December 15, 2009

Nursing Home Abuse and Wrongful Death: Will 98 Year Old Stand Trial for Murder of Roommate?

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.

DA: 98-year-old Mass. woman strangled 100-year-old roommate because she was 'taking over' room
The Baltimore Sun Dec. 11, 2009

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

Related Web Resources

Maryland Department of Aging / Housing Information

Assisted Living in Maryland: What You Need to Know (PDF doc)
University of Maryland Law School 2002

November 9, 2009

Transportation Among Top Causes of Fatal Maryland Work Accidents (but Occupational Death Rates Are Down)

What would you guess are among the most dangerous jobs in Maryland? Construction? Roofing? Electrical work? You'd be right on all those counts, but some of the top causes of fatal occupational injuries in Maryland may come as somewhat of a surprise. According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), of the 59 people who lost their lives due to work-related accidents in Maryland in 2008...

> Transportation accidents (which include air, rail, highway transportation including freight trucking accidents, nonhighway transportation, and being struck and killed by a vehicle, e.g., construction site worker pedestrian accidents) accounted for 17 deaths;

> 9 fatalities resulted from Assaults and Violent Acts (including self-inflicted injury);

> 12 were victims of Falls;

> 10 died due to Contact with Objects or Equipment;

> and another 10 perished due to Exposure to Harmful Substances.

Maryland Occupational Injury Death Rates Decline
The good news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is fatal occupational injuries are down across the United States, including significant reductions in Maryland (59 work related deaths occurred in 2008, compared to 82 deaths in 2007 and 105 deaths in 2006).

Total U.S. workplace deaths in 2008 amounted to 5,071 -- down from 5,657 in 2007. Deaths from falls -- a major hazard for construction workers -- were down, as were fatal transportation accidents. Workplace homicides declined, but sadly, workplace suicides went up in 2008. The BLS reports all these numbers are preliminary, and final figures will be made available in April 2010.

As Maryland Work Injury Lawyers, we have seen all these types of work-related injuries and fatalities. Many families are unaware that they may be entitled to Maryland Workers' Compensation benefits even after their family member has died. That is why it is so important to contact an experienced Md workers' compensation attorney to find out what benefits you may be entitled to -- before accepting an offer from the employer or speaking to their attorney or insurance company representative.

NATIONAL CENSUS OF FATAL OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES IN 2008
United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aug. 20, 2009

Maryland Division of Labor and Industry
Fatal occupational injuries by industry and event or exposure, Maryland, 2006 (XLS doc)

Related Web Resources

Maryland Division of Labor and Industry Research and Statistics
Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH)

Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities

October 7, 2009

Deterring Baltimore County Traffic Accidents: Speed Camera Laws Go Into Effect

The Baltimore County City Council passed an act concerning speed cameras designed to thwart motor vehicle accidents and pedestrian accidents that occur in school zones. Bill 61-09 Speed Monitoring Systems, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2009, authorizes county law enforcement, in consult with other agencies, to use and enforce citations issued by speed monitoring systems in school zones.

The bill defines "speed monitoring systems" as "a device with one or more motor vehicle sensors producing recorded images of motor vehicles traveling at speeds at least 12 miles per hour above the posted speed limit." Drivers will be subject to a $40 fine. An amendment to the bill limits the number of cameras to 15. The one councilor who dissented felt that more police -- not speed cams -- was a better way to address the problem.

In addition to the county bill targeting speeders in school zones, a separate state law now allows speed cameras at work zone sites; two have been placed in Baltimore County -- one on I-695 at Charles Street and another on I-95 between I-895 and White Marsh Blvd.

Baltimore County car accident lawyers may provide legal assistance in cases where serious car crashes, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and truck accidents occur due to drivers speeding through school and work zones -- where people on foot are moving in and out of the roadway.

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that school zones as well as construction work sites are particularly hazardous areas when motor vehicles travel too fast. The Council estimates that every year, some 15,000 people perish and hundreds of thousands suffer personal injuries due to motor vehicles speeding in these high foot-traffic areas. Children getting on and off school buses are especially vulnerable, as are road workers and police who direct traffic at work sites.

Two speed cameras will operate in Baltimore County starting today
ExploreBaltimoreCounty.com Oct. 1, 2009

School speed cameras get Balto. County nod
BaltimoreSun.com Sept. 9, 2009

Related Web Resources

COUNTY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND
Legislative Session 2009, Legislative Day No. 13
Bill No. 61-09 (PDF file)

Safe Speed - Automated Enforcement Program
Baltimore County, Maryland

Baltimore County Police Department: Speed Cameras

March 18, 2009

An Introduction to the Maryland Workers Compensation System

Unlike a lot of states, the Maryland Workers' Compensation system is very adversarial. In some states, the hurdle injured workers have to get over to receive compensation is ridiculously low. They basically just need to prove that they were hurt at work -- or anything remotely close to work. If they were injured driving to or home from work, they're covered. Even if they were goofing around and got hurt at work, they're covered. In Maryland, it's different.

Maryland is an “at will” employment state, meaning you can be fired at will by your employer, providing they're not violating any Federal laws against discrimination for age, gender, race, etc. The playing field is not level -- it's tilted in the employer's favor. And that goes for the Maryland Workers Comp system, too.

The bright spot is if you're injured on the job in Maryland, your employer is required by law to carry workers' compensation insurance. Even if they don't have it -- which I've seen a dozen times or so in 20 years of helping injured workers in Maryland -- the Uninsured Employers' Fund will step in and pay. So the good news is if you're hurt at work in Maryland and if you have a compensable claim, your employer has insurance to cover it.

The first high hurdle that you have to face is proving you have a compensable claim.

Hurt at Work in Maryland? Don't Wait to Seek a Lawyer's Advice
An experienced Maryland Workers Comp attorney helps people who are hurt in the line of their work navigate the insurance claims process and receive compensation for their injuries. If you are hurt at work, don’t be shy and don’t feel guilty or bad about it. Call a lawyer and say, “Listen, I’m not even sure that I’m looking at filing a work comp case, but here's what happened. What should I do?” It's important that you at least know where you stand, and exactly what rights you do (and do not) have. Because if you don’t, trust me--the employer is already doing things that they have to do by law that sets a sequence of events into motion that puts you at a disadvantage. It’s a lot like being in a foot race, and allowing your opponent to start ahead of you. Not good.

What you do in the first couple days of getting hurt at work in Maryland will determine whether you are going to have a successful case or not. Please visit my blog again for more on the Maryland Workers' Compensation system and what to do if you are hurt on the job in Maryland.

Related Web Resources

Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH)


February 26, 2009

Will Proposed Labor Law Affect Maryland Workers Comp?

The laws and regulations governing Maryland Workers Comp cases are in place to protect people who are injured at work or in the course of doing their jobs. But what happens if you're employed as an "independent contractor," as are so many plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters, and other trades people in the construction industry, where serious and fatal accidents can and do happen?

Do you have the same rights to Maryland Workers Compensation benefits if you're injured on the job in Maryland? A bill before Maryland lawmakers is tackling the issue of independent contractors' rights. As the law stands now, employers who classify workers as "independent contractors" are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers' compensation premiums. So if you're injured on the job and you're classified as an independent contractor -- you're on your own.

According to a report in The Washington Post, state officials believe as many as 20 percent of Maryland's blue-collar workers are wrongly classified as independent contractors. The Maryland Governor is calling on the General Assembly to make it illegal for employers to misclassify workers as independent contractors. Building industry representatives object to the proposed law, which would fine business owners $5,000 for each worker they knowingly misclassified. Repeat offenders would receive additional fines and could be debarred and put out of business.

Aside from the steep fines and penalties, employer objections to the proposed Maryland bill stem from the cost of providing benefits to workers in a recessive housing and building market, where competition to win jobs with the lowest possible bid is fierce. The Post reported that employers who pay workers as independent contractors save up to 30 percent in payroll costs.

If it passes, the Maryland State Labor Commission would enforce the law. An experienced Maryland Workers Compensation attorney can help determine who is responsible if a contractor or subcontractor is hurt in the course of doing their job.

Labor Proposal Targets Builders: Low-Wage Workers' Treatment a Worry
The Washington Post Feb. 9, 2009

Related Web Resources

Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission

Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation


November 21, 2008

Baltimore Jury Awards Woman $250,000 for Baltimore Beltway Construction Site Pedestrian Accident

A Baltimore County Circuit Court jury awarded a seriously injured woman $250,000 in damages after she was struck by a car while attempting to cross a Baltimore Beltway construction site on foot. The Maryland car accident that resulted in pedestrian Sandra Lee Meade being hit and seriously injured occurred at a construction site near the Baltimore Beltway on Dec. 3, 2003. Meade had parked her car on the southbound side of Westland Boulevard at Circle Drive in Baltimore, Maryland before planning to catch a bus to her job at the IRS. She was hit by a car while illegally crossing the street at a construction zone operated by Pennsylvania based general contractors Dick Corp.

The area where the pedestrian car accident occurred was under construction to widen the outer loop of the Baltimore Beltway, Route 695. Meade was crossing the intersection diagonally to catch a northbound bus when a car traveling south on Westland Boulevard struck her. The Maryland woman sustained lifelong brain and spinal cord injuries, and has been living in a nursing home since this terrible pedestrian car accident occurred. The driver was not named in the lawsuit, as the plaintiff's family felt he was also a victim.

Ms. Meade’s attorney argued at trial that the general contractor failed to keep the area safe for pedestrians, citing poorly placed barriers and confusing line painting. The jury concluded, however, that because the Plaintiff was crossing the street illegally, they could not hold the Dick Corp. liable for any of her injuries.

Fortunately, Ms. Meade's wise attorney had separately negotiated what is known as a "high/low agreement" with counsel for the Defendant. This type of agreement is legally binding in Maryland, and basically states that, no matter what result a Judge or Jury reaches, basic minimums and maximums of insurance coverage will apply. This one legal maneuver, by an experienced attorney, avoided the $ZERO verdict, which the Jury felt compelled to hand down, based upon Maryland's harsh law of contributory negligence.

Meade's original lawsuit sought $8 million in damages. The $250,000 she was awarded -- which her family must use to cover her lifelong medical and nursing home expenses -- represented the "low" end of the settlement. The bottom line here is that Maryland Law, especially the harsh doctrine of contributory negligence, can be brutal. That is why legal representation is so important to people injured in Maryland car and pedestrian accidents.

Woman Struck in Work Zone to Get $250K Maryland Daily Record, Nov. 16, 2008

Related Web Resource

WalkingInfo.org