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. decide whether to accept a case.

By way of quick background, an injured victim must generally prove (1) that someone was negligent, (2) that there were some damages, and (3) that the negligence actually caused the damages. This is as true in a car accident case, as it is in a product defect case, as it is in a medical negligence case. Each state differs in its laws when it comes to personal injury matters, so be sure to check with a local lawyer to best understand the nuances of your jurisdiction.

Personal Injury Cases Are All Evaluated The Same Way

A lawyer who evaluates personal injury cases will perform an initial evaluation to make sure these 3 criteria are met. The first question the lawyer will consider is whether there was negligence. Did the physician make a mistake? Or did the injury occur simply because the practice of medicine is never perfect. Was the defendant-driver acting negligently by running the red light, and are there witnesses who will support the side of the injured victim? Was the slip and fall caused by negligence, or was it simply an unfortunate occurrence?

Next, the lawyer looks at the issue of damages. Some law firms only accept very catastrophic cases. Other law firms accept smaller cases. If a law firm only takes large cases, it may not accept a simple accident, even where the defendant was clearly negligent (i.e., a rear end accident).

During the evaluation process, the lawyer will also look to the issue of “causation,” meaning did the negligence directly cause the injury? Sometimes this is simple to evaluate. Vince the victim was in a car accident, and suffered severe burns on his chest when the airbag deployed. Causation is not an issue for Vince because the deploying airbag burned him. Sometimes causation is much more complicated to evaluate. Paul the patient was receiving treatment by his primary care physician. During an exam, Paul complained of chest pain and was coughing. The physician waited three weeks before performing a chest x-ray on Paul. Three weeks after the initial exam, Paul was diagnosed with lung cancer. Paul believes he has a malpractice case because he was no diagnosed sooner. For this discussion, let’s not even decide whether the physician was negligent. Instead, let’s only look at causation. Paul calls a law firm and explains the case. If it turns out that the delay in treatment to diagnose Paul’s cancer did not worsen Paul’s condition, then there’s no causation. To put it simply, even if the doctor made a mistake, unless there was some damage related directly to that mistake, then there’s no case.

Find A Personal Injury Attorney Who Will Work For You

How does all of this translate to you, should you need to hire an injury lawyer? If you call a law firm, understand that injury law firms generally work on a contingency. The lawyers typically will not earn a fee unless they win the case. This means that the lawyers can’t accept the case unless they believe they have a really good shot at winning. Be prepared to speak with several lawyers, and that the lawyers may reject your case. The key is to get educated on the process, so that you are not surprised.

At Cohen & Cohen, P.C., we receive lots of case calls every day. We take both small and large cases. Our paralegals and intake receptionists are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Every case gets reviewed by a lawyer before a decision is made. We always try to communicate quickly with our potential clients so that they are advised quickly as to whether we can help.

I hope you never, ever need our services. If you do, then this means that you suffered an injury for which you are seeking compensation. Being injured is not fun, nor is going through a personal injury case. That said, should you ever find yourself in a situation where you do need a personal injury lawyer, then we will be here to provide you with a free case evaluation. Our goal will be to review the key facts and to get back in touch with you quickly. I hope you find this newsletter to provide you with some basic information as to how personal injury cases are evaluated.

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer: Car Accidents after a Snowstorm

Today, I’m writing about car accidents and what happens when there is a car accident after a snowstorm.

For starters, whenever it snows, one unfortunate side effect is that there are many more car accidents.  If you’re in the mid-Atlantic or southern states, odds are your fortunate enough to have mild weather.  In Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia, we have a pretty short winter. We usually do not get too much snow, and when we do, the accumulation tends to be small. However, when it does snow, it seems that the drivers on our streets are less experienced in how to manage their vehicles. Accordingly, a lot of accidents do occur!

If a car accident occurs during a snowstorm, there are some special considerations that must be evaluated. An example helps illustrate the point.  Let’s say that Danny, a defendant, strikes Paul, the plaintiff, in the rear of Paul’s vehicle.  Paul suffers a soft-tissue injury, and requires follow up medical treatment.  Assuming that the accident occurs on dry pavement, or even in rain, the odds are that Paul will win the case.  His theory will be that Danny was driving negligently and did not control his vehicle.  That said, if the accident occurred during a snowstorm, then the outcome may be different.  Danny may be able to defend the case on the grounds that he was driving cautiously, and that the accident was not preventable.

The jury will ultimately need to decide whether Danny was at fault, and if so, what amount of damages Paul should receive.  But when this type of rear end accident occurs in a snowstorm, things are not cut and dried.

Some of these cases also end up in litigation, with interrogatories, discovery, deposition testimony, and even depositions with court reporters.  Each state differs in how negligence is proven!  But as a general statement, an injured person must provide that (a) the defendant acted negligently, and (b) that the negligence caused the injuries.  Car accidents in DC, Maryland and Virginia, also have special rules of law, so if you’ve been injured you should find an injury lawyer right away.  Visit our resource library for information on drunk driving driving accident attorneys in Washington D.C.

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

Washington DC Worker’s Compensation

Worker’s Compensation in Washington D.C.

If You’ve Been Injured on The Job, A Worker’s Compensation Lawyer Can Help You Receive Benefits

Worker’s Compensation is a type of government-sponsored insurance which assists workers who have been injured on the job. Workers’ Compensation started during the industrial revolution when an increase in factory jobs led to an increase in worker injuries in those factories. Many people would be unable to work due to those injuries and couldn’t afford medical treatment. Since the early 1900s, all states, including Washington, D.C., have adopted and amended their Worker’s Compensation laws to help injured workers pay their medical bills and supplement their income while injured. Each state has different benefits, so you should always check with a worker’s compensation attorney to see what benefits your state may offer.

Washington D.C. Worker’s Compensation Laws

In Washington D.C., Worker’s Compensation covers workers who are injured or killed on the job while working for an employer who is located in DC. To receive Workers’ Compensation benefits the worker must have been injured while performing his or her normal work functions at the direction of his or her employer. Examples of on the job injuries may include getting injured by equipment, falling down stairs, or developing a work-related disease.

When an employee suffers an injury on the job he or she needs to promptly file a work injury claim by reporting the injury to his or her employer, and then has 30 days to notify the Office of Workers’ Compensation in writing about the injury. Within 10 days of the reported work injury, the employer should notify the Office of Workers’ Compensation of the injury so the office can process the work injury claim.

If the work injury claim is approved, the injured employee can receive 100% coverage for his or her medical costs and supplemental income at 66 2/3% of the rate of his or her pay check. As of the beginning of 2012, Washington DC’s Workers’ Compensation Schedule set a minimum income compensation at $354 and a maximum income compensation at $1,416.00.

In D.C., the benefits granted by the Office of Workers’ Compensation may depend on the extent of a worker’s injuries. Injuries will be partial or total. If a worker is partially disabled she or he may be able to perform some work but not the same type of work or for shorter periods of time than before the injury. If a worker is totally disabled she or he is unable to perform any type of work. Injuries will also be either temporary or permanent. If temporary, the injury should heal and the worker should be able to eventually return to work. If permanent, the injury will not completely heal and will always affect the worker’s ability to return to the same job she or he had before. DC will therefore rate injuries as Temporary Partial, Temporary Total, Permanent Partial, or Permanent Total.

A Worker’s Compensation Attorney Can Help You Recover Owed Benefits

In the case of a work-related injury which, unfortunately, leads to the death of the worker, the worker’s family may be eligible for death benefits. These may include funeral costs up to $5,000 in addition to what the worker would have been entitled to had he not died.

If you have been injured on the job during work in Washington D.C., you should contact a Worker’s Compensation lawyer immediately. Do not rely on any information in this article because the laws of each state may change periodically. Contact the attorneys at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. today for a free consultation.

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer: What does hearsay mean?

What is Hearsay?

Personal Injury Attorney Wayne Cohen Explains the Hearsay Definition & Explores Hearsay Exceptions

We’ve all heard it in movies, “Objection, your honor!! Hearsay!” But what does that mean?

Hearsay is one of the most confusing rules of evidence that law students have to learn, and one of the most useful rules for an attorney to have at trial. Hearsay is a rule of evidence that prohibits certain types of statements from being introduced at trial, even if those statements occurred in a deposition taken by a court reporter. Hearsay can be best thought of as “he-said / she-said” statements. Hearsay testimony is prohibited when a witness repeats an oral or written statement, or nonverbal conduct, made outside of the trial by another person and presented to the court as true. In other words, if you hear someone say something, you cannot say it to the court. Perhaps in a car accident case, a witness made a statement that was overheard by the injured victim, this would be hearsay at the car accident trial.

You may wonder why courts have this rule. Our court systems try hard to ensure that any and all information presented before the court is as true and accurate as possible while also ensuring that trials run efficiently. If hearsay were allowed to be introduced at trials, testimony could be introduced that is not true and accurate, or witnesses could go back and forth bickering over who said what. To avoid these pitfalls, courts do not allow the introduction of hearsay, and instead limit testimony to things that a witness knows from firsthand knowledge.

There are exceptions to rules of hearsay. Here are some of the most common hearsay exceptions in DC.

  • Statement against interest – A statement by the opposing party admitting something that is not in his best interest.
  • Excited utterance – If someone says something without thinking, but as an instinct or reaction.
  • Deathbed statement – A statement made when a person reasonably and honestly believes they are about to die about the circumstances of their death.
  • Statement for medical diagnosis – A statement made by a patient to a doctor for the purpose of the doctor diagnosing a condition or administering medical treatment.
  • Present sense impression – A statement made while or immediately after a person perceived an event or condition (such as live tweeting!)
  • Declarant unavailable – If the person who made the statement is not available to come to court, most often because they are dead or physically or mentally ill, their statement may be admitted anyway.

Although rules of evidence vary from state to state, hearsay is one of the rules that is virtually the same across the country. Whether you’re in DC, Maryland, or Virginia, the definition of hearsay is almost the same. Also, the rules are generally the same regardless of the type of case – whether it’s a divorce, car accident, or breach of contract case.

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

Be Careful When Leaving An Online Review … You Might Be Fined $3500

You may have heard about the recent case from late 2013 where a couple in Salt Lake City received a fine and a bad credit score for leaving a negative review about an online retailer.  In 2008, John Palmer bought some Christmas gifts for his wife on KlearGear.com, an online consumer shopping website.  The items that the Palmers purchased never arrived, and the transaction was cancelled.  John Palmer’s wife contends that she called the website several times, but was unable to get answers.  So, she did what so many consumers now do, she posted a review online saying that “there is absolutely no way to get in touch with a physical human being.  No extensions work.”

Three years later, the Palmers received an email from KlearGear.com notifying them that they would be fined $3500 if the negative review was not removed. Apparently, there was a term and condition that the website contended was part of the Palmer’s transaction, which was agreed to before the sale was completed.  Do you ever really read those “terms and conditions” you sign online?  The review was not removed; the online retailer fined the Palmers, and then reported the fine to credit agencies.  The Palmers’ credit has been damaged, and John Palmer has been denied a credit card.

The story is not over.  On December 18, 2013, the Palmers filed suit against KlearGear.com.  The basis of the lawsuit is that non-disparagement clause is unenforceable, and that damages should be assessed.  In lay terms, a “non-disparagement clause” is a clause in a contract that prevents a party from saying anything negative about the other.  While it’s not entirely clear how this will play out in the legal system, the reality is that online review management has become a big part of the way business is currently transacted.  When a business engages in conduct that upsets a consumer, it is very easy for the consumer to go online and post a negative review.  Businesses, lawyers, accountants, and even doctors, and looking into ways to protect themselves from being harmed online.  Having a non-disparagement clause has been suggested as a means of accomplishing this protection.

Josh Meah, Chief Operating Officer at JackMyRep.com, an online search engine optimization and online review management company, faces this problem frequently.  According to Mr. Meah, “Small businesses and professionals such as lawyers and doctors are now going to great lengths to protect their online reputations.  The problem is that any upset customer, patient, or client can go online and leave a disparaging comment, even if the comment is one-sided or doesn’t tell the entire story.”  But where does this end?  What about the first amendment and the freedom of speech?  Should an online retailer really be allowed to prevent a buyer form leaving a review?

All of these questions must be addressed, and as the Palmer’s case works its way through the legal system we should have some answers for how one court is handling this.

Stay tuned!

 

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

Divorce & The Personal Injury Case – A Quick Primer

A divorce can wreak havoc on the litigation in a personal injury case.  Here’s why!  Let’s start with an example.  Assume that Harry (the husband) and Wendy (the wife) were married.  Wendy is involved in a bad car accident in the District of Columbia.  She retains the services of a Washington D.C. car accident lawyer  and a claim is brought against Danny (the defendant).  Danny caused the accident which ultimately injured Wendy.

Immediately after the car collision, Wendy was taken to the hospital, but she did not have any broken bones.  Her injuries were mostly “soft tissue,” and nothing showed up on the x-rays.  Still, Wendy was hurt and required follow up treatment.  She treated with an orthopedic surgeon for the next several months.  She received physical therapy, and massage treatments.  Her car accident lawyer was not able to settle the case with the insurance company, so he brought a lawsuit against Danny.  After the lawsuit was filed, Danny’s lawyers, of course, wanted to do everything possible to limit the amount of money that is paid in the case.  Danny’s lawyers are fighting the case, and their position is that Wendy was not really hurt in the case.  They don’t dispute that Danny caused the accident, but they believe she did not receive any medical treatment and that she was not being truthful about her injuries.

So, what does Harry — the now ex-husband — have to do with all of this?  Danny’s lawyers are entitled to conduct what is known as “discovery.”  This means that they can get all kinds of information in the case.  They want to determine the extent of Wendy’s injuries, and more importantly, whether she is faking her injuries. During discovery, Danny’s lawyers will take the deposition of Harry to see if he has any information that helps their defense. Maybe Harry will say that Wilma was faking her injuries, and exaggerating to try and increase her settlement.  If Harry says anything that contradicts his now ex-wife’s claims, then Harry can rest assured that he’ll be brought to trial to testify against his wife. Harry’s divorce lawyer may or may not be present  Wendy’s car accident lawyer will now need to face a contentious ex-husband.

In this case, the divorce is definitely taking its toll on the case.  As one Maryland divorce lawyer who is a friend once put it, “The husband or wife of an injured plaintiff can really do a lot of damage in a personal injury case.”

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

Maryland Car Accident Cases & Contributory Negligence – Crazy Law?

Maryland Car Accident Cases & Contributory Negligence – Crazy Law?

Having been a trial lawyer with the law firm of Cohen & Cohen for more than 2 decades, and being admitted to the bar in Maryland also for more than 2 decades, I can tell you that injury cases in Maryland are unique when it comes to car accident cases.  For today’s blog, we’re going to take a look at what some of these differences are, especially as they pertain to Montgomery County and to Prince George’s County matters.

In Montgomery County and Prince George’s County car accident cases, lawyers must deal with contributory negligence.  Contributory negligence occurs where one party is mostly at fault, but the second party is partially at fault.  In this case, the second party is not able to recover in the accident at all because of the partial negligence.  What in the world does that all mean?  My apologies for for all of the “first party” and “second party” lingo!  An example will shed some light.

Ethel is a very sweet elderly woman who is going out for her daily walk.  Ethel comes upon Slow Down Lane, and needs to cross the street.  She looks both ways and doesn’t see any cars coming.. Lo and behold, at the same time Jerry, a big jerk who is driving his super fast Porsche, is driving down Slow Down Lane.  Jerry (the jerk) ignores the posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour, as he accelerates to 50 miles per hour.  His radio is blasting, and he is writing a text message to his girlfriend.  He’s also fixing his hair in the mirror.  And to make matters worse, he just left a restaurant, where he had 3 margaritas!

As Ethel crosses the road, Jerry strikes her.  Ethel suffers serious injuries and needs a car accident lawyer in Maryland, maybe Montgomery County or Prince George’s County. What’s unique about this case is that the injury lawyer must address contributory negligence.  Here, Jerry is clearly at fault.  He was speeding, was intoxicated, and was not paying attention.  But there’s more to the story.  Because Ethel was not in a crosswalk when she was crossing Slow Down Lane, she’s also at fault.  Of course, Jerry is more at fault, way more.  But under the law of contributory negligence, if Ethel is even 1% at fault, then she can’t recover for her injuries.  Sound weird to you?  Well, I agree!  As a Maryland car accident lawyer, dealing with contributory negligence can be very difficult.  But it is currently the law, and so it’s part of how to help clients win their cases.

It’s also pretty interesting to note that not too many states have contributory negligence as a legal doctrine.  Currently, fewer than 10% of the states have this type of system in place. Maryland is but one of a few such jurisdictions.

If you’ve been injured and need a car accident lawyer in Montgomery County, or in Prince George’s County, then you should educate yourself on this doctrine.  It’s a key component of many cases, and you and your injury lawyer may together need to address it!

Understanding how to litigate cases where contributory negligence is an issue is very, very important, and something that top injury lawyers will be able to do.

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Report Ranks Effectiveness Of Car Safety Technology

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Report Ranks Effectiveness Of Car Safety Technology

I’d like to thank personal injury attorney Nicholas Gerson for providing this guest blog. Nick is an attorney with the personal injury law firm Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. in Miami, FL.  I hope you find the blog informative and interesting!

According to an article published in CNN Money, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (“IIHS”), issued a report awarding rating to the various technologies being implemented by automobile manufacturers to reduce the frequency and severity of car accidents. The IIHS conducted a number of tests to measure the effectiveness of crash prevention systems and then rated each as Basic, Advanced, or Superior.

To earn a Basic rating, a vehicle did not need to utilize automatic braking, but was required to have the capability of warning the driver of an imminent collision in five of seven tests. Most of the vehicles that received a Basic rating did not have automatic braking systems, and, of those that did, they were not good enough to merit a higher rating.

The Advanced rating was awarded to those vehicles that were able to avoid a crash or reduce the speed of the vehicle at impact by a minimum of 5 miles per hour in either the 12 or 25 mph tests. Although all the vehicles rated Advanced were able to reduce vehicle speeds, some were only able to achieve slight reductions.

Finally, those vehicles rated Superior were able to substantially reduce speeds, or stop the vehicle altogether, in the 12 and 25 mph tests. Although the Superior rated systems were not always able to avoid a collision, the fact that they able to significantly reduce the severity of an impact constituted a significant safety benefit.

Davis Zuby, the IIHS chief researcher, stated, “Front crash prevention systems can add a thousand dollars or more to the cost of a new car. Our new ratings let consumers know which systems offer the most promise for the extra expense.”

By comparing car insurance claims for Volvo owners between 2011 and 2012, the IIHS was able to determine that vehicles with the City Safety Feature, which uses infrared technology to automatically apply brakes in the event the driver gets too close to another vehicle or object, were the subject of 16% fewer property damage claims and between 18 and 33% fewer personal injury claims than other Volvo automobiles.

Crash avoidance and prevention systems are becoming increasingly common equipment in even standard vehicles. Approximately 12% of vehicles manufactured in 2013 offered automatic braking systems and 29% forward-collision warning systems as options.

Crash avoidance technology is becoming increasingly important as the number of motorists on America’s roads continues to go up. As this blog has discussed before, in 2011, the average motorist spent an extra 38 hours on the road and, in areas with a population over three million, that number was 52 hours. Florida is at the heart of our nations’ traffic problem as the region encompassing Miami Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, ranked eleventh of the fifteen worst urban areas for traffic congestion.

The Miami car accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by negligent drivers. If you or someone you know has been injured in motor vehicle accident in South Florida contact the lawyers at Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today.

A special thanks to Wayne Cohen, and the law firm of Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for allowing me to write a quick guest blog. Keep an eye out for more personal injury blogs.

How Does Divorce Impact Your Personal Injury Case?

How Does Divorce Impact Your Personal Injury Case?

This is a great question, and unfortunately comes up quite often.  With approximately 50% of marriages ending up in divorce, it’s a topic worth exploring.  So, let’s get right into it.

Let’s assume that Henry (husband) and Wilma (wife) have been married for ten years and have been living in Maryland.  Unfortunately, it’s not working out, so Wilma decided to go and see a Maryland divorce lawyer.  Henry then is involved in a bad car accident in Maryland.  Henry receives treatment for the next year, and then finally receives a large settlement for his car accident.  But in the meantime, he and Wilma had separated.

The question is whether Wilma is entitled to any of Henry’s settlement.  For starters, it’s important to understand that the laws of each state are different, so you should check with a lawyer in your state.  Under our facts, you would want to check with a divorce lawyer in Maryland .   Generally, property accumulated during the marriage (other than gifts or inheritance) is considered a marital asset and may be equitably divided among the spouses.  If the money from the settlement or verdict is received before the divorce decree becomes final, then it usually would be considered a joint asset.  Conversely, if the money is received after the divorce is final, then all of the proceeds go to the injured person.

It’s very ,very important to review this with a divorce attorney in your state, especially because different types of damages may be treated differently.  Damages awarded for medical expenses, lost wages, and other types of injuries are handled differently in each state.

As a reference, if you are seeking information from a Maryland divorce lawyer, you may want to check out www.tough-divorce-lawyers.com and www.tough-divorce-lawyers.com/best-divorce-lawyers-maryland/

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer: What Is “GAP” Coverage on My Insurance Policy?

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer:  What Is “GAP” Coverage on My Insurance Policy?

“GAP” coverage, otherwise known as “Guaranteed Asset (or Auto) Protection”, covers the difference between the actual cash value of an asset (your car) and the balance still owed on the financing of that asset, and is generally offered by car insurance companies as an addition to your car insurance plan.  Ok, so what does that really mean?  Let’s take a look.

If you’re involved in a car accident and your car is deemed “totaled,” the insurance company will place a value on it.  For example, let’s say that your car has a decade of use and a lot of miles, and is a total loss.  The insurance company says the car is worth $5,000.  But you just bought the car last year for $10,000 and you still have $7,000 in car payments to make. GAP insurance will cover the $2,000 difference between what your car was valued at and what you owe on it so that you’re not paying out of pocket for your damages.  This covers the “gap” between what the insurance company is giving you and what you owe.

Is GAP insurance for you?  If your car is financed, it probably should be.  Remember that the value of a car depreciates the second you drive it out of the car dealership so it is never worth as much as you paid for it. After getting an estimate on the value of your car, figure out how much you owe towards paying your car off. If the difference is negligible, or if you feel you have the means to pay the difference, you might not want to get the extra coverage. However, if the difference is significant you should definitely consider adding GAP coverage to your insurance plan in the event your car is stolen or totaled in an accident.

If you would like more information on GAP coverage, feel free to contact Wayne Cohen at Cohen and Cohen or any one of our lawyers.

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

 

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer: Liability for Adventure Sports – Does the Waiver Really Matter?

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer:  Liability for Adventure Sports – Does the Waiver Really Matter?

If you’re one of the many Americans who love adventure sports, then odds are that you’ve probably signed a waiver form.  Perhaps you’ve done a team building event at work by crawling over an obstacle course?  Or maybe you’ve tried to paddle board on the Potomac River?  If so, chances are that you’ve signed a waiver form.

I’m frequently asked, “Do waiver forms matter?”  Well, the answer is that it depends on the state.  In general, waiver forms can be upheld in certain circumstances and in certain states.  So what are you to do?  Here are a few quick tips.

First, if you are simply handed a ticket that has waiver information on it, but you never signed it, then this typically won’t be upheld as a form of a waiver.  Once example of this might be if you receive a valet parking ticket at an event.  Another example might be when you check your coat at a restaurant and are handed a ticket that say the restaurant is not responsible if there is damage to your coat.  In these cases, the tickets generally don’t waive your claims because you never signed them.

Second, in situations where you actually sign the waiver, it is more likely to be upheld. One example might be where you are trying an adventure sport, let’s say paddleboarding.  You should expect that the paddle board guide is likely to require that you read and sign a waiver, especially if you are heading down rapids like on the Potomac River or surfing the waves at Assateague.  In those cases, the waivers are more likely to be upheld.

Third, if truly want to understand the law in each state, then take some time to do some research.  A lawyer in Washington DC, Maryland, or Virginia, can help get you pointed in the right direction or you can simply do the research yourself.  The bottom line is that waivers have a lot of psychological influence because people think that they are prevented from suing.  But the reality is that they oftentimes are not enforceable.

And if you’re wondering why I mention paddle boarding on the Potomac River here, it’s because it’s my favorite sport!

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer: What Does “Bullying” Really Mean in the Law?

What Does “Bullying” Really Mean in the Law?

Wayne Cohen, Washington DC Personal Injury Lawyer/Attorney Explains

Bullying has been all over the news recently, with stories ranging from elementary school classrooms, to NFL football players.  So often the media discusses bullying, but does not really explain what it means in the law.  Let’s try to break it down a bit.  Bullying is generally defined as an intentional act that causes harm to others. It can include verbal harassment, verbal/non-verbal threats, physical assault, stalking, blackmail, extortion, etc. As technology has advanced, bullying has expanded from this traditional definition to include cyber-bullying . A growing dependence on technology has created a new venue for bullies to harass their victims. Cell phones, email accounts, even social network profiles are utilized as tools to assist in bullying.  The exact definition of bullying varies from state to state.

To combat bullying, state anti-bullying laws and local educational agency (LEA) policies were created focusing on school systems. However, not all states have both anti –bullying laws and/or policies and a lot of discrepancies exist throughout the country, even though there are mandated guidelines when creating anti-bullying laws and policies, including how to define bullying within their jurisdiction.

For example, Florida State Anti-Bullying laws include a definition for bullying that excludes harassment and only cover bullying targeted for sex, religion or race. In contrast, DC Anti-Bully laws’ definition of bullying protects people bullied for their race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, age, marital status, person appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, intellectual ability, familial status, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, genetic information, disability, source of income, or any other distinguishing characteristics. Very comprehensive compared to Florida, don’t you think?

When drafting legislation, states, at their discretion, can include a statement addressing a victim’s ability to seek other legal remedies (i.e. civil or criminal). An option for legal remedies is not present in Florida but is in DC. Laws and policies in many states including the District of Columbia tend to focus on an educational approach for preventative measures of bullying, rather than a legal approach.

But what happens when anti-bullying education fails to deter bullying? We know from experience that despite all the anti-bullying videos, worksheets, and exercises we had to do in junior high and high school, students still continued bullying. Should there be a standard form of punishment for students caught bullying? Or is the solution always going to be more anti-bullying education?

Furthermore, there currently are no federal laws that directly address bullying. With the number of school shootings we’ve had in the past year (most recently, Sparks Middle School Oct 21, 2013), it may be time to seriously consider the detrimental impact bullying has upon a young mind.  Perhaps Congress will act on this.

Schoolyards and classrooms are not the only playing field for bullies.  Even NFL players are victims of such actions. Jonathan Martin, an offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, left the team after a lunchroom prank last week. Allegations arose regarding misconduct by teammate Richie Incognito, who made racial slurs towards Jonathan Martin. The question is does Martin have a legal case? Martin could file suit for a hostile work environment created by teammate Richie Incognito; however isn’t such behavior common in football?

So when does it stop? More importantly, when does the government take a serious look at addressing the legal codes that (should exist and) apply to bullying locally, state-wide, and nationally?

What To Do If You’re Hurt At Work

Workers’ Compensation Attorney Services Serving Washington DC

If you are injured on the job, make sure to notify an immediate supervisor right away. It is recommended to notify any supervisors in written format to ensure the delivery of the message, and to make sure that there is no confusion. Any delay in notification might become a problem when filing a workers’ compensation claim down the road. Additionally, remember to complete and submit an appropriate claim form to your supervisor following the work injury.

It is also very important that you seek medical assistance to assess the injuries and receive treatment. You do not want to undermine the extent of an injury so it is best to get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible. A delay in treatment could generally impede one’s ability to get workers’ compensation or prove the injury was indeed a work injury. Seek medical treatment at either an employer approved medical facility or hospital.

Just like any other case, there is a limitation as to when you may file a claim. The statute of limitation ranges from state to state. So, if you’ve been injured in the District of Columbia, Maryland, or Virginia, make sure to check with a workers’ compensation lawyer right away so you do not miss any deadlines.

Not sure when to contact an attorney? Reaching out to a work injury attorney is a great way to become familiar with the workers’ compensation claim process as well as the rights you have as an injured employee. It is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible, following the work related injury. If you decide to retain a workers’ compensation attorney, they will ensure that your rights as employees are protected and you are compensated for any expenses incurred due to this injury.

If you have been injured on the job in DC, Maryland or Virginia, give us a call today at 202-955-4529 to speak to a legal representative regarding your potential worker’s compensation case!

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer: Subpoenas and Surfing? Really?

Wayne Cohen | Attorney – Lawyer Subpoenas and Surfing?  Really?

What do subpoenas and surfing have in common?  Probably nothing.  But today in my blog I was feeling like it would be an appropriate time to step outside the box.  So, I’m going to blog on one of my favorite past-times:  paddle boarding.  Even trial lawyers need to have fun.

I was recently at a party where a good friend whom I haven’t seen in a while asked in a very sarcastic manner, “So what is it that Wayne Cohen, the big time trial lawyer and attorney, likes to do for fun?  Still chewing tacks and spitting fire?”  I should mention that my friend’s sarcastic tone was heaviest as he held his hand up in quotes and said “big time”!  We go way back, and he likes busting my chops.

My answer is that for the past several years I have been paddle boarding, both in the ocean and on the Potomac River.  It’s a great workout, and tons of fun.  Paddle boarding on the Potomac River can either be mellow on the flat water, or insane on the rapids.  Here’s a fun video of Rocky Island Wave.  Don’t forget always to wear a personal flotation device, as well as a helmet (couldn’t keep the lawyer in me down for too long).  The rapids shown there vary with the river level, but they are class 3 in the video.

Paddle boarding on the ocean is a blast as well.  Assateague is an amazing surf spot, and it’s just a few hours from Washington, D.C.   Keep an eye out for the wild horses;  be careful, as they do bite!

It’s important for everyone to get out and exercise.  If you haven’t tried it yet, paddle boarding and paddle surfing are great exercise, and we have fantastic resources very close to D.C.

Enjoy!

Wayne Cohen
1220 19th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
202-955-4529
www.cohenandcohen.net

 

Wayne Cohen, Lawyer/Attorney: What Are Punitive Damages?

What Are Punitive Damages?

Wayne Cohen, Washington DC Personal Injury Lawyer/Attorney Explains

In certain types of personal injury cases, the victim may be entitled to receive what are known as “punitive” damages. These damages are unique in that their intention is to deter future conduct. Punitive damages are most often awarded above and beyond compensatory damages. Unlike punitive damages, compensatory damages are damages which are awarded to fairly compensate the injured victim for a loss or injury suffered as a direct result of some negligence.

One famous case comes to mind which can help explain punitive damages: Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants. This case is also known as the McDonald’s coffee case, or the hot coffee lawsuit. A New Mexico jury awarded 2.86 million to Stella Liebeck who suffered third-degree burns when she accidentally spilled hot coffee onto her lap. She had purchased that coffee from a McDonald’s restaurant. Ms. Liebeck was hospitalized for eight days and underwent skin grafting. Her condition was very serious.

The argument in the case was essentially that McDonald’s coffee was defective, meaning it was served too hot and could cause serious injury. After a trial, the jury awarded Ms. Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages (reduced to $160,000), and 2.7 million in punitive damages. The purpose of the punitive damages was to punish McDonald’s for its conduct. Apparently, the jurors arrived at this figure from the lawyer’s suggestion that this was one or two days worth of coffee revenues.

In most cases, victims of car accidents or automobile accidents, especially in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, may only receive compensatory damages. This includes medical bills, pain suffering, scarring, lost wages, and the like. Sometimes, however, punitive damages are recoverable.

Wayne Cohen, Lawyer/Attorney: Bay Bridge Accident – Driving With Your Windows Open

Maryland Auto Accident Attorneys Ask: Could Opening Your Car Windows While Crossing A Bridge Help Save Your Life?

Maryland Car Accident Attorney | Auto Accident Lawyer Maryland

Our firm’s Maryland auto accident lawyers are handling the case of Morgan Lake, who miraculously escaped from her car after it was toppled from the Bay Bridge with her still inside. Morgan was able to escape her vehicle because the eighteen-wheeler that hit her happened to break the driver’s-side window. This begs the question – is it safer to drive over a bridge with the windows open or closed? Morgan would tell you to drive with the car windows open in case an accident occurs, and she would be correct.

As long as you are wearing a seatbelt, driving with your windows down will benefit you in case of an accident. When a car is submerged, the water exerts pressure on the outside of the car doors, making it difficult to open one. However, this isn’t the only situation in which opening a car door isn’t an option. Your vehicle door could be pinned against a tree or the entire car could be upside down. In these cases, you’ll want a quick way to escape your car in the event of an emergency. If water is flooding your vehicle or your gasoline tank has fractured, the ability to exit the car quickly could make all the difference.

The National Safety Commission states, “In most water crashes, a vehicle will float for a period of 3 or 4 minutes before the weight of the engine pulls the vehicle under. This precious time may allow you to unbuckle your seat belt, roll down your window and get out.” The mechanism to open and close car windows in most cars is electric, and therefore not trustworthy in a water-related accident. Therefore, having your window already open would be beneficial.

Additionally, having the car window open could save you from being cut by pieces of glass during an impact. Morgan Lake’s window shattered in her Bay Bridge accident. The broken glass from the window could have caused immediate damage and prevented her from escaping the sinking vehicle.

The counter argument is that people should drive with their windows up in case of an emergency because the glass could shield them from any elements outside of the car. In Morgan’s case, it may have made her car more buoyant, and allowed the car to remain above water for a longer period of time. However, the duration of buoyancy also depends on other factors such as engine weight. With no help in the immediate area, self-rescue can be the only option. While having the windows closed can protect a car’s inhabitants from exterior elements, this is only helpful when a team of rescuers is close by and the car is stable. If this is not the case, self-rescue could potentially save your life, and closed windows make this far more difficult.

Ms. Lake firmly believes that those driving over a bridge should do so with their windows down. Clearly, if her window had not been broken in the collision, she may not have had the chance to tell her story today. Morgan likes to call the act of rolling her windows down the, “Morgan Move,” and we agree with her advice!

If you’ve been in a car accident in Washington DC, Virginia, or Maryland, call one of our auto accident attorneys for a consultation and to learn how to protect your rights.

Wayne Cohen Attorney | Adam Leighton selected and named as two of Washington, DC’s Super Lawyers.

Wayne Cohen and Adam Leighton were selected and named as two of Washington, DC’s Super Lawyers. Wayne Cohen was named as a Washington, DC Super Lawyer for his work with Personal Injury cases. Adam Leighton was named as a Washington, DC Super Lawyer for his work with Medical Malpractice cases.

               

The Fair Labor Standards Act: A Powerful Tool for Workers

Washington DC Employment Lawyers: Protecting Employees’ Rights

One of the most important legal protections for workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act. First enacted in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) places many requirements on employers. Two of the law’s main requirements are minimum wage and overtime:

– Federal Minimum Wage: $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009 (tipped employees may be paid $2.13 per hour; if an employee’s tips combined with cash wage does not equal the applicable minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference)

– Overtime after 40 hours in a week = 1 ½ times an employee’s regular rate of pay.

The FLSA applies to most private and public employers. The FLSA requires employers to pay covered non-exempt employees at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 in a work week. The FLSA does not regulate: (1) vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay; (2) meal or rest periods, holidays off, or vacations; (3) premium pay for weekend or holiday work; or (4) pay raises or fringe benefits.

Employers who know the law will sometimes try to get around the FLSA by complex wage practices. Some tactics include labeling certain income as a “per diem,” or artificially setting the amount of time a job takes and paying the employee a fixed amount for that job. Experienced Washington DC employment lawyers and labor attorneys can help sort through these tactics to determine the true nature of an employees’ compensation.

The FLSA also does not cover all employees. Whether the FLSA applies to a specific employee is an issue that often the subject of litigation. In order for the FLSA to apply, two conditions must be met. First, the employee must work for a “covered enterprise.” Second, the employee must be “non-exempt.” Both these terms have very specific legal meanings and are often the subject of dispute in litigation. It can take an experienced Washington DC employment lawyer to determine whether a specific employee is covered.

 

Covered Enterprise

There are two main characteristics that determine whether an employer is a “covered enterprise” under the FLSA. A “covered enterprise” is a business that is:

– Engaged in interstate commerce (workers engaged in interstate commerce, producing goods for interstate commerce, or handling, selling, or otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for interstate commerce), and

– Has at least $500,000.00 annual gross volume of sales (or is a hospital).

The requirements for what employment constitutes a “covered enterprise” are complicated. A good Washington DC employment law attorney will be able to determine whether a business is covered.

 

Non-Exempt Employees

Even if a worker is employed by a “covered enterprise” that does establish that the FLSA applies. The employee must still prove that he or she is “non-exempt.”

The FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage requirements do not apply to exempt employees. When it passed the FLSA, Congress recognized the importance of allowing flexibility in the rules for certain types of businesses, and so it allowed certain exemptions to the law. Some of the most common exemptions are white collar workers, certain computer professionals, farm workers, and salesmen. The law lists many more specific exemptions, each with its own definitions and rules.

The most important thing to keep in mind regarding the exemptions is that an employee’s title is not what determines whether he or she is exempt. Just because a person’s title is “salesman” does not necessarily mean she will fall under the “salesman” exemption. Courts look to the true nature of the employee’s job, not his or her title, in order to determine whether the exemption applies.

 

Remedies under the FLSA

The reason the FLSA is such a powerful tool for workers is because of the remedies it gives. Any employer who violates the FLSA is liable to the employee for the full amount of their unpaid minimum wages, or unpaid overtime. In addition, the employee also receives the same amount of unpaid wages or overtime again. This is what is known as double recovery, and it is meant to provide a deterrent to employers. In addition, the FLSA requires the employer to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs the employee incurred in bringing the lawsuit.

It is also a violation for an employer to fire an employee for making a claim under the FLSA.

 

Getting Started

In many cases, employers who violate the FLSA are counting on their employees either not knowing the law or being too afraid of losing their jobs to do anything about it, and in many cases they’re right. It can be difficult for employees to know whether the FLSA even applies to them.

If you think your employer may have violated the FLSA, the first thing you should do is contact an employment lawyer. There are important deadlines that must be met for an employee to bring a claim under the FLSA. Skilled labor attorneys serving Washington DC, like those at Cohen & Cohen know what is required to bring a successful FLSA lawsuit. Call (202) 955-4529 to speak to an attorney today.

How Much Money Is My Case Worth? / What’s The Value Of My Case?

Wayne Cohen, Cohen & Cohen, P.C., realizes that oftentimes, people who use the legal system have no understanding as to the value of their case.  Is it a big case, is it a small case, or is it something in between.  The reality is that juries value cases differently.  In a nutshell, there are a few key factors that Wayne Cohen and the personal injury attorneys at Cohen and Cohen look at.  First, how did the injury or accident happen?  Whose fault was it?  Second, how much medical treatment was needed?  Did the injured victim go to the hospital?  Was there surgery that was required?  And third, what are the economic damages?  Things like medical bills and lost wages.

If you are unsure as to the value of your case, and your case is in Maryland or the District of Columbia, contact Wayne Cohen at Cohen & Cohen, P.C.

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Cohen and Cohen’s founder and managing partner, Wayne Cohen, is often asked, “What is a contingency case?” “What does that mean?”

Cohen and Cohen‘s founder and managing partner, Wayne Cohen, is often asked, “What is a contingency case?”  “What does that mean?”  Well, it’s pretty simple.  What a contingency fee means is that there is no fee paid to the lawyer unless the client wins the case.  That’s right, there’s no legal fee at all unless the client wins.  According to Cohen & Cohen, P.C. and Wayne Cohen, most injury cases are handled this way.  Automobile accidents, medical mistakes, and even product defect cases.  Some other cases, such as breech of contract are also handled this way.  Injured victims have a lot to deal with.  They have medical bills, they often times can’t work and getting access to the court system is very important.  Cohen and Cohen is there to help the victim navigate through this complicated maze.  Contingency fee arrangements make this much easier. If you have been injured in Washington, D.C. or Maryland, call Wayne Cohen at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. today!

Cohen and Cohen‘s founder and managing partner, Wayne Cohen, is frequently asked by injured victims, “Do I have a case?”

Cohen and Cohen‘s founder and managing partner, Wayne Cohen, is frequently asked by injured victims, “Do I have a case?”  Of course, that’s a legitimate question.  It’s not that anyone’s trying to get over on the system or get something that they’re not entitled to.  They just want to know, “Do I have a case?”  According to Cohen & Cohen, P.C. and Wayne Cohen, in order to win a case of negligence in Washington, D.C., three things must be present.  One, there has to be a mistake.  It doesn’t matter whether someone is riding on the road, or a physician’s error, or a product defect.  There’s got to some sort of mistake.  Second, there has to be an injury.  The injury can be a broken bone, it can be a cut or it can be a bruise.  Third, the mistake itself must have caused the injury.  For example, if someone is in a car accident, the accident must have caused the injury.  If you want to know whether you have a case in Washington, D.C. or Maryland, call Wayne Cohen at Cohen and Cohen, P.C. today!

Cohen and Cohen asks: Do You Understand Your Auto Policy? by Wayne Cohen

Cohen & Cohen realizes that understanding your car insurance policy can be difficult. As a result, people often end up with policies that do not provide the right protection. Here is some basic information which you may not know.  First, it is critical that you contain the right amount of coverage.  Wayne Cohen, the founder and managing partner of Cohen and Cohen, P.C.,suggestion is that you carry the maximum amount of “liability” coverage.  This will protect you in case you happen to cause an accident.  Second, make sure that you have “uninsured motorists protection.”  This  insurance provides protection if you are struck by a driver who does not have insurance, or by a hit and run driver. Most states require that your insurance company provide you with this protection.  Third, a good insurance policy will also contain “under insured motorists protection.”  This type of insurance provides protection if you are struck by a driver who has only limited insurance. For example, if you suffer a serious injury by a driver who has only a $25,000 policy, but you have a $300,000 policy, you are eligible for $25,000 from the other driver and $275,000 from your policy (i.e., this equals $300,000).  Fourth, “personal injury protection benefits” coverage (PIP) provides protection for medical bills and, sometimes, a portion of your wages, even if you are at fault in an accident. In some jurisdictions such as District of Columbia there are limitations on whether a person can make a PIP claim and pursue a claim for compensation.  Fifth, many companies offer “gap coverage.”  This type of policy provides protection on your financed vehicle. Essentially, if you financed $20,000 on your car and have an accident, but the value of the car at the time of the accident is only $18,000, “gap” coverage may apply and help make sure you are whole.  Sixth, it is imperative that you carry collision coverage.  Collision coverage provides protection when your car is damaged. Keep in mind that having collision coverage in the amount of $250 as opposed to $500 or $1000 may increase the amount of your insurance, especially if you are not inclined to make a damage claim for an amount which is less than $1000. You may want to get different quotes from your broker.  The attorneys at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. can help you pick the right one!

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Insurance coverage is a complex matter, and varies greatly from state to state. If you would like more information on whether you have an appropriate policy, feel free to contact Wayne Cohen at Cohen and Cohen or any one of our lawyers one of our lawyers will review your policy free of charge.

Cohen and Cohen Explains What “Full Coverage” Really Means?

Cohen and Cohen, P.C. often hears people say that they have “full” coverage, without truly understanding what that means.  Having insurance coverage is very important if you are in an automobile accident or collision.  Full coverage means that you have liability and collision coverage, and possible medical pay coverage.  First, liability coverage means you are protected if you cause an accident, and the person you injured decides to sue you.  It is important to have a very high liability limit.  Second, collision coverage means that your automobile is protected.  For example, if you cause an accident and your car is badly damaged, your collision coverage will help ensure that you either get a new vehicle or get your vehicle repaired.  Third, medical pay coverage will help you get your medical bills paid for.

If you want to make sure you truly have “full” coverage on your automobile policy, have Cohen & Cohen review your policy.  At Cohen & Cohen, P.C., our personal injury lawyers in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, will review your automobile policy for free!  Contact us today.

Cohen and Cohen explains what is Medical Negligence or Medical Malpractice?

Cohen and Cohen, P.C. explains that medical malpractice or medical negligence occur when a doctor makes a mistake, and when that mistake causes an injury.  Thankfully, medical mistakes do not occur frequently. Most physicians practice excellent medical care most of the time. However, like everyone else, physicians occasionally do make mistakes. When those mistakes cause injury to another person, this could result in a medical malpractice or medical negligence claim.

Generally, in order to prove a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff must hire another physician to serve as an expert witness. The expert witness will come into court and testify that the defendant physician departed from what is known as the applicable “standard of care.”  The jury must decide whether the mistake was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.

Each state has its own particular laws on what is necessary to prove a medical negligence or a medical malpractice case. The law firm of Cohen & Cohen handles medical malpractice and medical negligence cases in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia. If you would like a free consultation about your medical malpractice or medical negligence case, you should contact the law firm of Cohen and Cohen today.

Cohen and Cohen: Are Lost Wages Taxable Currently?

Cohen & Cohen, P.C. knows that the question are lost wages taxable always arises. When a victim of a negligence case prevails in a settlement or in a trial, sometimes that victim is awarded compensation for wages that were lost. If the person had been working and received the money, then certainly that income would be taxable. However, if the award is made as a result of an injury, the law generally provides that money for lost wages is not taxable. Of course, you should check with your accountant and legal advisors to determine what the law is in your state.

If you are in need of a personal injury lawyer in Washington DC, Maryland, or Virginia, you should call our office for a free consultation today. The law firm of Cohen and Cohen has been called one of the best personal injury law firms in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The law firm’s managing partner, Wayne Cohen, handles all different types of personal injury cases, including car accidentsmedical mistakes, and product defects.

Cohen and Cohen Lists the 3 Important Things To Do Immediately After A Car Accident!

Cohen & Cohen, P.C. wants you to know that if you have had a car accident in Maryland, the District of Columbia, or Virginia, there are 3 things you should consider doing immediately.  First, make sure to get the other driver’s information.  This includes the driver’s license, and insurance.  You can write the information down, and if you have a phone with a camera, take a picture of the license and insurance card.  Second, definitely get pictures of the vehicles.  This means taking pictures of the damage on both vehicles.  Third, consult with a lawyer before speaking to either insurance company – your’s or the other driver’s.  Understanding the law will help you immensely when you’ve had an accident.

The law firm of Cohen & Cohen, P.C. has offices in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Cohen and Cohen represents people who have been injured by a medical mistake, wrongful death, birth injury, product defect, automobile collision and slip and fall.   Cohen & Cohen, P.C. also offers a free consultation.  So, if you have a question, you can get more information about the firm at www.CohenandCohen.net

Washington DC Area Has The Worst Commute In The Country!

According to a new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia have the worst commute in the country. Commuters in the nation’s capital needed almost three hours for a trip that should take 30 minutes without traffic, according to the report.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute uses 30 years of traffic data, and its annual reports are one of the key tools used by experts to solve traffic problems. Researchers study how commuters adapt their travel plans when they have urgent appointments in highly congested areas based on data gathered from state transportation agencies, private companies and academic entities that monitor traffic issues.

Spending hours in the car throughout Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia results in hundreds of car accidents every day. Being involved in an car accident is a traumatic experience. Car accidents sometimes occur through no fault of your own, and can involve rear end accidents, side swipe accidents, and intersection accidents. Any accident has the potential to result in injury to the people involved. Car accidents in Washington, DC involve a number of issues including insurance laws, overlapping jurisdiction and other complex legal issues. Properly interpreting the law and effectively advocating your position is vital if you want to completely recover the damages from your car accident.

Damages for these types of accidents can include property loss, medical costs and lost wages. When trying to recover these damages, you will almost always be dealing with an insurance company. The goal of the insurance adjuster is to settle cases your car accident case and save the insurance company as much money as possible. Without a car accident attorney, the settlement process proceeds completely on the adjuster’s terms. This scenario will never yield the best possible result for you. Your attorney’s job is to level the playing field. Their main goal is to settle your claim to maximize your compensation. If you have been involved in an car accident in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia, you should contact a car accident lawyer quickly to ensure that you receive all of the compensation to which you are entitled.

Workplace Discrimination And Sexual Harrassment

Cohen and Cohen’s employment and labor attorneys realize that American society has come a long way since the days of open discrimination in the workplace.  Unfortunately, racial, gender, and other forms of workplace discrimination are still far too common.  The ways in which employees are discriminated against are more subtle today than in the past.  Whether it is a promotion withheld, hurtful and hostile comments, or open bias, no worker should have to tolerate discrimination out of fear of losing her job.

The employment discrimination lawyers at Cohen & Cohen, PC fight for workers who suffer discrimination.  We know that fairness in the workplace is a right everyone is entitled to.  And we bring to bear decades of combined experience to ensure discriminated-against employees get the justice they deserve.

Virginia, Maryland, DC and the federal government all have laws expressly forbidding workplace discrimination.  These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, race, gender, disability, pregnancy, and other protections.  Workers who suffer discrimination may be entitled to some or all of the following remedies:

  • Hiring
  • Reinstatement
  • Lost wages and benefits
  • Cease and desist orders against the employer
  • Damages for emotional distress
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees and costs
  • Expert witness fees
  • Administrative fines

These are powerful tools for employees who have had their rights violated.  But to succeed in such claims takes skill and toughness – traits the employment rights lawyers at Cohen & Cohen, PC have in spades.

If you think you have been discriminated against at work contact the employment discrimination lawyers at Cohen & Cohen, PC today for a free consultation.

Employment Law Attorney Services by Sean A. Sherlock

For many people, work is not just a means of putting food on their family’s table. It’s also a source of meaning in their lives. We can take pride in working hard to a see a job well done. And in today’s uncertain economy, many people have been asked to work harder for less. When just having a job seems a blessing, most people won’t complain about having to do a little more.

Unfortunately, the bad economy has also led some employers to try to cut costs by cutting workers’ out of pay they have earned, overtime pay, or by paying them less than minimum wage. This is not only unfair, it can also be unlawful. Most employers who engage in these abuses are counting on their employees being too afraid of losing their jobs to do anything about it. Sadly, they are often right.

If you believe you haven’t been treated fairly by your employer, you can do something about it.  You are not helpless. The employment lawyers at Cohen & Cohen, PC are ready to fight for the pay you earned.  Whether it’s minimum wage violations, or unpaid overtime, our lawyers help clients recover what they are owed.

The overtime lawyers at Cohen & Cohen, PC know that one of the most powerful tools available to workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  This federal law requires that employers pay overtime and meet federal minimum wage requirements. The law lets workers recover against violating employers for

  • back pay
  • double recovery
  • attorneys’ fees
  • punitive damages

To bring a claim under the FLSA a worker must meet certain requirements, including (1) being a non-exempt employee, and (2) working for a business that is engaged in interstate commerce or generated a certain amount of revenue in a calendar year.  The employment attorneys at Cohen & Cohen, PC can tell you if you are covered by the FLSA minimum wage, overtime, or other protections. Call us for a free consultation to see if you qualify.

Besides the FLSA, there are other federal and state laws protecting workers.  The patchwork of laws affecting employment and wages can seem confusing and overwhelming.  But if you believe you have not been paid for work you’ve done, or if you think your employer may be violating labor laws, call the labor lawyers at Cohen & Cohen, PC for a free consolation.

Se Habla Español.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by Wayne Cohen

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can cause a lot of harm or even death to you and your family if not properly monitored. Hundreds of people accidentally die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances and idle cars. Fetuses, infants, and elderly people can be especially susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. Be safe by practicing these DOs and DON’Ts:

 

  • DO purchase a carbon monoxide detector at your local hardware store.This device gives a warning when carbon monoxide levels are too high in your home.
  • DO have your fuel-burning appliances checked by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. They will make sure that the flues and chimneys are in good working order and aren’t blocked by anything.
  • DO choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside whenever possible.
  • DO read and follow all of the instructions that come with any fuel-burning device. Pay special attention to the cautions that come with these devices.
  • DON’T idle your car in the garage, even if the outside garage door is open. Fumes can quickly build up in the garage and living area of your home.
  • DON’T use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
  • DON’T ever use a charcoal grill indoors – even in a fireplace.
  • DON’T sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
  • DON’T ignore symptoms you may be feeling. Serious injury or even death could result if you do nothing.

 

If you start to have severe headaches, dizziness, nausea, faint, and are short of breath, you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning. Try going outside of your home. If the symptoms disappear then the carbon levels in your home could be dangerously high. Immediately go to the hospital to make sure that no permanent damage has been done and have your home inspected for high levels of carbon monoxide.

Following these simple DOs and DON’Ts could save you or your family’s life.

The Chicago Lawyer “Keeping Em Honest with Video Depositions”: by Wayne Cohen

Have you ever walked out of a deposition heady with the knowledge that you “won”? You had your Perry Mason moment and obtained critical information, perhaps even an admission, during your interrogation of the witness. On the way back to your office you call your colleagues to report the good news. Then you call your client. Things couldn’t be better for the case. You think, “I am one good lawyer!” After sharing the good news back at the firm, your law partner asks, “Did the witness waive reading and signing?” You exhale deeply. “No, there wasn’t a waiver,” you answer, brought a little bit back down to earth.

Fast forward thirty days. The witness has elected to review the deposition pursuant to Rule 30(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (or the parallel state rule). Rule 30(e) allows for modifications in the testimony given by a witness, and specifically provides that there may be “changes in form or substance.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(e)(emphasis added). All the witness must do is submit a signed statement, commonly known as the errata sheet, along with a list of the changes and the reasons for making the changes. At that point the deposition is deemed to have been changed. You receive the errata sheet in the mail, and realize that your supposed victory has been thwarted; both form and substantive changes have been made. Yikes! The witness clearly consulted with his lawyer, decided that the answer was awful, and perhaps not exactly what he intended. It needed to be changed.

How could this problem have been avoided? Perhaps the most effective technique that some trial attorneys use to balance Rule 30(e) is to videotape the deposition. It may not be economical to videotape all depositions in a case; however, for key witnesses, having a videographer makes sense. To be clear, the videotape does not prevent the witness from making a substantive change as Rule 30(e) still applies regardless of the manner in which the deposition was recorded. That said, the statement made on the videotape – in almost all circumstances – can still be used for impeachment purposes. It remains a prior inconsistent statement which can be used to cross examine the witness.  The witness will have an opportunity to explain at trial exactly why the statement was later changed, but if in the videotape the witness appears confident and assured when giving the original answer, the explanation for the change will not be credible. Using a written transcript to impeach a
witness simply does not pack the same punch.

In addition to helping keep witnesses honest, videotaping also helps the jury comprehend and retain the testimony. Imagine that you are deposing Danny, the defendant driver in a case, and you have reason to believe that Defendant Danny smoked marijuana before injuring your client. You ask, “Did you smoke marijuana before the accident?” Danny pauses, looks down, and then looks at his lawyer as if waiting for an objection. Hearing nothing, he then looks down again. After a tortuous 30 seconds, he answers in a meek and quiet tone, “No.” The transcript of the deposition would simply read:
Q: Did you smoke marijuana before the accident?
A: No.

The videotape, however, tells a very different story because it provides information beyond simply the written transcript. Here, it shows Defendant Danny’s demeanor, shifting eyes, and pregnant pause. Because the jury is actually seeing and hearing the testimony, the retention and impact of the testimony are greater.

A final benefit from videotaping a deposition is that it can also help keep a check on opposing counsel. Putting aside the ethical impropriety of coaching a witness during a deposition, we have all encountered lawyers who suggest answers to witnesses. An opposing lawyer may say, “Answer the question if you know,” with a heavy emphasis on the “if you know” part. The witness recognizes the cue and then proclaims, “I don’t know.” Videotaping depositions deters this conduct because lawyers recognize that videotaped depositions show tone in real time; a written transcript does not.
Witnesses also take non-verbal cues from their lawyers. A simple sigh, roll of the eyes, or shifting of papers can send a message to a client. Obstructionist lawyers are far less likely to engage in this behavior during videotaped depositions.

In short, videotaping depositions is an effective way of insuring that your record is accurate, and gives you the best chance of winning your case.

Cohen & Cohen Mock Trial Competition

Judge John L. Carbonneau of the Connecticut Superior Court determined that Ben Burningham and Ryan Sullivan won Monday’s Cohen & Cohen Mock Trial Competition.  Caitlin Clarke and Felipe Garcia were runners-up.

This was also the first year that the Competition awarded Best Advocate Awards based upon scores in the preliminary rounds.  Ryan Sullivan placed third, Patricia Klanke was second, and Joshua Hall was selected as Best Advocate.

Wayne Cohen: Don’t Mess Up Your Hurricane Insurance Claim

Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc across the Northeast, causing catastrophic injuries and damaging property. Originally developing as a tropical wave in the western Caribbean Sea, it quickly became a depression and eventually a Category 1 hurricane. Hurricane Sandy affected at least 24 states from Florida to New England, and brought a destructive storm surge to New York City.

If you have suffered substantial property damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy, it is important for you to understand your legal rights. Here are five key pointers.

First, get a copy of your policy before you do anything. If you do not have a copy of the policy at home, call your agent and get a copy. You need to understand the exact coverage that you have, and what exclusions might apply. When reviewing your policy determine whether you have “flood” insurance. Many people do not. Flood insurance is underwritten by FEMA, and generally covers building property up to $250,000 and personal property up to $100,000.

Second, when reviewing your policy, make sure you understand whether you have coverage if there is a “named” storm (i.e., a storm such as Hurricane Sandy). Some policies exclude coverage for this type of damage.

Third, once you have read and understand your policy, then you need to notify the insurance company promptly. If you fail to do so, the insurance company may later argue that there isn’t coverage because of your delay.

Fourth, consider hiring an expert to help you identify all of your damages. For example, an untrained eye may only see paint and drywall damage, whereas an expert may understand that there could be underlying mold that must be addressed.

Fifth, never rush to settle your case. Take your time. Make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row when it comes to identifying each and every one of your damages.

WTOP Radio “Hurricane Sandy News Coverage”: Wayne Cohen discusses Storm Damage insurance claims.

Wayne Cohen  of Cohen and Cohen, P.C. speaks to WTOP about filing post Hurricane Sandy insurance claims.  He addresses the important issue of avoiding mistakes in your post-storm home claim.

http://www.cohenandcohen.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/WTOP_Audio_10_30_2012.mp3

Cohen & Cohen Moot Court Competition

Cohen & Cohen has proudly sponsored the annual Cohen & Cohen Moot Court Competition at The George Washington University School of Law since 2002, .  Every year, talented upper-class law students from GW compete for an opportunity to sit on the Mock Trial Board.  An award-winning trial attorney with more than twenty years of courtroom experience, Wayne Cohen is passionate about sharing his experiences and knowledge with law students.  Through Cohen and Cohen’s sponsorship, the annual competition provides law students interested in litigation an opportunity to showcase their trial advocacy skills in a competitive and challenging environment.

Insurance and personal injury cases: A crash course for young lawyers

Insurance and personal injury cases:

A crash course for young lawyers

by Sean A. Sherlock

There is much you do not learn in law school. Some things (like how to interact with actual clients) cannot really be taught in the classroom. Others (like the requirement that a Friday civil motions hearing Praecipe be filed on yellow paper) are too esoteric to be of use until you are in practice. But as a new lawyer practicing personal injury law, you soon realize that law school taught you next to nothing about one of the most important aspects of tort law: insurance.

The problem this creates for the young lawyer is twofold. On the one hand, the ways in which insurance affects personal injury litigation are incredibly complex. On the other hand, there is no easy reference, no local rules, to consult for answers. In a busy practice, you just have to take the issues as they come and try to assimilate as much knowledge as you can along the way. It is with that in mind that I offer these lessons.

First, a caveat. In no way is this article intended as an exhaustive survey of the ways insurance law, policy, and business practices can affect a personal injury case. Rather, this article grows out of my experience as a first-year associate in a boutique personal injury firm. The hope is that this article might help shorten the learning curve for the next class of plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Coverage counts

The ways in which insurance coverage can affect a personal injury case go way beyond simply fighting for the policy limits. Identifying and understanding all the potential coverage involved, and how your client can access it, is an essential first step which can and should drive case strategy.

For the plaintiff’s lawyer (who would probably have “Collateral Source Rule” tattooed across his knuckles, if only he had enough fingers) openly admitting this goes against the grain. We spend much of our time arguing – rightly – that compensation is based on the plaintiff’s injuries, not on what coverage happens to be available. But there are completely valid reasons, having nothing to do with greed, for why the attorney and the client need to keep one eye fixed on the available policy limits at all times.

A personal injury case is like a chair with four legs: liability, causation, damages, and “pockets.” Take away any one, and the whole chair collapses. In the absence of insurance, the vast majority of defendants are judgment-proof. While plaintiffs do have ways of collecting against a defendant’s personal assets to satisfy a judgment, these are typically difficult to pursue and inefficient, not to mention defendants have powerful ways of thwarting such efforts.1 Which is why, without coverage, most of the time the chair falls over.

Find all the policies

To ensure the maximum recovery for the client, the successful plaintiff’s lawyer should leave no stone unturned in searching out all policies of insurance which may cover the loss. The defendant’s policy is of course at play, as is their employer’s if they

caused the injury while acting in the scope of their employment. Significant coverage can also be found on the other side of the “v.”

In an automobile accident case, an important source of recovery may be the client’s uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage. Every policy of automobile liability insurance issued in the Commonwealth of Virginia must include coverage for accidents caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists.2 Uninsured motorist insurance (“UM”) provides coverage for accidents caused by drivers who do not have insurance.3 Underinsured motorist insurance (“UIM”) provides coverage in cases where the tortfeasor’s insurance is inadequate – meaning, where the plaintiff’s UIM coverage is greater than the at-fault driver’s insurance.

In practice, there is much more to recovering from a plaintiff’s UM/UIM coverage.4 For the new plaintiff’s lawyer, the point is simply that the search for available coverage can never end with the defendant.

Understand the policy

The nature of the potential coverage, what it covers, how it interacts with other potential coverage, and even how you can plead yourself out of it, are all intricate questions that need to be answered. Doing this will allow you to communicate to the client in concrete terms the range of possible outcomes of the case. It will free you to focus on building your case, instead of worrying about having the rug pulled out from under you at the eleventh hour. Contract law principles are the foundation for understanding the policy, and therefore, the coverage.

Insurance policies are contracts, and courts will apply contract principles when interpreting a policy’s provisions. This can be to the insured’s benefit.5 Other times, this cuts against the insured, as when courts apply the principle that an insurance contract be enforced according to its plain meaning to the greatest extent possible.6

The practice of strictly construing insurance policies according to their plain language can have a profound effect on the client’s recovery.7 A recent decision of the Supreme Court of Virginia offers a dramatic example. In AES Corp. v. Steadfast Ins. Co., the plaintiffs sought to recover from a commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy for damages they alleged were caused by intentional acts, or were the “natural or probable consequence of [an] intentional act.”8 The Court looked to the “eight corners” of the complaint and the insurance policy, and held that the plaintiffs could not recover because the complaint failed to allege an “accident” or “occurrence” as those terms were defined in the CGL policy.9 While the lasting impact of this decision remains open for debate, the case is at least a stark example of the importance of paying close attention to policy language when drafting pleadings.

Read the entire policy

Like any other contract drafted by a sophisticated actor, insurance policies tend to be long, complex documents. The “policy” itself usually consists of several distinct documents, including declaration pages, endorsements, amendments, and addendums. It is important to carefully read everything. This is especially true for newer lawyers who may be unused to some common conventions of insurance policies. For example, a policy of umbrella (or excess) liability insurance could include as an “Amendatory Endorsement” the following language:

EXCLUSIONS

Exclusion 10., which reads as follows, is deleted.

10. loss sustained while an automobile or recreational motor vehicle is driven or     operated by an insured, other than you, who is excluded by a named driver or operator exclusion of any similar exclusion under any required underlying insurance, even if coverage is provided by another policy; (emphasis in original).10

The effect of this language is actually to broaden coverage. Yet this provision appears on a separate, loose piece of paper, sandwiched among several other “Amendatory Endorsements.” A less than careful reading could easily miss those two words, “is deleted” and so misconstrue the entire policy.

Statutes matter, so read them too

Liability insurance is heavily regulated by statute, therefore understanding the statutory framework of insurance is critical to identifying sources of recovery for the client. To take just one example: the Omnibus Clause in Va. Code §38.2-2204 requires that automobile liability policies provide coverage for the negligence of people, other than the named insured, who use the covered vehicle with the “expressed or implied consent of the named insured.” The statute further specifies:

Provided that, when one accident or occurrence involves more than one defendant who is covered    by the policy, the plaintiff may recover the per person limit of the policy against each such defendant, subject to the per accident or occurrence limit of the policy. Va. Code Ann. §38.2-2204.

So what is the significance of this statute? A brief hypothetical will demonstrate the answer. Suppose Ned is the named insured on a policy of automobile liability insurance with limits of $100,000 per person, and $300,000 per accident. Ned lends his car to his friend Dan, whom Ned knows is a notorious drunk. Sure enough, Dan becomes intoxicated, gets behind the wheel of Ned’s car, and negligently runs into Vince. Vince is seriously injured as a result. In this hypothetical, Vince has a claim for negligence against Dan, and a claim for negligent entrustment against Ned.11 The effect of the Omnibus Clause in this scenario is to double the available coverage for Vince’s injuries. Because Dan was a permissive driver of the covered auto, he is covered under Ned’s policy. And because negligent entrustment is a separate tort from negligent driving (a separate “occurrence” under the policy), Vince can recover the per person limit of $100,000 against Ned for negligent entrustment, and another $100,000 against Dan for negligent driving.12 Great news for Vince.

Understand the players

In a typical third-party-liability case, defense counsel represents the alleged tortfeasor. That is her client, and regardless of who is footing the bill for her services, it is the defendant to whom defense counsel owes her ethical duty.13 At the same time, the defendant does not decide when and for how much to settle the case. He contracted away that right in exchange for a legal defense and indemnification against a judgment (to the policy limits).14

It is the “Home Office,” or more specifically the claims adjuster, who holds the purse strings. So understanding the adjuster’s motivations is important to settling any case where there may be insurance available to your client. The possibility of an excess judgment, and the attendant bad faith implications for the insurance company, may be one motivating factor for the adjuster to settle the case.15 But that is a tough claim for the insured to win, since it requires proof by clear and convincing evidence.16

A more present danger for the claims adjuster is the risk of “under-reserving” the case. A “claim reserve” is money set aside by the insurance company to cover future payment of a claim. One of the duties of the claims adjuster is establishing this claim reserve. Claim reserves are classified as liabilities on the company’s balance sheet, and when the company doesn’t set aside enough money to cover its liabilities, it hurts the company’s bottom line.17

By being transparent with the adjuster early in the case – before suit is even filed – you can empower him to more accurately evaluate the case, and to set a more appropriate claim reserve. For example, give the adjuster the documents he (reasonably) needs to evaluate the insured’s liability and your client’s injuries. If there is a reason you do not want the adjuster to see your client’s medical records for claimed treatment, then that is probably a case you will have to try anyway. Otherwise, it does no good to make a monetary demand without substantiating it. Remember that the adjuster answers to someone, and he will eventually have to justify his decision to pay your demand. Empower him by giving him the tools to do it.

Conclusion

This article barely scratches the surface of all the important ways insurance affects personal injury litigation. Hopefully, what these lessons do make clear for new trial lawyers is the need to think critically about what coverage may be available to compensate the client, and how best to access it. By recognizing the issues, knowing the motivations of the actors involved, and being diligent, it is possible to maximize the likelihood that your client will be able to recover just compensation for their injuries.

Endnotes

1. Significant protections are available through the Virginia Homestead Exemption, Va. Code Ann. §34-4 et seq. A judgment debtor can also halt all attempts at collection by filing for bankruptcy. And finally, when all else fails, they might always resort to good, old-fashioned concealment of assets.

2. See Va. Code §38.2-2206(a); and Hackett v. Arlington County, 247 Va. 41 (1994) (applying the requirement to self-insurance as well). But see Va. Code §38.2-2206(j) (exempting excess or “umbrella” policies from the requirement).

3. A driver is also “uninsured” if he has insurance but is denied coverage for some reason. See Allstate Ins. Co. v. Jones, 261 Va. 444 (2001).

4. For an excellent guide of how to successfully recover UM/UIM coverage, see Gerald A. Schwartz, “Maximizing your client’s recovery with underinsured motorist coverage,” The Journal of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, Volume 21 Number 1 (2009).

5. See Goodville Mut. Casualty Co. v. Borror, 221 Va. 967, 970 (1981) (affirming the principle, similar to the contractual canon of construction contra proferentem, that any ambiguity contained within an insurance policy will be construed against the insurer).

6. See, e.g., Christy v. Mercury Casuality Co., 283 Va. 542 (2012) (looking to the “clear and unambiguous language” of an automobile liability policy, and holding that the policy’s exclusion of med pay coverage “to the extent that benefits therefor[] are in whole or in part payable” by workers’ compensation, excluded coverage of all medical expenses, even where only a portion of the medical expenses were payable by workers’ compensation).

7. See Salzman v. Kanchev, 80 Va. Cir. 139 (Va. Cir. Ct. 2010) (finding one sentence on a declarations page operated to exclude any intra-policy stacking of uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage).

8. 283 Va. 609, 620 (2012).

9. Id. at 621.

10. This language is taken directly from an umbrella policy issued by State Farm.

The Journal of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, Volume 23 Number 4, 2012 19

11. See Crowell v. Duncan, 145 Va. 489 (1926). But be warned, negligent entrustment is a difficult claim to recover under in the Commonwealth. See, e.g., Turner v. Lotts, 244 Va. 554 (1992).

12. See Johnson v. Windsor Ins. Co., 268 Va. 196 (2004).

13. See Rule of Professional Conduct 1.8(f).

14. See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Floyd, 235 Va. 136, 142 (1988) (“[T]he insurer has control of the defense, ordinarily including the right to negotiate settlement at its discretion….”).

15. Id., (“[A]n insured, in order to recover for an excess judgment on the ground that the insurer failed to take advantage of an opportunity to settle within the policy limits, is required to show that the insurer acted in furtherance of its own interest, with intentional disregard of the financial interest of the insured.”)

16. Id.; see also Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. St. John, 259 Va. 71, 76 (2000).

17. Smarter people than this author can explain this in more detail. See, e.g., Wehe, Jeffrey C., “Take the initiative with injury claim reserves,” Trial Magazine (July 1, 2006).

Sean A. Sherlock is an associate at Cohen & Cohen, P.C., a boutique personal injury firm serving clients throughout Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. He received his B.A. from Penn State University, and graduated cum laude from American University, Washington College of Law in 2011. During law school, Mr. Sherlock clerked for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Crime and Drugs Subcommittee, spent a summer at the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, and served as a student prosecutor in the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Placing a value on a personal injury case is not easy.

The most frequent question our clients ask is, “How much money will I receive from my case?” Placing a value on a personal injury case is not easy, but there are three simple tips to consider.

First, cases are generally valued based on the extent of the damages. The greater the damages, the greater the value of the case. For example, a person who suffers a broken bone or other serious injury may be entitled to more damages than a person who simply has a “soft tissue” injury.

Second, the strength of the case in terms of liability is also important (i.e., how did the incident occur?). A medical malpractice case where a physician leaves a sponge in a patient may be easier to prove than a different type of case. Accordingly, the stronger case may be more likely to be successfully resolved.

Third, there are many other damages that are to be considered when valuing a claim. These may include (but are not necessarily limited to) the following:

  • lost wages
  • pain and suffering
  • emotional distress
  • scarring
  • disfigurement
  • medical bills

At Cohen & Cohen, we are a bilingual DC law firm consisting of Washington DC personal injury lawyers and Maryland and Virginia personal injury attorneys. We are committed to representing the rights of injured victims. Specifically, our 6-lawyer boutique trial firm represents people who have been injured by a medical mistake, wrongful death, birth injury, product defect, automobile collision and slip and fall.

Cohen and Cohen: Personal Injury Lawyers DC, MD & VA

Cohen & Cohen, P.C. is a bilingual DC law firm consisting of Washington DC personal injury lawyers and Maryland and Virginia personal injury attorneys.   Personal injury lawsuits are the result of someone’s negligence toward another, causing bodily injury or harm.

You must prove that you have been injured by another party’s careless or reckless actions to win a personal injury claim in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Physical personal injury can include: disfigurement, loss of limb, permanent or disfiguring scars, disability, and loss of one of the five senses. Mental harm might include: emotional trauma, mental anguish, embarrassment, or loss of enjoyment.

Whether your injuries were caused by an accident, malicious intent, or a defect in a product’s design, production or labeling, you have the right to seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages.

ATV Accidents

Aviation Accidents

Birth Injuries

Boating Accidents

Brain Injury

Burn Cases

Car Accidents

Construction Accidents

Dental Malpractice

Dog Bites

Drunk Drivers

Elevator Accidents

Food Poisoning

Hit and Run Cases

Machinery Accidents

Medical Mistakes

Misdiagnosed Cancer

Motorcycle Accidents

Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse

Pedestrian Injuries

Product Defect Injuries

Railroad Accidents

Semi Accidents

Serious Scarring

Slip & Fall

Store Accidents

SUV Rollovers

Unsafe Toys

Wrongful Death

There is a statute of limitations that applies to all personal injury cases in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC . Victims have a limited timeframe in which to file their case. It is important that you consult a personal injury attorney in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia if you believe you have a claim, so that you protect your right to file suit.

Cohen & Cohen, P.C. is a DC law firm consisting of Washington DC personal injury lawyers, Maryland personal injury attorneys, and Virginia personal injury lawyers. We are committed to representing the rights of injured victims.

Cohen and Cohen: Washington DC leads the list for the most automobile accidents in the country

Cohen and Cohen, P.C. wants you to know that Forbes just published Allstate Insurance’s list for the country’s worst drivers. Washington, DC has the worst drivers in the country!  Drivers get into automobile accidents in Washington, DC on the average of every 4.7 years!  The national average for an automobile accident is once a decade.   The #2 spot for automobile accidents is Baltimore, Maryland!

Throughout Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia hundreds of car accidents occur every day. Being involved in an car accident is a traumatic experience. Car accidents sometimes occur through no fault of your own, and can involve rear end accidents, side swipe accidents, and intersection accidents. Any accident has the potential to result in injury to the people involved. Car accidents in Washington, DC involve a number of issues including insurance laws, overlapping jurisdiction and other complex legal issues. Properly interpreting the law and effectively advocating your position is vital if you want to completely recover the damages from your car accident.

Damages for these types of accidents can include property loss, medical costs and lost wages. When trying to recover these damages, you will almost always be dealing with an insurance company. The goal of the insurance adjuster is to settle cases your car accident case and save the insurance company as much money as possible. Without a car accident attorney, the settlement process proceeds completely on the adjuster’s terms. This scenario will never yield the best possible result for you. Your attorney’s job is to level the playing field. Their main goal is to settle your claim to maximize your compensation. If you have been involved in an car accident in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia, you should contact a car accident lawyer, Wayne Cohen of Cohen & Cohen quickly to ensure that you receive all of the compensation to which you are entitled.

Cohen and Cohen Is Frequently Asked Do I Have A Case?

Cohen and Cohen, P.C. attorneys are frequently asked the question, “Do I have a case?” The answer, unfortunately, is not always a simple one. Injury cases typically have three elements: a mistake, an injury, and proof that the mistake caused the injury. The analysis can be most clearly illustrated by examining a medical malpractice or product defect case.

In order to evaluate a medical malpractice case, the first item to address is whether the physician, nurse, or health care provider did something improper. In order to prove this fact, the law – in most states – requires that the injured victim introduce evidence from another similar person (i.e., physician, nurse, or health care provider) to testify that there was a mistake made. This is often called establishing that there was a violation of the “standard of care.” There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule. Proving this violation is often viewed as the most difficult part of a malpractice case.

Next, it is imperative to prove that there was an injury as a result of the violation. Although this is sometimes the least difficult element of proof, it maybe sometimes difficult to prove nonetheless. Take the situation where a health care provider fails to advise the patient of the risks of a certain procedure. The health care provider may have violated the “standard of care,” but if nothing actually went wrong during the procedure, then there is no case. Similarly, the situation may arise where a health care provider orders an improper medication for a patient, but the medication mix-up is harmless. Again, there may be a clear violation of the standard of care, but no damages.

Finally, the injured person must prove that her injury was caused by the mistake. This is where claims may get tricky. The injured victim must prove that the particular violation of the “standard of care” caused the victim’s injury. In certain cases the connection may be simple. For example, a basic case might arise in a situation in which a physician leaves a sponge in a patient during surgery, and that patient subsequently develops an infection. By contrast, a more complex matter might involve proving whether a birth injury is necessarily related to a physician’s failure to perform a timely c-section. Did the delay in performing the c-section cause the birth injury? Or was the birth injury caused by genetic factors long before the delivery?

Determining whether a client has a case is a complex matter. You should review your case with a competent lawyer from Cohen and Cohen, and let Cohen & Cohen make the decision as to whether you have a case!

Cohen and Cohen Welcomes You To Our Blog!

Cohen and Cohen, P.C. welcomes and thanks you for visiting the Blog for the website!  Cohen & Cohen, P.C. is a DC law firm consisting of Washington DC personal injury lawyers, Maryland personal injury attorneys, and Virginia personal injury lawyers. We are committed to representing the rights of injured victims. Cohen and Cohen represents people who have been injured by a medical mistake, wrongful death, birth injury, product defect, automobile collision, and slip and fall.