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!

The Workers Compensation Insurance Organizations (WCIO) now lists COVID-19 among its reporting codes for Occupational Disease or Cumulative Injury, describing it as “respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus.” The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) began accepting these codes on April 1, 2020, to be used for reporting any claim effective December 2019 or later.

Filing a successful Maryland Workers’ Compensation claim proving employer liability for injury or illness can be very challenging. Proving employer liability for a worker becoming ill in Maryland from COVID-19 — in the middle of a pandemic in a state with community spread — is not necessarily an open-and-shut case.

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The last few months have been difficult and challenging for all of us, to say the least. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our Maryland law firm has remained open as an essential service. We’ve continued to communicate with and advocate for our personal injury clients. After all, it’s our job to keep their cases and claims moving forward in the courts, despite court building closures that started in March and other severe restrictions.

As we blogged about back in May, the Maryland Judiciary proposed a phased reopening plan for the state courts system, with limited services and safety measures in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Phase 2 of the plan began June 5, with courts remaining closed to the public except for those whose cases needed to be heard.

Most recently, on July 20, the courts entered Phase 3 of the reopening plan, making a few more services available to the public with many restrictions still in place. Here’s how it breaks down for our Maryland accident injury clients and anyone else in Maryland needing the services provided by our courts system.

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Many residents of Maryland kept their cars in park the last few months, due to statewide shutdowns of businesses and schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that restrictions are being lifted as the state slowly gets back to business, some motorists may find their driving skills have become rusty.

If you’re one of those Maryland drivers who’s feeling a little out of sorts behind the wheel, you’re not alone. The last few months of coronovirus restrictions saw a vast reduction in daily commutes and road travel. Now, with Maryland businesses reopening and people moving about more freely, drivers getting back behind the wheel may fall into old, bad driving habits. This, combined with sharing the road with new teenage drivers, could lead to increased motor vehicle accidents this summer.

What’s worse? A majority of motorists admit to knowing dangerous driving habits are wrong, but too many engage in them anyway. The AAA Foundation has released its findings from a national survey on the top dangerous driving offenses for 2019. To learn more about those—and the percentage of motorists admitting to them—read on….
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On March 23, 2020, when much of the state of Maryland shut down due to the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Larry Hogan deemed law offices to be essential businesses. We are grateful for this decision, which has allowed us to continued serving the public during these extraordinary, challenging times. Though the courts have been physically closed to the public, accidents and injury on the road and at work do not take a break.

Throughout the pandemic, the Law Offices of Butschky and Butschky have continued to serve our clients with their Maryland personal injury claims. We have consulted with them by phone, email, and through virtual meetings to gather timely information and build their cases—including motor vehicle accidents and Maryland Workers’ Compensation claims.

Now, the Maryland courts have announced a plan to gradually open in five phases.

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We’d like to reach out to our Maryland clients and the greater community to provide some guidance on personal injury lawsuits and claims during the COVID-19 emergency. On March 25, Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera issued a new order extending the length of statewide restricted judiciary operations.

Due to the extended order, all Maryland courts and court offices have been restricted to emergency operations and are closed with limited exceptions from March 17, 2020 through April 3, 2020; in addition, the courts are closed to the public with limited exceptions through May 1, 2020. As with other court systems in states around the country, this decision was made to limit exposure to and spread of the COVID-19 virus among members of the public as well as court personnel and law enforcement.

So what does this mean for your Maryland personal injury claim, whether related to an auto accident, a work accident or Worker’s Compensation claim, a slip and fall accident, or some other cause of injury?

Heads-up Maryland foot travelers: Fatal pedestrian accidents are the highest they’ve been in years, giving traffic and public safety advocates cause for concern. You should be too.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projected that in 2018, pedestrian traffic accident deaths would hit levels not seen since 1990, with 6,227 deaths reported nationwide. This figure is 4 percent higher than in 2017. Maryland’s pedestrian accident deaths increased by 25 percent from January – June 2017 (48 deaths) compared to preliminary-adjusted numbers for January – June 2018 (60 deaths).

But are dangerous pedestrian behaviors, such as walking and texting, to blame? The findings are complicated, as smartphone use is only one possible factor.

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Maryland has some of the most restrictive distracted-driving laws on the books. The state banned the use of handheld devices while driving in 2013, making texting and talking on hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel illegal. However, one Montgomery County councilman feels the fines attached to those violations ($75 for the first offense, $125 for the second, and $175 for subsequent offenses) are not enough of a deterrent.

Earlier this month, Montgomery County council member Tom Hucker proposed a program to install distracted driving cameras on Maryland highways. Citing the 38,000 Maryland motor vehicle accidents a year resulting in serious injuries and death, Hucker says it is time to take more strident measures to curb bad distracted-driving habits. His proposal for cameras that could catch distracted drivers in the act would be the first-of-its-kind surveillance program in the country.

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Maryland road warriors… If you’re heading out of town or state for Thanksgiving, expect plenty of company. AAA reports that nationally, motor vehicle travel for Thanksgiving week 2019 is expected to increase by 3 percent compared to last year – with some 49.3 million cars hitting the road in the U.S.

Sounds inviting? AAA Mid-Atlantic reports that the majority of Marylanders traveling for Thanksgiving will be hitting the road – with 1,042,500 residents (91 percent of state travelers) getting to their destination by auto. To avoid a motor vehicle accident or other problems on the road this Thanksgiving, AAA and the Travel Channel offer some good-sense travel advice…

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Halloween is such a fun and joyful time for children and parents alike. But as you’re dressing up those little princesses and superheroes for trick-or-treating this year, take steps to prevent motor vehicle accidents with pedestrians.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the risk for children being killed in a pedestrian traffic accident doubles on Halloween. The combination of trick-or-treaters darting in and out of the roadways at night, along with unsuspecting or inattentive drivers, can be deadly. The NSC reports that in 2017, October was the second-deadliest month of the year for motor vehicle deaths with 3,700 fatalities, topped only by July at 3,830 deaths.

The NSC and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer several suggestions for preventing the tragedy of pedestrian – motor vehicle crashes at Halloween:

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Over the years, we’ve devoted several blog articles to the many causes of distracted driving. The main related offenses that can lead to serious and even fatal Maryland distracted driving accidents include talking on cell phones and texting, eating, applying makeup, adjusting the GPS, conversing with passengers (especially for teenagers), and handling children and pets. Yes, pets. It’s this last category we’ll take a look at today.

It’s hard not to smile at the sight of a dog hanging its head out the car window, tongue and ears flapping in the breeze, enjoying the ride with his or her humans. But as much as we Marylanders love to take our canine friends with us on a road trip, the presence of animals in the car actually poses a distracted driving risk. This can put the driver, passengers, and yes, our beloved dogs themselves, at risk of injury or worse.

In 2011, a AAA survey of people and their pet passengers revealed some results that should make all dog-loving drivers sit up and take notice. Continue Reading

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