• Common Motorcycle Crashes and How to Avoid Them

    The open road appeals to motorcyclists with the promise of freedom and exhilaration. Yet, the thrill of riding on two wheels carries inherent risks, particularly on the congested roads of Maryland. Recognizing the typical scenarios that lead to motorcycle accidents and practicing defensive riding techniques can greatly diminish the chances of encountering such an accident. In this guide we will discuss the prevalent causes of motorcycle mishaps and preventative measures, while also spotlighting the invaluable assistance Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, can offer in the aftermath of a motorcycle crash.

    Motorcycle Accidents in Baltimore

    The Most Common Causes Of Motorcycle Accidents

    Operating a motorcycle on city streets or scenic highways riders encounter various challenges. Some situations are notoriously more hazardous than others:

    • Left Turn Crashes – This common scenario unfolds when a vehicle executes a left turn, failing to notice an oncoming motorcyclist or misjudging their speed, leading to a collision. The limited visibility of motorcycles compared to cars makes this type of accident particularly prevalent.
    • Lane Changing Accidents – These incidents occur when a vehicle changes lanes without recognizing the presence of a motorcycle. The smaller size of motorcycles makes them easily lost in vehicle’s blind spots, escalating the risk of such accidents.
    • Head-On Collisions. – Among the most perilous encounters for motorcyclists are head-on collisions, typically resulting in severe outcomes. They usually happen when a vehicle veers into an oncoming motorcycle’s lane, often due to distracted or impaired driving.
    • Lane Splitting Accidents – Riding between lanes of traffic, a practice known as lane splitting, poses significant dangers due to the close proximity to cars and reduced maneuverability and space.
    • Open Car Door Crashes – Urban riding presents unique dangers, such as the unexpected opening of a car door in a motorcycle’s path, leaving little time for the rider to react and avoid impact.
    • Rear End Collisions– A sudden stop by a vehicle could lead to a motorcyclist crashing into its rear end, often caused by the vehicle driver’s inattention or abrupt braking.
    • Unseen Road Hazards – Road conditions that are merely inconvenient for cars can be treacherous for motorcycles. Hazards like potholes, uneven surfaces, wet leaves, or gravel can easily destabilize a motorcycle.

    Strategies For Avoiding Motorcycle Accidents

    Mitigating the risks associated with motorcycling in Maryland demands constant vigilance and preemptive measures. Here are some detailed strategies to help riders steer clear of accidents:

    Stay Visible

    • Enhancing your visibility is key to ensuring that you’re noticed by other road users. Opting for brightly colored gear and employing reflective materials can make a significant difference, especially during dawn, dusk or at night.
    • Activating your motorcycles headlights, even in broad daylight, can catch the attention of other drivers, reducing the likelihood of being overlooked.
    • Positioning plays a vital role in visibility. Position yourself in the lane where you’re most likely to be seen by other drivers, especially in their rearview mirrors.

    Anticipate Hazards

    • Intersections require heightened caution. Be particularly wary of vehicles indicating or preparing to make left turns, as these are frequent points of conflict.
    • Maintaining a safe following distance from vehicles ahead provides a buffer to react to sudden stops or maneuvers.
    • Regular checks of mirrors and blind spots are important when navigating lane changes or preparing for turns, so that you are aware of your surroundings at all times.

    Practice Defensive Driving

    • Enrolling in a motorcycle safety course is not just for beginners. Such courses can refine your driving skills, teaching advanced techniques for avoiding accidents.
    • Operate under the assumption that you might be invisible to other drivers. This mindset encourages proactive safety measures such as positioning and speed adjustments.
    • Adjust your speed according to weather conditions and road quality. Wet roads, debris, or potholes require a more cautious approach.

    Be Mindful Of Road Conditions

    • Approach areas with loose surfaces like gravel or sand with care, reducing speed and avoiding sudden movements.
    • Weather conditions can drastically alter the riding experience. Be particularly cautious during or after rainfall when oils on the road surface can make conditions slippery.
    • Although lane splitting can save time, it’s important to practice it judiciously, adhering to local laws and only when traffic conditions. Are conducive.

    How Jack J Smerling Can Help With Your Motorcycle Crash Claim

    Should you unfortunately become involved in a motorcycle crash in Maryland, Jack Jay Schmerling, Attorney at Law, stands ready to provide expert legal assistance. With a profound understanding of Maryland’s legal landscape and a dedication to the rights of motorcyclists, our firm is poised to advocate on your behalf. Here’s how we can make a difference.:

    • Comprehensive Legal Knowledge – Our firm is well versed in the nuances of traffic laws and motorcycle accident litigation in Maryland, positioning us to navigate your claim effectively.
    • Tailored Legal Strategies – Recognizing that each case is unique, we craft personalized legal approaches that align with your specific circumstances and objectives.
    • Commitment To Compensation – We are relentless in our pursuit of the compensation you are entitled to, covering medical bills, lost earnings and other pertinent damages.


    Embracing safe riding practices and being prepared for the unexpected are vital for every motorcyclist. In the event of an accident, know that Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, is here to support you through the legal process, ensuring your rights are protected and your recovery is prioritized. Ride safely and with confidence, knowing you have a strong advocate in your corner.

    Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, in Glen Burnie, MD, is your go-to-attorney. With a rich history of nearly four decades in law and a wide-reaching practice area, we are committed to delivering top-notch legal assistance and personalized service to clients throughout Maryland. Whether you’re navigating the complexities of an auto accident claim or seeking justice for a workplace injury, our firm stands ready to advocate for your best interests.

    For more information about our practice, or to schedule a free consultation, contact us via our website or give us a call at 443-354-4107. We look forward to meeting you!

  • Maryland Motor Vehicle Accidents with Uninsured Motorists: Are You Covered?

    Maryland Motor Vehicle Accidents with Uninsured Motorists: Are You

    In Maryland, the reality of encountering an uninsured or underinsured motorist on the road is a significant concern. The thought of being involved in an accident with someone who lacks adequate insurance coverage to compensate for the damages they’ve caused can be unsettling. It raises questions about personal financial security and the ability to recover your losses. However, understanding the mechanisms of uninsured motorist coverage and how they function within the state’s legal framework can provide you with some degree of assurance. In this article, we’ll explain how to deal with accidents involving uninsured or underinsured motorists, highlighting the protective measures in place for insured drivers and offering guidance for effectively dealing with the aftermath of such an accident.

    Motor Vehicle Accidents in Baltimore

    The Problem of Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists in Maryland

    A sad but simple truth is that when imperfect people drive, accidents can happen. These incidents can range from minor fender benders to major collisions, resulting in significant damage and injuries. The complexity of these situations is magnified when the responsible party lacks proper insurance coverage. This not only complicates the process of seeking compensation but also brings to light the vital role of uninsured motorist coverage in safeguarding victims.

    What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

    Uninsured motorist coverage is more than just a line item on your insurance policy; it’s a safeguard against the uncertainties of sharing the road with less responsible drivers. Uninsured motorist coverage is designed to stand in the gap left by those who, either by choice or circumstance, operate vehicles without the protection of insurance. This coverage isn’t just about complying with state laws. It’s about providing peace of mind so that if you’re ever in an accident where the other party is uninsured, your financial well-being isn’t left to chance.

    How Does Uninsured And Underinsured Motorist Coverage Work In Maryland?

    Maryland’s approach to uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is structured to provide a powerful safety net for drivers. As an example of the state’s commitment to protecting its citizens on the road, this mandatory coverage is not just a bureaucratic requirement. It’s a strategic component of your insurance that steps up when the unexpected happens. Whether the at-fault driver has no insurance or insufficient coverage, your policy’s uninsured and underinsured coverage provisions ensure that your damages and injuries don’t become an unbearable burden. This mechanism reflects a well-thought-out balance between regulatory requirements and the practical needs of Maryland’s drivers.

    Steps To Take After An Accident With An Uninsured Motorist

    The moments following an accident with an uninsured motorist are critical, not just for your physical well-being, but also for the integrity of any potential claims. The immediate steps of securing a police report, documenting the accident scene, and notifying your insurer form the foundation of your response. These actions are not merely procedural but are your first line of defense in establishing the facts and securing your rights. Following these steps carefully can significantly influence the efficiency and outcome of the claims process.

    What Compensation Do You Receive For Your Uninsured Motorist Claim In Maryland?

    The compensation available under an uninsured motorist claim in Maryland is designed to cover a number of types of losses from medical bills and rehabilitation costs to compensation for lost wages and even pain and suffering. This compensation framework is not arbitrary. It’s crafted to reflect the multifaceted nature of the damages accident victims can incur. While policy specifics can vary, the intent is to provide a financial lifeline that addresses both the immediate and long-term needs following an accident with an uninsured driver.

    Factors To Consider In Determining Eligibility For An Uninsured Motorist Claim

    Filing an uninsured motorist claim involves more than just submitting some paperwork. It requires an understanding of various factors that influence eligibility. The accident’s context, the specifics of your insurance coverage, and the extent and nature of the damages all play important roles. This phase is about piecing together a comprehensive picture that aligns with the stipulations of your policy and the laws of Maryland. It’s a process that demands attention to detail and an awareness of the legal and insurance landscapes.

    How Can Jack Jay Schmerling, Attorney At Law, Help You?

    The role of a seasoned attorney like Jack J. Schmerling in dealing with an uninsured motorist claim cannot be overstated. With expertise in Maryland’s legal system and insurance claims his legal representation is more than the basic handling of paperwork. It’s about leveraging legal knowledge and negotiating skills to advocate for your best interest. An attorney’s involvement can be the deciding factor in the success of claim negotiations so that your case is presented compellingly and your compensation reflects the true extent of your losses.


    The process of filing a claim and collecting damages in the aftermath of an accident is complex, nut with the right information and support, your legal representative can work to get you the compensation you’re entitled to. In addition, the support of a knowledgeable attorney can significantly bolster your chances of a favorable outcome. Armed with this knowledge and support, Maryland drivers can face the uncertainties of the road with a measure of confidence, knowing that they have protections in place to mitigate the impact of accidents with uninsured motorists.

    Contact the Best

    If you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured at-fault driver, you should contact Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law. Based in Glen Burnie, Maryland, with over 40 years of legal expertise serving clients across the state, we are well-equipped to fight for your entitlements. Our practice covers a wide range of legal matters, from auto accidents and workplace injuries to DUI/DWI cases. Recognized for excellence and backed by numerous accolades, our firm is committed to achieving the best outcomes for our clients. Reach out to us today for a complimentary consultation and take the first step towards securing your rights.

    For more information about our practice, or to schedule a free consultation, contact us via our website or give us a call at 443-354-4107. We look forward to meeting you!

  • How Underinsured Motorist Coverage Works in Maryland

    Understanding Uninsured Motorist Coverage

    In the busy streets of Baltimore or on the serene lanes of Glen Burnie, MD, drivers face a number of uncertainties every time they take to the road. Among these, encounters with uninsured or underinsured motorists pose a significant financial risk, making underinsured motorist coverage a critical component of every driver’s insurance portfolio in Maryland. In this article, we’ll explore the nuances of underinsured motorist coverage, its statutory requirements, inherent challenges, operational dynamics, and the invaluable support Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law can provide in navigating these complexities.

    Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Baltimore

    What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

    Underinsured motorist coverage is a form of financial protection shielding policy owners from the costs associated with accidents where the at-fault driver’s insurance falls short of the damages incurred. This form of coverage is designed to bridge that financial gap so that victims are not left to shoulder the burden of these expenses, which can range from medical bills to property repair costs.

    Insurance Requirements

    The state of Maryland mandates a comprehensive insurance framework to safeguard its motorists. This framework includes the obligatory possession of underinsured motorist coverage, underscoring the state’s proactive stance in ensuring the financial well-being of its citizens. This legal requirement emphasizes the state’s recognition of the potential disparities between incurred damages and the insurance coverage limits of at-fault drivers.

    The Problem With Underinsured Motorist Insurance

    Despite its intended protective role, many motorists discover the limitations of their underinsured coverage only after they’ve had an accident. The stark reality of insufficient coverage becomes apparent when faced with the exorbitant costs associated with severe accidents, highlighting a serious gap in many individuals’ insurance safety nets. This can lead to significant financial hardship, emphasizing the need for a thorough understanding and planning of one’s insurance coverage.

    How Does Underinsured Motorist Coverage Work?

    Following an accident with an underinsured driver, your insurance company will take a number of steps to ensure that you are compensated adequately:

    • Initial Claim – The process starts with the filing of a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance, laying the groundwork for compensation.
    • Evaluation – Your insurance company will make a careful assessment of the damages compared to the coverage limits of the at-fault party to establish the shortfall.
    • Compensation – In instances where the at-fault driver’s insurance is found wanting, your underinsured motorist coverage is activated, providing the financial means needed to address the deficit.

    What Does Underinsured Motorist Insurance Cover In Maryland?

    The scope of underinsured motorist insurance in Maryland includes several areas, providing comprehensive coverage for affected parties:

    • Medical Expenses – This includes a broad range of medical-related costs, from emergency treatments to prolonged hospitalizations, so that victims can receive the necessary care without the worry of financial ruin.
    • Property Damages – Coverage extends to the repair or replacement of vehicles and other property that may have been damaged by the accident.
    • Lost Wages – Recognizing the potential for accidents to affect one’s ability to work, coverage also compensates for income lost during the recovery period, alleviating one of the significant stressors associated with recovery after an accident.

    How Jack J Schmerling, Attorney at Law, Can Help You!

    In the complex landscape of underinsured motorist claims in Maryland, the expertise of Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, becomes indispensable. With a deep understanding of the legal system and a commitment to each client’s welfare, our practice is ready to guide you through the often complex process of securing your rightful compensation. Our services extend beyond mere legal representation. We provide a comprehensive support system aimed at alleviating the burdens associated with underinsured motorist claims. Whether you require guidance on filing your claim, negotiating with insurance companies, or legal representation in court, we can provide you with expert assistance.


    The area of underinsured motorist coverage in Maryland is complex and challenging. Understanding the intricacies of this coverage and the potential pitfalls is essential for all drivers within the state. In instances where the process seems too complicated, the expertise and support of qualified legal counsel can help to see that you’re not left to bear the financial aftermath of an accident alone. Engaging with a seasoned legal professional can make a significant difference in the outcome of your underinsured motorist claim, transforming a potentially distressing experience into a manageable journey toward financial recovery and justice.

    If you’re struggling with an underinsured motorist claim or any other legal issue, it’s time for you to turn to Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, for unmatched legal guidance. With decades of courtroom experience, we stand ready to safeguard your interests in various legal areas including auto accidents, personal injury, worker’s compensation, and DUI/DWI cases. Our firm, situated in Glen Burnie but serving clients statewide, is dedicated to providing personal and effective legal services across a broad spectrum of practice areas. Let us represent you and lead you through the successful resolution of your case.

    For more information about our practice, or to schedule a free consultation, contact us via our website or give us a call at 443-354-4107. We look forward to meeting you!

  • Factors to Consider When Hiring a Brain Injury Lawyer in Glen Burnie and Baltimore, MD

    The Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer You Can Count On

    Brain Injury Attorney in Maryland

    In the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury, finding a dedicated and experienced injury attorney is paramount to ensuring your rights are protected and justice is served. Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, stands as the best brain injury lawyer in Baltimore, MD, with nearly four decades of legal expertise in advocating for those affected by traumatic brain injuries (TBI). We understand the profound impact such injuries can have on individuals and their families. Contact our firm for a free consultation and let us guide you through the complexities of your case.

    What Causes Traumatic Brain Injury?

    Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can result from various causes, each with the potential to have profound and lasting impacts on an individual’s cognitive and physical well-being. Common causes of brain injury law firm include vehicular accidents, such as car crashes and motorcycle collisions, where the force of impact can lead to head injuries. Falls, particularly among the elderly or in workplace settings, significantly contribute to TBI. Sports-related injuries, particularly in contact sports, may also result in traumatic brain injuries. Assaults and incidents of violence can cause severe head trauma, leading to TBI.

    When Should I Seek Medical Attention for Traumatic Brain Injury?

    Seeking immediate medical attention is imperative if you suspect a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Symptoms may not always be immediately apparent, but if you experience persistent headaches, nausea, confusion, memory loss, dizziness, or changes in mood or consciousness after a head injury, it is crucial to seek medical help promptly. Even mild TBIs can have serious consequences if left untreated. Early diagnosis and intervention enhance the chances of a favorable outcome and prevent potential complications. If in doubt, err on the side of caution and consult with a healthcare professional to ensure proper evaluation and appropriate care for a suspected traumatic brain injury.

    Key Warning Signs of a Serious Head Injury

    Recognizing the key warning signs of a serious head injury is critical for prompt medical attention. According to our expert legal team, here are three indicators to be aware of:

    • Loss of Consciousness – A sudden loss of consciousness, even if brief, following a head injury, is a red flag that necessitates urgent medical evaluation, as it may indicate a severe impact on the brain.
    • Persistent Headaches or Vomiting – Consistent and intense headaches, particularly when accompanied by persistent vomiting, may signal a more severe head injury, requiring immediate medical assessment to rule out complications such as a concussion or traumatic brain injury.
    • Unequal Pupil Size or Unresponsiveness – Any signs of unequal pupil size, known as anisocoria, or unresponsiveness to stimuli, such as light or touch, are indicative of a potentially serious head injury, requiring urgent medical attention to assess and address potential neurological damage.

    What to Consider When Hiring a Brain Injury Lawyer?

    Selecting the right brain injury lawyer in Baltimore is crucial for navigating the complexities of your case successfully. Consider the following factors when making this important decision:

    • Experience and Specialization – Prioritize a lawyer with a proven track record in handling brain injury cases, as their specialized expertise will be instrumental in building a robust legal strategy tailored to the unique challenges of traumatic brain injuries.
    • Client Reviews and Testimonials – Research and review client testimonials to gauge the lawyer’s reputation for client satisfaction, gaining insights into their communication style, responsiveness, and ability to secure favorable outcomes for individuals with similar cases.
    • Resources and Support Staff – Assess the law firm’s resources and support staff, as a well-equipped legal team can enhance the efficiency of your case, ensuring thorough investigation, expert consultations, and the necessary resources to pursue the compensation you deserve.

    Why Choose Jack J Schmerling, Attorney at Law?

    In ensuring justice for traumatic brain injury victims in Baltimore, MD, Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, emerges as the preeminent legal advocate. Boasting nearly four decades of expertise, we take pride in being the best brain injury lawyers dedicated to navigating the complexities of TBI cases. Contact us for a free consultation, allowing us to guide you through the legal intricacies and advocate for your rights with unparalleled dedication.

  • Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Glen Burnie and Baltimore, MD

    The Best Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in Maryland

    Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Maryland

    Navigating the aftermath of a motorcycle accident requires the expertise of a seasoned attorney who understands the intricacies of personal injury law. At Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, we specialize in providing comprehensive legal services for motorcycle accident victims in Baltimore, MD. With nearly four decades of experience in the courtroom, we recognize the unique challenges faced by those involved in motorcycle accidents. Our commitment to excellence and success, coupled with a deep understanding of motorcycle accident statistics, empowers us to advocate fiercely for our clients. If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, let us guide you through the legal complexities, ensuring your rights are protected, and you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact our firm for a free consultation from our Motorcycle Accident Lawyer and take the first step towards securing your rightful justice.

    Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

    Navigating Baltimore’s roads demands a keen understanding of potential hazards. Here are common causes of motorcycle accidents in the city:

    • Distracted Driving – Motorists distracted by phones or other factors divert attention, posing risks to motorcyclists.
    • Lack of Visibility – Reduced visibility during adverse weather or at night increases the likelihood of collisions, emphasizing the need for heightened awareness.
    • Road Conditions and Maintenance – Potholes and uneven surfaces can create hazardous situations, underscoring the importance of well-maintained roads.
    • Opening Car Doors – Drivers failing to check for oncoming motorcycles before opening doors can lead to accidents, requiring increased driver vigilance.
    • Motorcycle Defects – Unnoticed or unaddressed motorcycle defects can contribute to accidents, emphasizing the importance of regular maintenance.
    • Alcohol and Substance Abuse – Riding under the influence significantly elevates accident risks, highlighting the importance of sober riding.
    • Motorcycle Safety Equipment – Proper use of safety gear, including helmets, reduces injury severity during accidents.
    • Route Types – Different routes, such as highways or urban streets, present unique challenges, requiring adaptable riding approaches.
    • Speeding – Adhering to speed limits and adjusting speeds according to road conditions is crucial in preventing accidents.
    • Rear-End Accidents – Collisions from behind pose a threat to motorcyclists, emphasizing the need for maintaining safe following distances.
    • Left Turn Accidents – Accidents during left turns underscore the importance of intersection safety and anticipating other drivers’ actions.

     Other Services We Offer

    In addition to our dedicated legal services for motorcycle accidents and traumatic brain injuries, Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, offers a comprehensive array of legal support to address various needs. Our expertise extends to personal injury cases, including those arising from auto accidents, workplace injuries, and social security disability claims. We are committed to providing top-notch legal representation in DUI/DWI cases, ensuring that individuals facing these charges receive fair and effective advocacy. With a track record of excellence spanning nearly four decades, our firm is equipped to handle various legal matters. Whether you require assistance with workers’ compensation claims, personal injury litigation, or legal support for DUI/DWI defense, we are here to guide you through every step of the legal process. At Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, we strive to be your trusted partner in navigating the complexities of the legal system, advocating for your rights, and securing the justice you deserve.

     Why Choose Jack J Schmerling, Attorney at Law?

    Jack J. Schmerling, Attorney at Law, stands as your unwavering ally in the aftermath of a motorcycle accident in Baltimore, MD. Our nearly four decades of legal expertise, coupled with a profound understanding of the reasons for motorcycle accidents, positions us to offer unparalleled support. Whether your accident was caused by negligence, recklessness, or other factors, our Motorcycle Accident Lawyer are dedicated to securing the compensation you deserve. Don’t face the legal complexities alone—trust in our commitment to excellence and success. Take charge of your future; contact us for a free consultation. Let us champion your rights and guide you toward the justice you deserve.

  • COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Benefits Presumption in Favor?

    As of August 28, 2020, Honolulu firefighters are asking the Mayor of that city to make it easier for them to obtain workers’ compensation benefits related to COVID-19.   Specifically, the firefighters are hoping that the Mayor will enact a legal presumption in their favor.  This would mean that if a firefighter gets sick with COVID-19, it would be presumed that they got it while on the job, and therefore are eligible for workers’ comp benefits.  The local government or its insurance company would then have the burden of overcoming that presumption by showing that, in fact, the firefighter contracted COVID-19 from somewhere other than work.  This would create a different legal standard than the usual one in workers’ compensation cases, where the burden is on the employee to establish that his/her injury or illness occurred on the job.  If the change goes into effect, it would be significantly easier for firefighters to obtain workers’ comp benefits.  Honolulu is not the only jurisdiction to consider this kind of legislation; a few months ago I shared on LinkedIn that Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut had issued an executive order also creating a presumption in favor of workers who contacted COVID 19 during the early part of the pandemic. As of August 28, 2020, Honolulu firefighters are asking the Mayor of that city to make it easier for them to obtain workers’ compensation benefits related to COVID-19.   Specifically, the firefighters are hoping that the Mayor will enact a legal presumption in their favor.  This would mean that if a firefighter gets sick with COVID-19, it would be presumed that they got it while on the job, and therefore are eligible for workers’ comp benefits.  The local government or its insurance company would then have the burden of overcoming that presumption by showing that, in fact, the firefighter contracted COVID-19 from somewhere other than work.  This would create a different legal standard than the usual one in workers’ compensation cases, where the burden is on the employee to establish that his/her injury or illness occurred on the job.  If the change goes into effect, it would be significantly easier for firefighters to obtain workers’ comp benefits.  Honolulu is not the only jurisdiction to consider this kind of legislation; a few months ago I shared on LinkedIn that Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut had issued an executive order also creating a presumption in favor of workers who contacted COVID 19 during the early part of the pandemic.

    This is a sensible policy, and I believe the Maryland legislature should follow suit.  For months, frontline workers such as doctors, nurses, nursing home staff, police officers, and firefighters have had to venture out and do their jobs in the midst of the pandemic.  For those who contracted COVID-19, many of them would have almost certainly gotten sick while at work and being in close proximity to patients or co-workers who have the disease.  Our government should pave the way for those individuals to more easily obtain workers’ compensation benefits to help cover the costs of their treatment and to ensure that they are not forced to use sick or vacation time to cover their days missed.  The presumption would be rebuttable, meaning that the worker would not be guaranteed benefits; the employer/insurer would still have the chance to show that the employee contracted COVID-19 outside of work.  The presumption could also be limited to only encompass certain classes of essential employees, and it may also be limited to a specific period of time, perhaps the first few months of the pandemic.  These limitations would create a fair balance on the one hand between the right of employees to be compensated and the rights of employers/insurers who do not have a tremendous new front of liability thrust upon them due to unprecedented circumstances.

    The concept of a legal presumption is not unheard of in Maryland.  Certain emergency personnel such as firefighters and police officers already benefit from presumptions in their favor.  MD. Code Labor & Employment Section 9-503 establishes that certain emergency personnel who develop heart disease, hypertension, or lung disease are entitled to a presumption in their favor that they developed those conditions as work-related occupational diseases.  There are also already presumptions in place for certain individuals who contract some types of cancer and Lyme disease.  This goes to show that our Legislature is already familiar with the concept of making it easier for certain individuals, who put their lives and bodies on the line, to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.

    Regarding the current pandemic, it makes sense to again create a presumption in favor of benefits for frontline employees, in light of the courage and dedication that they displayed by showing up to work during the pandemic. Regarding the current pandemic, it makes sense to again create a presumption in favor of benefits for frontline employees, in light of the courage and dedication that they displayed by showing up to work during the pandemic.

    For all of your workers’ compensation questions, please contact our experienced attorneys at 410-787-0022.

    1. https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2020/08/28/firefighters-ask-exception-workers-compensation-policy-during-pandemic/
    2. https://portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/News/Press-Releases/2020/07-2020/Governor-Lamont-Signs-Executive-Order-Strengthening-Workers-Compensation-Claims

  • Suing Employer for Work-related COVID

    If an employee contracted COVID-19 while on the job and passed away, can the family sue the employer for wrongful death?

    As the country continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic, new legal issues continue to arise.  There has been talk in the media of people bringing wrongful death lawsuits against companies, alleging that the companies are responsible for the deaths of loved ones who contracted COVID-19 while at work.  Is that a viable legal option in Maryland?[1]

    The answer would appear to be: almost certainly not.  Maryland law is quite clear that if someone gets ill and passes away while on the job, the person’s beneficiaries are limited to seeking benefits via the workers’ compensation system, as opposed to being able to bring a civil suit (such as a wrongful death action) for monetary damages.

    The Maryland Code of Labor and Employment Section 9-509 is entitled “Exclusivity of Compensation.”  Subsection (b) of that statute states: “Except as otherwise provided in this title, the compensation provided under [the Workers’ Compensation title] to a covered employee or the dependents of a covered employee is in place of any right of action against any person.”  In other words, if your loved one passes away as a result of a work-related illness, you are limited to seeking recovery by way of workers’ compensation benefits.  Death benefits in a workers’ compensation situation can be quite substantial, but may be more limited than what someone could seek by way of a civil lawsuit.

    The statute does provide for an exception.  Section (d) states:

    Exception — Deliberate act. — If a covered employee is injured or killed as the result of the deliberate intent of the employer to injure or kill the covered employee, the covered employee or, in the case of death, a surviving spouse, child, or dependent of the covered employee may:

    (1)  bring a claim for compensation under this title; or
    (2)  bring an action for damages against the employer.

    The exception provides an option for bringing a civil lawsuit if the employer committed a “deliberate act.”  This is a very high bar to overcome, however.  Maryland’s highest court held that an employer has committed a “deliberate act” only when the employer “decided to injure [the employee], that the employer committed some act to accomplish this goal, and that as a direct result of the employer’s action [the employee] was injured.”  Johnson v. Mountaire Farms of Delmarva, Inc., 305 Md. 246, 258 (1986).  That case makes clear that even if the employer is reckless or willfully negligent by placing its employees in a dangerous position, such action is not sufficient to allow the employee to bring a civil suit for damages.  The employee has to show that the employer intended or desired for the employee to get sick or injured.

    Turning to the current pandemic, many people in Maryland may feel that their employers acted wrongly by forcing them to come into work during the pandemic, or by not providing sufficient PPE.  Those people may be justified in their feelings, and obviously if someone got sick at work from COVID-19 and passed away, that is a tragedy for which the family should be entitled to some benefits.  However, the law in Maryland makes clear that the family will likely be limited to seeking those benefits by way of the workers’ compensation system, as opposed to by way of a civil lawsuit (unless there is some evidence that the employer knowingly desired for the employee to contract the disease and therefore placed him or her in harm’s way).

    Our attorneys are happy to answer your questions regarding work-related COVID 19, or any other question relating to workers’ compensation in Maryland.   Please call us at 410 787 0022 to set up a free consultation.

    [1] This article deals only with the situation where an employee contracted COVID-19 while at work and passed away.  There may be other situations in which someone contracted COVID-19 and passed away, and where a different legal analysis would apply. 

  • Permanent Partial Disability and COVID-19 Part II

    In Part I of this blog post, I gave a basic overview of permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits.  So what kind of permanent partial disability benefits might someone who gets infected with COVID-19 at work expect to receive?  Permanent partial disability benefits usually involve lasting physical effects.  I found at least one news article describing COVID-19 as having possible permanent respiratory effects (such as permanent lung scarring or fibrosis), as well as possible lasting cognitive effects, although there is not yet enough data to reach definite conclusions.[1]  There is also a discussion of COVID-19 causing issues with blood clotting, stroke, and heart problems.[2]

    Let’s say that an injured worker (Izzy) suffers lung fibrosis as a result of work-related COVID 19.  The lungs are considered part of the “body” for PPD purposes.  An injury to the body allows someone to receive a maximum of up to 500 weeks of PPD payments.  Izzy goes to one independent medical evaluation and that doctor says he’s suffered a 20% permanent impairment of his respiratory function as a result of COVID 19.  The insurance company sends Izzy to their independent medical evaluator, and that doctor rates him as 10% permanently injured.

    At this point, Izzy would likely go to a hearing[3] and a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner would review both physician reports as well as listen to Izzy testify about what symptoms he’s still having, such as difficulty breathing or pain in his chest.  At that point, the Commissioner would assign a percentage of permanent impairment to Izzy’s lungs.  That number is very important.  In the Workers’ Compensation system, we speak of different “tiers” of payments.  If someone is awarded less than 75 weeks of payments, they receive payment at the Tier one rate, which is 1/3 of their average weekly wage up to a statutory maximum.  If the person receives 75 weeks or more of payments, they receive the higher Tier two payment rate, which equals 2/3 of their average weekly wage, up to a statutory maximum.  The difference between receiving a Tier one rating vs. a Tier two rating means thousands of dollars for an injured worker.

    In Izzy’s case, he wants to get an award of at least 15% from the Commissioner, because of 15% of a maximum possible of 500 weeks = 75 weeks.  A 15% rating or above will get him the Tier two rate.  Any rating lower than 15% will get him the Tier one rating.  Much rides on the ratings of the different doctors as well as how Izzy communicates his symptoms to the Commissioner.

    Physical effects are not the only ones that may be relevant.  Workers’ Compensation in Maryland also at times allows someone to be compensated for psychological harm incurred as a result of an incident at work.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that there are two classes of individuals who may claim psychological harm as a result of COVID-19: those who actually become infected with the disease, and those who have to work in the incredibly difficult circumstances of healthcare clinics with high rates of the disease.

    As to the first group of individuals, those who actually become infected with COVID-19: the Courts in Maryland do recognize psychological harm as something that can arise out an “accidental personal injury” that one suffers at work.  Belcher v. T. Rowe Price, 329 Md. 709 (1993) is a case in which Maryland’s highest courts examined the concept of psychological harm in the workers’ compensation cases.  In that case, the claimant was at work when a huge construction beam came crashing through the roof.  Although she was not physically harmed, she suffered psychological detriments.  This is what the Courts deem a “mental-mental” situation: a mental stimulus (the fear of the crashing beam) induces “mental” suffering.  The Court held that claimants could seek Workers’ Compensation benefits for psychological injuries, as long as the mental harms were induced by a “sudden or violent” event, and that the psychological harms were capable of objective determination.

    COVID-19 is a bit different, in that the anxiety an infected person suffers is not a “mental-mental” event, but rather a “physical-mental” event: a “physical” cause (infection of one’s body with a disease” provokes possible “mental” effects (anxiety, depression, etc.)  It remains to be seen whether the Commission and Courts will apply the same standard of requiring a “sudden and violent” accident to induce the psychological harms, or whether perhaps the law will be more lenient in the case of COVID-19, where definite physical harm is suffered.

    The second class of workers who may be entitled to benefits are healthcare workers who perhaps were not infected themselves, but had to show up to work day in and day out during the pandemic and deal with the incredibly difficult scenario of treating COVID 19 patients and perhaps watching many of those patients lose their lives in a very painful way.  The Court of Appeals has recognized that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be a compensable “occupational disease” for workers’ compensation purposes in certain situations.  The key case is Means v. Baltimore County, 344 Md. 661 (1997).  That case involved a paramedic who through the course of her work was exposed to several “gruesome” accident scenes and eventually developed PTSD as a result.  The Court held that PTSD may be a compensable occupational disease if: 1) the employment is of such a nature that the risk of PTSD is a hazard of that particular employment, and 2) the PTSD is contracted as the result of an in the course of employment and causes the employee to become incapacitated.

    There’s certainly an argument to be made that healthcare workers who develop PTSD based on what they experienced through the pandemic may have a valid occupational disease claim.  One hurdle is that, traditionally, the occupational disease must develop in a “slow and insidious” manner.  The pandemic has only lasted a few months so far, and it’s unclear how long it will go on for.  It may not last for a long enough time to allow for “slow and insidious” development of PTSD, although that may be an issue that needs to be litigated.

    Please call us at 410 787 0022 to discuss work-related COVID-19 or any other question you may have about workers’ compensation in Maryland.

  • Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits and COVID-19, Part I: An Introduction to PPD

    When someone in Maryland is injured on the job, the Workers’ Compensation statute allows that person to receive certain benefits.  Those benefits include Temporary Total Disability (TTD) payments, which provide for two-thirds of the person’s average weekly wage during the time the person is totally unable to work due to the work accident.  Another class of benefits is the payment of all causally-related medical costs by the employer or workers’ compensation insurer.

    When someone in Maryland is injured on the job, the Workers’ Compensation statute allows that person to receive certain benefits.  Those benefits include Temporary Total Disability (TTD) payments, which provide for two-thirds of the person’s average weekly wage during the time the person is totally unable to work due to the work accident.  Another class of benefits is the payment of all causally-related medical costs by the employer or workers’ compensation insurer. The third class of benefits is what is referred to as Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits.  Oftentimes when someone is hurt, they will go through a course of treatment, which could include surgery, therapy, medications, or whatever other medical treatments are necessary to restore them to good health.  However, many times, even after the person has gone through treatment and achieved what is known as Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), the person will still experience some degree of lingering symptoms or issues as a result of the work accident.  PPD benefits are designed to compensate for those.

    A typical example would be someone who breaks a bone in their hand while at work.  Let’s say that person undergoes surgery and the course of occupational therapy which allows them to get back to work after six months.  However, the person still experiences ongoing numbness, tingling, weakness, and/or loss of range of motion in the affected hand.  Most likely the person will always have some degree of lasting effects due to the injury.

    At this stage, the person should be “rated” for their level of permanent impairment.  Usually, at least two doctors will rate a workers’ compensation claimant as to the degree of personal injury: one physician that is contracted by the injured worker or his/her attorney, and one physician by the employer/insurer’s physician.  Not surprisingly, the claimant’s doctor will usually provide a higher disability rating than the employer/insurer physician.  After that, the two sides will either work out a settlement agreement as to the level of permanent damage, or they will go to a hearing in which a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner will review the medical reports and hear the testimony of the worker as to what ongoing issues are still being experienced.  Then the Commissioner will assign a rating to the person’s permanent injuries.

    Each body part in Maryland is assigned a different total number of weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.  For example, to use our imaginary situation of an injured hand, the maximum number of weeks of permanent partial disability that someone can receive for a hand is 250 weeks of payments.  Now let’s say that our injured worker goes to a hearing, and the Commissioner decided that he has suffered a 10% permanent loss of use of his hand due to the work accident.  To figure out how much money the person would receive, we would multiply 10% x 250 possible weeks x one-third of the person’s average weekly wage.  In 2019, the maximum weekly payment that someone could receive for a 10% hand injury would be $187.00/week.

    10% x 250 weeks x $187.00 = $4,675.00 in payments paid over the course of twenty-five weeks.

    I hope that example was not too complicated.  To summarize, there are several factors that come into play when determining PPD: what part(s) of the body were injured; how badly injured they were, based on independent medical evaluations; and what the person’s average weekly wage was at the time of the injury. How does this apply to COVID-19?  I will address that in Part II.

  • How Does Another Driver’s DUI Impact Your Accident Claim?

    Car accidents occur around the Baltimore area every day. Unfortunately, many of them are caused by reckless drunk drivers who jeopardize the safety of everyone else on the road because of their irresponsible decisions. If you survived a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you should consult an injury lawyer right away. You shouldn’t have to pay for damage inflicted by someone else. Any claim or lawsuit that your injury lawyer files on your behalf will proceed entirely separately from criminal charges against the other driver.

    Car Accident Attorney in Baltimore, MD

    Negotiating a Just Settlement

    Drunk drivers cost their insurance carriers big bucks. Because insurance companies know that juries almost always find in favor of the plaintiff in these cases, these companies are usually quite willing to settle the case. However, the insurance carrier’s idea and your idea of a just settlement may be fairly disparate. It can take some back-and-forth negotiations between your injury lawyer and the insurance company to reach a fair settlement. Remember to keep your lawyer updated with any changes in your health status. If you require additional surgery, are diagnosed with another medical problem, or otherwise experience a change in your health, this will affect the settlement negotiations.

    Deciding to Take a Settlement

    Your lawyer can offer advice on whether or not a settlement offer is fair in light of your losses. However, only you can decide whether to agree to settle the case or not. There’s no need to rush to a decision. If you do agree to the settlement, you cannot later change your mind. However, you could decline the settlement and then reconsider a settlement at a later date, assuming that the other party is still willing to settle.

    Going to Trial

    If a fair settlement offer is not forthcoming, it’s time to talk to your lawyer about the merits of taking the case to trial. In civil lawsuits, drunk drivers are nearly always held liable for the damages they inflict. However, you will have to be prepared to testify and have your medical records scrutinized. Your lawyer will guide you through each step of the litigation process.