546518_baltimore_city_3Greetings from Maryland, and welcome to our Maryland Injury Attorney Blog! My name is Jeff Butschky, and I will be your host and (hopefully) your source of practical help and information from within the Maryland Legal Community.

Perhaps nothing affects an individual or family more than a sudden accident or injury — whether due to a motor vehicle accident, a work-related accident, or some other unforeseen incident. When we are hurt, we understand that there will be hospitals and doctors, pain, stress and inconvenience. What isn’t often appreciated is the fact that the injured person must also now deal with (gulp) lawyers and (even worse) the insurance industry. Like visiting the dentist, filing taxes or other mild forms of torture, no one wants to do this, and I don’t blame you.

This blog will untangle and demystify the frustrating and complicated world of injury claims. As a practicing attorney in Baltimore County, Maryland, for more than 20 years, I’m going to do my best to make this as easy as I can. So let’s get started!

Everyone looks forward to the long Labor Day weekend — which marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Before we all take a break for our last cookouts, beach trips and family gatherings, let’s consider what the holiday really means.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the first municipal ordinances recognizing our nation’s labor force date back to 1885. The idea caught on, and more and more states got on board with a holiday dedicated to the working people who toiled and built this country. By 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. Labor Day “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Labor Day seems an apropos time to consider workplace safety in Maryland. According to the Maryland Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) Program and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland workplace fatalities have declined some in recent years. Of note…

Continue Reading

Last year, Maryland became one of 28 states requiring anyone cited for driving under the influence to use an ignition interlock device—not just repeat offenders. Drivers must install the devices inside their vehicles in the dashboard area. They then blow into the device, which reads their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and determines whether they can start their motor vehicles.

Critics who opposed the expanded Maryland law say these breathalyzer devices unfairly penalize first offenders who don’t have a history of drunk driving. However, a study from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reports that far more lives are saved when everyone convicted of drunk driving offenses uses the interlock devices.

The Maryland law requires people cited for a number of offenses to use the ignition interlock device. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), these offenses include…

Continue Reading

Driving in Baltimore? Smile, you’re on camera! The Baltimore Sun reports that speed cameras have returned to the city, this time with stricter regulations designed to protect drivers.

Speed cameras in Baltimore City are nothing new. In fact, the city has tried—and failed—twice before to launch speed camera programs as a deterrent to reckless driving, and to catch and fine drivers exceeding the speed limit. However, technology problems resulted in many drivers receiving tickets in error (including a car stopped at a red light that was flagged as speeding, reports The Sun), and in 2013, the Baltimore speed camera program was put in park.

Now, speed cameras are back with what program officials say is improved technology, along with stricter laws governing their use.
Continue Reading

It’s become an all-too-common sight in Baltimore and communities across Maryland: People walking down the sidewalks and crossing the street with their heads down, looking at their cell phones. Researchers suggest that “distracted walking” — combined with the deadly trend of distracted driving — has contributed to an increase in pedestrian traffic accident injuries and fatalities across the country. Some statistics to make us all look up and take notice:

  • The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that nationally, pedestrian accident death rates are rising faster than motor vehicle crash fatality rates.
  • CBS News reports that last year, some 6,000 pedestrians died in U.S. traffic accidents.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that pedestrian accident fatalities increased by 9.5 percent in 2015 — the highest numbers seen since 1996.
  • NHTSA reports that in 2014, of the 442 total traffic accident fatalities in Maryland, 101 were pedestrian accident deaths.

Maryland has made some positive strides in recent years to curb pedestrian injuries and deaths due to traffic accidents. In fact, preliminary data show that pedestrian fatalities in Maryland and Washington, DC, had decreased for the first six months of 2016. However, far too many people in Maryland are still sustaining serious injuries and losing their lives in pedestrian traffic accidents, which represent roughly one-fifth of our state’s motor vehicle accident fatalities. The 2015 Maryland Highway Safety Office Annual Report states that, “Over the past five years, an average of 106 pedestrians have lost their lives and 2,477 were injured each year as a result of a crash. This loss of life represents 20 percent of all of Maryland’s traffic fatalities.”

Continue Reading

Deaths due to motor vehicle accidents had been decreasing for several years, here in Maryland and across the U.S. However, last year that trend took a turn for the worse — with the deadliest traffic accident fatality statistics seen in decades. The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) reports that a total 35,092 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 — up 7.2 percent compared to 2014. Alcohol-impaired traffic accidents accounted for a significant number of fatalities, with 10,265 deaths resulting from driving under the influence (DUI) crashes in 2015. An average of 28 people a day were killed in DUI motor vehicle accidents in 2016.

A NHTSA spokesperson told CBS News, “We’re seeing these increases that we have not seen in 50 years. It’s tragic.” The government agency is trying to determine why motor vehicle accident fatalities are on the increase, after so many years of progress making our roads and highways safer and saving lives. And despite our state’s traffic safety laws, motor vehicle crash fatality statistics in Maryland are also trending in the wrong direction.

Continue Reading

Allstate Insurance released its America’s Best Drivers 2016 report, and the news isn’t good for Baltimore, Maryland motorists. It probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to anyone who’s driven the congested streets of Baltimore City or wrestled with traffic on the Baltimore Beltway: Our city is not among the safest places to drive. Not by a long shot.

In fact, of the 200 cities analyzed by the insurance company’s actuarial experts, Baltimore drivers rank third worst in the nation — beat out only by Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts. The chances of being in a traffic accident in Baltimore are much greater than in most major American cities. How often would you guess the average Baltimore driver gets in a car crash?

Continue Reading

In May 2016, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an anti-DUI bill into law aimed at preventing convicted drunk drivers from getting back behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. “Noah’s Law” was named in memory of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who was struck and killed by a DUI driver as he conducted anti-drunk driving law enforcement over the holiday season.

On Dec. 3, 2015, Officer Leotta made a traffic stop at Rockville Pike and Edmonston Drive in Rockville, Maryland. While outside of his cruiser, he was struck and critically injured by Luis Gustavo Reluzco, 47, whose blood alcohol tested .22 — nearly three times the legal limit. Officer Leotta died a week later from his injuries. He was 24 years old.

The police officer’s death created an outcry from his family, law enforcement officers and concerned citizens for Maryland to get tougher on penalties for drunk drivers and to prevent future DUI-related deaths and injuries. Noah’s Law strives to do that by now requiring anyone convicted of drunk driving in Maryland to use an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.

Continue Reading

The AAA Foundation released a report that finds between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the 100 deadliest days for motor vehicle accidents involving teenaged drivers. Proms and graduations are upon us, with another crop of Maryland teenagers getting ready to kick up their heels and hit the roads this summer. With more free time on their hands, teenagers will be driving more as they hang out with friends, go to summer jobs, visit colleges—and just do the things teenagers do.

Statistically, this is the most dangerous time on the road for teenage drivers and their passengers—as well as for the driving public. Maryland parents should think long and hard about these frightening statistics before their teenagers get behind the wheel this summer. The Baltimore Times reports…

Continue Reading

STOP signs are the primary form of traffic control at U.S. intersections. As you drive through Maryland’s city streets and country back roads, do you come to a full stop at every stop sign? What about at intersections where you have the right of way, and the other guy has a stop sign? Do you still stop there, or just slow down enough to make sure the other driver stops? Or do you blow through the intersection and hope for the best?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), one-third of all US intersection crashes occur at crossings that have stop signs. The most common causes are drivers failing to stop for the stop signs, or stopping and then failing to yield to other vehicles, colliding at an angle. Obstructed vision (e.g., due to buildings, trees, or parked cars) is another frequent cause of accidents at intersections. However studies have shown that…
Continue Reading

When it comes to distracted driving, Maryland has some of the toughest traffic laws in the US. Texting while driving is prohibited and considered a primary offense. In October 2013, Maryland joined our neighbors in Washington, D.C., in making use of handheld cell phones while driving illegal as well. The only exception is to make an emergency call to 911. (Note: Talking on speakerphone, using hands-free Bluetooth technology, and with cellphone headsets is permissible while driving in Maryland, except for youthful drivers with learners’ permits.)

Still, these laws haven’t stopped some Maryland drivers from doing dangerous things they’re not supposed to do while driving—including using handheld cell phones. Now, Maryland lawmakers want to increase fines for using hand held cellphones while driving in hopes of getting errant drivers to change their risky behaviors. The current maximum fine of $175 is apparently not enough to discourage some motorists to put down their phones until their cars are in park.

Continue Reading