We are advocates for the injured.
At The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, we handle various claims in which people have suffered personal injury or death through no fault of their own.
Our law firm has the skill and resources to represent even the most complex cases.
We offer a free consultation on all personal injury cases, and there is never a fee unless we recover money for you.
Car Crashes – Auto Accidents
Our willingness to litigate cases means that the insurance companies show us respect. Whether or not your case goes to court, you want an attorney whose reputation is to fight hard and not leave any money on the table.
We are willing to take cases to trial to get more money for you.
Our lawyers have experience in cases of motorcyclists injured through the negligence of others and are aware of the law enacted to protect motorcyclists.
If you have lost a loved one whose death was caused by a wrongful act, our firm understands the emotional effects and will strive to achieve a successful wrongful death claim.
While no attorney or law firm can “fix” your loss, our firm’s experience can help you recover from the economic losses associated with your family member’s passing and compensation for the emotional loss.
Maryland Wrongful Death Claims – Speak to an Experienced Attorney Today
When someone is fatally injured in an automobile accident, or other circumstances due to someone else’s negligence, their family deserves to be compensated. When an individual dies because of another’s negligence, there are actually two separate claims or lawsuits that may be brought. First, the estate of the deceased individual may bring a claim for negligence. Second, the surviving family of the deceased may bring a claim for wrongful death.
A wrongful death lawsuit is for the benefit of the wife, husband, parent or child of the deceased individual. If no one qualifies to bring a wrongful death due to familial relationship, any individual who was related to the deceased person by blood or marriage and who was substantially dependent upon the deceased person may bring a wrongful death claim. Unlike some states, an action for wrongful death may not be brought by the decedent’s estate.
A wrongful death claim may not be brought by an individual who is complicit in the death of the deceased. A wrongful death claim may not be brought by a parent of a child if the parent has been convicted of a sexual offense against the child’s other parent. The wrongful death statute also prohibits a parent or child from bringing a wrongful death action where the plaintiff has caused the death of the other.
When there are multiple beneficiaries for a wrongful death claim, only one action may be brought, but the damages which are awarded will be divided among the beneficiaries. Because a wrongful death claim is designed to benefit the family of the decedent, not the estate, it is a separate cause of action from any claim for injury by the decedent. It may be brought together with a claim by the decedent’s estate, or separately.
Damages in a wrongful death claim can include both economic and noneconomic losses. Noneconomic losses include such things as mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, martial care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education because of the loss of a spouse, a minor child, a parent of a minor child, or an unmarried child who Is not a minor. Wrongful death claims exist to compensate the surviving family members for the loss of someone they loved. Wrongful death actions are different than survival actions in that survival actions are brought by the estate of the deceased to recover for the pain and suffering that the deceased person endured prior to their death.
A claim for wrongful death must be filed within three years of the death of the injured person. When an individual is killed because of an occupational disease, the claim must be filed within ten years of the date of death, or three years after the cause of death was discovered; whichever is shorter. In some cases, a wrongful death claim may be brought even when other actions, such as negligence, are barred by the statute of limitations.
One Wrong – Two Claims
When an individual loses their life because of another’s negligence, be it from an automobile accident, medical malpractice, or other wrongful conduct, there are two legal claims that may result.
The deceased person’s estate, through the personal representative will file a claim called a survival action for recovery for the injuries that were suffered by the victim. This allows the estate to be compensated for the pain, suffering, and any economic expenses incurred, such as the cost of medical treatment, prior to the moment of death. The damages in a survival action are based on the suffering of the victim who died. These types of damages include compensation for pain and suffering before the death, the cost of medical care and the emotional trauma of knowing that you are about to die. A survival action may also recover for a person’s final expenses, such as their funeral and burial expenses.
If the deceased person does not have an estate, perhaps they died without a will and no heirs, an estate can be opened specifically for litigation purposes. This will allow the victim’s family to bring a survival action. The current limit on non-economic damages for a claim in a survival action is $865,000 (2017). This limit increases, by law, each year on October 1, by $15,000.
Wrongful Death Action
A wrongful death claim is brought by the survivors to relatives of the victim seeking compensation due to the victim’s accident death. The wrongful death statute is designed not to compensate the injured person, but to compensate the members of their family who have lost a loved one. Wrongful death actions provide some financial compensation to family members grieving a lost loved one. Wrongful death actions are not derivative of the personal injury claim. This means that a separate case, apart from any claim by the victim’s estate, can be filed by the family members for the loss of their loved one.
To prevail on a claim for wrongful death, the plaintiff must prove (1) the victim’s death; (2) that the victim’s death was proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence; (3) that the victim’s death resulted in an injury to the plaintiff (pain, suffering and/or economic loss); and (4) that the plaintiff is within the category of individuals who are entitled to bring a claim by statute.
Like personal injury claims, wrongful death claims are subject to statutory limits on the amount that can be recovered. The current limit on damages in a wrongful death claim is $845,000 (2017). This limit also increases, by law, each year on October 1, by $15,000. In a wrongful death claim where there are two or more beneficiaries, the damages limit is increased to 150% of the standard limit, meaning the current limit is $1,267,500, regardless of the number of beneficiaries.
Unlike noneconomic damages, Maryland has no cap on economic damages. Economic damages consist of medical expenses, whether past or future, and lost earnings, whether past or future. Economic damages based on lost earnings will be counted from the time of the accident. A plaintiff must prove future lost earnings with reasonable certainty.
How Long do you Have to Bring a Claim?
Wrongful death claims are subject to a statute of limitations. Like all claims, this is a limit on how long you can wait before filing a lawsuit to recover. In most personal injury claims, the plaintiff may bring a lawsuit at any time within three years of the date of injury.
A wrongful death claim will be subject to the same statute of limitations that applies to the underlying cause of the death. If the death resulted from someone’s negligence, then the wrongful death claim must be brought within three years from the negligent act. If it results from medical malpractice, it must be brought within five years from the act constituting the malpractice. Special rules apply to minors which may be different than the general limits stated here.
The difference between a general statute of limitations and one for wrongful death is where you measure from. Thus, if an individual is injured in a car accident, and later dies as a result of those injuries, the statute of limitations for negligence, i.e., the survival action, will be three years from the date of the accident. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim, however, will be three years from the date of death.
Depending on the circumstances, there may be other, shorter, limitations on bringing a claim. For instance, a claim brought against the State of Maryland, or one of its local entities, is subject to the Local Government Tort Claims Act. This requires formal notice to the entity within 180 days of the accident. While some provisions are available when this deadline is missed, its not a chance that you want to take. If a loved one has died due to another’s negligence, its important to see a lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact us Today for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation
If a loved one has been killed as a result of someone else’s negligence, call us to schedule a free no-obligation consultation. This is obviously a difficult time for your family. You can come in and chat with one of our experienced attorneys with no pressure to make a decision today. We never charge for a consultation in personal injury cases and we only get paid if we recovery money for you.
The information contained on this page is provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice. The experienced attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. can assist you if you or a love one have been seriously injured or killed. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation, in-office-consultation for any injury related claim. The law offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. handle accident claims in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Slip and Fall
The presence of dangerous hazards and conditions can result in serious personal injury. These cases can be challenging to litigate. However, we have experience with these cases and have obtained significant verdicts for our clients.
Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz secures $230,000 slip and fall jury verdict in Saint Mary’s County
It was a good day in court for Celeste Newland on April 12, 2018. After a two day trial, a Saint Mary’s County jury returned a verdict in the amount of $229,651. Mrs. Newland suffered a fractured patella when she slipped and fell on a banana peel in the Sheetz parking lot in Lexington Park, MD.
After deliberating for approximately two hours, the jury returned a verdict covering all of her medical bills and providing $200,000 for pain and suffering damages.
While conceding just before trial that the store had been negligent in failing to inspect, and clean up its parking lot, Sheetz argued that it should not be held responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries because the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and assumed the risk of her injuries.
The plaintiff testified in the case explaining the significant physical and emotional trauma that have affected her since the injury which occurred in December, 2013. As a business invitee, the store owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care to maintain a safe premises and to warn her of any latent defects.
In addition to the testimony of the plaintiff, Dr. Ehsan Abdeshahian, the plaintiff’s pain management doctor testified in the plaintiff’s case. The defendant chose not to call any witnesses in its case.
The defendant argued that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent, and assumed the risk of injury and therefore that she should not be able to recover as a matter of law. Under Maryland law, both contributory negligence and assumption of risk are affirmative defenses which would prevent the plaintiff from recovering any money.
At the conclusion of the case, plaintiff requested and was granted a partially directed verdict on the question of whether or not Mrs. Newland assumed the risk of her injury. Judge Karen Abrams ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that she assumed the risk of injury and that as such, that question would not be decided by the jury. Instead, the jury was left to decide whether Mrs. Newland was contributorily negligent, and if what amount of damages would be awarded, if any.
Richard Steinmetz, who represented Mrs. Newland in the case pointed out to the jury that the defendant had made inconsistent arguments about what happened and therefore should be discredited. The defendant’s argument that she was contributorily negligent, for not using due care and looking where she was walking was factually inconsistent with another argument they made, that she assumed the risk of injury. When a party assumes the risk of injury, they voluntarily chooses to encounter a known risk.
There were several factors which made this a good case to take to trial. First, the plaintiff was fortunate inasmuch as the incident was captured on the store’s security surveillance cameras. Thus the jury got to actually see the fall. Second, the injury was significant and discrete. Plaintiff suffered a fracture of the patella. Finally, the defendant’s attempt to shift the blame to the plaintiff simply didn’t seem to sit well with the jury.
If you are significantly injured in a slip and fall, an automobile accident, or any other type of accident, because another person was not careful, you may be entitled to monetary damages for your medical expenses and pain and suffering. Contact our office today for a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your injury claim.
Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz secures $250,000 slip and fall jury verdict in Calvert County
On April 9, 2019, Polly Traynham found out that she made a wise decision in turning down a $50,000 offer to settle her case. A Calvert County jury awarded her five times as much money as had been offered by the defendant to settle her claim.
Polly suffered injuries back in 2016 while she was standing on a pier at the Solomon’s Island Yacht Club. She had been attending a wedding reception for a friend’s family. While guests were lining up to take photos, the pier collapsed, dropping several guests into the cold water below. Polly suffered soft tissue injuries to her neck and back and hand, and a more serious injury to her foot.
It was disputed as to whether the foot was broken. Plaintiff claimed that there was a broken bone in the foot which showed up on an MRI report. The defendant claimed that the image showed a blood vessel, not a crack. Both sides called doctors to testify to the jury as to what the nature and extent of the injuries were.
The attorney in the case, Rick Steinmetz, a partner with Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C., with Ms. Traynham’s consent, decided not to introduce the plaintiff’s medical bills into evidence. The bills totaled approximately $12,000. Without introducing the bills, the jury was without an “anchor” to tie the non-economic damages. Attorney Steinmetz filed a Motion in Limine prior to trial to prevent the defendant from seeking to introduce the amount of medical bills into evidence in the case. Ms. Traynham sought compensation only for the non-economic aspect of her claim.
Both Ms. Traynham and her attorney were very pleased with the verdict. If you have questions about a personal injury matter, please give us a call today at 301-862-4400 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
Slip and Fall Law
Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.’s experienced attorneys handle slip and fall cases and trip and fall cases. Generally, a slip and fall case is where the person encounters a slippery surface, such as ice or a liquid, causing them to lose their balance. A trip and fall case is where due to some problem with the floor, such as a raised tile, a hole, or an object left on the ground, the person trips. Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. offers a free consultation on slip and fall and trip and fall cases involving an injury.
Business owners and property owners can be held legally responsible when they act negligently and that negligence results in a person falling and getting injured. In order for the property owner to be responsible for the injury, there must have been notice of the dangerous condition prior to the injury. Property owners have a duty to correct or warn individuals about dangerous conditions on the property that they know about, or should know about.
Falls indoors can be caused by any number of dangerous conditions, including the presence of a liquid or sticky substance on the floor or ground, wet floors, floors that are not level, torn carpeting, raised carpeting, worn carpeting, inadequate lighting, changes in the height or depth of stairs, malfunctioning escalators and the presence of objects, such as cords. Outdoor falls can be caused by cracked or broken sidewalks, ice, snow, inadequate lighting, lack of handrails and holes or depressions in the ground.
Any fall case, like any injury case, is going to have two major components – liability and damages. There are two questions that need to be addressed in assessing the case. First, did someone do something or not do something that constitutes a negligent act? Second, what injuries or damages were proximately caused by that act of negligence?
Under Maryland law, a property owner must take reasonable steps to maintain the safety of their property. Generally, to recover the injured person, i.e., the plaintiff will have to show that the property owner actually knew of the dangerous condition or that if they had been exercising reasonable care that they would have or should have known about the dangerous condition. If a customer spills liquid in the grocery store moments before you come around the corner and slip and fall, your chances of recovery are small. If however, a customer spills a liquid, notifies an employee, and the spill is still there three hours later when you come around the corner and fall, your chances of recovery have increased significantly. Most cases fall somewhere in the middle.
The general rule is that property owners, as well as their tenants must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the premises. Although the general rule applies to everyone, there are additional rules that may apply in particular cases.
• Duty owed to trespasser. Under Maryland law, the only duty owed to a trespasser, that is someone who is on the property without permission, is to refrain from intentionally injuring the trespasser.
• Duty owed to invitee. An invitee is a person who is on the property for the benefit of the owner, such as a customer in a store. The owner/occupier must use reasonable and ordinary care to see that those portions of the property which the invitee reasonably may be expected to use are safe or if not safe to give the invitee reasonable notice of the unsafe condition.
If the owner/occupier of a rental property sets aside a portion of the property for the common use of his tenants he owes the tenants a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep those portions of the premises in a safe condition, or if not safe, to notify the tenants of the unsafe condition. Also further the landlord or occupier who has agreed to make repairs may be responsible for the injuries resulting from his failure to make such repairs.
The duty owed to an invitee cannot be delegated. That is, while the owner can hire a third party to take care that the premises is clean and safe, the owner is ultimately responsible to the injured party if it is not. Although the invitee is owed a higher duty of care than others, the owner is not an insurer of the invitee’s safety and there is no presumption of negligence that arises when an invitee is injured on the property.
• Duty to a social guest. A social guest is a licensee by invitation and is owed a duty of reasonable care. A social guest must also be warned by the owner of any dangerous conditions that cannot be reasonably discovered.
• Duty owed to licensee. A bare licensee is a person who enters the property with the owner’s permission, but for their own benefit rather than for the benefit of the owner. No duty is owed to a bare licensee except that the owner may not wantonly or willfully injure or entrap the licensee. Further landowner may not create new and undisclosed sources of danger without warning the licensee of their presence.
It is important when a slip and fall occurs that the injured party does what they can to preserve evidence of the cause. This would include taking photographs of the substance or object that caused the fall as well as gathering names, addresses and phone numbers from anyone who witnessed the fall. Witness statements should also be obtained at the time of the fall, because people’s memories fade quickly.
A slip and fall or trip and fall case is a specific type of negligence case. For more information on negligence cases, generally, click here.
In a negligence case, the plaintiff must prove four things: (1) that the defendant owed some duty to the plaintiff; (2) that the defendant breached that duty; (3) that the defendant’s breach of the duty was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; and (4) that the plaintiff was, in fact, injured and the extent of those injuries.
Establishing liability for a slip and fall case is the critical first step toward recovery. There are a number of things that the injured party or those present with the injured party can do to help establish liability. First, it is important to take photographs of the scene, including the substance or defect which caused the fall. Photos should also be taken of the injuries and the clothing, especially footwear, of the injured person. These photographs can be very important evidence if the case goes to trial.
Second, the injured party should obtain the names, telephone numbers and addresses of those who saw the fall or the dangerous condition that caused it. These individuals may need to be subpoenaed as witnesses at some point in the future.
Third, the injured person should speak with the property owner or manager and request that an accident report be filed. This will ensure that important facts are not left out of the record of the event. You should ask the manager for a copy of the accident report before you leave the scene.
Finally, you should preserve any evidence. If it was an object that you fell on, save the object. You should also preserve the shoes you were wearing at the time. If there is any substance stuck on the shoe, take photographs, and then seal the shoe, with the substance still attached in a plastic bag and tape it shut so that you will have it if needed for purposes of litigation.
Defenses to Slip and Fall/Trip and Fall Cases
There are a variety of defenses that may be raised in slip and fall cases.
Lack of Negligence
The property owner or their insurance company may simply deny that they did anything wrong. Since it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove both liability and damages, the property owner may simply wait and see if the plaintiff can prove negligence and damages in court.
A few states, Maryland among them, adhere to an old, rather harsh rule, known as “contributory negligence.” In a state which has contributory negligence, if the plaintiff has contributed to the injury in any way, the plaintiff is barred from recovery. This means that even if the plaintiff was a little bit at fault – even 1% or less – that the plaintiff cannot recovery for their injuries. Unlike Maryland, most states have abandoned the contributory negligence doctrine in favor of some form of comparative negligence in which the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by some percentage based on the degree to which the plaintiff is at fault. In Maryland, the defense of contributory negligence is still available.
Assumption of Risk
Assumption of risk is a defense that prevents recovery where a plaintiff knowingly and voluntarily encounters a known risk. For example, if you walk across an icy parking lot, where you can see the ice, and then slip and fall, you may not recover against the property owner. The Maryland law holds that if you knowingly chanced it, that you have to live with the consequences and cannot hold someone else accountable.
If you can prove liability in a slip and fall case, you are entitled to recover damages. Damages is a general term that refers to monetary compensation awarded by a court for your injury. Under Maryland law, there are two types of damages that you can recover when you are injured, economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages refer to money that you have paid out, or will be required to pay out for expenses relating to your injuries. Typically the economic damages in a personal injury case consist of medical bills and lost wages, but could include other types of monetary loss directly attributable to the injury.
Noneconomic damages refer to money that is awarded to the plaintiff for things other than out of pocket expenses. This may be money awarded for pain, suffering and inconvenience associated with the injury, mental anguish, disfigurement, physical impairment and damage to your marital relationship (loss of consortium).
The amount of damages that can be recovered for your slip and fall claim depends on the severity of your injury, the length of time it takes you to recover, the type of injury sustained, and whether there is a permanent injury, that is one that will requiring ongoing medical attention.
In many cases, the defendant may contest the amount of damages, even where liability is conceded. While this happens more often in automobile accident cases, it can apply to slip and fall injuries as well. Often insurance companies will try to attribute your injuries to a different accident or fall, either before or after the one that is the subject of your case, to degenerative or other physical impairments, or to any number of sources other than the negligence of their clients.
Medical Payments Coverage
In Maryland, some business and private property owners maintain medical payments coverage insurance. This allows an injured party to recover for medical expenses for injuries that occur on the property without relation to fault. That means that you can recover regardless of why you fell or who caused it.
The attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. regularly handle trip and fall and slip and fall personal injury cases. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We will meet with you and discuss your case and provide an opinion on whether you may be able to recover for your injuries. There is never a fee for personal injury cases unless we are able to recover money for you. Clients may be responsible for costs.
Advocates for you.
We’ll fight for you.