April 8, 2014

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Program To Curtail Trucking Safety Violations Under Fire

Recently, this blog commented on a study done by the U.S. Department of Transportation ("USDOT") to determine the effectiveness of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's ("FMCSA") new hours-of-service regulations designed to reduce the frequency of accidents caused by truck driver fatigue.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"), 8.2 percent of all traffic fatalities occurring in 2011 involved large trucks. In Maryland, there were 692 motor vehicle accident fatalities, 38 of which were caused by crashes involving large trucks. The USDOT study concluded that the new HOS regulations would avoid approximately 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries, and 19 accident deaths will be avoided each year.

Despite this recent success in improving the safety of the trucking industry, the FMCSA is under fire as two other government agencies have questioned the efficacy of the FMSCA's recently developed Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program ("Program"). The Program assigns to trucking carriers based on safety and is intended to heighten accountability for carriers that continually violate safety rules. Recently, however, the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General ("OIG") and the Government Accountability Office ("GAO") have released the results of audits of the Program concluding that it suffers from several problems caused by inaccurate or incomplete data.

The OIG report determined that the Program had yet to complete development of several components designed to improve data accuracy and that only ten percent of states had fully executed enforcement of the Program.

The GAO audit maintained the Program assigned scores to some carriers that didn't accurately their actual safety record, thereby increasing the likelihood that the Program would categorize certain carriers as high risk when they were not necessarily so. For example, the audit found that, due to the inaccurate data issue, a small carrier with no safety problems could receive a worse score than a large carrier with a number of accidents.

The audit further concluded that, in certain cases, data used to score carriers was inaccurate due to differences in enforcement and inspection agencies in each state and some of the data used to calculate scores was self-reported and therefore potentially unreliable. Further, the report found that a majority of scored violations didn't occur with enough frequency to establish an association to higher risk of crashing (600 out of 750 regulations examined were violated by less than one percent of all carriers).

Fatigued truck drivers have been shown to have slower reaction times and exhibit an increased risk of causing an accident. Due to the immense weight and considerable size commercial trucks, proper operation of these vehicles is of particular importance. Negligence behind the wheel of such a vehicle can easily result in catastrophic accidents and severe injuries or death.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of commercial truck drivers. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

March 25, 2014

New Maryland Legislation Does Away With Dog Breed Distinctions

Early last year, this blog discussed a decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals in Tracey v. Solesky, which modified Maryland's "one bite rule" to specifically exclude pit bulls from its protections. The one bite rule is a negligence doctrine, established in the case of Twigg v. Ryland, 62 Md. 380 (1884), which holds that the owner or keeper of a dog may be held liable for injuries caused by the animal only if he has actual or constructive knowledge of its ferocious or dangerous propensities. Essentially, this means that after the dog bites one person the owner is put on notice of the animal's dangerous propensity.

In response to the decision, pit bull lovers began pressuring Maryland legislators to adopt a measure that would eliminate breed distinctions such as the one established by Solesky. Late last month, pit bull proponents scored a big victory when the Maryland Senate unanimously passed S.B. 247, which removes the breed specific standard and essentially codifies the one bite rule for all dogs.

S.B. 247 represents a middle ground between positions taken by the House and the Senate. As this blog has mentioned previously, both the Maryland House of Delegates and Maryland Senate have introduced bills in the past year related to this issue. The House bill would have done away with the one bite rule in favor of considering all dogs inherently dangerous, while the Senate bill would have allowed dog owners to avoid liability by showing by "clear and convincing" evidence that the dog was not dangerous before the incident.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S., resulting in approximately 16 fatalities. Dogsbite.org, a dog bite victims' advocacy group, estimates that, between 2005 and 2013, 283 Americans died as the result of dog bite injuries. Of those deaths, 176 (62.2%) were caused by pit bulls.

According to a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association, "controlled studies have not identified this breed group [pit bulls] as disproportionately dangerous." The study further concluded that "it has not been demonstrated that breed-specific bans affect the rate or severity of bite injuries occurring in the community" and other factors, such youth of the victim and familiarity of the animal, are more reliably associated with dog bite injuries.

Regardless of breed, dogs that are improperly cared for or unsupervised can pose a significant danger to the community, particularly young children, who are drawn to animals and cannot protect themselves if attacked. Victims of dog attacks can suffer severe injuries, resulting in the need for long-term medical treatment and reconstructive surgery.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing the victims of dog attacks. If you or someone you know has been injured in a dog attack, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

February 10, 2014

Highway Worker Killed By Runaway Truck In Baltimore County Construction Zone

According to a recent article published by the Baltimore Sun, 54-year-old highway worker John Kahl was struck and killed while working at a construction site on Interstate 695 near Liberty Road in Baltimore County.

In the afternoon of January 31, 2014, Kahl, of Port Deposit, Maryland, was working on a landscaping project commissioned by the State Highway Administration in the area of Pikesville, when a Ford pickup truck lost control and ran off the road. Kahl was clearing trees on the right shoulder of the highway when the truck struck him and the landscaping equipment that he was using at the time. Maryland State Police are investigating the incident, and have not yet determined what caused the truck to swerve off the roadway.

This unfortunate incident is yet another in a recent string of accidents in which Maryland highway workers have been killed while on the job. In November, 50-year-old Maryland State Highway Administration employee Eddie Gilyard was killed while repairing a road sign, when a car veered onto the shoulder and hit him. In June, Eric Meekins, 40, was struck and killed by a vehicle while placing road cones on Route 216 in Howard County. Two workers were killed in January of 2013 in Cecil County when a car swerved into the clearly marked construction area where the men were setting up cones.

A report published the by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") indicates that, between 2007 and 2012, 609 people were killed in highway work zones annually. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 101 worker fatalities at road construction sites in 2008, 116 in 2009, 106 in 2010, 122 in 2011, and 130 in 2012.

Although victims of highway accidents generally have a right to financial compensation through workers' compensation benefits, they may also be able to obtain recovery for their injuries from the negligent driver. When the negligence of a driver results in the death of a highway worker, under Maryland law, the decedent's family may be entitled to bring a wrongful death action.

A wrongful death claim can be brought against anyone who, through recklessness, carelessness, negligence, or lack of skill, causes the fatality of another. Damages in a wrongful death action are measured in terms of the injury to loved ones caused by the death of the victim, and can include loss of future earnings, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering.

Sadly, wrongful death actions can arise from a host of unfortunate circumstances, including traffic accidents, medical malpractice (such as through surgical error or misdiagnosis of an illness), defective products, premises liability, or improper supervision.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured or killed by the negligent acts of another. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed as a result of the negligence of another person, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

January 13, 2014

Back to the Basics: Medical Malpractice 101

Imagine this scenario: it's the middle of the night, and your child wakes up vomiting. Just the day before, you were thinking that the remedy for a tummy ache and a slight fever was ibuprofen and bed. Now though your child is in unbearable pain. You rush to the emergency room, where you discover that your child has acute appendicitis and surgery is required. Before being discharged from the hospital, your child develops an infection, and as a result suffers tissue damage in the abdomen. There is a two-week stay in the hospital and a huge invoice, missed school, and missed work (you use up all your vacation days), and your child still has stomach pain and trouble eating and sleeping. What can you do? Who is responsible? Do you have a medical malpractice case?

Understanding the Law

The first requirement for a medical malpractice case is proof that the doctor or hospital had a legal duty to your child. The second requirement is an actual injury. The third requirement is whether the doctor or hospital (and its staff) violated the standard of care, and the final requirement is that the breach of the standard of care must have caused the injury.

"Standard of care" is the measuring stick against which a doctor's diagnosis or treatment is measured when determining whether or not there is a case of medical malpractice. As noted in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, "[t]here is no medical definition for standard of care, although the term is firmly established in law and is defined [in the The Legal Dictionary] as 'the caution that a reasonable person in similar circumstances would exercise in providing care to a patient.' "

What measures have to be taken to prevent infection, sanitary conditions, how soon the infection is discovered, and how everything was treated are all questions determined by standard of care. To successfully pursue a medical malpractice claim, there has be proof that the standard of care was violated either by something that was done (which shouldn't have been done), or by failing to do something (which should have been done). The question of whether the breach of the standard of care caused the infection is not always as simple as keeping the hospital clean and sterile. As reported in Science Daily, many people carry bacteria in their own bodies that pose sources of postoperative infection. Treating patients with antibiotics before surgery has become the standard of care to address this preventable threat.

In this country, there is no effective self-policing mechanism for errors in treatment and the injuries they cause. As noted physician Dr. Atul Gawande has written "medicine has offered no genuine alternative--because physicians are generally unwilling to take financial responsibility for the consequences of their mistakes." In the same article, 55 percent of doctors polled about what they would do if they were injured by malpractice said they would sue.

Those doctors know the simple truth: people who get hurt by doctors or hospitals have only one recourse - get a lawyer.
The experienced legal professionals at Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC understand the complexities of medical malpractice case and are proud to work with families throughout Maryland on these issues. If you or someone you know may have been hurt by malpractice, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

January 3, 2014

Federal District Court Applies Contributory Negligence Doctrine to Car Accident Case

Last month, this blog discussed an opinion of the Maryland Court of Appeals issued in the case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, which many legal scholars thought would be an opportunity for the Court to finally strike down Maryland's outdated doctrine of contributory negligence. The Court did not do so, ultimately holding that the question of whether to get rid of contributory negligence in Maryland is an issue for the state legislature to handle.

As this blog has discussed before, Maryland is one of only five jurisdictions in the United States that continues to use the legal doctrine of contributory negligence. The doctrine of contributory negligence states that, if a plaintiff's failure to exercise due care contributes to the cause of an accident, he or she will be totally precluded from recovering damages from the other party.

Most jurisdictions now operate under the theory of comparative negligence, which allows an injured party to recover damages to the extent for which the other party was at fault for an accident that results in injury. For instance, the recovery of a plaintiff who is deemed to be 30% liable for an accident would be limited to 70% of the total amount of his or her damages.

In June of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit was called on to determine the applicability of Maryland's contributory negligence doctrine in a car accident case. In Saravia v. Chen, U.S. Ct. App., 4th Cir. (2013), the plaintiffs sued New Century Travel, Inc., and its employee, De Yue Chen, in connection with a fatal automobile accident. The plaintiffs contended that Chen's negligence caused the accident. Because the parties were from different states, the action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

The defendants were granted summary judgment after the District Court concluded that the deceased driver's negligence had contributed to the cause of the accident, therefore barring any recovery.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that the decedent was contributorily negligent by getting out of his truck, and walking into an active highway lane at night in a poorly lit area. The plaintiffs argued that, even if the decedent was contributorily negligent, the last clear doctrine should have applied to allow them to recover.

The last clear doctrine applies when a defendant has "a fresh opportunity to avert the consequences of his original negligence and the plaintiff's contributory negligence," but fails to do so. When a defendant has a chance to prevent the consequence of his negligence, but does not take advantage of it, he can be held liable despite the plaintiff's contributory negligence.

The Fourth Circuit found that the doctrine did not apply because the decedent's negligence occurred concurrently with the defendant's negligence, and therefore there was no fresh opportunity for the defendant to have avoided the accident.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of another. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

December 5, 2013

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Announces Increase In Annual Traffic Fatalities

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") recently published annual statistics regarding traffic fatalities, gathered using its Fatality Analysis Reporting System ("FARS"), indicating an increase in deaths resulting from U.S. highway accidents between 2011 and 2012. According to the NHTSA, fatalities increased more than three percent (3.3%) to 33,561 in 2012 from 32,479 in 2011. The first quarter of 2012 accounted for nearly three-fourths (72%) of that increase, which was made up largely of accidents involving pedestrians and motorcyclists. The uptick in deaths is the first since 2005, as traffic fatalities have been steadily decreasing since then and have stayed at historic lows for several years.

Although motorists drove almost the same number of miles in 2011 and 2012, the statistics demonstrate a marked increase in fatalities for various types of drivers. Indeed, motorcycle riders and pedestrians appeared to be the most at risk as motorcyclist fatalities increased about 7% and pedestrian fatalities increased approximately 6%, both for the third consecutive year. Also at increased risk were occupants of large-trucks, for whom the rate of fatality went up 8.9% from 2011. Finally, unsurprisingly, alcohol-related driving deaths rose 4.6% from 9,865 to 10,322.

As this blog has discussed before, distracted driving is becoming an increasingly worrisome problem for America's motorists. According to the NHTSA, in 2009, more than five thousand people were killed on U.S. highways and another 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. The new data suggests that, although distracted driving crashes actually decreased from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012, the problem of distracted driving is not getting better, as the number of people injured in those crashes increased dramatically from 387,000 to 421,000.

According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, "Highway deaths claim more than 30,000 lives each year and while we've made substantial progress over the past 50 years, it's clear that we have much more work to do. We must focus our efforts to tackle persistent and emerging issues that threaten the safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians across the nation."

Although over a dozen states enjoyed a decrease in overall traffic fatalities Maryland was, unfortunately, not one of them. Maryland experienced a an increase in total traffic fatalities of 4.1%, from 485 in 2011 to 505 in 2012. However, although eighteen states suffered an increase in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, Maryland saw a slight decrease of .06% as such deaths dropped from 161 in 2011 to 160 in 2012.

If you, your family or friends have been involved an accident in which you sustained injuries at the hands of a negligent driver, you may need legal representation to protect your right to compensation. The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of another. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

November 18, 2013

Recent Winter Weather Raises Premises Liability Concerns

With winter just around the corner and the first snow falling in Maryland over the last few days, it is important that people begin to exercise caution so as to avoid the danger that ice and snow can pose to pedestrians. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC"), over one million Americans suffer a slip and fall injury each year, and, of those injuries, more than 17, 000 prove fatal. Further, ice and snow accumulation is one of, if not the leading cause of, slip and fall injuries.

As this blog has discussed before, property owners owe those individuals that enter onto their premises a duty to maintain that property in reasonably safe condition. This duty is commonly referred to in legal terms as premises liability. Slip and fall claims usually arise when a customer of a business trips or falls as the result of a slippery surface, uneven pavement, or improperly constructed or maintained stairwell. As already mentioned, one of the most common causes of slippery and/or uneven surfaces is accumulation of ice and snow.

Until recently, Maryland law stated that the risk posed by ice and snow was one which "anyone of adult age must be taken to appreciate" and, therefore, a person who slips on snow or ice had assumed the risk of such a hazardous condition. This meant that such an injured individual would be barred from recovering for such injury, regardless of the actions of the property owner.

In 2011, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision that made a previously unrecognized distinction between regular ice and "black ice," the difference being that black ice is much more difficult to detect. In Poole v. Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc. the Court of Appeals concluded that knowledge of the risk of black ice cannot be imputed to plaintiffs as a matter of law where the facts regarding the plaintiff's knowledge of the ice in question are disputed.

Under a theory of premises liability, a property owner will be liable for any injuries that occur on his or her property resulting from a defect in the premises that the owner knew or should have known about. A defect is defined as a condition or characteristic of the premises that poses an unreasonable risk of injury to persons who enter the property. Under the holding in Poole, black ice can be considered such a defect which can result in a property owner's liability for injuries resulting from its presence.

Property owners owe their guests a duty to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition, which is referred to as their duty of care. The duty of care owed by a property owner varies depending on the nature of the reason why the injured party was on the property. The duty of care falls into the following three categories:

Invitees

Invitees are persons who enter onto premises for the purpose of conducting business for the benefit of the property owner. Property owners have a duty to invitees to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to repair or warn of known dangerous conditions.

The most common example of an invitee is the patron of a retail store. For instance, grocery stores create dangerous conditions all the time when employees mop or wax floors, making them slippery. The store cannot avoid this hazard unless it stops cleaning its floors. The store can, however, notify patrons of the potentially dangerous condition, therefore satisfying its duty to warn, and avoiding liability for injuries resulting from a fall. Property owners sometimes owe a heightened duty to guarantee the safety of children that may not be able to read or understand warnings or appreciate a particular hazardous situation.

Property owners also owe invitees a duty to regularly inspect their premises in order to discover potentially dangerous conditions. Accordingly, property owners can be found liable for injuries caused by hazards of which they did not have actual knowledge but should have known about.

Licensees

Licensees are individuals that enter a property for social reasons, such as guests at a party. Property owners owe licensees a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition and to remedy unsafe conditions. Property owners also owe licensees a duty to warn them of known hazards on the property. Unlike an invitee, a licensee is not owed a duty to warn or remedy dangerous conditions that should have been discovered by the property owner.

Trespassers

Despite what any people might think, property owners do, in fact, owe a limited duty to trespassers on their property. Property owners owe trespassers a duty to prevent intentional or reckless injuries. A discovered trespasser, i.e. one that the owner knows is on the property, is also owed a duty to warn of known hazards that the trespasser could not ordinarily detect.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals that have been injured as a result of the negligence of property owners. If you or someone you know has been injured on the property of another, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

November 5, 2013

Maryland High Court Opinion Upholds Contributory Negligence Doctrine

Earlier this year, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an important opinion in the case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, which many legal scholars felt might toll the death knell for the doctrine of contributory negligence in Maryland.

Maryland is one of only five jurisdictions in the United States that continues to use the legal doctrine of contributory negligence. The doctrine of contributory negligence states that, if a plaintiff's failure to exercise due care contributes to the cause of an accident; he or she will be totally precluded from recovering damages from the other party.

For instance, if an individual is injured in a car accident caused by another driver's negligence, but was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, the injured party may be barred from recovering because his negligent act, in failing to wear a seatbelt, contributed to the cause of his injuries.

In Coleman, the plaintiff, James Kyle Coleman, was seriously injured when a set of goalposts fell on his face. Coleman, a volunteer soccer coach for the defendant, Columbia Soccer Association ("Association"), had jumped up and grabbed the posts' crossbar. The soccer goal was not anchored to the ground, and Coleman fell backwards, pulling the goal onto his face. Coleman suffered severe facial fractures that required surgery.

Coleman sued the Association, alleging that he had been injured by the Association's negligent failure to secure the soccer goal to the ground. At trial, the Association asserted the defense of contributory negligence, and a jury found that, although the Association had been negligent, so had Coleman, barring him from any recovery.
Coleman filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals, asserting one question to be address: whether the Court should retain the standard of contributory negligence as the common law standard governing negligence cases in the State of Maryland.

In a 5-2 majority, the Court of Appeals upheld the principle of contributory negligence, asserting that the question of whether to change to another model is one for the state legislature to answer. The Court opined:

The General Assembly's repeated failure to pass legislation abrogating the defense of contributory negligence is very strong evidence that the legislative policy in Maryland is to retain the principle of contributory negligence....For this Court to change the common law and abrogate the contributory negligence defense in negligence actions, in the face of the General Assembly's repeated refusal to do so, would be totally inconsistent with the Court's long-standing jurisprudence.

One of two dissenters, Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. wrote, "With the force of a modern asteroid strike, this Court should render, in the present case, this dinosaur extinct."

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligence of another. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of another person's negligent conduct, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

October 21, 2013

Eleven Injured In Suspected Street Racing Accident

Earlier this month, WUSA9 reported that eleven motorists had sustained injuries in a car accident in Brandywine, Maryland, believed to have been caused by illegal street racing. According to the story, the crash occurred on October 6, at approximately 2:00 pm when a black Mercury Marauder speeding in the northbound lane of State Route 301 when it crossed the median and slammed into oncoming traffic, wrecking five other vehicles.

A total of eleven people were taken to area hospitals with varying degrees of injury. Some were airlifted while others were taken by ground. The cause of and circumstances surrounding the accident remain under investigation. Although Maryland State Police are still investigating the cause of the accident and still have yet to charge anyone, witnesses to the incident believe that drag racing may have been involved.

Street racing is not only illegal in Maryland; it also constitutes a special form of negligence referred to in legal terms as "per se" negligence. Generally, Maryland law requires that, in order to recover for an injury, the plaintiff must prove that the other party was negligent. A person is negligent when they fail to exercise "ordinary care" in their course of conduct. Proving negligence involves establishing the following elements:

• The defendant that caused the injury owed the plaintiff a "duty."
• The defendant failed to satisfy or breached his/her duty to the plaintiff.
• The defendant's breach of his/her duty caused some type of injury to the plaintiff.

Per se negligence is a legal doctrine wherein a person's actions are considered negligent merely because they violated a statute. When a statute exists imposing a duty upon a defendant, to establish a claim of per se negligence, the plaintiff only has to demonstrate that:

• The defendant violated the statute.
• The defendant's actions caused the kind of harm the statute was designed to prevent.
• The plaintiff was a member of class of individual's the statute was designed to protect.

Under the Maryland Code, street racing is illegal and punishable as a misdemeanor carrying a fine of $500 and/or 60 days. Accordingly, an individual injured as a result of the negligent, and illegal, street racing of another may be able rely upon the per se negligence doctrine in seeking recovery.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that approximately 49 people are injured in street drag racing accidents for every 1,000 individuals that participate. In 2001, the NHTSA reported that police listed street racing as a factor in 135 fatal crashes, a significant increase from 72 street-racing-related fatalities reported in 2000.

By its very nature, street racing is inherently dangerous and poses an extreme risk of injury and death to both participants and other motorists. The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of another. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

September 23, 2013

Fatal Motorcycle Accident On Maryland Roadway

According to a recent story published by Southern Maryland News Net, Maryland State Police responded to a reported serious motor vehicle collision occurring on US Route 301 north of MD Route 227 that left two motorcyclists dead.

Reports indicate that the accident occurred on Monday, September 16, when a Kenworth Tractor towing a trailer was traveling northbound on US Route 301 through the intersection at MD Route 227 when a Yamaha XZF-R1 Motorcycle occupied by two males allegedly failed to control its speed and ran into the rear of the trailer.

The driver of the tractor suffered no injuries in the collision; however, both occupants of the motorcycle were ejected and died from their injuries on the scene.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") indicate that ten percent of the fatal motor vehicle accidents occurring each year in the United States involve collision with a motorcycle. The State of Maryland draws a large number of motorcyclists to its roadways every year, unfortunately resulting in an increase in the number of motorcycle accidents. NHTSA estimates that, in 2011, more than eighty thousand motorists suffered a motorcycle-related crash.

Motorcycle accidents often result in catastrophic injuries due to the limited protection they provide to rides in contrast to more traditional modes of transportation such as cars and trucks. In addition, motorcycles are much less visible than larger vehicles, increasing the risk of their being involved in an accident. One statistic states the risk of motorcyclists' likelihood of being killed in a traffic accident at sixteen times that of the driver of an automobile.

In 1992, Maryland adopted Section 21-1306 of the Maryland Code, which requires both passengers and riders of motorcycles to wear protective headgear, or be subject to a fine up to $500. There has been a significant amount of debate as to the constitutionality of Maryland's helmet requirement; however, statistics appear to support its effectiveness.

The number of fatal motorcycle accident crashes on Maryland's roadways in 1992, the year the law was passed, was 54. Over the course of the next five years, the number of fatal motorcycle accident crashes was 43, 30, 27, 28, and 27. Based upon these figures, it could be argued that the motorcycle helmet law had a positive effect on the number of fatal motorcycle accidents occurring in Maryland.

If you, your family or friends have been involved an accident in which you sustained injuries at the hands of a negligent driver, you may need legal representation to protect your right to compensation. The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of another. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car or motorcycle accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

September 5, 2013

New Study Claims Cell Phone Use Does Not Affect Driving Ability

Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, recently collaborated on a study, entitled "Driving under the (Cellular) Influence" that concludes that cell phone use while driving a motor vehicle does not increase the risk of being involved in an accident.

As this blog has discussed before, the prevailing view on this issue is that the distraction of using a cell phone while driving increases the risk of crashing. This study, however, claims that, although cell phone use has increased over the last several decades, the number of car crashes per mile traveled in the United States has decreased. In order to reach this conclusion, the study analyzed cell phone data from an unidentified service provider and compared it to the rate of car accidents.

The cell data showed a seven percent increase in call volume after 9 p.m., attributed to service plans offering free nights. This data was then compared to crash data of eight million car accidents in nine states, and all fatal crashes across the nation. Based on this analysis, a conclusion was drawn that no correlation existed between cell phone use while driving and an increased risk of accidents.

The Carnegie Mellon study may be the only one to reach its conclusions regarding the effect that cell phone usage has on an individual's ability to drive. Indeed, as recently as June of this year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that motorists are incapable of safely performing the tasks necessary to safely operate a vehicle while simultaneously talking on the phone or texting.

The study, entitled "Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile," sought to establish a method by which researchers could measure and understand "cognitive distraction" in motor vehicles by performing various experiments designed to assess the effect distractions had on the ability of participants to effectively operate a motor vehicle. According to the AAA study, drivers exposed to increased mental workload and distractions, such as using a cell phone, experience slowed reaction times and compromised brain function, corresponding to an increased risk of crashing.

Further, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHSTA") found that in 2009, more than 5,000 people were killed and 448,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Cell phone use was identified as the distraction in 995 of the crashes resulting in death and over 24,000 in those causing injury.
Although the issue of whether cell use while driving has yet to be definitively settled, it is still advisable for motorists to refrain from using their phones while driving as cellphone use while driving has been illegal in Maryland as secondary offense since 2010.

If you or someone you know has been involved an accident in which you sustained injuries due to the negligence of a distracted driver, you may need legal representation to protect your right to compensation. The attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been the victim of distracted driving practices. If you or someone you know has been injured in automobile accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

August 20, 2013

Family Files Wrongful Death Claim Against Landlord In Wake Of Deadly House Fire

According to a recent article published by the Baltimore Sun, the relatives of five people that were killed in a Baltimore, Maryland house fire last year have filed suit against the landlord of the property and the city housing authority. On October 11, 2012, Nancy Worrell and four of her grandchildren died when their house on Denwood Avenue caught on fire, trapping the decedents inside.

According to the lawsuit, the fire was caused by the landlord's negligent failure to repair a defective furnace and install working smoke detectors. The lawsuit further alleges that a housing authority official inspected the property in January 2012 and awarded an "inconclusive" rating to the heating equipment, but the home was never re-inspected. The lawsuit contends that, because the Housing Authority of Baltimore was paying a portion of the home's rent through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, it was negligent in failing to require the landlord to fix the furnace and install smoke detectors.

Under Maryland law, when the death of person is caused by the negligence of another, the decedent's family may bring two different causes of action. The first, referred to as a survival action, is brought by the personal representative of the deceased seeking recovery for the pain and suffering and other damages suffered by the victim up to the time of death. In a survival action, the damages able to be recovered are limited to:

• Funeral expenses.
• Property damage.
• Medical expenses incurred from the time of injury to the time of death.
• Lost wages from the time of injury to the time of death.
• Non-economic damages, such as pain, suffering, mental anguish, suffered by the victim from the time of injury to the time of death.

The second cause of action is a wrongful death claim, which may be asserted by the relatives of the decedent and seeking compensation for the victim's death. Under Maryland's wrongful death statute, only a child, a parent or a spouse of the deceased may bring a wrongful death claim.

A wrongful death claim can be brought against anyone who, through recklessness, carelessness, negligence or lack of skill, causes the fatality of another. Damages in a wrongful death action are measured in terms of the injury to loved ones caused by the death of the victim, and can include loss of future earnings, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering.

Sadly, wrongful death actions can arise from a myriad of unfortunate circumstances, including traffic accidents, medical malpractice (such as through surgical error or misdiagnosis of an illness), defective products, premises liability, or improper supervision.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured or killed by the negligent acts of another. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed as a result of the negligence of another person, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

August 16, 2013

Maryland High Court Refuses To Adopt Dram Shop Liability

Late last week, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an important opinion in the case of Warr v. JMGM, in which the Court refused to establish dram shop liability in Maryland. Dram shop liability is a legal theory under which an establishment that sells alcohol can be held liable for serving a knowingly intoxicated patron that later causes injury to another as the result of his or her inebriation. Maryland law grants complete immunity to liquor establishments and is in the minority as forty-fives states currently have some type of dram shop laws on their books.

In Warr, a bar patron drank approximately seventeen beers and several shots of whiskey over six hours on August 21, 2008, at the Dogfish Head Ale House in Gaithersburg, Maryland. At the time he left the establishment, he was heavily intoxicated. A short time later, as he was driving well in excess of the speed limit on Interstate 270, he rear-ended the vehicle of the Warr family. Three members of the Warr family were severely injured and a ten-year-old girl was killed.

The Warr family sued JMGM Group, LLC, owner of the Dogfish Head Alehouse, alleging that the establishment had breached its duty to "not furnish alcohol to intoxicated persons," proximately causing injury to the Warrs and the death of their child. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of JMGM based upon its argument that dram shop liability was not recognized as a cause of action in Maryland.

The Maryland Court of Appeals granted certiorari and, in a lengthy opinion, affirmed the trial court, holding that it is the role of the Maryland Legislature, not the courts, to adopt dram shop liability and declined to impose a duty upon a tavern to protect the general public, absent a special relationship. The Court concluded that the Legislature "is in a far better position that this Court to gather the empirical data and to make the fact finding necessary to determine what the public policy [regarding dram shop liability] should be."

Dissenting Judge Sally Adkins recognized that "an average of 220 people died annually as a result of impaired driving-related crashes on Maryland roads" and that 40% of the accidents in Maryland are caused by drunk drivers. Judge Adkins opined that, despite these statistics, the legislature has not taken action to adopt dram shop liability and therefore it was up the Court to do so.

Notwithstanding the Court's opinion in Warr, an individual that has been injured by the negligent driving of an intoxicated motorist is still entitled to recover from that individual. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a personal injury, you may need legal representation to protect your right to compensation.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of another. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

July 25, 2013

Energy Drink Company Targeted By Another Lawsuit In Death Of Teen

Late last month, another lawsuit was filed against Monster Beverage Corp., the manufacturer of the popular line of Monster energy drinks, alleging the plaintiff's teenage son died from cardiac arrhythmia brought on by his regular consumption of the drink. Nineteen year old Alex Morris went into cardiac arrest on July 1, 2012, and was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital.

According to the lawsuit, Morris's death was caused by his consumption of approximately two cans of Monster's energy drink every day for the three years leading up to his death, including the day he died. The attorney representing Morris's family has also filed a similar lawsuit against Monster on behalf of the family of a 14-year-old Maryland teen who died after drinking two 24 ounce cans of the beverage. Both actions claim that the teens' deaths were caused the energy drinks and Monster's failure to warn about the dangers of ingesting the product.

Monster Beverage has denied the claims in both suits, claiming that there is no evidence to establish a causal connection between the teens consumption of its products and their deaths. Producers of energy drinks such as those made by Monster have faced heightened scrutiny recently from the U.S. The Food & Drug Administration as part of its investigation into several deaths purportedly linked to energy drinks.

As this blog has discussed before, under Maryland law, a person that has been injured or killed by a dangerous or defective product may be able to hold the manufacturer, designer, or retailer of that product liable for the resulting injuries or death. This type of lawsuit is commonly referred to as a product liability claim. Product liability is a type of negligence claim in which the plaintiffs asserts that the manufacturer, designer, or retailer of the product failed to act in a reasonably prudent manner.

There are three types of product defects from which such a claim can arise: (1) manufacturing defect (in which there is a defect in the way the product is made); (2) design defect (in which there is a defect in the way a product is designed); and (3) warning defect (in which there is a failure to warn users of the potential hazards associated with the product).

Defective products have been known to cause severe injuries such as burns, head, spine, and neck injuries, lacerations, and concussions, all of which can result in lengthy, and expensive, medical treatment. In this case, Monster is being accused of a warning defect, i.e. that it failed to properly advise consumers that overconsumption of the beverage was potentially health hazardous and, unfortunately, resulted in the deaths of two young individuals.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by defective products, including automobiles, consumer products, power tools, and aircraft. If you or someone you know has been injured by a defective product, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.

July 9, 2013

Regulations Restricting Maximum Number Of Hours Truckers Can Drive At A Time Become Effective July 1, 2013

In February of this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ("FMCSA") approved new regulations modifying the number of hours commercial truck drivers can operate a vehicle during a given period of time.

These new hours-of-service ("HOS") safety requirements became effective yesterday, July 1, 2013, and are intended to reduce the number of accidents caused by driver fatigue. The new regulations are estimated to ultimately save 19 lives and prevent 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year. Further, the regulations will act as a cost-cutting measure. According to Anne S. Ferro, the FMCSA Administrator, the new rules will result in an "estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health."

Although the regulations have preserved portions of the old rules, e.g. the eleven hour daily driving limit, they have substantially changed most and added new provisions. For example, the new rules cut the maximum number of hours a trucker can drive in a given week from 82 down to 70.

The new provisions also mandate that truckers who have driven eight straight hours take a break of at least thirty minutes before they are permitted to return to work. Also, drivers that wish to "max out" the permissible number of weekly hours must rest a minimum of two nights per week from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., the period which the FMCSA has declared is when the "24-hour body clock demands sleep the most." This resting restriction is part of the"34-hour restart" program that requires truckers to have at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty to reset the clock on their work week.

In order to ensure compliance with the new regulations, the FMCSA has also instituted harsher penalties for violations of the rules. Trucking companies will now face civil penalties of up to $11,000 and drivers $2,750 for "egregious" violations of the regulations. An egregious violation means driving more than 3 hours beyond the established time limits.

Fatigued truck drivers have been shown to have slower reaction times and exhibit an increased risk of causing an accident. The dangers associated with fatigued driving have been exacerbated by the nature of the industry, which provides financial incentives to drivers that are able to deliver loads faster or in greater quantities. Truckers are able to deliver more loads or cover more miles by driving faster or longer and can earn more money.

Due to the immense weight and considerable size commercial trucks, proper operation of these vehicles is of particular importance. Negligence behind the wheel of such a vehicle can easily result in catastrophic accidents and severe injuries or death.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of commercial truck drivers. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.