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!