Maryland Injury Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

There’s been some encouraging news regarding U.S. traffic safety: National motor vehicle crash fatality numbers are down to the lowest levels in years (an estimated 32,788 deaths for 2010). The same holds true for Maryland auto accident deaths (547 fatalities in 2009).

The gains are attributed to a number of factors, including safer vehicles with more technology enhanced safety features; increased public awareness and usage of safety devices such as seat belts, child car seats, and motorcycle helmets; and greater enforcement of driving and traffic laws to prevent car, truck, motorcycle, and pedestrian accidents from happening in the first place.

Traffic cameras are one tool that law enforcement uses to deter and catch speeders and other dangerous drivers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that Maryland is one state where traffic cameras are, in fact, discouraging drivers from speeding — one of the leading causes of serious and fatal car crashes (see link to related articles about Maryland speed cams, below). The IIHS writes:

Institute studies in Maryland and Arizona found that the proportion of drivers exceeding speed limits by more than 10 mph fell by 70 percent and 95 percent, respectively, after cameras were introduced. Speeds also fell on roads outside the enforcement area (IIHS Status Report, Jan. 31, 2008).

As a Baltimore County wrongful death lawyer knows from work with grieving clients — one death on the Maryland roads is one too many, and enough to change the lives of families forever. Despite the gains of recent years in preventing accidents and saving lives, the U.S. lags behind Europe in decreasing auto accident fatality rates even further. A Transportation Research Board (TRB) study that found that motor vehicle accident “deaths in most other high-income countries are dropping much faster than in the U.S.”

In Europe, car accident fatality rates are lower per vehicle mile travelled, as compared to in the U.S. The study attributes the lives saved to wider acceptance and usage of traffic cameras, roadway design features such as roundabouts (rotaries), universal motorcycle helmet laws, lower illegal blood alcohol concentration levels and more frequent roadside testing for drunk driving, and a more aggressive approach to drivers who speed.

The study also noted that while U.S. federal, state, and local agencies all have a hand in driving safety programs — European countries tend to have one central road safety agency that coordinates all programs. The IIHS quotes the TRB study authors: “No U.S. speed management program today is comparable in scale, visibility, and political commitment to the most ambitious programs in other countries.” Countries beating us in the race to save lives on roadways include Australia, France, Sweden, and the U.K. Clearly there’s much more work to be done in the U.S.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Articles:

Deterring Baltimore County Traffic Accidents: Speed Camera Laws Go Into Effect (Oct. 7, 2009)

Baltimore Traffic Accident Prevention: Speed Cameras May Snap Offenders at Schools and Construction Sites (July 21, 2009)

Sources:

U.S. Trails Other Wealthy Nations on Road Safety Gains (PDF)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Status Report, Vol. 46, No. 7, Aug. 18, 2011
Achieving Traffic Safety Goals in the United States: Lessons from Other Nations
Transportation Research Board of the National Academies

If it were up to those in Maryland who have lost loved ones in fatal automobile accidents, the laws punishing offending drivers would be a lot tougher. There is, in fact, a Md. bill in the House that would stiffen penalties against some drivers involved in deadly motor vehicle accidents — but that bill has yet to pass into law.

The Baltimore Sun reports that last week, grieving family members and friends made their case before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee about passing “House Bill 363: Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel — Criminal Negligence.” Area bicycle, pedestrian, and other safety advocates believe “a law is needed to bridge the gap between a simple speeding ticket and felony vehicular manslaughter.” Some think Maryland’s laws are too lenient on drivers who cause fatal car accidents on our roads, city streets, and highways, with some getting off with fines.

An experienced Baltimore County car accident attorney is familiar with these Maryland driving laws and penalties. Families may turn to Md. injury lawyers to file a civil suit against the driver responsible for their loved one’s injury, disability, or death — if they’re unsatisfied with the verdict in Maryland criminal court, or if the case didn’t involve criminal charges.

The current problem with Maryland law, The Baltimore Sun reports, is that prosecutors must prove “wanton and willful disregard for human life” for more serious criminal charges against a driver to stick. Those factors are hard to prove in car accident cases unless blatantly reckless or aggressive driving was to blame — deadly behaviors such as driving drunk or driving under the influence of drugs, exhibiting road rage, or drag racing (e.g., illegal street racing). If the bill with enhanced charges passes, those drivers proven to be true terrors on the road would face stiffer penalties, including possible jail time.

Accidents do happen on Baltimore County roads and highways. Some are due to weather, vehicle malfunction, sudden distractions, obstacles in the road, and other unforeseen circumstances. (Pedestrian accidents involving motor vehicles also occur for a variety of reasons, some resulting in injury or death.) As The Sun puts it, the current law is looking to punish bad behavior — not bad luck. If passed, HB 363 will create a misdemeanor for causing the death of another while operating a vehicle in a criminally negligent manner.

Sources:

Bill to punish fatally bad driving should pass with care
The Baltimore Sun Feb 27, 2011
Support Maryland HB 363: Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel–Criminal Negligence
Washington Area Bicyclist Association Feb. 22, 2011
Text of Maryland House Bill 363:
Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel — Criminal Negligence:

Text of Maryland House Bill 363 (PDF)


Text of Maryland House Bill 363
(Google docs)

The family of a truck driver killed in a 2008 Chesapeake Bay Bridge tractor trailer truck accident has been awarded a $100,000 settlement by the responsible driver’s insurance company.

According to news reports, a big rig truck driver, age 57, was hauling refrigerated chickens across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge eastbound in the early morning hours of Aug. 10, 2008. Then, a 19-year-old woman who’d been out clubbing with friends in Baltimore, Maryland after a wedding fell asleep behind the wheel, crossed the center line, and hit the tractor trailer truck. The car crash set off a series of events that caused the truck to go out of control, hit another vehicle and break through the opposite barrier — plunging into the Chesapeake Bay waters below. The truck driver was killed.

As Queen Anne’s County car accident injury lawyers know, many factors are taken into consideration in both criminal and civil courts. This fatal Maryland car and truck accident case was controversial: even though the defendant had been drinking in Baltimore prior to the fatal traffic accident, her blood alcohol level was below the legal limit. The Queen Anne’s County State Attorney at the time told the press: “The act of falling asleep while driving and drifting across the center line is not sufficient to constitute gross negligence.”

The driver plead guilty to charges of negligent driving, failure to drive right of center and violating a license restriction and paid $470 in fines. Shortly after, the truck driver’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the woman driver in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court, Maryland.

The pending $100K settlement from State Farm will close the wrongful death lawsuit, however property damage claims are still in progress. e.g., It cost the state of Maryland and two tow truck companies several hundred thousand dollars to remove the tractor trailer truck from Chesapeake Bay. Also the driver of a third car that was hit in the bridge traffic accident will reportedly sue the offending driver for property damages.

See related Maryland Injury Attorney blog article:
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Accident: Maryland Families File Lawsuit Over Traffic Deaths

Settlement Reached in Bay Bridge Crash
WJZ.com Sept. 24, 2010
Bay Bridge wreck lawsuit close to settlement
HometownAnnapolis.com Sept. 23, 2010
Related Web Resource

Wikipedia: Chesapeake Bay Bridge

The family of a bicyclist killed in a Baltimore, Maryland traffic accident last year is seeking damages against the driver and owner of the truck involved in the fatal accident.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the fatal truck accident took place on August 4, 2009. News reports state that a 67-year-old man, who was riding his bicycle south on Maryland Ave. behind a loaded fuel tanker, became caught in the truck’s wheels as it made a right turn onto Lafayette Ave. The man was run over and died at the traffic accident scene. A wrongful death civil lawsuit on behalf of the deceased man’s family has been filed in Baltimore Circuit Court seeking compensatory damages again the truck driver and the trucking company.

A spokesperson for the Baltimore police had previously stated that their investigation indicated the bicycle rider was at fault. No charges had been filed at that time against the truck driver, who did not stop following the traffic accident.

A Baltimore truck accident injury lawyer has knowledge of Maryland traffic laws in regards to proving liability when someone is injured or killed in an accident involving a large commercial vehicle – which outweighs the average passenger car by several tons.

Pedestrians, bicyclists (pedacyclists), and motorcycle riders who share Maryland’s streets and highways with semi-trucks, tanker trailers, and other large commercial trucks are vulnerable to catastrophic injury (including brain and spine injury) and death, when an accident with one of these enormous vehicles occurs.

Family of bicyclist killed in city accident files $5 million lawsuit
BaltimoreSun.com March 5, 2010

Related Web Resources

Maryland Bicycle Safety Laws

Maryland Bicycle Safety: Things to Know

The Brain Injury Association of America announces that March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The group hopes to raise awareness of the seriousness of head injuries and traumatic brain injury (TBI) — particularly in regards to school sports injuries. The group’s website offers resources about head injury, fall and accident prevention, and brain physiology, explaining that the brain can be injured even if the head isn’t struck (such as in a whiplash car accident, where the neck and head are jarred violently).

The Brain Injury Association of America has a Maryland office and plans to hold an educational conference in Towson, Maryland, in April.

As Baltimore County, Maryland injury lawyers know from experience with client families, debilitating and deadly brain injuries can result from a number of scenarios, including car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that an astonishing 1.4 million people suffer a TBI in the U.S. every year, with some 235,000 people requiring hospitalization and 50,000 dying from their traumatic brain injuries. Primary causes:

o Motor vehicle crashes cause 20% percent of traumatic brain injuries,
o Falls cause 28% (always a concern for the elderly, including those in nursing homes),
o Being struck by something/striking against something causes 19%, and
o Assaults cause 11% of traumatic brain injuries.
o Other causes: Suicide (1%), other transport (2%), pedal cycle (3%), other (7%), unknown (9%).

(Source: CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “What is traumatic brain injury?,” TBI Causes, collected online March 4, 2010.)

Maryland injury and wrongful death attorneys are, unfortunately, all too aware of circumstances where medical negligence results in a failure to properly and promptly diagnose and treat a traumatic brain injury in time to prevent permanent brain damage or death. Seconds count with these most serious of medical emergencies.

The news media has paid increased attention to the subject of brain injuries since the death of actress Natasha Richardson in 2009, following what at first seemed to be a mild fall on a beginner ski slope. Like many traumatic brain injury victims, Richardson was initially able to speak and appeared to be relatively uninjured. However she complained of a headache and fell unconscious hours later. She died due to an epidural hematoma — bleeding inside the brain which can build up pressure and cause the brain to shift, cutting off the blood supply and causing death.

Brain Injury Association of America

Maryland Brain Injury Association

CDC: Traumatic Brain Injury

WebMD: Natasha Richardson Dies of Epidural Hematoma
WebMD Health News, March 19, 2009

A doctor from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland is leading a national panel examining ways to increase screenings and prevent colon and rectal cancer deaths.

Though colorectal cancers are the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States (lung cancer is no. 1), barriers to getting life-saving screening tests remain. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a panel earlier this month chaired by Dr. Donald Steinwachs, a Johns Hopkins University professor and head of the Health Services Research and Development Center.

Dr. Steinwachs is quoted in an NCI press release as saying that some people find tests such as colonoscopy “…to be unpleasant and time-consuming. However, we also know that recommended screening strategies reduce colorectal cancer deaths.” The panel convened earlier in February to discuss ways to eliminate the main barriers to getting screened for colon and rectal cancers — namely health insurance obstacles, having to pay for tests out of pocket, and not having a regular health care provider.

A case of cancer misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose cancer, or late cancer diagnosis in Maryland may be proven if the physician ignores or fails to order tests for troubling symptoms presented by the patient, or attributes them to some other benign condition. The NCI reports that although colorectal screenings have increased in the U.S. population for people over age 50 — from a rate of 20 to 30% in 1997 to nearly 55% in 2008 — that we still have a long ways to go to save more lives. Colon and rectal cancers can be treated successfully when caught in the early stages or pre-cancer stages.

Baltimore County injury lawyers with knowledge about cancer misdiagnosis and medical malpractice cases in Maryland will advise patients on steps they need to take if they think a doctor’s negligence led to a failure to treat or late treatment of their cancer.

Panel Calls for Reducing Colorectal Cancer Deaths by Striking Down Barriers to Screening
National Cancer Institute, Press Release Feb. 4, 2010
Related Web Resources

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health: Health Services Research and Development Center

Katie Couric Speaks: A Personal Tragedy Sparks a Public Campaign to Prevent Colon Cancer

With the holiday season in full swing, everyone is scrambling. There’s last-minute shopping, preparing for holiday parties and feasts, wrapping up year-end projects at work — and increased travel by air, rail, and road. Unfortunately, drunk driving car accidents are also part of the holiday picture in Maryland and around the country.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that state law enforcement across the country will be cracking down on drunk drivers this holiday season, with the “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” campaign. People who overindulge in alcohol at family gatherings, work parties, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and other holiday get-togethers pose a risk of serious personal injury (including debilitating brain or spine injury) or death to themselves and others. Nationally, 13,470 people were killed in 2006 in alcohol-related traffic accidents.

Maryland Drunk Driving Statistics and Holiday Traffic Accidents
Baltimore County, Maryland car accident lawyers know the human stories behind the statistics. In Maryland, 189 people died in drunk-driving accidents in 2006. And while the Maryland state rate of drunk-driving accident fatalities has been on the decline in recent years (178 deaths in 2007 and 152 in 2008 — a decline of 12.5%), we know that even one death is one too many. (Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Maryland, 2004 – 2008).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nationally, more fatal drunk-driving car crashes occur at night (36%) and on the weekend (31%) — just when holiday parties are most likely to be held. In Maryland, we have snow, ice, and the rest of winter’s fury adding to the hazards on our roads and highways.

So please: Drive sober, within the speed limit, and defensively this holiday season — and be alert if you’re coming home from a party. The night-time fatal drunk driving accident rate is four times higher than the day-time rate (9%). That’s a sobering figure to keep in mind when you’re driving to or from your destinations this holiday season. (Source: Traffic Safety Facts 2006 Data, Alcohol-Impaired Driving, NHTSA)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces Intensive Holiday Drunk & Impaired Driving Crackdown & Advertising Blitz
NHTSA Press Release, Dec. 7, 2009
Fatalities and Fatality Rates in Alcohol- Impaired-Driving Crashes by State, 2007-2008 (download PDF)
NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note, Dec. 2009
Related Web Resources

Over the Limit, Under Arrest 2009 Campaign
Maryland Department of Transportation: Traveler Alerts

Maryland injury lawyers who assist families in nursing home abuse and neglect cases hear some sad and maddening stories of harm — or even murder — befalling seniors in the care of retirement facilities.

When most people in Maryland think about nursing home abuse, they usually suspect elder care staff as the most likely culprits. But the elderly residents themselves may also abuse their fellow senior citizens — or worse. A chilling news story reported out of the Boston area last week focuses on the strangulation death of a grandmother who had recently celebrated her 100th birthday with her family.

According to an Associated Press report in The Baltimore Sun, a 98-year-old woman has been indicted for strangling and smothering her 100-year-old roommate by tying a plastic bag around her head because she felt she was “trying to take over the room.” The two women’s beds were separated by just four feet. The Sun reports that the victim’s son had asked the facility to separate the two women due to tensions between them, but he was reassured that they were getting along — and that his mother did not want to leave the room, where she had lived with her husband until his death in 2007.

The Boston Globe goes on to say that on the evening prior to the murder, the alleged perpetrator placed a table in front of the victim’s bed, preventing her from going to the bathroom. When a nursing aide moved the table, the 98-year-old punched her. The 100-year-old was found asphyxiated the following morning, in a room that was just several feet from a nurses’ station. When staff moved the woman to another room, she spotted a white shopping bag and was quoted as telling her new roommate, “I hope I don’t have to use that.” She reportedly had a history of dementia and erratic behavior.

A tragic case like this brings up many troubling questions for Maryland nursing home abuse attorneys, regarding whether or not this nursing home death could have been prevented, had staff and management heeded the warning signs. Massachusetts courts are pushing forward with indicting the 98-year-old, who was being evaluated in a psychiatric hospital. If she is found competent to stand trial, she will be the oldest murder suspect to go on trial in the state.

Sources:
Woman, 98, indicted on murder charges
Boston.com Dec. 12, 2009

Woman, 98, indicted in death of 100-year-old nursing-home roommate
CNN.com Dec. 14, 2009

Related Web Resources
Maryland Department of Aging / Housing Information

 

Anne Arundel County, Maryland, police reported that a fatal car pedestrian crash occurred Mon. Nov. 30 in Severna Park, Md.

The deadly car and pedestrian accident took place around noon on Ritchie Highway near Cypress Creek Rd. According to news reports, a Chestertown woman, age 64, and a man, age 43, from Arnold, Maryland, were standing next to a minivan that had stopped because of a motor vehicle accident. A Jeep Cherokee driven by an 18-year-old man crashed into a vehicle stopped at a traffic light, setting off a four-vehicle chain reaction that pushed into the two bystanders. The woman pedestrian died of her injuries and three other people suffered personal injuries.

Maryland pedestrian accident lawyers are well versed in state driving laws and issues surrounding driver liability, when a serious car or truck accident occurs and someone is hurt or killed on our state’s roads and highways.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), though car-pedestrian fatalities decreased by 13 percent from 1997 to 2007 — still 4,654 pedestrians lost their lives on U.S. roadways in 2007. Most pedestrian accidents occur in urban areas, at night, under normal weather conditions, and where walkers are not in crosswalks. (Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2007 Data: Pedestrians)

No further details were available on this fatal Anne Arundel County, Maryland car and pedestrian accident.

MARYLAND: Pedestrian killed in 4-car crash
Associated Press Dec. 1, 2009
Related Web Resource
NHTSA Pedestrian Portal

After many years of doctors advising women to start getting routine yearly breast cancer screening mammograms at age 40 — a new study comes out recommending women wait until age 50 for a first mammogram, then get one every two years after that. The study was released in Nov. ’09 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (see link below).

News of the study quickly reverberated through the national and Maryland medical communities, with many doctors decrying the results and patients wondering what to do. Some hospitals reported that on the day the study results were released, patients cancelled their mammograms in record numbers.

As Baltimore injury and wrongful death attorneys who have assisted families with Maryland medical malpractice lawsuits, we are left to wonder how these new guidelines might affect medical care and cancer prevention.

One of the types of medical malpractice claims that we sadly see all too often in Maryland and around the country is cancer misdiagnosis. To successfully prosecute a misdiagnosis claim in the Maryland courts, the plaintiff (patient) and their lawyers must demonstrate that medical error or negligence led to a patient’s cancer being overlooked, misdiagnosed, or improperly treated — and that the patient suffered personal injury or death because of those medical errors.

Maryland medical malpractice litigation is governed by very specific rules and regulations regarding liability, burden of proof and notice to any contemplated defendant. The Task Force that issued the “mammograms start at 50″ guidelines did so with the caveat that women should consult with their doctors. However we’re left to wonder how this will affect the Maryland medical community’s responsibility to successfully prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer in patients who are hearing that they need less — not more — preventative medicine.

The American Cancer Society says it will not change its recommendation that women should start getting annual screening mammograms at age 40 (see link to statement below).

Task force opposes routine mammograms for women age 40-49
CNN.com Nov. 16, 2009

Screening for Breast Cancer
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Nov. 2009
Finding Breast Cancer Early: Age 40, Every Year
American Cancer Society, Dr. Len’s Cancer Blog Nov. 16, 2009