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Curbing insurance fraud in Maryland

Published on Mar 29, 2016 at 3:27 pm in General Blogs.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau workers’ compensation fraud is almost $7.2 million per year. Therefore, insurance companies are looking to take steps to prevent fraud before it happens. Two tactics that insurance companies may use in the future are social media and surveillance of a claimant. While there may be higher upfront costs related to monitoring someone who may be committing fraud, it could cut down on costs later on.

Looking for signs of a fraudulent insurance claim can make it easier to determine who may be attempting to commit a crime and catch that person in the act. One sign of fraud are claims being made on Monday morning for injuries that allegedly occurred the previous week. If there are no witnesses to the injury or conflicting reports of what caused it emerge, that could also increase the odds that a claim is fraudulent.

Woman sues hospital over wrong site surgery

Published on Mar 22, 2016 at 5:19 pm in General Blogs.

Many Maryland patients have been the unfortunate recipients of wrong-site surgeries and other types of surgical errors over the years. A recent case in New England has focused attention on this important issue.

A woman went into a hospital for the removal of a cancer-stricken rib in May 2015. At some point after she was put under anesthetic and prepared for surgery the medical personnel treating her became confused or misdirected in some fashion, and they removed the wrong rib. Although there is evidence that they realized their mistake quickly and tried to bring the woman back for further surgery immediately, the contention of the injured woman was that they were not forthcoming with information about what had occurred and lied to her in an attempt to conceal the error.

The woman has filed a civil suit against the doctors and the hospital. She alleges permanent and debilitating injuries resulting from the error. The plaintiff’s representative pointed out that although a surgeon with expertise in this field reviewed the details of the case and found major irregularities and gaps in proper care, much of their complaint stems from the hospital’s apparent attempt to cover up the accident.

OSHA regulations regarding recordable injuries

Published on Mar 3, 2016 at 5:25 pm in Workers Compensation.

Employers in Maryland face potentially severe penalties if they run afoul of workplace safety regulations, and checking records for accuracy is often among the first steps taken by OSHA inspectors. Employers hoping to avoid fines or other sanctions must keep track of workplace injuries and illnesses if they are considered recordable under OSHA regulations, but employers are sometimes unclear about the line of demarcation.

Sometimes, OSHA guidelines make it very clear that a workplace injury or illness is recordable. Employers must keep records when workers are killed, forced to take time off work or injured badly enough to be reassigned. Injuries must also be recorded when workers lose consciousness for any period of time or require medical treatment beyond what would be considered first aid. Employers must also keep records when a physician or other medical professional diagnoses a serious injury or condition even if none of these conditions apply.

Keeping workers safe from hazardous energy

Published on Feb 1, 2016 at 3:21 pm in General Blogs.

Hazardous energy is present in many workplace environments in Maryland and across the country. Several million workers routinely deal with hazardous energy, and when one is injured an average of 24 workdays are lost while the employee recovers. In addition, hazardous energy-related accidents account for roughly 10 percent of all serious accidents in many industries.

Hazardous energy comes from chemical, thermal, pneumatic, hydraulic, mechanical and electrical sources generated from equipment and machines. Employees can be severely injured or killed when the machines they are maintaining or repairing suddenly and unexpectedly release an uncontrolled buildup of hazardous energy.

AAA study estimates drowsy driving is serious problem

Published on Nov 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm in General Blogs.

Drowsy driving is known to be a problem. Official federal crash statistics estimate that about 2.5 percent of all fatal car accidents involve a drowsy driver. But those estimates are not considered very accurate, as determining if a driver was sleepy before a crash is difficult.

In fatal crashes, the driver cannot answer any questions concerning his or her condition prior to the crash, and for drivers who survive a motor vehicle accident, they may not realize they were drowsy or may be to reticent to admit to a police officer that they fell asleep at the wheel. 

Doctors Reconsider Value of Cardiac Stents in the Wake of Claims Against Mark Midei, M.D.

Published on Aug 1, 2014 at 3:40 pm in General Blogs.

In today’s Baltimore Sun, reporter Tricia Bishoplooks at the use of stents and the risks they bring. According to the article, until recently, use of cardiac stents to open blocked arteries has been all the rage and was seen as a relatively safe procedure when compared to open heart coronary bypass surgery. Since the 1990s, stents have been increasingly used and have generated more than $1 billion of revenue for Maryland’s hospitals.

In the wake of close to 600 claims against Mark Midei, M.D.- the once preeminent interventional cardiologist at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Towson, Maryland — for unnecessary stenting of patients with little or no artery blockage, the health care community is now taking a hard look at the risks and benefits of cardiac stents and is now trending away from using them in favor of medications or bypass surgery. According to statistics from the state Health Services Cost Review Commission, stenting procedures in Maryland will drop by 25% this year (from 14,255 to 10,650).

Maryland Attorney Loses Law License for Criticizing Judges

Published on Mar 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm in General Blogs.

Disbarment – the loss of a law license – is an extreme sanction. Yet, in a recent case, Maryland’s top court rejected an attorney’s argument that his emailed criticism of several of Maryland’s government and legal officials was protected as free speech and upheld the decision to yank James Albert Frost’s law license.

An attorney’s knowingly false statements impugning the integrity and qualifications of several judges and public legal officers constitute a violation of the Maryland Lawyer’s Rules of Professional Conduct (MLRPC) and are not protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Court of Appeals has ruled.

In addition, where an attorney repeatedly makes false allegations about the qualifications or integrity of “a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer,” without any explanation or investigation into the allegations, he has demonstrated a lack of fitness to practice law and disbarment is an appropriate sanction, the state’s top court said.

But the decision was not unanimous. Judge Robert N. McDonald said he couldn’t agree with the majority decision because the primary purpose in an attorney discipline proceeding is to protect the public from inept lawyers, not to protect public officials from criticism. McDonald said he would suspend Frost for his failure to respond adequately to the AGC’s inquiry but was not comfortable disbarring him based on what appeared to be an expression of opinion.

Frost was admitted to the Maryland Bar in June 1972. He does not maintain an office for the practice of law. In April 2012, he wrote an e-mail to his ex-wife calling various Maryland state judges and officials, among other things, “lawless,” “corrupt,” “weak” and described one high-placed Maryland political leader as a “pretty boy politician.” Frost was apparently angry over what he described as an “illegal arrest” that resulted in his spending 87 days in county jail.

Frost emailed a copy of the communication to three attorneys, including George Meng, a Maryland personal injury lawyer. Frost did not know Meng. Meng responded by emailing Frost and asking why the email was sent to him. Meng also directed Frost to the rules for lawyers’ conduct and asked Frost to explain how the email was not a violation of those rules. Frost’s only response was to snail mail Meng a letter that did not respond to the question. Meng then filed a complaint with the Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC) of Maryland. The lawyer/investigator for the AGC sent a copy of the complaint to Frost and asked for a response in about 30 days. Frost said his statements were protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment and, in a second letter, Frost scolded the AGC for getting involved. The AGC asked Frost to substantiate his claims. Although he sent copies of his letters to the members of the AGC, Frost did not provide a substantive response to the Bar Counsel’s requests for information.
In an evidentiary hearing for which Frost did not appear, the judge noted that Frost had made several statements knowing them to be false and with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity. The judge also found that Frost violated the rules when he failed to provide a substantive response to the AGC’s letters. The hearing judge found by “clear and convincing evidence” — a very high legal standard – that Frost’s actions were a violation of several sections of Maryland’s rules of conduct for attorneys.

Under those rules, an attorney is expected to respond to a lawful inquiry from the AGC, even if the attorney views the complaint as frivolous. In addition, another rule provides that a lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge or a public legal officer or a candidate for election.

The AGC recommended disbarment for the unsubstantiated badmouthing of the judicial and political officials. Frost asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that his statements were protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and that there was insufficient service of process.

The decision then went up to the Court of Appeals. The court concluded that the facts were as established by the hearing judge and agreed with the hearing judge that Frost had violated the rules of professional conduct.

The court then turned its attention to the proper remedy for the violation. Sanctions are put into place to protect the public and the public’s confidence in the legal profession, not to punish attorneys, the court said. Sanctions protect the public when they prevent conduct and remove those who are unfit to continue in the practice of law. The court noted that it had recommended disbarment in a similar case.

The Maryland personal injury lawyers at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz are experienced in negligence, auto accident, medical malpractice and other types of legal matters. Contact us through our online contact form or call us at 410-234-0100 so that we can help you with your legal matters.

Court Keeps Rule That Denial of a Request to Change Venue Can Not Be Immediately Appealed

Published on Dec 23, 2013 at 3:10 pm in General Blogs.

Deciding the best place to try a case – forum selection – is important in many ways to a lawsuit. How long it takes for a case to conclude, the likelihood of victory and the amount of damages awarded by a judge or jury can be vastly different, depending on the county where the case is heard. As a result, lawyers on both sides of the case carefully scrutinize the places where a lawsuit can be filed so as to determine the best location for handling the case.

The fact that venue is important means that lawyers often maneuver for the best judicial forum for their clients even before the trial begins. In a case of first impression, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals has clarified the law on the question of whether a trial court’s denial of a request to transfer a lawsuit before trial has begun can be immediately appealed.

Relying on what had been written about the issue in lawsuits dealing with other matters, the appeals court said it was persuaded to refuse Aleksey Kulikov’s attempt to immediately appeal the court order denying his request to take his case to another court.

Court Upholds Insurer’s Refusal to Cover Carport Collapse From Weight of 2010 Blizzard

Published on Dec 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm in General Blogs.

The winter of 2010 was memorable for the record amount of snow that it dumped on Maryland. For several days, Charm City businesses, courts and public transportation remained closed because of blizzard conditions. Many Maryland homeowners also remember the damage caused by the snow and ice – many roofs needed repair and some failed under the weight of the wintry weather.

An Anne Arundel couple’s attempt to have their insurer reimburse them under their homeowners’ insurance policy for the damage caused by the February 2010 collapse of their carport was stymied by Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals when it upheld their insurer’s refusal to pay their claim. State Farm Fire and Casualty Insurance (State Farm) denied the claim on the ground that the carport was not a building and that the policy only covered losses due to collapse of buildings.

Under more than a foot of snow and ice, Moira and Gregory Taylor’s carport collapsed. The Taylors had built the detached carport in 2007. Before construction, Mrs. Taylor had called her State Farm insurance agent to ask whether the carport would be covered under the policy. Taylor recollected that the agent said the carport would be covered. The 20×20 structure was built on an existing asphalt pad next to the house. It was not attached to the Taylor’s house. When the carport fell, it landed on the Taylors’ two cars, a snow blower and a power washer.

Court: Temporary Total Disability Payments Must Stop When Worker Achieves Maximum Medical Improvement

Published on Dec 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm in Workers Compensation.

Maximum medical improvement is an important concept in workers’ compensation cases. Maximum medical improvement (MMI) occurs when an injured employee has reached the maximum benefit that can be obtained from medical care. At that point, a doctor can evaluate any lingering impairment to determine the extent of the permanent injury to the employee’s body.

An injured worker’s recent attempt to change longstanding workers’ compensation laws to allow her to continue to receive temporary total disability benefits after achieving MMI has been rejected by Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals.

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