Posted On: February 26, 2009

Will Proposed Labor Law Affect Maryland Workers Comp?

The laws and regulations governing Maryland Workers Comp cases are in place to protect people who are injured at work or in the course of doing their jobs. But what happens if you're employed as an "independent contractor," as are so many plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters, and other trades people in the construction industry, where serious and fatal accidents can and do happen?

Do you have the same rights to Maryland Workers Compensation benefits if you're injured on the job in Maryland? A bill before Maryland lawmakers is tackling the issue of independent contractors' rights. As the law stands now, employers who classify workers as "independent contractors" are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers' compensation premiums. So if you're injured on the job and you're classified as an independent contractor -- you're on your own.

According to a report in The Washington Post, state officials believe as many as 20 percent of Maryland's blue-collar workers are wrongly classified as independent contractors. The Maryland Governor is calling on the General Assembly to make it illegal for employers to misclassify workers as independent contractors. Building industry representatives object to the proposed law, which would fine business owners $5,000 for each worker they knowingly misclassified. Repeat offenders would receive additional fines and could be debarred and put out of business.

Aside from the steep fines and penalties, employer objections to the proposed Maryland bill stem from the cost of providing benefits to workers in a recessive housing and building market, where competition to win jobs with the lowest possible bid is fierce. The Post reported that employers who pay workers as independent contractors save up to 30 percent in payroll costs.

If it passes, the Maryland State Labor Commission would enforce the law. An experienced Maryland Workers Compensation attorney can help determine who is responsible if a contractor or subcontractor is hurt in the course of doing their job.

Labor Proposal Targets Builders: Low-Wage Workers' Treatment a Worry
The Washington Post Feb. 9, 2009

Related Web Resources

Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission

Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation

Posted On: February 19, 2009

Maryland Car Accident Emergency Responses Questioned after Fatal State Helicopter Crash

Have you ever been stopped in highway traffic while a medical helicopter lands to transport victims of a Maryland car crash to the hospital? It's a heart-stopping sight, and we can only hope that the helicopter gets the victims to the hospital in time. Now Maryland lawmakers are reevaluating the state's emergency medical services since a crash involving a state helicopter claimed four lives last fall.

The Maryland State Police medical helicopter program has been under scrutiny since a Sept. 27, 2008 crash killed four people in Prince George's County, Maryland. The helicopter was on its way to a hospital 25 miles away when it was diverted to Andrews Air Force Base in foul weather and crashed -- killing the pilot, a paramedic, a medical technician, and one of the car accident victims. An 18-year-old injured in the Charles County Maryland traffic accident survived the helicopter crash. Legislation is now being proposed that would separate Maryland law enforcement from rescue functions.

The subject of medical helicopter accidents has received national attention lately, as such accidents have been on the rise since the 1990s due in part to the closing of emergency rooms in rural areas and an aging US population. National and state safety officials are reconsidering whether some patients would be safer and just as well served by using regular ground ambulance transports. Triaging methods used by emergency responders are also being questioned.

Members of the National Emergency Medical Services Pilots Association attended a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing in Washington, DC, earlier this month, to discuss ways to prevent such tragic accidents. The NTSB reported 28 deaths in seven fatal medical helicopter accidents last year -- up from seven deaths in two crashes in 2007. Wrongful death lawsuits can follow such accidents, e.g., if the air medical transport companies are found to be negligent in the maintenance and repair of their aircraft.

MedEvac System Works for Marylanders Feb. 14, 2009

Md. EMS Is Pressed To Share Triage Study
The Washington Post Feb. 2, 2009

Medevac Helicopter Crash Kills 4 in Maryland Sept. 28, 2008

Related Web Resources

Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems

National EMS Pilots Association

NTSB Helicopter Emergency Medical Services

Posted On: February 10, 2009

Buying Auto Insurance in Maryland (Part 3): PIP, Medical, Rental, & Umbrella Insurance

We've been talking about why Maryland drivers should seriously consider upping their auto liability insurance to as much as their budgets can afford. (See Parts 1 and 2 of my series on "Buying Auto Insurance in Maryland," below.) People who have had the misfortune of being injured in a Maryland car accident are always shocked and amazed at how quickly their medical bills can pile up -- and how minimum liability coverage maxes out just as fast. Here are four more types of auto insurance coverage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Our clients are hard-working people who often don't have a lot of extra money to cover their medical bills and lost wages if they're hurt in a Maryland car crash. Personal Injury Protection or "PIP" is a no-fault coverage that serves like an "emergency fuel tank" for relatively fast payment of medical expenses and wage loss related to an accident. Under Maryland law, drivers are not required to carry PIP insurance, but it's a coverage you will want to purchase. If you're in an accident -- say that nice little old lady from my earlier articles rear-ends you on her way to church -- you can use your own PIP to pay your bills quickly. It's no-fault coverage, so even if the other driver's insurance company starts haggling with, "We're not sure if it's our client's fault...," you won't have to wait. Your own PIP will cover that nagging emergency room bill and a couple weeks of lost wages while the insurance companies investigate. It's also cheap--figure $30-$100/year.

Medical Payments Coverage
Med-Pay is a supplemental coverage, similar to PIP, that only pays medical bills (not lost wages), in the event you are injured or killed in a Maryland car crash. Again, it is inexpensive, and an excellent way to ensure payment of your medical expenses, quickly, after your accident claim.

Rental Reimbursement Coverage
If that little old lady damages your car and you're left without wheels, how are you going to get around? Rental insurance costs peanuts and provides you with transportation if you're in an accident and the other driver's insurance company investigates for liability. An investigation can take months and meanwhile, you're off the road and going nowhere fast. Get your own no-fault rental coverage and make sure it pays enough. Some rental only pays $10 or $20 a day toward renting a car in Maryland. That won't buy you much. It costs about $40 to $50 a day to rent a mid-sized car from a major car rental agency.

Umbrella Coverage
Last but not least, as you get older and accumulate more assets, there's an option called Umbrella Coverage. This type of coverage provides a "liability blanket," which sits above your other coverages and pays only in the rare event that your underlying coverage is used up. Take a close look at the value of your home, versus the amount of liability coverage you currently carry. If you are driving around with $100,000 of liability coverage and you own a $300,000 house, guess what you are going to lose if you accidentally kill or seriously injure someone, and your liability coverage exhausts? Umbrella Coverage costs about $100-$200 a year and protects your assets in the event of a catastrophic Maryland motor vehicle accident where you're found liable.

Our law firm is dedicated to fighting for clients who have the misfortune of being in a car, truck or SUV accident in Maryland. Auto insurance sounds kind of boring and people figure, "Why spend money on something I probably won't use?" Our advice is "Get as much auto insurance as you can afford." Trust me, if you're in an accident in Maryland, you'll be glad you did.

Related Web Resources

Maryland Insurance Administration:

A Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance

Other consumer publications for autos, motorcycles, and RVs

Posted On: February 1, 2009

Buying Auto Insurance in Maryland (Part 2): Uninsured & Underinsured Motorists

Last month, we discussed why the minimum Maryland auto insurance liability coverage of $20K per person/$40K per accident, mandated by law, is risky business for anyone who drives more than that "little old lady who only drives to church on Sundays" that used car salesmen used to be so fond of. We recommended increasing your liability coverage to as much as your budget can afford, in the event you're liable in a Maryland auto, truck, or motorcycle accident where people in the other vehicle get hurt and you get sued. The other type of auto insurance required of all drivers under Maryland law is Uninsured Motorist coverage.

Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage for Maryland Auto Accidents
As a Baltimore Maryland injury lawyer, I've seen far too many personal injury cases where good people got caught up in a bad situation because they were involved in a Maryland car crash and they didn't have enough auto insurance -- and neither did the other driver. Or maybe the other driver didn't have any insurance at all, which is common in Maryland.

Liability insurance protects the other guy if you're found to be at fault in a Maryland car, truck, or SUV accident that causes personal injury. Uninsured Motorist coverage or "UM" is that same protection but flipped around to protect you. Say you're driving around, not doing anything wrong, and out of the blue -- somebody hits you. And that other driver doesn't have any auto insurance. Your own insurance company will stand in the shoes of that person and put on the negligent driver's hat, and will negotiate with you (and your Maryland car accident lawyer, if you retained one) -- just like the other driver should have. That's what UM coverage provides.

Minimum UM coverage required in Maryland is the same as liability insurance: $20K per person /$40K per accident. UM insurance also includes UIM coverage -- Underinsured Motorist -- where your insurance company will stand in for underinsured drivers as well. Say you get rear-ended by that nice little old lady and you need a back fusion, and you have a third-of-a-million-dollars in bills -- and she has minimum coverage, $20,000. You would receive her $20K, but then your insurance company would be responsible for the balance, up to the amount of coverage that you purchased. That's where we see UM insurance come into play all the time. If 10 percent of Maryland drivers are uninsured, a full third are tooling around Maryland with lousy coverage. So if you get hit by one of those guys, you won't be bound by their lower coverage if your UM has higher limits.

Liability and UM are usually bound together, so if you purchase $100,000 liability coverage, that's the most UM you can get. We recommend Maryland drivers get between $100K and $500K liability and UM. It's all about preparing for what we all hope and pray never happens. But if you are in a car accident in Maryland where personal injury occurs -- having more than the minimum car insurance helps protect your hard-earned personal assets.

Next installment of "Help! I've Been in an Accident!": Buying Auto Insurance in Maryland (Part 3): PIP or Med-Pay, Rental, and Umbrella Coverage.

Related Web Resources

Maryland Insurance Administration:

A Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance

Other consumer publications for autos, motorcycles, and RVs