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!

A recent survey by Esurance revealed that while most everyone thinks distracted driving is dangerous, a majority of drivers are guilty of it. It comes as no surprise that the cell phone is the primary can’t-put-it-down gadget driving motorists to distraction—whether talking on it, reading email or texting while driving (which, incidentally, is illegal in Maryland and most all states).

We’ve all seen drivers crawling along in Baltimore city traffic, as well as motoring along our Maryland highways—looking up and down, up and down. This is the tell-tale sign of texting while driving. And it only takes a second with eyes off the road for an accident to happen.

Now your fellow Maryland motorists won’t be the only ones watching to see if you’re engaging in texting while driving and other dangerous distracted driving behaviors. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. And the Maryland State Police will be on the looking for distracted drivers, who are in large part to blame for a national increase in fatal motor vehicle accidents—reversing a trend that had been on the decline for 50 years.

This month, Maryland State Police are embarking on a campaign to crack down on these potentially deadly distracted driving habits. While the cell phone is the primary cause of distraction, it’s not the only one….

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Have you ever gotten behind the wheel when you actually felt too tired to drive? Even the most cautious drivers may, on occasion, power through the need to sleep and put pedal to the metal — just to get where they need to go. That’s what hot coffee, a loud radio, and a blast of cold fresh air are for, right?

Drowsy driving in Maryland is more common than we’d like to think. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to do so. A new AAA study finds that drowsy driving may in fact be as dangerous as drunk driving, potentially leading to serious and even fatal car accidents.

CBS News reports that while federal sources estimate drowsiness as a factor in one to two percent of motor vehicle crashes — a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Safety found that number to be much higher. When researchers studied 700 crashes on tape, they found drowsy driving to be a factor in 10 percent of motor vehicle accidents.

Are you getting enough sleep to safely get behind the wheel and drive?

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One of the largest and most complex automotive safety recalls in history just got bigger. The New Year got underway with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announcing a further expansion of the Takata air bag recall, which has already affected an estimated 34 million vehicles in the U.S.

The Takata air bag recall began in May 2016 based on previous reports of air bags malfunctioning. The problem stems from a chemical used in the air bag inflator to create rapid deployment during a motor vehicle accident. According to news reports, the chemical can deteriorate in hot, humid environments, burning too fast and causing a metal canister to explode, sending shrapnel into the vehicle cabin. NHTSA, which is managing the Takata air bag recall, has added approximately 3.3 million more vehicles to the list.

Is your car among them?

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Despite cars coming equipped with more luxury features and gadgetry designed to make driving easier — driving has become more stressful, here in Maryland and across the US. Blame it on increasingly congested roadways; speeding, lane changing and other forms of aggressive driving; cell phones and other onboard distractions. Our nerves are frazzled and our tempers are short. It’s a recipe for road rage.

If someone tailgates you or cuts you off in traffic, do you yell and make obscene hand gestures? …or remain calm and let them pass, and hope no one gets in a traffic accident? If you let your temper get the best of you, you’re not alone. According to a 2016 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, 80 percent of US drivers surveyed admitted to engaging in road rage at least once in the previous year. Road rage behaviors include…

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Nationally, the number-one cause of death in teenagers is motor vehicle crashes. According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, 52 people were killed and more than 6,700 people were injured in crashes involving teenage or younger drivers (2011–2015, a 5-year average).

Now, new cars are being manufactured with added safety devices designed to help all drivers avoid motor vehicle crashes. But how effective are these accident avoidance features with young, inexperienced drivers? Research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that while some features helped teen drivers in the study drive more safely, others did not. The study found that while crash avoidance warning systems helped teens improve turn signal use and avoid drifting into other lanes, they did not help curb teen-driver tailgating. In fact,

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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…

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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…

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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.
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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.”

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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.

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