Where am I? Jurisdictional Borders in Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland

By Cory Bilton

Memorial Bridge 1

If you are the type of person that thinks “jurisdiction” only matters to lawyers and fugitives on the lam, you might be surprised to learn that the moment you cross a jurisdictional line you are subject to a completely different set of laws.  As you are walking across the Key Bridge from Rosslyn to Georgetown, for example, it is “Goodbye, Virginia law.  Hello, DC law.”  This has important consequences because Virginia law and DC law differ in many ways.  By crossing over that bridge you subject yourself to those new laws just by being present in the District of Columbia.

So, jurisdiction matters to everyone in the area.  But where exactly does Virginia end and Washington, DC begin?  The Potomac River, right?  What about the line between DC and Maryland?  It’s those diagonal streets (Southern Avenue, Eastern Avenue, and Western Avenue), right?  Both these answers are close, but not quite right.  The jurisdictional lines between Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland are very specific and do not necessarily match up with common understanding.  Here is what you need to know about jurisdiction in the DC area.

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Case Law Dispatch: Payne v. Erie Insurance

By Cory Bilton

Case: Payne v. Erie Insurance

  • Court: Maryland Court of Appeals
  • Date of Decision: 3/30/15
  • Appellate Panel: Barbera, Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts
  • Opinion by: McDonald
  • Concurrence by: Harrell, Battaglia, and Watts

Facts:

Karen, the adult daughter of Alan and Maureen, lives with her parents and has unrestricted access to drive their vehicle. Karen asks the father of her children, Ameen, to pick the kids up from school using Alan and Maureen’s vehicle. Alan and Maureen have previously forbidden Ameen from driving the vehicle. While Ameen is using the vehicle, he is involved in a collision.

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Case Law Dispatch: Espina v. Jackson

By Cory Bilton

Case: Espina v. Jackson

  • Court: Maryland Court of Appeals
  • Date of Decision: 3/30/15
  • Appellate Panel: Barbara, Harrell, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, McAuliffe

Facts:

Prince George’s County police officer shot and killed plaintiff. Jury returned $11 million verdict for plaintiff’s family finding officer violated plaintiff’s state constitutional rights, assaulted and battered him, and wrongfully killed him.

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For UIM Claims, Maryland Insurance Code § 19-511 is Critical

By Cory Bilton

L and NH 1

In the last two months, appellate courts in Maryland issued three opinions arising out of Maryland Insurance Code § 19-511.  This statute, enacted nearly 20 years ago, lays out a procedure for allowing an injured person to receive the proceeds from a settlement with an automobile liability insurer while still reserving the right to make a uninsured motorist insurance (UIM) claim against her own insurer.  The legal interplay between making a liability insurance claim and making a UIM claim can be very tricky.  But the procedure in § 19-511 contains minimal legalese and is relatively straightforward to follow.  The overwhelming message for lawyers from these recent appellate decisions is to become very familiar with the process laid out in § 19-511.  Follow its language and you and your client may safely pursue the UIM claim.  Deviate from its instruction, and you and your client will suffer serious consequences.

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Maryland Legislature Says “No More Free Bites” to Dog Owners

By Cory Bilton

Congress 2

Chuck Berry, one of the pioneers of rock-and-roll, used to say, “Don’t let the same dog bite you twice.”  Although he probably wasn’t referring to legal liability, the quote closely resembles the common law “One Bite Rule.”  The rule says that the owner of a dog isn’t liable for injuries caused when the dog bites someone, so long as the dog had never bitten anyone before.  Put another way, every dog gets one free bite.  Until a dog bites someone, so the logic goes, the dog’s owner has no reason to think the dog would bite someone.  Last week, the Maryland legislature passed a new law that makes it much harder for any Maryland dogs to get a free bite.

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2014 Bicyclist and Pedestrian Legislative Proposals in Maryland and Virginia

By Cory Bilton

Dimly Lit Sidewalk 1

When I think January, I think bone-chilling temperatures, snow days, and gyms packed with people fulfilling New Years resolutions.  But January in the Washington DC metropolitan area also means the beginning of new legislative sessions in both Virginia and Maryland.  Every year, starting on the second Wednesday in January, the General Assemblies of both Maryland and Virginia convene for their respective legislative sessions.  Here is a brief overview of proposed legislation affecting bicyclists and pedestrians.  While these bills are not yet laws, as you will see, the topics of the proposals represent leading-edge conflicts between cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.

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Pre-litigation Medical Exams by UIM Insurers in Maryland and Virginia

By Cory Bilton

Doctor Picture 1

In most personal injury cases, the plaintiff is going to be examined by a defense medical expert during the course of the litigation.  Most courts have discovery rules or rules of evidence regarding the defendant’s right to physically examine the injured plaintiff.  But prior to filing suit, the tortfeasor has no legal right to require the plaintiff to submit to an examination of any sort.  Any negotiating that occurs prior to litigation is usually based on the medical records and bills that the plaintiff or her attorney submits to the insurance company to review.

However, the situation is a little different when the plaintiff is making a UIM claim against her own policy.  The reason for this is that most insurance agreements state that an insured must submit to a medical exam at the request of the insurer (called an “IME” by some, for “independent medical exam,” although they are performed by doctors chosen and paid by the insurer).  For example, in the standard policies of both Maryland and Virginia, there is language requiring an insured to, “Submit, as often as we reasonably require: … To physical exams by physicians we select.  We will pay for these exams.”  The policy indicates that a failure to comply with this duty (or any of the duties listed) will void the coverage.  It is not clear whether this policy provision is enforceable.  The local case law on pre-litigation medical exams performed by UIM carriers is understandably thin, because commencing litigation to enforce the policy language triggers discovery rules about medical examinations.  However, the following statutes and cases can provide the basis for a variety of arguments on pre-litigation medical exams.

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Priority of Coverage Between PIP and Health Insurance in Maryland

By Cory Bilton

Step Options

Personal injury lawyers in the DC area often assist clients with filing PIP claims under the client’s auto insurance.  No-fault auto insurance claims tend to be merely an administrative task, since there is no need to argue who was at fault in the collision (although there are occasionally some disputes over “reasonableness” of charges).  Despite the tame nature of the subject, I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of interesting issues and disagreements over the law in this area.  Recently, I’ve come across competing interpretations (one from an anonymous lawyer, the other from a nonlawyer) about priority of coverage between a Maryland health insurer and PIP benefits from an automobile insurer.  The anonymous lawyer stated that Maryland Insurance Code § 19-507(b)(2) requires health insurers to get the insured’s consent before making PIP primary.  The nonlawyer told me, “Maryland law requires PIP to be primary.”  It turns out that neither interpretation seems to be correct.

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Avoiding the “Mere Happening” Instruction When Applying DC Law in Maryland

By Cory Bilton

Double Yellow Line

As local lawyers are aware, practicing law in the DC area can be a jurisdictional nightmare.  DC law differs from Virginia law, which differs from Maryland law, which differs from DC law.  Locals frequently cross state lines while commuting to work, and may cross into another jurisdiction for after-work drinks.  This multi-jurisdictional nature weaves its way into many legal disputes in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area.  Many times, disputes can arise over purely jurisdictional differences.

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