Monday, December 19, 2011

How Some Law Changes Could Reduce Fatal Automobile Accidents in Maryland

Hundreds of lives could be saved in both Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, over the next five years if the legislature passed more phased-in driving privileges for teens. Across the nation, and in the Maryland and Virginia area, motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. In fact, per each mile driven, drivers ages 16-19 are four times more likely to be involved in an automobile accident.

Experts have noted that graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs for teens reduce the death and accident tolls significantly. In fact, they have identified several components that constitute a strong GDL. Amazingly, only two states, New York and Delaware have programs with all seven.

The seven components are as follows:

1. A minimum age of 16 for a learner's permit (Maryland now has);

2. Six months of supervised driving before unsupervised driving;

3. A minimum of 30 hours supervised during learner's stage (Maryland now has a supervised hour requirement);

4. A minimum age of 16 ½ for intermediate licensing (Maryland now has);

5. Intermediate night-driving restriction beginning at 10p.m. (Maryland now has a night driving privilege);

6. No more than one non-family member passenger for intermediate license holders (Maryland now has);

7. A minimum age of 17 for a full license.

The last restriction could place undue hardship on many working families in Maryland and Virginia who rely on their teenagers to help with car pool. As a result, while it saves lives, it seems unlikely to become law in our area.

Five Social Media Tips for Maryland Injury or DWI/DUI Clients

Thousands of Portner & Shure's personal injury and criminal clients, in both Maryland and Virginia, log onto social media sites every day to chronicle their personal and professional lives. These sites create a virtual gold mine of potential legal liability and discoverable information that may have a devastating impact on the outcome of both a Maryland or Virginia accident, or criminal case. One of the first lawsuits to be filed over social medica activity involved country singer, Courtney Love, who was sued by her former designer for defamation concerning alleged damaging statements posted by Love on her Twitter account. Love's supposed damaging tweets were "published" to her 40,000 Twitter followers, and set the stage for the world's first well-known social media suit.

1. Social media content may be used in the courtroom, or by insurance adjusters in matters involving personal injuries, including Maryland and Virginia automobile accidents, workers' compensation and medical malpractice cases. Social media users often post information about vacations, participating in sports or other activities. These posts may be inconsistent with claimed injuries. Information and comments posted by Maryland or Virginia accident injury victims on Facebook, Twitter or blogs, may be admissible at deposition or trial and could destroy or dramatically reduce the value of a Maryland or Virginia injury case. Five years ago a personal injury client at Portner & Shure would be warned that insurance companies may hire an investigator to follow them and video their daily activities. While this practice is now decreasing, the use of adjusters reviewing Facebook or Twitter posts in a Maryland and Virginia in a personal injury case is now on the rise. Be advised that everything a personal injury client is putting on Facebook or Twitter may be reviewed by an insurance adjuster to reduce the value of a Maryland or Virginia automobile accident, workers' compensation or medical malpractice claim. Below are some examples to take into consideration:

a. In one case a woman was claiming that because of her back injuries, suffered in a Maryland car accident, she could no longer walk. An adjuster reviewed her blog posts. In the blogs she described taking belly dancing classes for years. She in fact even posted photo's of her dancing at monthly performances. The photos and blog posts were later shown to her treating physician. The doctor testified that he was:

  • unaware of the woman's belly dancing classes

  • unaware that she had been doing belly dancing monthly performances

  • unable to state she was not physically capable of employment

b. A second time Maryland DUI client recently wondered why he was facing a probation revocation after boasting on Facebook that he just went to a concert and smoked marijuana.

c. The Workers' Compensation Commission recently stopped a clients benefits after an adjuster learned he was making money selling personal items on Craigslist.

2. Under current Maryland or Virginia rules it is not unfair or unethical for a defense attorney or insurance adjuster to collect evidence from your Facebook or Twitter posts. Ethical rules are slowly developing with respect to the boundaries of investigators using social media to destroy or limit Maryland and Virginia automobile accident, workers' compensation or medical malpractice claims. In fact, no hard and fast rules have yet emerged. As a result, you cannot claim foul or unfair, once the damaging information passes into the hands of unwanted persons. At this stage, defense attorneys, insurance defense paralegals, and investigators maybe using "friend requests" to gain access to online information of Portner & Shure automobile accident clients.

3. Social media can be used to attack the need for medical treatment, or the actual testimony of your doctor in a Maryland or Virginia automobile accident, workers' compensation or medical malpractice case. The activities you talk about on Facebook or Twitter, i.e. running, working out, raking leaves, skiing, cannot in anyway be consistent with what you are telling your doctor you cannot perform. In the event that they are, and this is discovered after the course of medical treatment, all the medical bills and treatment may be called into question.

4. At trial credibility (believability) of an accident victim or DUI defendant is at issue. In other words, the outcome often hinges on whether the jury believes this one persons account of what occurred. Social media posts can destroy a plaintiffs credibility. Credibility will cause irreparable damage, if evidence of activities is not inconsistent with the claims made to a medical doctor.

5. In light of the above, we suggest you make sure the following changes while using Facebook or Twitter if you have an active Maryland or Virginia injury case.

a. Check the privacy settings on your accounts and make sure you only share information with people you trust. Never accept a friend request or invitation from someone you don't know;

b. Assume the insurance company and defense lawyers have access to everything you post. Avoid talking about, mentioning, or referring to your case in anyway so that nothing can be used against you in court;

c. Don't put any photos or videos of yourself on Facebook, even if they are from before the accident occurred. Ask your friends to avoid putting any pictures or videos of you on Facebook, and even if they do, request that they be removed or untag yourself right away;

d. Don't engage in any conversations about your injury case in online forums, blogs, chat rooms, message boards or even email;

e. If you are a Maryland or Virginia Chinese speaking, Korean speaking or Spanish speaking automobile accident victim, these rules also apply to you. Insurance companies are using interpreters to go through Facebook, Twitter and blog posts.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Maryland Trucking Company Declared "Imminent Hazard to the Public"

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) declared Maryland-based trucking company, Gunthers Transport, LLC, an imminent hazard to public health and ordered the trucking company to immediately cease all transportation services. FMCSA issued an imminent hazard out-of-service order against Gunthers following an exhaustive review of the company's operations, which found multiple hours-of-service and vehicle maintenance violations. "Safety is our number-one priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Commercial truck companies that recklessly disregard federal safety regulations will be shut down and removed from our roadways."

Gunthers was immediately shut down after FMCSA safety investigators found patterns of hours-of-service and vehicle maintenance violations that substantially increased the likelihood of serious injury or death to the motoring public. FMCSA discovered that the company allowed its drivers to falsify their hours-of-service records and exceed the 11-hour limit for daily driving. In addition, Gunthers did not require its drivers to perform pre-trip vehicle safety inspections, operated trucks that were in such poor condition they were likely to break down and posed a high crash risk based on its on-road performance record. One Western Maryland man, injured 17 years ago as a result of truck accident involving Gunthers' tractor trailer, was left crippled suffering from severe brain damage. The Western Maryland man, who is now 49 years old and living in a nursing home, won a lawsuit where a jury awarded him $13 million for his care. He has not seen a penny of that money because Gunthers declared bankruptcy and reformed under another name.

There is a new proposal for trucking regulations that involves decreasing the amount of consecutive hours that a trucker can drive from 11 to 10. Lobbyist from both sides have been arguing their case in Washington, D.C., including a Maryland man who lost his wife as a result of a truck accident. In addition to the loss of his wife, both of the Maryland man's sons were seriously injured as a result of the truck accident. Somehow the argument has become a partisan issue. Republican lawmakers and pro-trucking lobbyists argue that a reduction of the hours from 11 to 10 could cost the trucking industry millions of dollars during an already difficult economic time. The families of those who have lost loved ones, as a result of a tractor trailer accident, argue that the issue is not a Democrat/Republican issue but an issue of public safety.

Hand-Held Cell Phone Use by Drivers of Buses and Large Trucks Banned

U.S. Transportation Secretary announced a rule specifically prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their vehicle. This new rule is certainly news to me. I would have thought that this rule was in affect for some time. The joint rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is the latest effort by the U.S. Department of Transportation to end distracted driving. Personally, the fact that the rule was not in affect until now is alarming. When drivers of large trucks, buses and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds the consequences can be deadly. This rule will save lives by helping truckers stay focused on safety at all times.

The final rule prohibits commercial drivers from using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a commercial truck or bus. Drivers who violate the restriction will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for multiple offenses. Additionally, states will suspend a driver's commercial driver's license (CDL) after two or more serious traffic violations. Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of $11,000. Approximately four million commercial drivers would be affected by this final rule.

While driver distraction studies have produced mixed results, FMCSA research shows that using a hand-held cell phone while driving requires a commercial driver to take several risky steps beyond what is required for using a hands-free mobile phone, including searching and reaching for the phone. Commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, are three times more likely to be involved in a bus crash or other safety-critical event. Dialing a hand-held cell phone makes it six times more likely that commercial drivers will be involved in a truck crash or other safety-critical event. Nearly 5474 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009. Distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research. Many of the largest truck and bus companies, such as UPS, Covenant Transport, Wal-Mart, Peter Pan and Greyhound already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones. If you our someone you know has been injured as the result of a truck accident contact our Maryland truck accident lawyers and Virginia tractor trailer accident attorneys.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Some Maryland Roads Are More Dangerous Than Others

Mountain Road in Anne Arundel County, also known as State Road 177, has seen many sad memorials in recent years. At least twenty people, many very young, have died in automobile accidents along the 11-mile stretch since the early 1990's. At least fourteen have died in car accidents along the road in just the last decade. The road basically causes the loss of one life a year.

It is simply a once-pastoral suburban byway that now experiences a heavy traffic load. For many residents of Pasadena, there is no alternative route. The State Highway Administration (SHA) acknowledges that the road has an unusual configuration. Not surprisingly, most of the accident victims have been Pasadena residents.


Some things on the road clearly stand out. First, near Fairwood Court, and just east of a sharp curve, there is a building that sits no more than twelve feet from the westbound travel lane.

State Highway Administration figures show that parts of Rt. 177 carry 26,530 vehicles per day. Nevertheless, for much of its length Mountain Road is just a two lane road with a scary reverse lane in the middle designed to relieve peak-hour congestion. Shoulders are limited and countless fixed objects are just a few feet from the edge of the pavement. Including, buildings, trees and utility poles. There is little room for driver error on Mountain Road.

As if things weren't bad enough, SHA figures show there were at least 107 fatal and non-fatal crashes related to drunk driving on the road from 2001 to 2010. In fact, Mountain Road has the highest rate of drunk driving arrests and crashes in Anne Arundel County.

Without more land for expansion and a lot of money, there is no real solution

Monday, October 31, 2011

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Maryland

A large number of Maryland drivers are uninsured. Too often these individuals cause automobile accidents that result in injuries to the other driver. Fortunately, in Maryland, the injured victim can pursue an uninsured/underinsured automobile accident insurance claim. This type of claim is available in two situations:

1. Uninsured motorist - the negligent driver has no auto insurance coverage

2. Underinsured motorist - the negligent driver has insufficient liability insurance limits that cannot cover the injured victim's damages, and the negligent driver's policy limits are lower than the limits of the victims uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

Maryland unisured/underinsured motorist coverage is insurance coverage that covers your auto accident just as your liability insurance would provide compensation for an individual who you might injure as a result of careless driving. In Maryland, unisured/underinsured coverage usually extends to family members living in the household of the insured and passengers.

Tragic Baltimore City Automobile Accident Leaves Two Dead

As a Baltimore City resident, I am stunned by the recent accident in Fells Point which resulted in two fatalities. The authorities believe that speeding was the cause and that is the main reason for my astonishment. Fells Point is rife with many problems including drunk bar patrons and crime, but that seems to come with the territory. What doesn't come with the territory is speeding and fatal car accidents. Such incidents are typically saved for I-95 or the Beltway. It is relatively impossible to speed on the streets of Fells Point. Fells Point has traffic lights, cross walks and stop signs at every intersection, and half of the streets are cobblestone. Not to mention the almost constant pedestrian traffic common to Baltimore City neighborhoods with an abundance of bars, restaurants and shops.

What I am getting at is that in order for someone to speed in Fells Point that person would really have to try hard. I understand speeding on I-95 or 695. Maybe a driver is just keeping up with the pace of traffic or there is no one else on the road, but speeding in a crowded city neighborhood, that act seems intentional and reckless. This accident occurred on Bank Street at 10:30p.m. on a Thursday. Thursday is a popular night for college students (and those who still act like they are in college) and there is no doubt that Fells Point was crowded with cars an pedestrians which makes this driver's conduct so alarming.

The preliminary investigation, based on witness accounts, reveals that the driver of a Dodge Durango, who was killed in the accident, was at fault and was most likely speeding. Also killed was a passenger in the other vehicle, an 18 year old Stevenson University student. The 18 year old died in her boyfriend's arms. The boyfriend, who was the driver of the other vehicle, will have to live with the memory of this tragedy for the rest of his life, not to mention the injuries he suffered as a result of the impact. The at fault driver in this case had a history of speeding and was convicted of driving 30mph over the posted speed limit in June 2010 (most likely the speed was reduced) and had a pending charge of driving 57mph in a 30-mph zone. A Maryland wrongful death lawyer could help the family of the young lady who was killed pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent driver, and a Maryland accident attorney could help the young man who survived the crash pursue a Maryland personal injury claim. The personal injury attorneys at Portner & Shure are experienced and skilled in both wrongful death claims and automobile accident injury claims.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Is the Difference in Maryland Between a Survival and a Wrongful Death Action?

When an automobile accident, truck accident or doctor's negligence results in a fatality there are two separate claims that can be made on behalf of the victim's family and estate. A Maryland wrongful death attorney can bring a wrongful death action. This type of claim is brought by the immediate relatives of the victim. In a wrongful death claim the family seeks to recover for their losses resulting from the accidental death of a loved one. A Maryland personal injury lawyer can also bring what is called a survival action on behalf of the victim's estate. A survival action claims recovery for the injuries suffered by the decedent including the pain and suffering and other damages and actual expenses incurred by the victim up until the time of death.

In a wrongful death action in Maryland, the amount immediate family members can recover is determined by the emotional and financial harm they experienced as a result of their loss. In a wrongful death case the estate of the decedent is not involved and the family members of the victim are acting entirely on their own behalf. In a survival action in Maryland, the amount the decedent's estate can recover is determined by the harm to the actual victim. The representative of the estate brings the lawsuit on behalf of the decedent.

The Maryland personal injury attorneys and Maryland wrongful death lawyers at Portner & Shure are experienced in handling these types of lawsuits. Our attorneys balance professionalism, aggressiveness and compassion when we represent client's who have lost a loved one.

What Is Contributory Negligence in a Maryland Automobile Accident Case?

Maryland is one of five states that uses contributory negligence instead of comparative negligence. The majority of states use the doctrine of comparative negligence which means, when both the victim and the defendant contributed to an accident by failing to exercise a reasonable degree of care and caution, each party's degree of liability is apportioned. The total amount that an accident victim is awarded is lessened in direct relation to his or her own negligence. For instance, if a jury found that an accident victim was entitled to $1,000,000.00 in damages but found that the victim was 20% at fault, the jury award would be $800,000.00.

Maryland's contributory negligence doctrine is more cut throat and can be a complete bar to an injured victim's recovery. Maryland personal injury attorneys often struggle to help clients because of this all or nothing rule. Under contributory negligence, the accident victim's failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care and caution, no matter how slight, is an absolute bar to recovery. If the defendant's lawyer can convince a jury that the victim was only 1% at fault, that individual will not recover any damages.

Maryland personal injury lawyers have been struggling against the doctrine of contributory negligence since it was adopted by the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1847. In 1868, accident victims received some reprieve when the Court of Appeals adopted the last clear chance doctrine. The last clear chance doctrine allows recovery by an accident victim, who would other wise be barred from recovery due to contributory negligence, if the defendant had the last chance to avoid the accident. When the defendant is negligent and the victim is contributorily negligent, the Plaintiff can still recover damages if there is a showing that something new or sequential affords the defendant a fresh opportunity to avert the consequences of his original negligence.

New Texting Law in Force in Maryland

Starting October 1, 2011, reading a text message or an email from behind the wheel will cost a driver up to $500 in fines. Maryland's new law, barring the reading of texts while driving, clarifies the existing texting while driving rules. Up until this point, drivers were barred from writing text messages while driving but were allowed to read them. Law enforcement authorities have already commented that police officers will begin enforcing the law immediately.

Police in Maryland have issued 587 warnings and 379 traffic citations for texting while driving and 4,021 warnings and 5,227 traffic citations to drivers talking on cell phones since the initial ban was put in place two years ago. The law still provides an exception for drivers who are texting emergency operators or using phone GPS systems.

Drivers who are ticketed can still choose to pay a $70 fine an accept guilt, which would add a point to their license; if the texting leads to an accident, accepting guilt would mean paying a $110 fine and three points on the license. If a driver chooses to contest the ticket in court, that individual runs the risk of being found guilty of a misdemeanor and having to pay up to a $500 fine. If you were involved in an accident that resulted from the other driver texting while driving contact the Maryland personal injury attorneys at Portner & Shure.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Baltimore Area Drivers Are the Worst in the Country

No wonder our Maryland personal injury law firm is so busy. We have hundreds automobile accident victims call us each month. Where do they all come from? Well a recent study may shed some light on why my desk is surrounded by Maryland automobile accident case files. Allstate Insurance released its annual "America's Best Driver" report ranking the largest U.S. cities based on the number of auto accidents. For the second year in a row Baltimore City held the same rank, 192 out of 193. 193 being the worst.

In contrast, America's safest driving city is Fort Collins, Colorado, with drivers averaging around fourteen years between automobile accidents. In Fort Collins, drivers are 28 percent less likely to be involved in an automobile accident than the national average. In Baltimore, drivers are almost 89 percent more likely to be involved in an automobile accident than the national average. Baltimore drivers average about five years between car accidents.

So the obvious question is where are the worst drivers? Our neighbors to the south boast that title. Washington, D.C. has the worst drivers in the country. Lucky for Portner & Shure we also practice in Washington, D.C.; our experienced Baltimore car accident lawyers and Washington, D.C. auto accident attorneys are like roofers in Southern Florida during hurricane season. There is no shortage of clients who need help because they have been injured by a negligent driver. Our responsibility as Baltimore auto accident lawyers and Washington, D.C. accident injury attorneys is to protect our clients' rights against the insurance companies who, to often, take advantage of the innocent victim.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who should you buy your automobile insurance from?

Shop the rates. Every automobile insurance company must file with the Maryland Insurance Administration their underwriting standards and rates.

Automobile insurance companies in Maryland may use numerous factors to determine their risk and to set rates based upon the risk. Factors that are considered include: geographic location, age of driver, education of driver, type of job, distance of normal commute, and credit rating. Factors are placed in separate boxes and rates are set by which box a person matches up with. The carriers do, however, weigh risks differently, and therefore, a persons rates may depend on their particular insurance company.

Factors that may not be considered are a persons race or nationality. In other words, Korean or Chinese speaking Maryland clients can not be forced to pay more in premiums.

Insurance companies are allowed to base future rates on an insured's traffic record and history of at fault accidents.

Since each automobile insurance company uses different factors and weighs the risks differently, you should shop around to determine the best rates for yourself. One carrier for example may charge more based on the type of care you drive, while another due to the inexperience of the driver.

Service does not generally vary from insurance carrier to insurance carrier. It does vary from adjuster to adjuster, but that is just a matter of luck. Therefore, base your decision on what the policy costs, not what the carrier says about its overall service.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beware of the Friendly Insurance Adjuster: Especially in Maryland

wolf 5.jpgAs Maryland personal injury attorneys our law firm deals with insurance adjusters on a daily basis. Our Maryland auto accident attorneys are constantly negotiating settlements or in court fighting against the insurance companies on behalf of our clients. As a result, we have seen every trick in the book. One of the most common tricks is when an adjuster offers an injured individual a check shortly after the accident in exchange for a release. More often than not the check will be for substantially less than the actual value of the case. In Maryland once the release is signed there is no opportunity for the injured individual to rescind. In contrast, in Virginia, there is a 72 hour period to rescind.

Like a sheep in wolf's clothing the insurance adjuster's wonderful customer service and eagerness to offer money masks the actual intent. The insurance adjuster's job, by nature, requires them to settle cases for the lowest possible amount. It is all about the bottom line. If adjusters can keep their company's cost down by offering settlements that do not reflect the actual value of the case they will most likely do so. Every day our law firm answers calls from people who have accepted offers and signed releases for amounts significantly lower than what their case is actually worth. Unfortunately, in Maryland, once the settlement is accepted and the release is signed our Maryland accident injury attorneys can't pursue the case. Ultimately, the failure to consult an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney could cost someone injured in an accident thousands of dollars. This consequence is exactly why speaking to a Maryland personal injury lawyer or Maryland auto accident attorney is essential to achieving maximum recovery for injuries suffered as a result of someone else's negligence.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Family Vacation Tip

It's the end of the summer so many families throughout Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, are headed out for one last hurrah. With families with young drivers, like mine, let me point out one thing. While your college age youngster may have been driving for years, unless he or she is 25 or over, they cannot rent a car from most rental agencies. Further, even if you are older than 25, may companies require that you have a driver's license for at least one year or two. One exception for folks under 25 is when they are part of a corporate or organization's discount program.

Exceptions to the general rule can be found in New York or Michigan, where state laws require agencies to rent to drivers ages 18 and up. Of course, you will pay dearly for the privilege. In other states, if there is an exception it will come at a hefty extra charge. Some rental car carriers also make an exception at age 21, they include Dollar, Enterprise and National, but exclude convertibles, SUV's. and expensive models.

Another exception to the general rule are US Government employees or military personnel. If they are on official business and traveling with orders often times surcharges are waived.

USAA has a partnership with Avis that allows members 21 and over to rent a car without paying a surcharge.

Before renting a car compare the exclusions and rates on the following rental car companies:

Alabama Car Rental               Illinois Car Rental                     Montana Car Rental                 Rhode Island Car Rental

Alaska Car Rental                  Indiana Car Rental                    Nebraska Car Rental                South Carolina Car Rental

Arizona Car Rental                 Iowa Car Rental                        Nevada Car Rental                   South Dakota Car Rental

Arkansas Car Rental              Kansas Car Rental                    New Hampshire Car Rental      Tennessee Car Rental

California Car Rental               Kentucky Car Rental                 New Jersey Car Rental            Texas Car Rental

Colorado Car Rental                Louisiana Car Rental                 New Mexico Car Rental           Utah Car Rental

Connecticut Car Rental           Maine Car Rental                      New York Car Rental               Vermont Car Rental

Delaware Car Rental               Maryland Car Rental                 North Carolina Car Rental         Virginia Car Rental

Washington DC Car Rental      Massachusetts Car Rental        North Dakota Car Rental          Washington Car Rental

Florida Car Rental                   Michigan Car Rental                 Ohio Car Rental                      West Virginia Car Rental

Georgia Car Rental                 Minnesota Car Rental                Oklahoma Car Rental              Wisconsin Car Rental

Hawaii Car Rental                   Mississippi Car Rental              Oregon Car Rental                   Wyoming Car Rental

Idaho Car Rental                     Missouri Car Rental                  Pennsylvania Car Rental


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Does an insurance company use video surveillance in automobile accident cases in Maryland or Virginia?

Absolutely. In serious accident cases you need to be aware of the fact that if you are claiming a permanent injury the insurance carrier becomes more concerned about its exposure. If the adjuster has received medical reports where you claim such a disability the adjuster may hire an investigator to follow you and video your activities. This is often done on the day you have a scheduled doctors appointment with the insurance company's doctor for an evaluation. Amazingly, Maryland and Virginia personal injury lawyers will inform their client of the questions the doctor for the insurance carrier may ask, yet forget to tell them their activities for the day may be videoed. This certainly is a home run for an insurance carrier when a client is shown raking leaves on the same day she told the doctor she was basically confined to her bed (this happened to a well known Baltimore accident attorney).

Many insurance companies, like the Hartford are known to conduct video surveillance in injury cases where a permanency is claimed once a lawsuit if filed.

I inform all of the injury clients I meet in my Columbia, Maryland office, and tell all of the accident lawyers who work for the law firm in Maryland and Virginia, to instruct all accident clients, with respect to video surveillance in this fashion:

1. If you are not claiming a permanent injury odds are there will be no video surveillance;

2. If the insurance policy for the defendant driver is 25,000 or less video surveillance is not likely;

3. If you are seeking large permanent damage and are claiming you can no longer work, walk, drive, enjoy leisure activities or working outdoors, beware of video surveillance;

4. If you have a scheduled deposition, or any meeting with a doctor for the defendant, expect video surveillance.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Do Speed and Red Light Cameras Increase Accidents?

most interesting man.jpgI don't drive to Towson often and when I do I usually use I-83 (sounds like a commercial for the most uninteresting man in the world). I heard about the speed camera in place around Liberty Road but I had not experienced it first hand until yesterday. Seeing it in action has inspired me. Let me start by stating that, as a Maryland criminal defense attorney, I have a general disdain for red light cameras and speed cameras. I think that they are unsafe and lower the standard of proof needed by the state to convict a defendant for a traffic violation. The speed camera at Liberty Road further supports my opinion. On its best day the I-695 corridor at Liberty Road is an area where traffic slows. More often than not, that section of road is a bottleneck causing epic rush hour traffic jams. Now there is construction going on at the exit for Liberty Road (slower speed in a construction zone is probably the rational for placing a mobile speed camera there). So we have a stretch of road notorious for traffic jams. Now add construction and a speed camera. This combination creates rush hour traffic jams in the middle of the day. The pace of traffic suddenly slows by 20mph because drivers don't want to get a ticket. The sudden decrease in speed and congestion creates dangerous driving conditions. Portner & Shure handles auto accident cases throughout Baltimore County and recently we have been contacted by numerous clients injured in rear end collisions at this very location.

What is the real motivation behind the mobile speed cameras and red light cameras? Is it safety? Does it decrease accidents caused by drinking and driving. Money? I think that there would be less accidents and congestion at the Liberty Road exit if the mobile speed camera was removed. The speed camera's flashing lights surprise people. I would not be surprised at all if the flashing lights from a speed camera caused apprehension in drivers and resulted in accidents. Ironically, that is exactly what one would expect to happen with young drivers. Percentage wise, younger drivers are involved in more serious accidents than experienced drivers. Red light cameras can have the same effect. Imagine if a driver was traveling on a road with a 35mph speed limit at an intersection he or she knows has a red light camera. What happens if, as this driver approaches the intersection, the light suddenly turns yellow? In most instances the driver would proceed through the yellow light and doing so would be both safe and lawful. However, the apprehension associated with getting a red light ticket may cause the driver to come to a sudden stop. This reaction is unsafe to other drivers and could lead to an automobile accident. I am not the only one with this opinion. Many people are opponents of speed cameras and red light cameras. Unfortunately, the State of Maryland needs revenue and the cameras provide it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Maryland Is 15th Most Deadly for Pedestrians

ped.jpgA national study released this week by the advocacy group Transportation for America ranks Maryland as the 15th most dangerous for pedestrians out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Baltimore also earned distinction by being recognized as the 32nd most dangerous metropolitan area for walkers out of the 52 considered by the most recent version of the report 'Dangerous by Design." I was surprised, frankly, that Baltimore wasn't ranked higher considering the city's dubious high scores in murders, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy and STD's. I should know better. Baltimore never disappoints unless you are an O's fan. The report actually singles Baltimore out as an example of a city where pedestrian deaths have increased during the past decade. From 2000 to 2009, a period when total traffic deaths decreased by six percent, pedestrian deaths increased from 43 in 2000 to 62 in 2009.

Florida is actually the most dangerous state for pedestrian accidents, scoring a 182.8 on the index, while Maryland scored 76.4. Jeesh, you better look both ways before crossing the street in Florida; Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami were the four most dangerous areas. In contrast, Vermont, the safest state, scored 11.2. In comparison to other countries, the United States is almost twice as dangerous as Australia. Experts believe the reason for the dangerous conditions are road designs which focus on maximum vehicle speed as opposed to pedestrian safety.

1,057 pedestrians died on Maryland roads from 2000 to 2009. 481 of those deaths occurred in Baltimore City. It is not surprising that in an earlier study Maryland was noted for having one of the lowest rates of spending for pedestrian safety projects in the United States. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a pedestrian accident contact the Maryland pedestrian injury lawyers and wrongful death attorneys at Portner & Shure.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Family Settles for $1.1 Million in Motorcycle Crash Death

On May 25, 2010, Maryland native Harry Singleton was killed while riding his Harley-Davidson just outside of Salisbury on the Eastern Shore. The accident occurred when a truck owned by Pennsylvania based Continental Laundry Systems stopped at a stop sign and then proceeded through the intersection without seeing the motorcyclist. Witnesses were able to help establish who was at fault and recount details of the motorcycle/truck accident.

Originally, the lawyers representing the deceased and his family demanded $2.2 for economic and non-economic damages from Continental Laundry's insurer. These damages did not include a claim for pain and suffering because evidence showed the motorcyclist was killed on impact. Ultimately, the case settled without having to go to court. If the case had to be taken to court lawyers would have filed a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased's family.

Several factors may have helped both sides reach a settlement without having to go to court such as the presence of multiple witnesses, a perfect bill of health for the deceased prior to the accident, decreased demand and surviving family members, including a wife, son and daughter, and four grandchildren.

91 -Year-Old Anne Arundel County Man Killed in Scooter Crash

Baltimore and the surrounding area seems to have no regard for crosswalks. Maybe the color needs to be changed from white to bright red. Recently the Baltimore Metropolitan Area has suffered a rash of pedestrian, bicyclists and motorcyclists accidents. Three students have been injured at or near the Johns Hopkins campus, most notably a bicyclists who probably will never regain the majority of his cognitive functions. The family of that young man has filed a $10 million lawsuit. The biker was in a bike lane. It is unclear whether the two students struck this weekend were in a crosswalk. What is clear is that the man killed in Brooklyn Park last week was within a clearly marked crosswalk.

If a pedestrian suffers injuries or is killed because they are struck by a vehicle, their recovery for resulting injuries may depend on whether they were crossing in a crosswalk, especially if a crosswalk exists at the scene of the accident. Maryland law regarding pedestrians requires that a person crossing where there is a clearly marked crosswalk must cross within that crosswalk. If the pedestrian fails to do so, their claim may be unsuccessful because of contributory negligence, which is a common defense to tort claims in Maryland.

This elderly man, who was riding a mobility scooter, crossed completely within the crosswalk. Through no fault of his own, the man was struck by a Toyota Tundra and was pronounced dead after being taken to Maryland Shock Trauma. As a result of his death, the deceased man's family may have a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Number of Fatal Bicycle Accidents Fuels New Driver-Negligence Bill

Bicycle accidents, laws, protests, trails are all Michael Dresser seems to write about. This guy and Mike Preston are my two least favorite Baltimore Sun journalist but I read their articles the most. Mike Dresser recently wrote an article about the creation of a new class of misdemeanor offense tailored specifically to protect bike riders and pedestrians. My last blog discussed the recent tragedy involving a Johns Hopkins student who was struck by a car while riding his bike and left in a coma. The General Assembly's approval of this new law comes on the heels of that incident. In fact, bicyclists' groups, energized by a series of fatal crashes involving motor vehicles and bikes and the recent Johns Hopkins accident, rode from Baltimore to Annapolis in support of the new law on April 6th. One of the organizers of the ride was a woman whose husband was killed while bicycling in Baltimore County one year ago.

The new law creates an offense of manslaughter by criminal negligence that is more serious than a traffic offense but with a lesser penalty than vehicular manslaughter. The new law gives prosecutors an alternative for prosecuting drivers who kill people as a result of serious negligence. Manslaughter by criminal negligence will carry up to three years in jail and a $5000 fine. The law was also created because courts were interpreting felony manslaughter so narrowly that it was only applied in instances of drunk driving or drag racing. The new charge will require a "gross deviation from the standard of care that would be exercised by a reasonable" motorist. An example of the type of conduct covered by this new law could be a fatal crash in which the driver had been speeding 20 mph over the speed limit while crossing double yellow lines and passing a school bus.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a bicycle or pedestrian accident contact the Maryland personal injury lawyers at Portner & Shure for a free consultation.

Johns Hopkins Bicycle Accident Leads to $10 Million Lawsuit

Recently the Baltimore area bicycling community has been united by tragedy on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. A 20 year old student at Johns Hopkins was riding his bicycle down University Parkway in Baltimore City this February when he was struck by an elderly motorist. The Johns Hopkins student is not expected to recover brain function and his family believes there is no hope for any meaningful recovery. The brain damage caused by the accident appears to be permanent. The brain injury resulted from a lack of oxygen due to the fact that the young bicyclists was pinned underneath the vehicle that struck him. The accident occurred when an 83 year-old woman made a right turn into a driveway. In addition to being run over and pinned beneath the automobile, the young man also suffered third and fourth degree burns on his face and torso along with bone fractures, cuts and bruises.

The Ellicott City family of the young man is left with the strong possibility that their son will never recover any cognitive function. On March 22nd, the family sued the driver for $10 million dollars charging that she violated multiple traffic laws. One important detail that is essential to the ultimate outcome of the case is the fact that the injured bicyclist was riding in the bike lane. The family's lawyer says the lawsuit will serve to cover some of the astronomical medical expenses that insurance will not. The case has drawn a strong response from local bicycle advocates who, among other claims, consider the Baltimore Police Department's response inadequate. Their opinion that the response was inadequate is mainly due to the department's hesitation to charge the elderly woman.

The driver of the car was eventually charged with negligent driving and failure to yield the right-of-way to a bicyclist in a designated bike lane. In order for the woman to be charged with vehicular manslaughter, should the victim die, a finding of gross negligence is required. The State's Attorney said an investigation found no such evidence. The bicyclist's family was comfortable with the decision and has no desire to see the driver put in jail. Bicycle advocates were pleased that there was an investigation and traffic charges were filed.

If you or someone you know was injured in a bicycle accident contact the personal injury lawyers at Portner & Shure for a free consultation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Road Workers, Construction Sites and Accidents: What Are the Rules?

Road workers throughout the United States are often struck during the course of their jobs. Additionally, they often cause other cars to strike each other because the work area is not properly designated or marked. Many of these automobile accidents often lead to tragedies. However, they can be avoided if the road workers are more familiar with, and follow safety procedures. In addition to State highway workers, companies that contract for road work are given copies of the safety rules.

A contractor was killed on Eastbound Rt. 50 when he was either deploying or retrieving traffic counting equipment. The employee was wearing reflective clothing. Safety rules require a spotter to assist the worker in these situations. No spotter was used. Further, State highway needs to be notified ahead of time before contractors begin work. They can often lend support. In this instance, they were not called. In addition, to aid drivers, and workers, the rules state the shoulder should be marked off with a tapered line of orange cones blocking off the crew's vehicle, along with a sign warning of shoulder work. Neither was done in this case.

In appears that the State Highway Administration rules for traffic work are routinely broken. As a result, serious accidents occur. If you are involved in any accident and believe it occurred due to the negligence of a highway worker call a Maryland accident attorney at Portner & Shure for a free consultation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mother Sues Baltimore City and Police Officer for $40-million

Cavalier and reckless police officers pose a serious threat to the safety of citizens. Simply because a person possesses a badge and a gun does not give that person the right to place citizens in danger for no reason. When a police officer is reckless the consequences can be disastrous. Last year a twenty-seven year old motorcyclist was killed during a high-speed police chase. Wednesday the mother of the motorcyclist filed a $40-million lawsuit against Baltimore City and the officer who struck her son. The lawsuit alleges that the police officer ignored orders and lied about how the crash occurred. I live in Baltimore City and appreciate the police officers and understand that their job is both indispensable and dangerous. With that being said I cannot overlook what I have witnessed with my own eyes. Some police officers think they are above the law, impervious to the rules and regulations that all of us must follow. Of course police officers are placed in situations where they must engage in activities that are otherwise prohibited. When confronted with extraordinary circumstances police officers still must follow specific codes of conduct. Further, when a police officer is not engaged in some type of pursuit or off duty placing others in danger is unacceptable.

In this case, Baltimore Officer Timothy Everett Beall was "told to end the chase" and that he acknowledged that command turning "off his lights and siren". Despite this command the officer continued to follow the motorcyclist onto an interstate 695 exit ramp. He proceeded to ram into the back of the motorcycle while distracted by his telephone and radio communications. Beall told investigators that the motorcyclist "crashed out in front of him" and that the police cruiser never collided with the bike. Maryland State Police Sgt. John McGee concluded that the officer's account of the collision could not have occurred in that manner because it would defy the laws of physics. Now the deceased mother hired William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr. and filed, among others, a wrongful death claim asserting that the death of her son was not caused by any reckless conduct on his part but was caused solely by the negligent actions of the officer.

On a less tragic and more personal note, I have observed a few Baltimore City and Maryland State Police Officers acting as if they are above the law. While traveling down Eastern Avenue, a car stopped in front of me and began making a u-turn across a double yellow line. I honked my horn (this was apparently an egregious act on my part as if horns were not meant to be used like a sofa with a plastic cover, actually I think if a horn is used correctly it can contribute to highway safety but that is a topic for another day). The driver proceeded to stop his car sideways in the middle of Eastern Avenue, blocking traffic, and pointed to a police shirt he had hanging in the back seat. He looked at me as if to say, "see this buddy...I do what I want". That was not the reaction he got from me. He then got out of his car, pulled out his badge and showed it to me. I told him I didn't care and that what he did was illegal. He then proceeded to tell me that technically what he did was legal because there was a break in the line. All I can tell you is that if an everyday citizen did what he did that person would be pulled over and given a ticket. This next anecdote is trivial but I am on a role; I went to the gym yesterday and it was packed. As I was looking for a parking spot I noticed a State Trooper cruiser parked in a spot where it clearly said "Do Not Park". In the words of CC, Key, TJ, Coach, and Boomer, Come On Man!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lawyers Refer Your Personal Injury Cases to Attorneys That Are Members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum

referral.jpgPortner & Shure litigates large personal injury cases for lawyers who do not have the experience and/or resources to handle complex personal injury cases. Insurance companies now use the Colossus system when evaluating the amount they pay on claims. One factor in their equation is whether the law firm they are up against litigates cases. If your firm does not the claim will not be offered fair value.

At Portner & Shure we have injury lawyers who have litigated hundreds of jury trials and judge trials throughout most jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia. In fact, Mr. Portner is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Mr. Ruby has also obtained million dollar verdicts in injury cases.

If you refer a case to our firm you can remain in the case and therefore still collect a fee. Very few personal injury attorneys have the experience our lawyers have in litigating wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases. In our experience, top value is often not given until we put our larger cases in suit. Hence, if you have a serious injury case, our advice is not the settle the case prior to litigation. In fact, if you add the additional compensation you obtain after placing a case in suit, and then for adding a well known litigation firm on the file, it really makes sense to refer the large injury cases to Portner & Shure. Therefore, if you are an attorney with a serious personal injury case, call or contact our law firm.

How to Find the Best Lawyer For a Personal Injury Case in Maryland or Virginia

million $ adv.gifIf you asked me ten years ago how people find the best lawyer in Maryland or Virginia for personal injury cases I may have said that a lot of folks try the yellow pages. As a result, Portner & Shure placed advertisements on many of the covers of these phone books, and even had numerous full page advertisements. We still run these ads but hardly anyone calls from them.

The truth is people now find the best lawyers for serious personal injury cases in two different ways. First, by word of mouth from prior clients of personal injury law firms. We now post testimonials of our results on our website. We do not do it to brag, but to let the public know that our injury clients are satisfied with both the service and the results. Second, people now search the internet to find the best personal injury lawyers.

When searching on the internet for a good injury lawyer review the cite. Look at the testimonials, look at the trial and settlement awards received. Next, look at the organizations the attorneys belong to. For example, Mr. Portner as a result of his advocacy skills, is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members. The internet is now a fun shopping tool and, if used correctly, a helpful tool when searching for a Maryland or Virginia personal injury lawyer.

When looking at injury lawyer cites, weed out the injury lawyers that don't post trial awards. Many of these firms don't litigate cases. An injury attorney cannot be as aggressive with an insurance company if he or she doesn't ever step in the court room. Furthermore, the insurance companies use the internet too. If you can figure out that an injury lawyer rarely or never goes to court, they certainly can. The carriers all keep track now of the tendencies of Maryland and Virginia personal injury attorneys.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Maryland Legal Blog Listing

Legal Blogs are used by the attorneys at Portner & Shure to update clients and prospective clients on the changes in the law, as well as to give insight into what transpires in the courthouses throughout the State of Maryland. Other firms seem to use blogs simply as a means to get their name on the internet, and provide no useful content. One such firm has several blogs that focus on the same subject but have slight variations in their titles. Their blogs kind of remind me of chicken. There are hundreds of different ways to prepare it but it is still chicken.

Our firm's blogs focus on specific practice areas and languages. Below is a list of our blogs:

Maryland Car Accident Blog

Maryland Criminal Lawyer

Maryland Work Injury Lawyer

Spanish Speaking Lawyer in Maryland

Chinese Accident Lawyer in Maryland

Korean Accident Lawyer in Maryland

Here are some others:

Maryland Accident Attorney Blog (Silverman | Thompson | Slutkin | White)

Maryland Accident Lawyers Blog (Saiontz & Kirk)

Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog (Lebowitz & Mzhen)

Maryland Lawyer Blog (Miller and Zois)

Maryland Accident Lawyer Blog (Miller and Zois)

Maryland Auto Accident Lawyer Blog (Miller and Zois)

Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog (Miller and Zois)

Baltimore Injury Lawyer Blog (Miller and Zois)

Maryland Injury and Disability Law (Greenberg & Bederman)

Medical Malpractice & Patient Safety Blog (Patrick A. Malone)

Maryland Personal Injury Attorney (Steven H. Heisler)

Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog (Lebowitz & Mzhen)

Washington DC Injury Attorney Blog (Kenneth J. Annis & Associates)

Maryland DUI Lawyer Blog (Bruce M. Robinson)

Maryland Criminal Attorney Blog (Silverman | Thompson | Slutkin | White)

Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer (Dever & Feldstein)

Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog ( Andrew G. Slutkin)

Baltimore Criminal Defense Attorney Blog (Law offices of Todd K. Mohink)

Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog (Law Offices of Richard P. Arnold)

Maryland Lawyer Blog

Maryland Personal Injury lawyer Blog

Baltimore Criminal Law Attorneys Blog (Law Offices of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates)

Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer (Price Benowitz)

Maryland Law Blog (Alpert Schreyer)

Maryland Injury Lawyers Blog (Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, LLC)

Maryland Injury Attorney Blog (Jeff Butschky)

Maryland Injury Attorneys Blog (Brassel Law Group)

Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog (Lebowitz & Mzhen)

Maryland Accident Law Blog (Lebowitz & Mzhen)

Maryland Malpractice Lawyer (Alan J. Belsky)

Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Maryland Law Blogger (Raymond McKenzie)

Maryland DUI Defense Lawyer Blog (James Guillory)

Maryland DUI Lawyer (Price Benowitz LLP)

Maryland DUI Attorney Blog (Silverman | Thompson | Slutkin | White)

Maryland Criminal, Traffic and Injury Blog (David R. Waranch)

Maryland Personal Injury Blog (John R. Foran)

Maryland Injury Blog (Foran & Foran)

Maryland Law (J. Cannan)

Maryland Malpractice Lawyer Blog (Dever & Feldstein)

Maryland Lawyer Blog (Carey & Associates)

Maryland Injury Lawyers (Maryland Injury Lawyers)

Maryland Lawyer Online (Alan J. Belsky)


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Department of Justice Seeks to Protect People Who Speak Korean, Chinese and/or Spanish

dept of justice.jpgA few months ago the Department of Justice's civil rights division advised the nation's courts to have interpreters available for free at all criminal and civil proceedings and beyond the courtroom, including detention facilities, anger management classes and parol offices. The letter also cited several specific failures. One important instruction from the DOJ was that any court that receives federal funding is subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which requires access for all individuals regardless of their national origin. This requirement also includes offering services to limited proficiency speakers.

Too often people who speak Spanish, Korean and/or Chinese face clerks who are unaware of available services or indifferent to the needs of those who speak limited English. Many times outdated versions of translated forms are used. In some cases, Spanish, Korean and/or Chinese people are told they must pay for interpreters. In rare cases, people who can't speak English are treated rudely by court personnel. The Maryland Access to Justice Commission, a state body made up of judges and other officials formed in 2008, is investigating language barriers in Maryland's courts and issuing recommendations on how to improve communication. Maryland courts tend to do a good job providing Spanish interpreters at formal hearings, however, there are many procedures and nuances in our courts where no interpreter is available especially for Korean and Chinese people. Basically, there is no type of mechanism to deal with people who don't speak English who come to the courthouse.

This deficiency results from a lack of resources. The state judiciary branch has gone three years without new positions, raises or cost-of-living adjustments to salaries. Under the current budget restraints, hiring and training additional bilingual or Spanish, Korean and Chinese staff is difficult. However, misuse of existing resources, such as CTS Language Link, a telephone translation service also exists and must be addressed. Regardless of the shortcoming of the judiciary branch, non English speaking residents of this county enjoy equal protection of the U.S. Constitution and are entitled to every procedural safeguard the court offers. More importantly, these residents must be thoroughly informed of their rights at almost every step of the judicial process. If you have limited English skills and were charged with a crime or injured in an accident contact one of our multilingual Maryland and Virginia law firm. Our staff speaks Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean. Our Maryland lawyers and Virginia attorneys will protect your rights.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Motorcyclist Killed in Parking Lot Crash in Howard County

motorcycle.jpgThis past Tuesday a motorcyclist was killed when he struck the back of a pickup truck in Jessup in Howard County. Police believe that a mechanical malfunction might have caused the motorcyclist to lose control. The motorcyclist hit a curb and then the truck in the parking lot of Frank's Seafood in Jessup, Maryland. The motorcycle involved was a KTM SMR 525 Enduro. The motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the pickup truck was not injured. The motorcyclist was, unfortunately, not wearing his helmet. If the accident did occur as a result of a mechanical defect then the motorcyclist's estate can recover damages under a strict liability theory and the motorcyclist's family would have an extremely strong wrongful death claim. However, a strong argument could be made against a wrongful death claim because not wearing a helmet is intervening negligence. Damages recovered in either suit would be limited because the motorcyclist had a duty to mitigate damages by wearing a helmet as required by Maryland law. Also, under a theory of strict liability the negligent party is only responsible for foreseeable damages. A motorcyclist's failure to wear a helmet is not foreseeable. With all this being said motorcyclists are extremely vulnerable to injury or even death as a result of an accident. If you or someone you know was injured in a motorcycle accident contact Portner & Shure's Maryland motorcycle accident lawyers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cell Phone Use While Driving: The Saga Continues

driving-talking-eating.jpgI am confused. Didn't the Maryland law that made texting while driving illegal also outlaw reading texts while driving?  Apparently not, a recent article I read in the Baltimore Sun cleared up my confusion.  There are actually quite a few nuances to Maryland cell phone laws currently on the books.  Here are a few of the strange quirks of the laws in effect, as of now:

  • Talking on your cell phone while driving is a secondary offense and you cannot be pulled over unless you are breaking some other law

  • Writing or sending messages while driving is prohibited (even if the driver is not breaking any other laws) but reading messages is not

  • A driver may talk on a cellular phone, if completely stopped in traffic, because the law only prohibits talking "while in motion" (considering that breaking any other law would be a neat trick while your car is not moving, this distinction seems pointless)

  • Texting while driving carries a maximum fine of $500 and one point while talking carries a maximum fine of $40 and no points (unless the driver contributes to an accident)

  • Exceptions exist for using a global positioning device or contacting emergency services


Now Maryland lawmakers are making an effort to make laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving more expansive.  This year's proposals include a ban on reading text or emails while driving and giving the police the ability to pull someone over for talking on the phone even if the driver is not breaking any other laws.  Maryland is one of only five of the thirty states with cell phone restriction laws that still allow the reading of texts while driving.  Most legislators involved with the new proposals believe that the reading ban is likely to become law.  However, making talking on the cell phone a primary offense is probably not likely.

The ban of talking on the cell phone passed by only one vote last year.  Those opposed to the law cited all of the other activities which distract drivers and the existence of reckless driving laws.  One Montgomery County Democrat, who voted against the law last year, listed putting on makeup, eating, and reading the newspaper as activities that are just as dangerous.  Putting on makeup and READING THE NEWSPAPER while driving are extremely dangerous but relatively uncommon, while everybody has a cell phone.  However, eating an occasional double cheeseburger and/or four piece nugget while driving is a fundamental right and a liberty interest that should be protected. 

In all seriousness, driving while writing or reading a text is extremely dangerous and is a constant threat to other drivers. In fact, our litigation department now asks, as a standard question, for a copy of the defendant's cell phone records for the date and time of the accident in question. If you were involved in an accident that you believe was caused by cell phone use, contact the Maryland accident lawyers at Portner & Shure.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Police Lights Don't Excuse Negligence

Most Virginians have seen police officers speeding down the road with their lights flashing, running red lights and swerving in and out of traffic. We would all like to think that those officers are responding to an emergency and that their speed, and actions are required in order to save a life or prevent a crime. Sometimes this high speed driving, which for the general public would be police accident.jpgstrictly against the law, results in automobile accidents, with resulting injuries.

In Virginia, most cases and officer's actions are protected by sovereign immunity which prevents those officers from being sued for injuries they cause, because they were acting within the scope of their employment. What the public may not know, however, is that in order for an officer to respond to a call with the type of driving described above, the call must be related to an emergency situation. The implication is that if an officer is involved in an automobile accident where a normal member of the public would have been negligent and someone is injured, the mere fact that his emergency lights were activated does not protect him from a civil law suit.

A recent claim, a case against a Fairfax County police officer who ran a red light while responding to a report of a fistfight in progress and struck a vehicle, causing the driver to be ejected and die, was settled for $1.5 million dollars. The Court ruled that because the officer violated department policy by responding to a non-emergency call in an emergency manner, the Plaintiff's injury attorney only had to prove simple negligence to prevail.

State Trooper Ends Chase In Harford County, Maryland

On February 8, 2011, Federal Marshals issued a lookout for a silver Ford Taurus with Virginia tags in the Harford County area.  The operator of the vehicle, Brandon L. Pegram, 23, of Virginia was believed to be armed with a handgun and shotgun.  According to police officials, Pegram held his family hostage and threatened to harm any law enforcement officers who attempted to capture him. 

The vehicle was spotted by deputies at approximately 2:47 p.m. on Route 40 at Gateway Drive in Edgewood, Maryland.  The deputies attempted to initiate a stop when the vehicle fled the scene and traveled on Route 40 towards Baltimore County.  State Troopers from the Bel Air Barracks as well as Baltimore County officers joined in the pursuit.

Pegram attempted to ram civilian motorists and run down two deputies.  When he attempted to strike one of them a second time, causing the deputy to dive out of the way, a State Police Sergeant used his patrol vehicle to impact Pegram's vehicle.  The Trooper used a pit maneuver to force the suspect's vehicle to the side of the interstate and up against the guardrail.   The Trooper impacted Pegram's driver side door to prevent him from escaping on foot.

After resisting arrest Pegram was taken into custody with minor injuries.  He is facing charges of robbery, felony assault, kidnapping, first and second degree assault, vehicle theft, reckless endangerment, malicious destruction of property, and numerous traffic violations. 

Fortunately, innocent motorists were not injured in this accident.  Not to say, that the State Trooper who was forced to ram his patrol car into the suspect's vehicle did not sustain injuries.  In the event he did sustain injuries he would be entitled to make a claim for workers compensation as he was in the course of his employment when this accident occurred.  Workers compensation benefits an individual for an accidental injury at work.

In the event the suspect had endangered the lives of the other motorists or caused them bodily injuries they would have claims for personal injuries. Unfortunately, their claims would be known as uninsured motorist claims as they would not be able to make a claim against the owner of the vehicle the suspect was driving, as the vehicle was stolen.  Instead, the injured parties would be entitled to make a claim under their own automobile insurance for uninsured benefits.

If you, a family member, or someone you know has been involved in a work-related accident, car accident or you need more information on work-related accidents or car accidents, please visit us on the web at or contact one of our Maryland accident attorneys for a free consultation. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Maryland Pedestrians Beware

Why is it that many times the columns in the newspaper that we read the most are written by authors who we like the least? When it comes to the Ravens I can't stand Mike Preston but I always read his column. Another columnist who continuously rubs me the wrong way is Michael Dresser but, once again, I read his column more than just about any other in the Baltimore Sun. He covers issues ranging from DUI law to bicyclists. His last column claimed that Maryland was one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians. I think I agree with Mr. Dresser.

How could I not agree with him there is empirical evidence in support of his position. The Governors Highway Safety Association recently released a report showing that Maryland is one of only four states where more than twenty percent of all road fatalities involve a pedestrian. Maryland is also one of only four where the pedestrian fatality rate is more than 2 per 100,000 residents each year. There have been between 91 and 116 pedestrian deaths each year since 1991. Some blame the high numbers on the compact nature of Baltimore City others blame drivers' attitudes toward pedestrians. In other states drivers slow down when a pedestrian enters a crosswalk, as opposed to Baltimore where it seems more likely that a motorist would hit the gas.

A ticket for a motorist who fails to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk carries a $90 fine. In a world where a round of drinks or a nice bottle of wine can quickly approach $100, wouldn't a higher fine be more appropriate considering the possible consequences? After all, the fine for passing a school bus with flashing red lights is $570. The two offenses seem similar but their fines do not reflect the same. New York recently adopted the "Ellie's Law" statute. The statute was named after a three year old girl who, while in a crosswalk, was struck and left in a coma by a motorists in an SUV reversing to claim a parking spot. The law automatically suspends the license of any driver who strikes a pedestrian while driving recklessly. Maryland laws do not go so far, however, aggressive litigation against the motorists on behalf of the injured will discourage motorists' indifference towards pedestrians and at the same time help recover damages for any treatment and pain and suffering. Portner & Shure handles many cases involving pedestrians each year and refuses to accept negligent driver's excuses or claims of contributory negligence.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Plea Reached In Triple Fatality In Harford County, Maryland

More facts have come to light in a triple fatality accident that occurred in Harford County, Maryland, involving a drunk driver, which we blogged on a little over a year ago. In the blog, we questioned what steps could be taken to avoid this tragic accident. Naturally, the most logical would have been to take away the drunk driver's keys. Or in this particular case, stop serving the individual more alcohol and ensure that he does not get behind a wheel of a motor vehicle.

Travis Nelson Gray of Darlington entered a plea of guilty to three charges of negligent homicide while under the influence before his trial was scheduled to start in the Circuit Court for Harford County. On November 14, 2009, Gray was operating his 2002 Ford F250 north on Route 543 when he crossed into the lane for southbound traffic and collided head-on with a 1998 Ford F150 truck. Two of the occupants of the pickup truck, James Bielanski and his wife, Pamela Bielanski of Street, Maryland were pronounced dead on the scene. The other passenger, William Arbogast also of Street, Maryland was transported to Maryland Shock Trauma and died the next day.

Deputy State's Attorney H. Scott Lewis stated during the plea hearing that Gray's eyes were bloodshot at the scene and he stated that he had 3 or 4 beers, but refused to say where. Later police obtained Gray's bar tab from the Old School Tavern in Dublin, Maryland, which in effect resulted in Gray admitting that he had consumed alcoholic beverages at the tavern before the accident. The Maryland legal blood alcohol limit is .08. At the time of the accident Gray's blood alcohol limit was .27.

Thus, in going to back to imposing tougher laws and harsher sentences, should Old School Tavern be responsible to the victims in this fatal accident? Should a reasonable person be able to tell when an individual has had to much to drink? Interestingly enough, last June, the Harford County Liquor Board fined the tavern $6,000.00 and issued two seven day suspensions for three violations that occurred the same morning as the triple-fatal accident. However, this does not answer the question whether they too should be jointly liable for the wrongful deaths of these three victims.

If you, a family member, or someone you know has been injured in a car accident involving drunk drivers or you would like more information on car accidents, please visit us on the web at