Maryland Injury Attorney Blog

546518_baltimore_city_3Greetings from Maryland, and welcome to our Maryland Injury Attorney Blog! My name is Jeff Butschky, and I will be your host and (hopefully) your source of practical help and information from within the Maryland Legal Community.

Perhaps nothing affects an individual or family more than a sudden accident or injury — whether due to a motor vehicle accident, a work-related accident, or some other unforeseen incident. When we are hurt, we understand that there will be hospitals and doctors, pain, stress and inconvenience. What isn’t often appreciated is the fact that the injured person must also now deal with (gulp) lawyers and (even worse) the insurance industry. Like visiting the dentist, filing taxes or other mild forms of torture, no one wants to do this, and I don’t blame you.

This blog will untangle and demystify the frustrating and complicated world of injury claims. As a practicing attorney in Baltimore County, Maryland, for more than 20 years, I’m going to do my best to make this as easy as I can. So let’s get started!

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Last month, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation enabling the state to raise the speed limit on specified highways from 65 to 70 miles per hour. That comes as good news to those eager to put the pedal to the metal … and not so good news to safety advocates concerned about speed-related motor vehicle crashes in Maryland.

According to a spokesperson for the Maryland State Highway Administration, the speed limit increase would not be mandatory and would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Roadways located in more rural areas that already have a 60- to 65-mph speed limit would be more likely to see their speed limit raised to 70 mph.

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We drive by them all the time as we travel Maryland’s highways: road workers filling in potholes, repaving roads, or making improvements to our transportation infrastructure. Maryland’s highway construction workers put themselves in harm’s way every day — often with little more than a row of orange cones or barrels between themselves and speeding traffic. Same goes for utility workers, traffic police, flaggers and others who work in road construction zones.

However highway workers aren’t the only ones at risk when drivers speed through work zones. Drivers who approach work zones too quickly can fail to safely navigate detours, lane shifts, barriers, construction equipment and other obstacles that come up fast. According to the Maryland SafeZones project, four out of five crash-related injuries in work zones are suffered by motorists themselves. Continue Reading

Maryland parents need to set a good example behind the wheel for their teenage sons and daughters. A new report by the AAA Foundation finds that distracted driving contributes to more serious car crashes involving teens than previously thought. Not surprisingly, cell phone use behind the wheel is among the primary causes.

CBS News reported on the AAA Foundation study, which analyzed teen car accidents caught on in-car videotape. According to the news report, the study found that distracted driving was a factor in 58 percent of moderate to severe motor vehicle accidents involving teen drivers. That 58 percent is much higher than the previous government estimate of 14 percent. The video evidence is chilling. Continue Reading

The Baltimore Sun reports three workplace fatalities in Harford County, Md., last month. Two of the fatal work accidents were in the construction industries, while the third involved a paramedic fatally struck in a motor vehicle accident. As experienced Maryland workplace injury attorneys, we are all too aware of the high risks involved in both the construction trades and in the life-saving work performed by our emergency responders, often under hazardous conditions.

The Sun reports the following fatal workplace accidents in Harford County, Maryland, in January….

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Until recently, conventional wisdom suggested that as drivers age, their driving skills decline. Research has supported that notion. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has described car accident statistics like a letter “U,” with teenage drivers causing the most accidents at one end of the age scale and senior drivers over age 70 at the other.

However, as overall U.S. car accident injury and fatality rates have declined since 2008 (thanks to public safety campaigns, vehicle safety enhancements, improved traffic engineering and stricter law enforcement) — so have some accident injury and fatality statistics for older drivers. The AAA Foundation for Safety found the following motor vehicle accident trends for drivers of all ages between 1995 and 2010:

“While drivers of all ages experienced decreases in rates of crashes, injuries, and deaths over the study period, decreases in population-based and driver-based rates were largest for teenage drivers; decreases in mileage-based rates of crash involvement, injury, and death were largest for drivers aged 75-84.”

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If you’re the victim of a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident in Maryland, don’t assume the legal odds are stacked in your favor. Like our neighbors in Washington, D.C., Maryland has something called a contributory negligence law. This means if you are found to be even one percent responsible for the accident — your insurance claim may be denied and you may be barred from collecting damages or compensation for your injuries.

Contributory negligence is the primary reason you need an experienced accident injury lawyer if you’re hurt in a motor vehicle crash in Maryland.

The law sounds unfair. And victims’ rights advocates would agree it is unfair. However, contributory negligence laws here in Maryland and Washington, D.C. have yet to be overturned.

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General Motors has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this year, with millions of vehicles recalled for alleged safety hazards – and the company under fire from Congress and consumers over related motor vehicle accident deaths. The defect that’s received the most coverage involves an ignition switch that can allegedly turn off while the vehicle is in motion. Thirteen deaths have been linked to that reported defect, some going back many years.

Auto safety recalls cover a range of known safety hazards and potential problems in cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles and other motor vehicles, as well as tire defects. Sometimes the vehicle manufacturer initiates the recall on its own, while other times the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) orders the recall based on consumer complaints and its own investigations.

If you’ve owned more than one vehicle in Maryland, chances are at some point you’ve received an auto safety recall notice in the mail. Did you call your dealership right away to get the defective part repaired? That’s the safe and responsible thing to do. However auto industry watchers estimate a full one-third of consumers ignore safety recall notices — at risk to themselves, their passengers, the driving public and pedestrians.

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Earlier this summer, we wrote about Maryland’s efforts to prevent distracted driving accidents. Cell phone use while driving – including texting while driving – poses a deadly hazard on our nation’s roadways. Teenage drivers, a traditionally hard-to-reach group, are known for engaging in this dangerous practice. Teens have plenty of distractions in the car, especially when driving with multiple passengers. Add electronics to the mix and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Motor vehicle crashes are the number-one cause of death for young Americans ages 15 to 20. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that while teens account for 6 percent of the driving public, they comprise 9 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and 13 percent of drivers involved in police-reported crashes. The traffic safety group Toward Zero Deaths Maryland estimates…

  • Some 30,000 injuries occur every year in Maryland due to distracted-driving crashes
  • In 2012, more than 50,000 distracted driving accidents occurred in Maryland, accounting for more than 58% of all motor vehicle crashes and 46% of all fatal crashes in the state
  • That same year, 76% of drivers killed in Maryland distracted-driving crashes were male, and 36% of drivers were between 21 and 34 years old

So what is Maryland doing to prevent distracted-driving accidents among teens?

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This summer, the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is launching a construction safety awareness and education campaign in the Mid-Atlantic to prevent construction accident injuries and deaths. OSHA is targeting the top four causes of accidental death in the construction industry: falls, crushing, electrocution and caught-in-between accidents.

OSHA compliance officers and other staff participating in the “Construction Incident Prevention Initiative” will conduct educational outreach with employers in Maryland as well as Delaware, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia. According to the OSHA press release: “The initiative will target health hazards involving silica, lead and hexavalent chromium, and will draw on OSHA’s national campaigns to prevent fall hazards at construction sites and heat illness among outdoor workers.”

The leading cause of construction accident fatalities in Maryland, along with the rest of the U.S., is falls. Lack of fall protection is the number-one reason OSHA cites employers for safety violations.

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Back in the day when families typically owned one car (usually a sedan or station wagon the size of Delaware), “distracted driving” meant fiddling with the radio, eating a messy sandwich or yelling at kids in the back seat to settle down. Those rolling activities still fall under the government’s definition of distracted driving, along with smoking, putting on makeup and other things that take the driver’s eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.

The advent of the cell phone, however, took distracted driving to a new level. These devices that keep us connected and put information at our fingertips have become indispensable. It’s disturbing to think our new generation of drivers never knew a time when they didn’t have a phone in their car. Once people could text on their cell phones, the problem of distracted driving on our roadways got worse. Some public safety experts believe texting while driving is as much of a hazard as drunk driving. Teens texting while driving is particularly troublesome.

Over the years, states like Maryland have taken measures to pass laws, educate the public, focus on teens and parents, and partner with schools, agencies and other organizations to prevent distracted driving accidents. Maryland is among the 47 states and the District of Columbia to pass specific distracted driving laws. In 2012, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) surveyed its members to see where states had made gains, and where more needs to be done.

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