Posted On: December 21, 2011

Should Maryland Laws Banning Cell Phone Use While Driving Get Even Tougher?

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a bold recommendation -- one that urges states to take another look at their driving laws and has the driving public talking about individual rights versus public safety.

In the wake of several fatal distracted driving traffic accidents, the NTSB proposed an all-out, nationwide ban on talking and texting on cell phones while driving. That would mean no talking on either hand-held or hands-free cell phones and no texting, for any drivers of any age, except in the case of an emergency.

The NTSB recommendation came following examination of a 2010 case in Missouri, where a young man who had reportedly been texting for several minutes crashed his pickup truck into a commercial truck that had slowed down for road construction -- setting in motion a chain reaction crash that involved two school buses. The pickup truck driver and a teenage passenger on one of the buses were killed, and close to 40 people were injured, some seriously.

Traffic safety advocates remind consumers that until recently, cell phones weren't even invented. However consumers today expect all the comforts and conveniences of home and office to travel with them when they get behind the wheel. Today's cars, trucks, and SUVs can come outfitted with GPS devices, in-car computers, DVD and MP3 players, satellite radios, and a host of other high-tech gadgetry. This makes your father's distracted driving -- eating a sandwich or fiddling with the radio -- seem rather primitive by comparison.

The NTSB asserts that cell phones and other hand-held devices have become a serious and deadly driving distraction, added on top of other risky distracted driving behaviors. As experienced Baltimore County, Maryland car accident injury attorneys, we'd agree with that statement. Driving on Maryland highways, city streets, and back roads is challenging enough without cell phones and texting in the mix.

Maryland Bans on Cell Phone Use and Texting While Driving
Maryland actually has some of the more restrictive laws in the country when it comes to cell phone usage and driving. Texting is outright banned for all drivers in Maryland, as is the use of hand-held cell phones. All cell phones are banned for novice drivers (under 18). However the all-cellphone ban does not, at this time, extend to school bus drivers in Md.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland "…General Assembly expanded its ban on texting to include reading them and not just writing them." However at this time, cell phone infractions are regarded in Maryland as secondary offenses -- that is, police cannot stop and ticket drivers for using cell phones as the primary offense. They can only do so if stopping motorists for some other primary offense. Time will tell if Maryland driving laws regarding cell phone use will become even stricter.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates some 4,000 traffic deaths occurred in the U.S. last year due to some form of distracted driving, including cell phone use and texting. Individual states must now decide how much weight to put on the NTSB's recommendation.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Baltimore County Democrat Pushing Maryland Bill to Toughen Distracted Driving Law (Feb. 2011)

Sources:

The NTSB's call for action
The Baltimore Sun Dec. 14, 2011

NTSB urges nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving
The Washington Post Dec. 13, 2011

Related Web Resources:

Governors Highway Safety Administration Dec. 2011:
Cell Phone Laws by State
Maryland Highway Safety Laws

NTSB: Highway Accident Report : Collision Involving Two School Buses

Posted On: December 5, 2011

Maryland Workers' Compensation Cost of Living Rate Adjustments for 2012

What would happen to you and your family if you were hurt on the job and temporarily or permanently disabled? For construction workers, electricians, machinists, farmers, truck drivers, and others in high-risk occupations, surviving a Maryland work accident can be just the start of an uphill battle. Keeping up with day-to-day medical and living expenses, while recovering from a work-related accident, can be an enormous struggle for injured Md. workers and their families.

Harford County, Md. work comp injury lawyers know families may struggle just to get by in the wake of a work related accident. This is why we work hard to relieve injured Maryland workers and their families of the burden of dealing with their Maryland Workers' Compensation claims and well as related legal claims and lawsuits.

How much money can a Maryland injured worker expect to receive when filing a Workers' Comp claim on their own? The Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission posted its Workers' Compensation Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for the New Year. Let's take a look at a few numbers and consider what that could mean for injured Md. workers and their families.

  • In 2011, the cost of living adjustment for people with permanent total disability went down (by -.04 percent), after decades of yearly increases. That speaks to state of the economy AND the challenges for injured Maryland workers to receive ample compensation to get by. However…
  • The cost of living rate for people with total permanent disability will increase by 1.6 percent for 2012.
  • The Average Weekly Wage of workers covered by Maryland Unemployment for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010 is $965.

However, an injured worker should not expect to necessarily receive compensation equal to 100 percent of their salary earned prior to the Maryland work accident. Here's where things can get very complicated, very quickly.

For example, for Temporary Total Disability and Partial Total Disability, the State of Maryland may award an injured worker, "Two-thirds of the employee’s Average Weekly Wage not to exceed 100% of the State Average Weekly Wage or $965.00." Rates for Permanent Partial Disability and Temporary Partial Disability are set at varying percentages, and compensation may be awarded for a certain number of weeks (e.g., less than, equal to, or greater than 75 weeks). Death Benefits are calculated with a separate formula considering the deceased employee's income, state average wage, and family dependents.

Peruse the Maryland Workers' Compensation documents referenced below, and you'll get an idea of how quickly things can become complicated for an injured worker in Md. When less money is coming in and medical bills start piling up, injured workers and their families can suffer financial hardship. This is why we strongly urge anyone hurt on the job in Maryland to contact an experienced Maryland Work Comp injury lawyer. We know the players -- including the Md. Workers' Compensation Commission, the insurance companies, and our colleagues in court -- and we know how to pursue the maximum benefits allowable by law for our clients.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

How MD Workers' Compensation Works with a Motor Vehicle Accident Liability Claim

Sources:

Maryland Workers' Compensation Rates

Informational Notice: Annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA):
State of Maryland Workers' Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Rates (PDF)

MARYLAND WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION:
MAXIMUM RATE OF BENEFITS FOR CALENDAR YEAR 2012 (PDF)