Posted On: November 30, 2012

Maryland Lawsuits and Contributory Negligence : Soccer Injury Lawsuit Could Bring Change for Accident Victims

A Howard County soccer player's injury lawsuit being tried in the high court in Maryland could help accident victims fare better in personal injury lawsuits. However, a Maryland lawmaker may propose a bill to block any changes to the existing laws. At the center of the controversy is something we Baltimore car accident injury attorneys are quite familiar with: The Maryland contributory negligence law.

Maryland is one of four states and the District of Columbia that have a "contributory negligence" law on the books. What this means for you, as an accident victim, is if you're found to be even a tiny fraction at fault in an accident (e.g., a traffic crash or other accident), your insurance claim can be flat out denied and/or you could lose your lawsuit, at trial.

However the Maryland contributory negligence law is now being challenged in the high court. The Washington Examiner reports that, "A case before the Maryland Court of Appeals could change the requirement, making it easier for accident victims to sue -- a change that victim advocates are cheering on."

The case involves Kyle Coleman, a then 20-year-old soccer player who received serious head and facial injuries when a bar from a collapsed soccer goal fell on him. The player sued the Soccer Association of Columbia, Md., which was running the practice when he was injured. Attorneys for the defendant argued that because the plaintiff was swinging from the goal (a practice the association warns against) and had allegedly smoked marijuana earlier in the day, he was not eligible for compensation.

The Baltimore Sun reported in Sept. that "…a Howard County jury found the association was at fault in Coleman's injury because it did not properly secure the goal. But because the jury also found that Coleman was at least partly responsible for the accident, he did not receive any payout." An attorney representing the injured soccer player and chairman of the Maryland Association for Justice Political Action Committee reportedly called contributory negligence unfair.

Now the case is playing out in the Court of Appeals – challenging Maryland's longstanding contributory negligence law. If the case brings about changes in the law about who can sue whom, victims' rights advocates will be pleased. However state Del. Ben Kramer, D-Silver Spring, Maryland, says if that happens, he will propose a bill in January to keep the laws on the books as they stand.

Baltimore County accident injury lawyers like us see scenarios with contributory negligence play out time and time again – including in motor vehicle accidents. Say a pedestrian is struck down in Baltimore City by a speeding vehicle and suffers broken bones and internal injuries. A clear cut case, right? Not if the pedestrian was crossing the street NOT in a crosswalk. That can count against the individual and reduce or eliminate any compensation he or his family might receive in a lawsuit.

It might not seem fair, but according to the law in Maryland, that's the way it is. As injury lawyers, we fight hard to obtain the maximum amount of compensation and damages possible for our clients – including in the face of Maryland's often harsh contributory negligence law. We will watch for the outcome of this case in Howard County, Md., and whether it brings about changes to the law.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Maryland Medical Malpractice and Negligence: How Do I Know If I Have a Case? (Oct. 2009)

Sources:

Maryland lawmaker hopes to prevent change making lawsuits easier
The Washington Examiner Nov. 27, 2012

Soccer field accident could remake Maryland personal injury law
Court of Appeals considers allowing injured people to win damages even if partly at fault
The Baltimore Sun Sept. 18, 2012

Posted On: November 23, 2012

"Can I Get Workers Comp in Maryland if My Employer Is Based Out of State?"

A high-profile case this past summer drew attention to an issue we Baltimore County work accident injury lawyers encounter with our clients. What happens if you're hurt at work in Maryland, but your employer is based out of state? What if your work in Maryland requires you to travel and work at employer sites in other states? How does Maryland Workers Compensation fit into the picture?

Work-related injuries can happen to people in just these types of situations. Often they are sales people, construction workers, and others who travel for their Maryland jobs. But not always.

This past summer, former Washington Redskins pro football player Tom Tupa took his Workers Compensation claim to the Maryland High Court. In August 2005, Tupa injured his back while playing a pre-season game at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. However, he had an employment contract with Pro-Football, Inc., which is based in Virginia. Tupa and his attorneys pursued the Workers Compensation claim in Maryland courts, asserting that because the injury happened in Maryland – Maryland Workers Comp should cover Tupa's injuries.

Pro-Football, Inc., argued that Redskins players practiced and attended meetings at company headquarters in Virginia, therefore Tupa was contractually bound to bring any injury claims in Virginia -- not Maryland where the injury took place. The court disagreed. The court also determined that Tupa's injuries were indeed accidental and occurred in the course of his employment – playing pro football – and therefore were compensable.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that it "…had jurisdiction over a football player's claim and he suffered a compensable injury during the course of his employment." In other words, Tupa's employment contract with a Virginia-based employer did not mean he waived his rights to collect Workers' Compensation in the state of Maryland, where he was regularly employed (i.e., playing football games).

Most Maryland Workers Compensation claims do not make headlines like this one. However regular working people who are hurt on the job may find, like Mr. Tupa, that their employers may throw up roadblocks to their Md. Work Comp claims. Loyalty can go out the window when an employee gets hurt, and a company is looking at being held responsible.

This is why it's so important to contact an experienced Maryland Workers' Comp attorney as soon as possible following your work-related injury or illness. If you were injured out of state, or your employer is based out of state – that can throw more wrenches into an already complicated process. Get seasoned legal help to make sure you aren't denied Workers Compensation to cover your medical bills and lost wages.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Maryland Work Injury and Death Statistics Shed Light on Most Hazardous Occupations (Jan. 2012)

Sources:

Case Name: Pro-Football, Inc. v. Tupa, No. 29 September Term, 2011 (Md. 08/22/12)
16-page decision (PDF doc)

Redskins' punter can collect benefits in Maryland despite contract terms
Risk & Insurance magazine Nov. 22, 2012

Ex-Redskin Tom Tupa can get workers’ comp, Md. high court rules
The Washington Post Aug 23, 2012


Posted On: November 15, 2012

Maryland MVA Offers Thanksgiving Travel Trips, as AAA Predicts Uptick in Traffic

Thanksgiving holiday traffic has become legendary in Maryland. Baltimore car accident injury lawyers like us appreciate the travel headaches -- and increased risks for motor vehicle crashes -- that Maryland motorists endure over Thanksgiving week. Driving this time of year requires planning, patience, and a steady hand at the wheel.

Thanksgiving is the most heavily travelled time of the year in the U.S. We have Baltimore County commuters who work Thanksgiving Eve hitting the roads at the same time as thousands of families are embarking on their holiday road trips. The combination of frazzled commuters trying to get home from work jamming our roadways -- along with students, families, visitors, and others trying to get where they need to go -- means long traffic delays and short tempers.

Throw unpredictable Northeast weather into the mix and it's a wonder anyone leaves home at all. That said, the folks at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) offer a few common sense tips for people who will be driving on Thanksgiving:

  • Make sure your car is tuned up and in good shape for a road trip. Check your tires, headlights, windshield wipers, brakes, and fluids before you hit our Maryland roadways.

  • Make sure everyone buckles up their seat belts.

  • Observe Maryland laws for proper restraint of children and infants in car seats.

  • Obey speed limits.

  • Don't drink and drive.

  • Don't engage in distracted driving behaviors such as texting (which is illegal in Maryland) and cell phone use (handheld cell phone use is a secondary offense).

AAA predicts a modest uptick in national Thanksgiving holiday traffic this year – due in part to lower gas prices and a slowly recovering economy. AAA predicts 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday. A report on Weather.com stated that AAA was uncertain how damage caused by super storm Sandy might impact travel in the Mid-Atlantic region. Either way, advanced planning is always a good idea.

The Washington Post offers a guide to regional roadways and suggests Thanksgiving routes in and out of the region. If you're among the millions of holiday celebrants traveling by car this year, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Don't try to break any land speed records driving in Maryland. Plan out your route, keeping in mind that other drivers will take the same "short cuts" you're planning to use. Be safe out there this Thanksgiving. You'll have plenty of company on our Baltimore County, Md. roadways.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Articles:

Maryland Foul Weather Driving Safety Tips : Stay Off the Road, and If You Must Drive – Prepare First, and Drive Defensively (Oct. 2012)

Maryland Among States at Highest Risk for Auto Crashes with Deer (Oct. 2012)

Maryland Seeks to Add More Teeth to Distracted Driver Laws (May 2012)

Sources:

Thanksgiving Travel Tips from Maryland MVA

Thanksgiving Travel Forecast: Gridlock Ahead
Weather.com Nov. 13, 2012

Thanksgiving getaway guide: Advice for long-distance travel from D.C.
The Washington Post Nov. 10, 2012

Posted On: November 12, 2012

Maryland State Agencies Named in Negligence Lawsuit over Car Accident Death at Hatem Bridge : Trial Underway in Bel Air, Harford County

The father of a young girl killed in a 2001 motor vehicle accident on Hatem Bridge is suing the State of Maryland for negligence. Despite numerous roadblocks delaying legal proceedings, and the passage of more than a decade, the trial finally got underway this month in Harford County Circuit Court.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the fatal auto crash took place in 2001 on the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge in Havre de Grace, Md. News reports state that the crash took place on Aug. 10, 2001, during heavy rain. A 12-year-old girl and her step father were driving west on the bridge on Route 40 over the Susquehanna River. The man's pickup truck reportedly hit water and hydroplaned, swerving into traffic and hitting a Jeep Cherokee. The young girl was killed and the pickup truck driver was pronounced deceased at a Harford County, Md. hospital.

In 2004, the father of the young girl killed in the crash filed a lawsuit against three Maryland state agencies, claiming they "failed to use reasonable care to protect the public" by installing a dividing barrier on the four-lane bridge. Named in the lawsuit are the Maryland Transportation Authority, the Maryland Department of Transportation, and the State Highway Administration.

Harford County, Maryland car accident injury lawyers may advocate for families in cases where a loved one is injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash. In addition to the two fatalities in this unfortunate case, two other accident victims were injured. The Baltimore Sun reported that one injured accident victim has already been called to testify and describe what she remembers from the day of the crash.

From a legal standpoint, this case is notable as the State of Maryland is named in the lawsuit. The Baltimore Sun reports that attorneys representing the state assert that bad weather conditions – not the design or maintenance of the bridge roadway – led to the fatal pickup truck accident that day in 2001.

This sad case illustrates what we Maryland auto accident injury attorneys know from experience: Accidents can and do happen in an instant. It will be interesting to see how this particular case plays out in Harford County Circuit Court – and whether the State of Maryland is held responsible in the motor vehicle accident death.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

Queen Anne's County Maryland Wrongful Death Lawsuit : Family Awarded $100K in Chesapeake Bay Bridge Fatal Truck Accident Case (Sept. 2010)

Maryland Foul Weather Driving Safety Tips : Stay Off the Road, and If You Must Drive – Prepare First, and Drive Defensively (Oct. 2012)

Sources:

Trial in Hatem Bridge fatality suit continues this week
The Baltimore Sun Nov. 12, 2012

Trial of 2004 lawsuit over Hatem Bridge fatal accident finally under way in Bel Air
The Baltimore Sun Nov. 8, 2012