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New Law Requires Mandatory Disclosure of Insurance Policy Limits

In past years, in lawsuits concerning vehicle accidents, insurance companies in Maryland were not required to disclose the limit of a client’s policy to other parties. In 2011, the state legislature changed this by passing a law that required insurance providers to divulge an insured client’s coverage. In order gain the information, the claimant must have owed at least $12,500 in medical bills before making the request. Senate Bill 146, which went into effect on October 1st, eliminated these last major hurdles, making it significantly easier for claimants and their attorneys to access the insurance coverage of opposing parties. All that is required is that the request be reasonable.

Claimant Responsibilities

In order to obtain information about insurance policy limits, a claimant seeking compensation after a vehicle accident must make a reasonable request to the other party. This necessitates first filing a written tort claim and submitting documentation that includes the following information:

  • The date of the vehicle accident;
  • The name and last known address of the defendant;
  • A copy of the vehicle accident report;
  • The insurer’s claim number;
  • The claimant’s health care bills and documentation of the claimant’s loss of income resulting from the accident; and
  • The records of health care treatment for the claimant’s injuries caused by the accident.

Claims Made on Decedent’s Behalf

Unfortunately, some automobile accidents result in the death of one or more people. The bereaved family is often left with medical bills, funeral expenses, and the loss of income. The relatives of the decedent, however, are not barred from filing a claim or seeking information regarding the defendant’s insurance policy. If the claim is being made on behalf of a decedent, the individual must submit, in addition to the above documentation, the following:

  • A copy of the decedent’s death certificate;
  • A copy of the letters of administration issued to appoint the personal representative of the decedent’s estate;
  • The names of each of the known beneficiaries of the decedent;
  • The relationship to the decedent of each known beneficiary;
  • The amount of economic damages claimed by each beneficiary, including any amount based on future loss of earnings; and
  • Documentation of the decedent’s past loss of income resulting from the vehicle accident.

Production of Policy Details

Once these requirements have been met, the insurer must disclose in writing any applicable limits of the coverage under which the insurance provider may be liable:

  • To satisfy all or part of the claim; or
  • to indemnify or reimburse payments made to satisfy the claim.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

If you have been injured in an accident and have questions about your potential recovery, please contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro. Our Charles County, Maryland, personal injury attorneys have extensive experience representing clients who have been injured as a result of the negligence of others in Waldorf, St Charles, Clinton, Charles County, St Mary's County, or anywhere in the State of Maryland. For a free consultation, please call us at 301-705-5253 today.

Admissibility of Expert Testimony in Personal Injury Cases

When, because of a property owner’s negligence, a person slips and falls on another’s property, the injured person can seek a monetary recovery to compensate for medical expenses. When a court is determining liability in such instances, expert testimony can be an important factor in apportioning responsibility.

The Case

A recent decision issued by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals clarified the law in regards to the weight and admissibility of expert evidence in slip-and-fall cases.

Sorrels v. NCL

In 2012 Ms. Sorrels, a passenger on the cruise ship Norwegian Sky, slipped on the pool deck and fractured her wrist. In charging the cruise line with negligence, Ms. Sorrels attempted to present expert testimony concerning the slip resistance of the ship’s pool deck.

Negligence

In Maryland, to prove that a defendant was negligent, the plaintiff must show that:

• The defendant had a duty to protect the plaintiff from a slip and fall;

• The defendant breached that duty;

• The breach actually and proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury; and

• The plaintiff suffered actual harm.

In slip-and-fall cases, plaintiffs often establish the breach and duty elements of their negligence claims by using expert testimony. To this end, Ms. Sorrels had Dr. Ronald Zollo, a civil engineer, conduct a test on the ship’s surface coefficient of friction (COF), or degree of slip resistance. The test took place around 520 days after the accident and was performed after a rainfall. The expert’s results indicated an average COF of 0.45, which he stated was below the minimum standard of 0.50.

After hearing the evidence, the district court ruled that although Dr. Zollo was qualified to testify as an expert, his opinions were not based on reliable methods. As a result, all Dr. Zollo’s testimony was stricken and was not admitted at trial.

Admissibility of Expert Testimony

A court will look at the following factors when determining whether expert testimony is admissible:

• The expert’s qualifications;

• The reliability of the testimony; and

• The extent to which the testimony will be helpful to the trier of fact.

Because the district court acknowledged that Dr. Zollo was a qualified expert, and that it is common practice for experts to testify in slip-and-fall cases, the reviewing court limited its analysis to the reliability of Dr. Zollo’s opinions.

Reliability

Upon review, the Court of Appeals dismissed the lower court’s argument that the length of time between the accident and the test made the expert’s testimony unreliable. Because the condition of the pool deck was substantially similar to its condition at the time of the accident and because a representative of the cruise line had testified that the deck had not been changed, the evidence was sufficient to allow admission. Furthermore, the defendant’s own expert performed the same test on the same day, using the same measuring equipment. The court also pointed out that a delayed test goes to the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility, because cross examination and the presentation of contrary evidence will weed out any unreliable testimony.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers

If you have been injured on someone else’s property and believe that they were responsible for your injuries, a slip-and-fall action may be appropriate. Please contact the experienced Charles County, Maryland personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Robert R. Castro for a free consultation.

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