October 14, 2014

Traffic Camera Revenue Increases While Driver Safety Decreases

Between 1998 and 2004, collisions were up 61 percent while fatal crashes were up by 81 percent, due to red light and speed cameras in the District of Columbia. Traffic cameras can increase fatal and injury collisions because they can alter the driving behaviors of drivers. The major concern is that it causes drivers to come to sudden stops when they see these traffic cameras, therefore; causing more rear end collisions and fatalities.
In Virginia the same can be said for the use of traffic cameras. Rear-end collisions increased about 27 percent between 1998 and 2004.

With the use of these traffic cameras come fines for drivers. While the District of Columbia and Virginia see an increase in revenue, due to the cameras, drivers are burdened with these fines. It is clear that motorist who speed, run red lights and otherwise violate traffic laws need to be ticketed. But, the automated system that is imposed in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, are clearly focused on revenue first, not safety. There needs to be a more accurate and a fair way of ticketing these unsafe drivers.

By the end of this fiscal year, which was September 30, these traffic cameras have generated $26.1 million in revenue for the District of Columbia. The District should not have to depend on the revenues from these cameras to balance its budget. The purpose of these cameras, originally, was safety, but it is clear that now it is more about the revenue that come from the use of these cameras, then safety of drivers in the city.

October 6, 2014

Motorcycle Safety In the State of Maryland

Driving a motor cycle takes skill and concentration. In the state of Maryland, there are voluntary courses that riders can take, in order to get the proper training and strategies to operating a motorcycle. These courses are offered to new, as well as, experienced riders. Since the MVA's Motorcycle Safety Program began, over 100,000 people have learned to ride motorcycles. The criteria for the MVA Motorcycle Safety program, meets and exceeds the standards established by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

Maryland residents under the age of 18, who want to apply for a motorcycle license, however, need to complete either of the two motorcycle safety courses offered by the MVA. One is the Basic Rider Course and the other is the Alternate Basic Rider Course. In these courses, riders learn special skills and mental strategies necessary to ride a motorcycle responsibly. They also learn awareness of motorcycle safety and state laws.

In the program riders are given certain safety tips. Some of which are:

- Make ones' self visible. This means wearing riding gear that makes you more visible in traffic in addition to providing protection in the event of a crash. Wear bright colors and reflective strips/decals at night.
- Ride with your headlights on and in areas where you can be seen easily. Do not ride in a vehicle driver's blind spot. If you can't see them, they can't see you.
- Give yourself ample space and time to react.
- Always use your turn signals as well as hand signals, I possible. Avoid weaving in and out of traffic lanes and flash your brake lights when you are slowing down and before stopping.
- Be Non-aggressive and cooperative. Share the road with other drivers.
- Make sure and wear the proper gear when riding your motorcycle, which should include, over the ankle boots, gloves, protective jacket, pants and a helmet with a face shield or protective glasses.

Therefore; if you are involved in a motorcycle accident, first seek immediate emergency treatment and then contact an attorney to help you handle your claim. Our office is open Monday-Friday 8 am-5:30 pm, but we are always available by phone and email.

September 22, 2014

"Move Over Law" to Include Tow Trucks as of October 1, 2014 in Maryland

The state of Maryland has passed a new traffic law which states that a driver is required to move over a lane when passing a stopped emergency vehicle. This means that if for example: A police officer is on the far right lane and is flashing its lights, every motorist in the far right lane should move one lane to the left, if not they can and will be ticketed. It is referred to as the "Move Over Law" and it is intended to provide police and other emergency responders a bit more of a safety margin when they're at work on highways and major roadways. This law in particular took effect in Maryland in 2010, but many drivers are unaware and therefore being ticketed for this infraction. As for Virginia, the law took effect in 2002 and the District of Columbia has yet to implement such a law.

In Maryland the exact language of the law is the following:

"Drivers approaching an emergency vehicle using signals while stopped on a highway are required to make a lane change, if possible, into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the emergency vehicle. If mobbing to another lane is unsafe, the driver must slow to a "reasonable and prudent speed, given the current conditions on the highway."

Emergency vehicles are considered to be those operated by law enforcement agencies, vehicles of rescue squads and fire departments, Maryland emergency medical services, state vehicles responding to oil or hazardous material spills and ambulances of all types. As of October 1, 2014, this law will also include tow trucks.

The violation is considered a primary offense. This means that you do not have to be doing anything else illegal to be stopped by police. The fine is $110 and one point on a driver's license. However; if the violation contributes to an automobile accident, the fine increases to $150 and three points. If however the violation contributes to a fatal automobile accident or one where there is a serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points on a driver's license.

September 4, 2014

Check Your Vehicle for Recalls Through a New Government Website

A new government website will help consumers, who are looking to buy a used vehicle, make a better decision about the vehicle they are interested in purchasing, by publishing open recalls on used vehicles. The government website, can use a vehicle's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to list any open recalls on the vehicle. Currently, there is no law against preventing used car dealerships from selling recalled vehicles that haven't been fixed. Therefore; it is up to the consumer to be educated and well versed on the used vehicle they intend to buy, and that is where this new website comes into play.

Consumers, are therefore, advised to visit the website where these recalled vehicles will be listed by going to www.Safercar.gov. Once you are on the site, you can subscribe and opt to receive an email for all vehicle recall notifications. Every consumer that subscribes can sign up for up to five vehicle notifications. If not, you can just put the make and model year of the vehicle and/or the vehicles VIN and any and all recalls for that vehicle will show up.

August 18, 2014

Electronic Cigarettes the Go-to- Device for Quitting Smoking

According to the journal "Addiction", most smokers that are trying to quit use electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) as their go-to-device for quitting smoking. It was published by the journal that smokers who use e-cigs are 60% more likely to succeed at quitting than those smokers who use the nicotine patch or gum.

In the United States there are at least six million people who smoke electronic cigarettes. The industry is expected to reach $1.5 billion in sales this year alone. In 2013, the total year sale from these e-cigs was $79 million.

Another study included a survey conducted by the Kantar Media Research Firm, which found that 57% of smokers who use a smoking cessation device choose e-cigs, while only 39% choose a drug and 30% choose nicotine gums and patches.

The FDA, however is concerned with the health risks of the use of these e-cig devices to stop smoking because studies have shown that they release formaldehyde and other carcinogens. Therefore; the FDA has issued warning letter to various e-cig manufactures. In these letters it is declared that claiming that electronic cigarettes help people quit smoking is illegal without FDA approval first. The companies have conducted little to no clinical trials and have no evidence to support their claims, therefore; before these companies can call their devices smoking cessation devices, the FDA must evaluate them for safety and effectiveness.

In April 2014, the FDA announced proposed rules to regulate e-cigs. The proposed rules will restrict the sale and purchase of e-cigs to children under the age of 18. Also, manufactures will be required to register their products with the FDA, report ingredients and market the products only after receiving FDA review and approval, and, most importantly the manufacturers cannot claim that the devices can be used to quit smoking, unless they undergo an FDA review first.

August 4, 2014

Mirena IUD Lawsuits to Be Heard in NY in March 2016

Mirena is a form of birth control that was introduced in 2000. It is long-lasting and used as an intrauterine device (IUD), which is manufactured by Bayer Healthcare. The device is implanted into the uterus and is intended to prevent pregnancy for up to five years. However, in some incidents, women, who have had this device implanted, suffered severe and debilitating injuries when the IUD spontaneously moved from its original implantation location, puncturing the uterus and causing various internal injuries.

The first trial for the lawsuit against Mirena IUD (intrauterine device) will begin in March 2016. There have been hundreds of Mirena IUD lawsuits filed all across the United States and the U.S. District Judge presiding over these cases has set up a schedule that states that the first trial will begin in March 2016.

When Bayer Healthcare first introduced the Mirena IUD in 2000, it promoted the IUD as a hassle-free form of birth control. Women however, started complaining to their doctors and it was determined that some of the IUD's migrated from the initial implant site, perforating the uterus and other organs, causing major infections and abscesses, and leaving women unknowingly unprotected against the chance of pregnancy.

Bayer Healthcare now faces more than 2,000 product liability lawsuits nationwide. All the lawsuits involve similar allegations that the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings about the risk of injuries associated with side effects of Mirena IUD use.

Since Mirena was introduced, there have been more than 70,000 adverse events filed with the FDA, all which involve the Mirena IUD problems. 500 of the cases involved women who claimed that the Mirena IUD moved out of place since 2008 and 1,322 reported that the Mirena IUD punctured their uterus.

Bayer, however has attempted to defend their case by saying that the risk of perforation was included on the warning labels provided. Plaintiffs and women affected, however, claim that that warnings are/were vague, misleading and suggested that the risk of injury only existed at the time of insertion.

600 of the 2,000 lawsuits, all considered part of an MDI, or multidistrict litigation, have been assigned to U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel in the Southern District of New York. Judge Seibel issued a scheduling order on July 29, 2014, and it states that the first federal trial is expected to begin on March 7, 2014. Similar claims have been brought up in New Jersey and will be heard by Judge Martinotti.

July 21, 2014

Never Leave A Child Alone In A Hot Vehicle

Every summer children are left alone in hot cars. Over 600 U.S. children have died, as a result of being left alone in hot cars, since 1990. These deaths can be preventable because they happen when kids are left unattended in a hot car. At times, it's because the driver forgot the child was in the vehicle or when children get into unlocked cars without any adult knowing it happened. It is tragic and preventable and the danger comes within minutes of being in hot closed quarters.

In order to prevent these deaths, children should never be left alone in a hot car, even if the windows are down. No matter how brief it may be for, it should not be done, for the safety of the child. Vehicles can become like greenhouses and temperatures can rise rapidly in a very short period of time. Besides the temperature, children are at a higher rise for heat-related illnesses and injury than adults because their bodies make more heat relative to their size and their abilities to cool through sweating are not as developed as an adult.

For example, on a summer day, the temperature outside can be 70 degrees, but the temperature inside a car can increase by 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour, and 70% of this increase occurs in the first 30 minutes, according to Christopher Haines, DO, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Christopher's Hospital in Philadelphia. It is at these high temperatures that heat strokes can occur. The body can experience a heat stroke when temperatures pass 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperatures overwhelm the brain's temperature control, causing dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness and death.

It is also recommended that parents and caregivers not let children play inside unattended vehicles. One is to make sure that car's doors and trunk are locked at all times, and also, keep the car keys out of reach of children. All these tips may help prevent children from getting accidentally locked in vehicles and save their lives.

One must do everything possible to keep children safe. It is these preventive methods that will help lower the chances of children dying from being left alone inside hot vehicles.

Therefore; if you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately and do whatever possible to get the child out of the vehicle.

July 2, 2014

Firework Use Can Be Deadly. Use with Caution on this Upcoming Independence Day Holiday

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging all Americans to celebrate this upcoming Fourth of July safely. In 2013, firework injuries and deaths increased, and so the CPSC is urging consumers to celebrate this year's festivities safely and caution when using fireworks.

The CPSC issues a report on fireworks safety report every year prior to the Fourth of July to remind consumers to be safe. In 2013, there was an in the number of injuries and deaths associated with the use of fireworks. Toddlers being the most affected. It was reported that 11,400 people were injured, up from 9,000 in 2012, and eight people lost their lives as a result of unsafe fireworks use and fireworks malfunction. 65% of these injuries occurred within 30 days surrounding the Independence Day holiday. Most of the fireworks being used during the days right before and after the holiday.

In order for the report to be issued, the agency reviewed fireworks incident reports from hospital emergency rooms, death certificate information, newspaper articles and other media sources to estimate the injuries and gather the necessary data for their statistics.
The injuries resulted from the consumer playing with lit fireworks or igniting fireworks while holding the actual firework device, by the malfunction of the devices and by the firework having an errant flight path, being tipped over or by it blowing itself out.

As stated earlier, toddlers were the most affected in 2012. Children under the age of five were injured more than any other age group in the U.S.. It was reported that most of these children were injured by the use of sparklers and bottle rockets, which parents/adults consider safer for children, when in actuality they are not. Sparklers burn at a temperature of 2,000 degrees, a temperature hot enough to melt some metals, therefore; sparklers and bottle rockets accounted for more than 40 percent of all injuries in the CPSC's report.

Also, it was reported that the eight deaths from fireworks usage in 2013 were a result of the consumer using banned, professional or home manufactured devices. These devices are often not acceptable or compliant with federal regulations, and therefore; are unsafe for consumers to use.

The CPSC urges consumers to only purchase fireworks which are sold legally in the U.S. and to never allow a child to play or ignite fireworks, including sparklers or bottle rockets on their own. It is also recommended that consumers not buy fireworks packaged or sold in brown bags, as most of the time these fireworks are made to be used by professionals and can pose a heightened danger to someone who isn't educated on the proper way to use these devices.

In conclusion, consumers are urged to use fireworks safely and to not allow children to use them. There are plenty of professional fireworks celebrations nationwide and those are the safest places for children to enjoy the use and demonstration of fireworks. Do your part to avoid any injury during the holiday season. Safety comes first.

June 16, 2014

Automobile Recalls at an All Time High in 2014

Since February of this year, Toyota Motor Corporation and General Motors Corporation have both announced vehicle recalls and have admitted to a blatant neglect towards consumer welfare and safety concerns. 2014 will most likely result in a rash of recalls and set tally records on safety related recalls in a single year.

The criteria for recalls has shifted, it use to be a compliance with laws or whether there were technical problems with a vehicle, but it has now shifted to whether the products can assure customers safety and peace of mind.

Toyota Motor Corp. has been one of the companies with the greatest recall in the recent years. In early June of 2014, Toyota Motor Corp agreed to pay a record $1.2 billion fine to U.S. Regulators to settle a criminal investigation into their unintended acceleration tied to defective floor mats and "sticky pedals" on some of their models. The "sticky pedals" problem was linked to 37 deaths worldwide.

In regards to, General Motors Corp., they too had issues with recalls. In their case it was disclosed that between 2003 and 2011 there were 2.6 million cars that had faulty ignition switches that ultimately led to 13 deaths. It became apparent that the ignitions would unexpectedly switch to accessory mode and shut off the engines, which then disabled the airbags and the power steering, on some of their vehicles. GM has since issued 29 other recalls of 15.8 million cars and trucks.

However; advances in automobile technology have made vehicles today safer than they were 15, 10, even five years ago, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

Regardless, if your vehicle has a recall, it is at no expense to you. The cost to fix your vehicles' problem is on the manufacturer. So, if your vehicle has a recall, simply take your vehicle to your dealership and they will be responsible for the recall and the costs towards fixing whatever needs to be fixed.

Also, not all recalls are safety related and not all recalls affect every vehicle that fits the criteria for the recall. Some problems are environmental. For example, tires can fail for a number of reasons that could include salt on the road, which is normal during Midwestern winters but not likely in the South.

In order to see if your vehicle has been recalled for any reason you can go to the manufacturer's website or to Edmunds.com and search under car recalls. You can and may also want to contact your dealer or check at NHTSA.gov under recalls and defects.

June 2, 2014

Car and Truck Crashes Are Costly

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a report last week in which it was reported that the economic and societal harm from motor vehicle accidents amounted to $871 billion in 2010.

In 2010, there were almost 33,000 deaths, 3.9 million people were injured and 24 million motor vehicles damaged, as a result of car and truck crashes. Out of the estimated $871 billion economic and societal cost of car and truck accidents $277 billion was attributed to economic costs; that equals to an average of $900 for every person living in the United States. $594 billion included harm from loss of life, pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries from car and truck accidents.

The economic cost of $277 billion, in the U.S., means that is the equivalent to almost 2 percent of the United States gross domestic product. These factors included productivity losses, property damage, and cost of medical treatment, legal and court fees, emergency services and insurance administration and costs to employers. Nearly three quarters of these costs are paid through taxes and insurance premiums.

There are several behavioral factors that contributed to motor vehicle accidents, all of which can be avoided:

1) Driving while intoxicated/impaired by alcohol or other drugs;
2) Speeding;
3) Distracted driving, and;
4) Lack of seat belt use

Alcohol related driving accounted for $199 billion, in other words 23 percent of the $871 billion. Crashes involving speeding account for $210 billion or 24 percent, distracted driving accounted for $129 billion or 15 percent, and, lack of seat belt use accounted to $72 billion or 8 percent.

All of these factors could have been avoided and prevented by drivers. It is imperative that drivers realize that driving is a privilege and not a right, and, therefore; needs to be taken seriously. Not only is your life in your hands, but the lives of everyone on the road. Responsibility is a key factor. Every person on the road needs to be alert, knowledgeable of the rules of the road and conscience of their actions at all times. If we do all we can to be safe drivers, these economic and societal harms can and will be avoided and therefore; less costly to human life and our Nation as a whole

May 13, 2014

Online Vision Certification Service Award Given to the Maryland MVA

The StateScoop 50 has given the honor of the Innovation of the Year Award to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) for their Online Vision Certification Service. The honorees were chosen by its readers and were announced at a reception in Baltimore, Maryland, earlier this month. The StateScoop 50 organization recognizes and awards programs and/or individuals for their achievements and contributions to the state and local government IT community. Therefore, at the reception, the MVA was given the honor for their Online Vision Certification Service.

The Online Vision Certification Service was launched in 2013 with the intention to reduce branch office walk-in traffic and customer wait times. The service allows drivers to easily renew their licenses online. Before this program was implemented, drivers over the age of 40 had to visit their vision provider to complete a paper eye exam form and either mail it in or visit a branch office in order to renew their license, but with this new program, drivers over the age of 40 can take the vision test at a participating eye physicians office and the results are submitted electronically to the MVA, without having to make the driver either mail the test results form in or visit the MVA to renew their license. So drivers over the age of 40 have the ability to renew their license online.

There are over 600 provider locations that participate with this MVA Online Vision Certification Service Program. The list of all providers can be found by searching "vision" at www.maryland.gov or through the MVA's website at www.mva.maryland.gov and clicking on the Online Vision Certification Service link.

Since being implemented, there have been well over 10,000 eye exam results submitted to the MVA. There is no extra cost to the providers to sign up for the service. All one needs is a computer and an internet connection. The program, was however, funded, by NIC Maryland, through the self-funded eGovernment services contract with the State Department of Information Technology (DoIT).

The NIC is the nation's leading provider of official state government portals, online services, and secure payment processing solutions. NIC's eGovernment service serves to help reduce costs and increase efficiencies for government agencies, citizens, and businesses across the United States. NIC provides eGovernment solutions for over 3,500 federal, state and local agencies nationwide.

April 29, 2014

2014 List of Top 10 Vehicles that Cause the Most Property Damage

Insure.com recently released the 2014 list of vehicles that cause the most property damage when involved in automobile accidents. The list is mainly comprised of pickup trucks and SUV's. Vehicles that tend to weigh more than passenger vehicles. The vehicles on the list tend to generate the biggest property damage claims and therefore; carry the heftiest liability insurance bills of the more that 750 2014 model year vehicles analyzed by Insure.com in its annual car insurance comparison study.

The top 10 vehicles considered to carry the biggest liability bills and therefore are likely to cause the most property damage are:
1) Ford F-250
2) GMC Sierra 2500
3) Ford F-350
4) Ram 1500
5) Infiniti QX80
6) Dodge Durango
7) Toyota Tundra
8) Jeep Grand Cherokee
9) Cadillac Escalade
10) Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The property damage liability portion of a persons' automobile insurance policy is generally a reflection of claims made against other owners of the same kind of vehicle. Property damage liability coverage pays when you damage someone else's car or property. Most drivers carry much lower limits on property damage liability than for bodily injury, that way their insurance premiums can be lower/smaller.

Regardless of the vehicle you own, premiums can and do differ from state to state and vehicle to vehicle. The common element however, is that the vehicles that cause the biggest property damage are vehicles with bumpers that do not match up with the bumpers found on sedan, coupes or passenger cars.

It is the height difference in bumpers between vehicles that cause the greatest damage. The federal government sets minimum bumper performance requirements for passenger vehicles, but those regulations do not apply to vans, SUV's or pickup trucks. Hence, SUV's , vans and pickup trucks have bumpers that are anywhere between 20-26 inches higher from the ground then passenger vehicles. Passenger vehicles are usually only 16-20 inches higher than the ground. This means that when trucks and SUV's collide with passenger vehicles, their bumpers can no right past each other, and depending on the force of the impact, can bypass the bumpers and go directly into the body of the vehicle and therefore; cause greater damage. Sometimes, bumpers overlap or even slide off each other, instead of becoming engaged, and therefore the result is extensive vehicle body damage.

April 16, 2014

Autonomous Vehicles May Be Introduced In the District of Columbia

A couple of states in the United States have begun to legalize the operation of autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles are also known as driveless cars, driver-free cars and self-driving cars. By Autonomous it is meant that a vehicle is capable of fulfilling the human transportation capabilities of a traditional car. An autonomous vehicle is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input or interaction. These vehicles sense their surroundings with the use of radars, GPS and computer vision. It is with these tools that the vehicle is able to navigate through streets as well as obstacles on the road. These vehicles keep track of their position even when conditions change in their surroundings.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established an official classification system for Autonomous vehicles. The 5 levels are as follows:

Level 0: Drivers completely control the vehicle at all times;

Level 1: Individual vehicle controls are automated, such as electronic stability control or automatic braking;

Level 2: Two or more controls can be automated in unison, such as cruise control in combination with lane keeping; and

Level 3: The driver can fully cede control of all safety-critical functions in certain conditions. The car senses when conditions require the driver to retake control and providers a sufficiently comfortable transition time for the driver to do so.

Level 4: The vehicle performs all safety-critical functions for the entire trip, with the driver not expected to control the vehicle at any time. As this vehicle would control all functions from start to stop, including all parking functions.

These autonomous vehicles may be introduced in the District of Columbia in the coming weeks since new rules were introduced last week. The District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles published a set of new guidelines last Friday, in accordance with the Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2012, to allow drivers to obtain licenses for self-driving vehicles, and if there are no objections, will go into effect in 30 days. If this goes into effect, the District of Columbia would be the first jurisdiction to license self-driving operators. The process to obtain these special self-driving operator licenses is as simple as taking a self-driver training seminar, filling out the proper paperwork and paying the $20 fee. The application process means that each person trying to obtain this special license needs to acknowledge that they will be deemed the "Driver" of the vehicle while it is operating in autonomous mode, and are therefore responsible for speeding, rolling thru stop signs, and missing or passing thru traffic signals. This means that they are subject to the same traffic laws that non-autonomous cars and drivers have to follow.

Each applicant will also have to complete a training seminar and obtain certification in the operation of autonomous vehicles. These courses will be provided by self-driving car dealerships and manufacturers. Once the course is completed, forms executed, license fee paid and license obtained, each driver will have a new "A" printed on their license to show that they are certified to operate an autonomous vehicle. Once the operator is issued a license the final step is to apply for a special license plate that will only be used for self-driving cars.

Some of the advantages of autonomous vehicles are that fewer traffic accidents and collisions will happen, due to the system's increased reliability and faster reaction time compared to human drivers, roadway capacity will increase and traffic congestion decreased due to the reduced need for safety gaps and the ability to better manage traffic flow, relief of vehicle occupants from driving, higher speed limits, removal of constraints on occupants' state, due to the fact that the drivers age, blindness, distractedness, intoxication or other impairment will not matter, and alleviation of parking scarcity, are a few of the advantages of autonomous vehicles.

Some of the obstacles however are Liability for damages, software reliability, resistance for individuals to give up control of their vehicles, Cyber security, the implementation of legal framework and the establishment of government regulations for self-driving cars, drivers will become less experienced when manual driving is needed and the loss of driver related jobs.

April 10, 2014

What Is Personal Injury Law

What is Personal Injury Law: It is a legal term or an injury to the body, mind or emotions. It covers physical injuries, mental injuries and death that result from the negligence or intentional misconduct of another person, group of individuals, or entity. The most common types of personal injury claims are automobile traffic accidents, accidents in the workplace, slip & fall or tripping accidents, assault claims, accidents in the home and defective products. Also, included in the personal injury realm are medical and dental accidents, which can lead to medical negligence claims.

Depending on how bad the injury to the person is and the level of intent or negligence of the responsible party, the injured person may be entitled to monetary compensation from the at fault party through a settlement or a judgment.

Most personal injury attorneys represent their clients on a contingency basis or a contingency fee retainer agreement. This means that the attorney's fee is a percentage of the plaintiff's (injured party) eventual monetary compensation, payable to the attorney, once the case is resolved and settled, with no payment necessary if the case is unsuccessful. Also, when in this type of contract with a personal injury attorney, the attorney will pay all upfront costs and fees, which can include costs for obtaining medical records, copies, postage, faxes, correspondence, and obtaining police reports. These upfront costs and fees are reimbursed back to the attorney once the case settles and is separate then the attorney's fee for representation.

Damages: Damages are categorized as either special and/or general. Special costs are measured and itemized to include medical expenses, loss of earnings, property damage and other out-of-pockets expenses. General costs are less measurable such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium and emotional distress. Personal injury claims include and consider both special and general damages when a claim is submitted to an at fault party.

The amount of compensation for special and general damages in a personal injury claim depends on the severity of the injury, the amount of treatment received and whether or not an injury is permanent in nature. The worse the injury is, the greater the compensation.

Time Limitations: In the United States, each state has different Statutes of Limitations - laws that determine how much time you have to file a legal claim. Different types of injuries have different statutes of limitations. In Maryland and the District of Columbia the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations to file a claim is 3 years from the date of accident and in Virginia it is 2 years from the date of accident.

Personal Injury Claim Settlements are not taxable. Therefore; any monies awarded on a personal injury claim you do not have to claim on your taxes. The official statement from the IRS states:

"If you receive a settlement for personal physical injuries or physical sickness and did not take an itemized deduction for medical expenses related to the injury or sickness in prior years, the full amount is non-taxable. Do not include the settlement proceeds in your income."

March 26, 2014

Cigarette Smuggling Increases in Maryland and Virginia

Higher cigarette taxes are causing an increase in the smuggling cigarette trade along Interstate 95 in Maryland and Virginia, and all over the east coast of the United States. Maryland and Virginia lawmakers have passed various bills in the last few months making the penalties for smuggling harsher and so these states can crack down on the trafficking of cigarettes and regain lost revenue.

States and the federal government have all raised tobacco taxes and therefore the profit incentive for smugglers increased. There are huge differences in cigarette costs from one state to another. There's a difference in costs for cigarettes from one state to another as high as $4.18 per pack. 57% of cigarettes smoked in the state of New York alone are smuggled by cigarette traffickers. Therefore the entire east coast is cracking down and making the needed changes to prevent the loss of billions of dollars of revenue and increase the fight against the increase of organized crime.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), there are many types of tobacco trafficking and schemes, actively trying to avoid taxes. The most common is the smuggling of cigarettes between states due to tax differentials between states along the East Coast of the United States. From $7 billion to $10 billion in state and federal tax revenue is lost each year because of tobacco smuggling. These amounts are much higher than the $5 billion it was just a few years ago, according to the ATF.

The per pack tax on Tobacco ranges from .17 cents in Missouri and .30 cents in Virginia to $4.35 in New York, where there is an additional charge state charge of $1.50 per pack. In total, there have been about 113 tax increases on Tobacco in 47 states, the District of Columbia and New York City since 2000.

According to the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in the state of Washington, every time there is a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes the overall consumption lowers by as much as 5% and lowers the number of children who smoke by about 7%.

On the other hand, this increase in Tobacco tax leads to a huge profit for smugglers. For example, Tobacco smugglers buying 200 cases of cigarettes in North and South Carolina to sell illegally in New York can clear as much as $500,000 in profits. Buying illegal and untaxed cigarettes, for as low as $6 a pack instead of the legal $12 to $13 per pack, is as easy as walking into any convenience store in Brooklyn, or any part of New York.

In recent months, over 12 recommendations have been made to various crime commissions on the east coast. One of which includes, dedicating more funding for enforcement, as well as increasing penalties for tobacco smuggling. Besides the lost revenue, organized crime is a growing problem, according to the Virginia State Crime Commission. Crimes that include: gangs stealing peoples' identities, to buy cigarettes in large quantities, using fake credit cards. These schemes can be expansive. Maryland was included in an indictment in the state of New York, after it was discovered that a ring of smugglers were flooding New York city and Albany, New York with more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes imported from Virginia. The investigation found $55 million in unlawful cigarette sales and more than $80 million in lost state sales-tax revenue.

No matter how one looks at this, it is a crime to smuggle Tobacco from one state to another. Taxes and loss of revenue by states and the federal government are affected.