Posted On: December 22, 2008

Maryland Car Accident Lawyer Advises: Always Call the Police from the Scene

As someone who's been a Maryland car accident attorney for much of my career, I understand the stress my clients feel when they've been in a car, truck, SUV, or motorcycle accident in or around Baltimore and the Mid Atlantic region.

A motor vehicle accident ruins your day. It's shocking, nerve wracking, and can cause personal injury and wrongful death. Even in the best-case scenarios where the driver walks away uninjured from the crash, the emotional and mental stress takes its toll. And sometimes when the driver walks away OK, the vehicle isn't as lucky. Damages can be costly and repairs can be time-consuming.

So I understand why, when an auto accident happens, sometimes people just want to get the heck out of there. The flight response kicks in. But let me give you some advice that could save you time, money, aggravation -- even your life: ALWAYS call the police from the scene of an auto accident in Maryland or wherever it happens. Even if the other driver says, "Let's just exchange information and not call the police." Bad idea. Here's why:

  • The police serve as a buffer between you and the other driver. People get hot under the collar after an accident and can become irrational and even violent. There are maniacs out there and people with guns and weapons in their vehicles. You don't know who just hit you or vice versa. Dial 911 from your cell phone and get the police on the scene asap.

  • The police keep everyone honest. There are usually two sides to every story and every car accident. Let the police ask the questions and sort out what happened. The other driver may not be as honest as you and may not have the proper documentation in his or her vehicle.

  • Ask the responding police officer to file a report. Even if the officer opts not to do this, he/she will provide you with an information exchange sheet, which will contain details and relevant information which you would perhaps neglect to get yourself. If you've been in an accident, you are probably in a fog and you may not remember details after the fact (see my "Just in Case" blog entry of Dec. 18, 2008 on taking pictures and notes at the Maryland car accident scene). Let the police do their job to document the incident.

The unexpected can and does happen on Maryland highways and roads. If you're in a car crash in Maryland, resist the knee-jerk reaction to just "exchange information" with the other driver and book it out of there. That person may be uninsured and may not even give you their correct name and phone number. Call the police. It's their business.

Next installment of "Help, I've Been in An Accident!": Witnesses, insurance companies, and lawyers (Oh My!).

Related Web Resources

Maryland State Police

Baltimore Police Department

Posted On: December 18, 2008

Maryland Car Accident "Just in Case" Kit: Maryland Drivers, Keep These Key Things in Your Glove Box

Drivers navigating the highways, bridges, and roads of the Greater Baltimore Maryland and Mid Atlantic area don't like to think about being in a motor vehicle accident. No one does.

As a Maryland car accident lawyer representing people who've been injured in vehicle crashes for many years, no one I've known ever planned to have a car accident on the way to work on the Baltimore Beltway I-695 or on a bridge crossing Baltimore Harbor. They didn't plan to have a car crash half a mile from home while going out for pizza. But car and truck accidents do happen, and there are some things you should keep in your vehicle "just in case." Being prepared can make all the difference in coming out on the other end of your Maryland car accident in better shape.

License, Registration, and Proof of Insurance
The State of Maryland requires all drivers to keep their vehicle registration and proof of insurance in their car, van or SUV at all times. Most Maryland drivers know they need to have their driver's license on them and their registration in the glove box, but many don't know they also need proof of insurance -- that little slip of paper the auto insurance company gives you when you renew your policy every year. If you don't have it, that's a ticketable offense. You've already been in a car or truck accident, you don't need a ticket to add insult to injury.

A Picture Tells the Story (And So Does the Debris)
Buy one of those disposable cameras at the drug store and throw it in your glove box. They only cost a few bucks, and that way if you are in a car accident in Maryland, you can photograph and preserve the evidence before the police and the fire crews sweep the debris away. (You can use a cell phone camera if you don't have anything else on hand, though the pictures taken by cell phones aren't always the best quality.)

The plastic, glass, and other debris at an accident scene falls exactly where the crash occurred. If you survive your accident and it's safe to take pictures, do so. That way, when the other guy points the finger at you and says, "You swerved into my lane," your photos will show otherwise. (At the same time, if debris from your car is 4 feet into his lane, you're in trouble.) Keep a pen and pad of paper in your glove box, too, to record important information.

Next installment of "Help! I've Been in An Accident!" will cover why you must always call the police if you're in a car accident. It's the right thing to do -- and the safe thing for you.

Related Web Resource

Maryland Dept. of Transportation Traveler Information

Posted On: December 10, 2008

Accused Maryland Driver Walks in Fatal Motorcycle Accident Case: Court Scheduling Error Blamed

Charges against a Port Republic, Maryland driver blamed in a fatal motorcycle crash were dropped Nov. 5, because the State Trooper who made the traffic violation charges against her was not present at the trial due to a court scheduling error.

In Calvert County District Court, Sarah E. Brown, 50, faced charges of negligent driving, failure to yield right of way, and failure to secure a child under 8 in a safety seat in a collision on Aug. 1 that killed motorcycle rider Larry G. Hogan II, 43.

Also a resident of Port Republic, Maryland, Hogan worked for Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative for over two decades. He volunteered for the Dunkirk and St. Leonard fire departments and he enjoyed bowling. He was also a motorcycle enthusiast. Hogan was riding his motorcycle when motorist Sarah E. Brown turned her vehicle left onto Broomes Island Road and failed to yield to the motorcyclist. Hogan's bike hit the rear of her vehicle and he suffered fatal injuries.

The case went to trial Nov. 5 in Calvert County District Court. But Judge Robert Riddle dropped the charges against Brown when Maryland State Police Trooper David Saucerman -- the charging police officer in the case -- failed to show up in court. Apparently the Annapolis District Court, which notifies police officers of trial dates, made a misprint that listed Brown's court date as Jan. 5, and not Nov. 5. Calvert County State's Attorney Laura Martin promised the victim's family she would review the prosecution charges. Mr. Hogan's grieving family must be wondering, "How can this happen?"

I wish that I could say that this is the first time that we have seen this type of confusion on the part of the courts and investigating police. Unfortunately, it is usually the innocent victim and their families who suffer as a result of this neglect. In Maryland civil matters, it is the injured individual (the Plaintiff) who has the burden of proving his or her claim. While this District Court error does not bar the family from suing civilly, it certainly will not help the civil case. The lesson to be learned here is that one must be proactive with all parties involved in matters such as this, including the courts and authorities. One phone call to the courts or the police officer could have avoided this result.

Charges dropped in death of biker: Scheduling confusion kept officer out of court
Nov. 7, 2008

Driver not sentenced in motorcycle death due to court scheduling error Clutch & Chrome Nov. 18, 2008

Related Web Resources

Motorcycle Safety Foundation: For Car Drivers

Maryland State Police

Posted On: December 3, 2008

Hagerstown Maryland Motorcycle Accident Death: Pickup Truck Driver Gets 10 Years for Vehicle Manslaughter

A Washington County Circuit judge has sentenced a Smithsburg, Maryland man under an Alford plea to 10 years in prison for manslaughter by vehicle, resulting from a fatal motorcycle crash that occurred in Hagerstown on May 25, 2008.

Debra Reed Fields-Jordan of Boonsboro, Maryland was riding her motorcycle east on Md. 77, cruising down the road to a hamburger stand in Thurmont, Maryland. Tragically, this 35-year-old wife and mother of five children never made it to her destination.

A pickup truck heading south on Pleasant Valley Road driven by Harry William "Billy" Shrader Jr. ran a stop sign at the intersection with Md. 77. Fields-Jordan, who had the right of way, crashed her motorcycle into the pickup truck on the passenger side. The truck went into a tree and the driver fled the scene. Shrader -- who had a list of previous convictions including two DUIs, driving impaired, and possession of drugs -- was arrested a short time later. He had been using hallucinogens at the time of the truck motorcycle accident and said he couldn't remember what happened.

In a separate case, Shrader was sentenced to two 15-year sentences for a burglary case tried in October. He will serve the sentences concurrently, with all but seven years suspended. That means in addition to the manslaughter conviction, Shrader will serve 17 years and is eligible for parole.

Under the Alford plea, the defendant is not required to admit to guilt but acknowledges that the state of Maryland has enough evidence for a conviction. A civil lawsuit filed in August by the victim's family in this wrongful death case alleges "cruel and inhuman treatment and wanton wrongs, with malice" resulting from Shrader's intoxicated driving and failure to stop at a stop sign. The deceased woman's husband, Stephen J. Jordan, is seeking $4 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.

Smithsburg man gets 10 years in vehicle manslaughter case The Herald-Mail, Nov. 17, 2008

Man sentenced in motorcycle death, Nov. 17, 2008

Related Web Resources
American Motorcyclist State-by-State Motorcycle Laws

Maryland MVA: 2008 Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program