Monthly Archives: November 2011

Montgomery County Car Accident Trial Report

Earlier this month, I had a three-day jury trial in a car accident case in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. I tried the case along with the referring lawyer under a Rule 1.5 fee-sharing agreement. Although he is an experienced lawyer, he had never handled a jury trial before because his practice is primarily transactional. He sat second chair, handled a few of the witnesses, and did a great job.

We do this pretty frequently here at M&Z. We encourage our referring lawyers to stay as involved in the cases as they wish. This can range from a straight referral where M&Z has primary responsibility for the case, to a true co-counsel relationship with shared responsibility where we try the case together. I love trying cases with other lawyers, whether it is splitting a trial down the middle with another experienced M&Z trial lawyer or having a less-experienced attorney sit second chair as a learning experience. We had a great time, and our client ended up being very satisfied with the jury’s verdict (which was more than 5 times the last settlement offer of the medical bills only).
Our client was a young woman who had sustained a knee injury in the accident. The defense hired one of the local “usual suspects” to perform a defense medical examination and to give opinion testimony at trial.

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How to Make the Defendant Driver Your Ally In UIM Cases

When a driver gets sued for injuring somebody in a car accident, they don’t have to go out and spend their own money hiring a lawyer to defend the case. They call up their car insurance company and tell it that they have been sued. They send in the papers and the insurance company provides them with a defense attorney.

Sometimes this is an “in-house” insurance defense lawyer, other times it is an outside lawyer selected and paid by the insurance company. Either way, the insurance company picks and pays for the driver’s defense attorney. So what you have is a three-sided (or “tripartite”) relationship- insurance company, defense attorney, and defendant driver.

Whether in-house or outside counsel, the defense lawyer has a paramount ethical duty to act in the best interest of his or her client- the defendant driver. This is true even though the insurance company selected the lawyer, is paying the lawyer’s fee, and controls most of the important decisions in the litigation, including whether to settle and on what terms.

Unsurprisingly, the defense lawyer may have a certain degree of loyalty to the insurance company with the magic checkbook. Especially when the lawyer is an “in-house” lawyer who is a direct employee of that insurance company, or when the lawyer is outside counsel whose firm depends on a steady stream of business from that insurance company. I can think of at least five small local defense firms that more or less survive off of cases from one insurance carrier.

There can be instances where this dynamic can affect the course of a case. One of these is in the context of an underinsured motorist case. Assume that the negligent driver was operating a car insured by State Farm with a $30,000 coverage limit. Assume further, that my client has his own policy from GEICO with a $100,000 coverage limit. If the defendant’s liability insurance is not enough to cover the damages, my client can take advantage of $70,000 more coverage through his own policy ($100,000 – $30,000= $70,000).
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