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!

Allstate Insurance released its America’s Best Drivers 2016 report, and the news isn’t good for Baltimore, Maryland motorists. It probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to anyone who’s driven the congested streets of Baltimore City or wrestled with traffic on the Baltimore Beltway: Our city is not among the safest places to drive. Not by a long shot.

In fact, of the 200 cities analyzed by the insurance company’s actuarial experts, Baltimore drivers rank third worst in the nation — beat out only by Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts. The chances of being in a traffic accident in Baltimore are much greater than in most major American cities. How often would you guess the average Baltimore driver gets in a car crash?

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In May 2016, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an anti-DUI bill into law aimed at preventing convicted drunk drivers from getting back behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. “Noah’s Law” was named in memory of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who was struck and killed by a DUI driver as he conducted anti-drunk driving law enforcement over the holiday season.

On Dec. 3, 2015, Officer Leotta made a traffic stop at Rockville Pike and Edmonston Drive in Rockville, Maryland. While outside of his cruiser, he was struck and critically injured by Luis Gustavo Reluzco, 47, whose blood alcohol tested .22 — nearly three times the legal limit. Officer Leotta died a week later from his injuries. He was 24 years old.

The police officer’s death created an outcry from his family, law enforcement officers and concerned citizens for Maryland to get tougher on penalties for drunk drivers and to prevent future DUI-related deaths and injuries. Noah’s Law strives to do that by now requiring anyone convicted of drunk driving in Maryland to use an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.

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The AAA Foundation released a report that finds between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the 100 deadliest days for motor vehicle accidents involving teenaged drivers. Proms and graduations are upon us, with another crop of Maryland teenagers getting ready to kick up their heels and hit the roads this summer. With more free time on their hands, teenagers will be driving more as they hang out with friends, go to summer jobs, visit colleges—and just do the things teenagers do.

Statistically, this is the most dangerous time on the road for teenage drivers and their passengers—as well as for the driving public. Maryland parents should think long and hard about these frightening statistics before their teenagers get behind the wheel this summer. The Baltimore Times reports…

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STOP signs are the primary form of traffic control at U.S. intersections. As you drive through Maryland’s city streets and country back roads, do you come to a full stop at every stop sign? What about at intersections where you have the right of way, and the other guy has a stop sign? Do you still stop there, or just slow down enough to make sure the other driver stops? Or do you blow through the intersection and hope for the best?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), one-third of all US intersection crashes occur at crossings that have stop signs. The most common causes are drivers failing to stop for the stop signs, or stopping and then failing to yield to other vehicles, colliding at an angle. Obstructed vision (e.g., due to buildings, trees, or parked cars) is another frequent cause of accidents at intersections. However studies have shown that…
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When it comes to distracted driving, Maryland has some of the toughest traffic laws in the US. Texting while driving is prohibited and considered a primary offense. In October 2013, Maryland joined our neighbors in Washington, D.C., in making use of handheld cell phones while driving illegal as well. The only exception is to make an emergency call to 911. (Note: Talking on speakerphone, using hands-free Bluetooth technology, and with cellphone headsets is permissible while driving in Maryland, except for youthful drivers with learners’ permits.)

Still, these laws haven’t stopped some Maryland drivers from doing dangerous things they’re not supposed to do while driving—including using handheld cell phones. Now, Maryland lawmakers want to increase fines for using hand held cellphones while driving in hopes of getting errant drivers to change their risky behaviors. The current maximum fine of $175 is apparently not enough to discourage some motorists to put down their phones until their cars are in park.

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For years, motor vehicle crash fatalities had been declining nationally—thanks in part to public safety awareness campaigns, tougher state traffic laws, improved vehicle safety, and highway improvements. Unfortunately, in recent years, that positive trend has reversed itself, with traffic crash fatalities increasing significantly in 2012 and now again for the first half of 2015.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that from January through June 2015, an estimated 16,225 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes across the U.S. This is an 8.1 percent increase in numbers of deaths as compared to the 15,014 crash fatalities that occurred in the first half of 2014. The reasons behind the increase in loss of lives?

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In August 2010, a Cockeysville, Md. woman was killed and her young son suffered a traumatic brain injury when a triple-trailer truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and collided with their vehicle. Sadly, cases like this are not uncommon: Some 4,000 people are killed in the U.S. every year in commerical trucking accidents. A passenger vehicle stands little chance when involved in a traffic crash with a big rig.

Now, CBS Baltimore reports that in an effort to prevent truck accidents where driver fatigue is a factor, the federal government will require commercial truck drivers to log their their travel time using an electronic device. Since the 1930s, truck drivers have been keeping track of their time in paper log books, which accident investigators and safety advocates say are unreliable and can be easily tampered with.

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Thanks to the lowest gas prices since 2008, an estimated one million Maryland motorists are expected to hit the roadways this Thanksgiving, AAA Mid-Atlantic reports. AAA forecasts some 46.9 million U.S. motorists are expected to journey by car more than 50 miles for the holidays — an increase of .06 percent over last year’s numbers.

For Maryland drivers, this translates to plenty of company — and potential headaches — on our Baltimore County highways and beyond this Thanksgiving season. AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Regina Cooper Averella stated in a press release,

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The Associated Press reports that data gathered by the National Safety Council (NSC) shows traffic accident fatalities up for the first half of 2015 — reversing what had been a trend toward fewer car crash deaths. For the last several years, traffic accident fatalities had been steadily declining on a national level, due in part to public safety campaigns, tougher state traffic laws, high gas prices keeping cars in park, and enhanced vehicle safety features.

According to the NSC, traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased by 14 percent and injuries rose by one-third between January and June 2015. Traffic safety experts theorize that an improving economy, cheaper gas prices enticing more motorists to hit the road, and an increase in distracted driving are among the chief causes. The numbers are cause for concern….
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Exploding airbags. Ignition switches turning off without warning. Accelerator pedals sticking. Tires blowing out. The list of automotive safety recalls in recent years seems to go on and on. The problem with Takata airbag inflators, which has impacted millions of cars and 11 automakers, including Honda, BMW and Toyota, is just one in a series of safety recalls in the news this summer.

The Takata airbag recall has been linked to 8 deaths. However, for some, that news is falling on deaf ears. Lawmakers and auto safety advocates are concerned that some consumers are getting sick of hearing about safety recalls—tuning them out and failing to get their vehicles repaired. This poses a danger for everyone on the road, here in Maryland and elsewhere.

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