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March 19, 2013

Dram Shop Liability Law Being Considered in Maryland

Dram is a small unit of liquid. Dram shop refers to a bar or tavern where alcoholic beverages are sold. Dram shop liability is when an establishment can be held liable for selling alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons and/or minors, which then cause death or injury to a third party as a result of alcohol-related automobile crashes and other accidents.

Dram shop laws are intended to protect the general public and innocent people from the hazards of serving alcohol to minors and intoxicated patrons. Serving alcohol to minors in the United States is illegal. All 50 states consider it illegal to sell and or serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.

The argument against dram shop liability is that a person, drunk or sober, should be responsible for his/her own behavior and actions. Also, bar, tavern and restaurants owners believe that if dram shop laws go into effect in Maryland that insurance premiums would rise, prices for customers would rise and therefore some business would have to close. Also, some people argue that there is no way for a bartender to know if a patron had drank somewhere else before or after coming to their business, or had used drugs.

There are other people who suggest that there has to be some accountability for a situation that is created or made worse by the action or inaction of the bar and or tavern.

The Court of Appeals in Maryland has recently heard several arguments in dram shop liability cases and will start considering whether to implement dram shop liability, which would in turn make bars, taverns and restaurants liable for customers involved in drunk-driving cases. But even without dram shop liability in Maryland, there seems to be a growing trend of Maryland cases recognizing tavern liability when there is additional action or inaction by the tavern that contributes to the occurrence or makes the situation worse. If a Dram Shop law does go into effect in Maryland it would go against over 60 years of judicial precedent.

Maryland and Virginia are a few of the states that still do not have any kind of dram shop liability law in affect. Maryland does not currently hold businesses responsible for serving too much alcohol to its patrons. 44 states in the United States and the District of Columbia do have some form of dram shop laws, although they differ in scope and in the evidence required for holding a business responsible for other's actions.

January 3, 2013

Head on Collisions

Head on automobile collisions are often the most serious types of crashes. It occurs when the fronts of two vehicles collide into each other. Head on collisions typically occur at intersections and on highways. Head on crashes at intersections occur when one driver fails to obey a traffic light or other traffic signals, such as a stop sign or yield sign. Highway head on crashes can occur when one driver goes the wrong way on an exit ramp or when a driver crosses the center line or a median barrier separating vehicles traveling in opposite directions.
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Factors that contribute to head on crashes include driver impairment, driver negligence, poor road design, or insufficient road signs. Most head on collisions are due to driver factors, such as driver behavior, visual acuity, reaction speed, distraction, fatigue, and unfamiliarity with the roadway where the collision occurred.

Any type of head on collision is exacerbated when one or both of the vehicles are traveling at high speeds. A high speed head on collision, whether it occurs on a highway, roadway, exit ramp, or intersection can result in serious injuries to the drivers and passengers. Head on collisions can even be fatal. Although head on collisions account for only 2 percent of all automobile crashes in the U.S., they account for 10 percent of fatal crashes. Injuries suffered from head on crashes can include the following:

• Brain Injury
• Head Injury
• Spinal Cord Injury, including Paralysis
• Broken Bones
• Whiplash
• Burns
• Lacerations

Some of these injuries can be permanent in nature and so an experienced attorney can make sure that you are properly compensated for your damages. Your health is the most important thing and you should reach maximum medical improvement before you settle any claim and accept any monetary value from any insurance company.

December 17, 2012

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

More than 300 people died nationally in 2010 in motor vehicle accidents in which a distracted driver was involved and about 416,000 people were injured, according to a government report published in July 2012.

Distracted drivers are people who are not paying attention to the road and are otherwise distracted from the important task of driving. These distractions can include talking with passengers, eating and/or drinking, using electronic devices, such as cell phones, and other technological devices, such as GPS systems and satellite radio systems.

Texting while driving is the most common, serious and deadliest distraction of them all, because the drivers mental, visual and physical attention is diverted from being able to drive safely. Texting and using other electronic devices causes up to 25% of all crashes, nationwide, according to a report published by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Distracted drivers; mainly those who text while driving, are 23 times more likely to be involved in car crashes, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. That is why it is illegal to text while driving in 39 states, including Maryland and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

If you are driving and witness the following behaviors it is important for you to take some steps to save yourself from harm.

If you see a driver:
- Going much faster than the posted speed limit, going much slower than the speed limit, changing lanes without signaling, weaving in and out of traffic, cannot maintain lane position and stops longer than needed at a traffic light or sign

You Must:
- Assume that the distracted driver doesn't see your vehicle
- Give your vehicle space from the distracted driver's vehicle
- Try to pull ahead or slow down from the distracted driver
- If you cannot slow down or pull ahead of the distracted driver, call 911

August 7, 2012

Automobile Fatalities on the Rise in Virginia

In the first three months of 2012 traffic deaths in the state of Virginia have jumped by 13.5 percent, compared to last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). So far this year, there have been 403 reported automobile accident related fatalities. The reason for the higher number of deaths this year is because a lot of the automobile accidents involved multiple fatalities per accident.

The number of traffic deaths nationwide has also increased. According the to the NHTSA there have been an estimated 7,630 automobile related deaths in the first three months of 2012, making it the second largest year-to-year quarterly increase in fatalities since the NHTSA started recording traffic fatalities in the mid 1970's.

The fact that we had a mild winter also has something to do with the increase in motor vehicle accident fatalities. That is because the milder the weather the more people go outdoors and drive. Severe weather keeps people off the roads, but milder weather conditions make people want to travel more.
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According to the Federal Highway Administration, vehicle miles traveled in January, February and March of 2012 increased by about 9.7 billion miles, 1.4 percent more than 2011. That means that the more miles traveled, the higher the risk of being involved in an automobile accident, therefore; drivers need to be more careful and practice safer driving, which include, but at not limited to, making sure one is buckled up, giving oneself plenty of time to get to your destination and never drive while impaired by alcohol, drugs and/or when tired.

June 26, 2012

How to Tell if a Traffic Ticket Will Raise Your Insurance Rates

Here are three things that must happen in order for an automobile insurance company to raise your rates, once you have been issued a traffic ticket/citation:

1) The ticket must show up on your motor vehicle record (MVR);
2) Your state must allow insurance companies to penalize you for the violation, and
3) Your Insurance company must consider the violation a risk factor

Automobile insurance companies won't consider traffic violations/tickets that do not appear on your MVR. MVR's usually only reflect moving violations that endanger lives or property. Such violations include: running red lights, changing lanes without caution, speeding, DUI/DWI, reckless driving, etc..

If the violation appears on your MVR and your automobile insurance company finds out about it, your rates usually increase about 5% for the first ticket, but if you have various violations on your MVR, then your rates could go up about 20% or more. Multiple violations reveal a pattern of bad decisions and behavior as a driver and make you a higher risk to your automobile insurance company.

April 10, 2012

Women Drivers More Dangerous Behind the Wheel

In research obtained by scientists at the University of Michigan who analyzed 6.5 million automobile crashes between 1998 and 2007, it was determined that women are more likely to be involved in automobile accidents than men. In this study, it was found that women were involved in 68.1% of all crashes, even though men drive 60% of the time and women 40%.

The research also uncovered that women have a more difficult time at crossroads, T-junctions and slippery roads/surfaces. Women are most often involved in accidents were their vehicles are hit on the left-hand side while attempting right hand turns and vice-versa. Height difference between men and woman is also considered a factor. The peripheral vision while driving is different for women when compared to men, because of their height and in turn their sitting position in the driver seat of their vehicle.

According to Lead researcher at the University of Michigan, Dr. Michael Sivak, "There are three dominant driver-related factors, including the probability of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, one's own driving skills and the driving skills of the other driver involved."

Women are taking greater risks while driving now than they ever were. Women are now more distracted while driving, these distractions involve: drinking and driving, speeding, texting, etc. Therefore, the risk of being involved in a fatal automobile crash rises with the driver's blood alcohol levels. Women need to pay more attention when behind the wheel and realize that anything can happen, if one is not careful and attentive to ones surroundings. It is our own responsibility to stay as safe as possible and conduct ourselves in a safe manner when behind the wheel. One must remember that Driving is a Privilege and not a Right!

March 22, 2012

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As of July 1, 2012, in the state of Virginia, every first time drunk-driving offender will be required to install an ignition interlock device in their automobile. The ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer in your vehicle that prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver fails the on-board alcohol breath test. In Virginia, the device is set to fail if the reading is above 0.02 percent blood alcohol content. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets the standards for the device and it varies from state to state. The device is quite small and integrated into your automobiles starting mechanism.

This new punishment bill for drunk drivers was approved by over 80% of legislators in Virginia, making the state one of the 15 states that already require mandatory interlock ignition devices for first time drunk driving offenders. In Virginia alone there were over 30,000 DUI and DWI convictions, out of which most offenders had a blood alcohol content of 0.14, in 2010. As for automobile accidents: alcohol related crashes were about 7% of total accidents, but made up about 37% of fatal accidents in Virginia, in 2010.

The Guidelines for the new law require that:
- A judge will order the installation of the ignition interlock device. After which, the court clerk will register the court order with the Department of Motor Vehicles, which will restrict the defendants driver's license and then the driver must show proof that the ignition device was properly installed in their vehicle, within 30 days of the court order.
- The court will revoke the driver's restricted license if the offender does not install the device within the 30 days after the court order is made and if the device is not properly maintained and monitored.
- An electronic log of all breathalyzer test readings will be maintained by the device. Should the offender fail any of the tests, both random and initial starter tests, the vehicle's horn will sound, repeatedly, and the lights will flash.
- The device must remain in the offenders' vehicle for 6 consecutive months without a failed breathalyzer test result and the offender may not drive any other vehicle without the device.
- After a second DUI/DWI conviction, every vehicle registered and owned by the offender must have a device installed.

In addition to the ignition interlock device, the following are also consequences of drunk-driving punishments in Virginia:
- Suspension, restriction and or revocation of the offenders' license
- Jail or prison time
- Fines
- Community service
- Probation
- Alcohol education
- Criminal record
- Treatment
- Vehicle impoundment, and
- Repayment of costs incurred by the state for state property damage, police costs and fire/emergency services

Therefore; if you or a loved one is arrested for and/or charged with DUI or DWI, you must contact my office to discuss your legal rights and discuss a plan of defense.

January 30, 2012

Teen Automobile Related Fatalities on the Rise in Virginia

eating while driving.jpgBetween January 1, 2012 and January 24, 2012 there have been 11 teen automobile related fatalities in Virginia. At the same time period in 2011 there were only three. This is a huge increase that could be avoided if certain precautions were taken. The most common factors in the fatal automobile crashes are speed, distractions, alcohol, no use of seat belts and cell phone use.

Virginia safety organizations are urging teen drivers, as well as their parents, to take precautions to prevent further tragedies. Some of the precautions suggested are:
Teens:
- Obey posted speed limits;
- Do not Text, Talk or use handheld devices while driving;
- Do not drive distracted by changing radio stations, eating or by having too many passengers in the vehicle;
- Commit to driving safely;
- Always wear your seat belt.

Parents:
- Talk to your teen about the dangers of speeding and driving distracted;
- Set clear rules for driving and let them know that it is a privilege and not a right. They need to earn the privilege and that there are consequences to their actions;
- Set curfews, passenger limitations and make clear the punishment if these rules are broken.

Schools and Safety Organizations:
- Discuss the increase in teen fatalities, so that they are aware;
- Educate students on safe driving practices through interactive methods. Use visual displays, videos, guest speakers and programs;
- Post seat belt reminders and no cell phone use signs all over school property and all parking areas.

For more safety tips and information, visit the following websites: www.yovaso.net and www.blueridgecrashteams.org

December 16, 2011

Automobile Related Fatalities Decreased in Maryland in 2010

774604_car_accident_1.jpgThe number of automobile accident related fatalities decreased by about 10 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2009 to 2010. In 2009, there were 549 automobile accident related fatalities and in 2010 there were only 493. The reason there was a decrease is because there are better air bags and anti-rollover technology in newer vehicles, drivers are using their seatbelts properly and more often and there has been an improvement in safe-driving campaigns in the state of Maryland, according to the AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Another factor for the decrease is that Maryland police officers and other law enforcement officers have been cracking down more on drunk drivers. Repeat offenders have had to install start up kits/breathalyzer machines in their vehicles that do not allow the vehicle to start/turn on if there is alcohol in their system.

Also, speed limits are followed more by drivers because of red light and speed cameras all over the state of Maryland. Therefore, drivers are respecting the speed limit in certain areas more. Another factor is that in the state of Maryland it is prohibited to use a handheld device while driving. Be it for talking on the phone, texting, viewing messages or communicating through media outlets while driving.

When you consider all these factors, one can better understand how there has been a 10 percent decrease in automobile accident related fatalities in Maryland. One can only hope that there has been a bigger decrease in 2011.

July 5, 2011

New Traffic Law in Virginia Effective July 1, 2011

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Virginia drivers, under the age of 21, could have their license suspended for a year if they get behind the wheel after drinking alcoholic beverages. These underage drinkers and drivers will face stiffer penalties for driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .02% or more. Violators will have their license suspended for a year and will receive either a fine of up to $500 or 50 hours of community service.

February 22, 2011

710,000 Teens in the U.S. Are Drinking Alcohol Monthly

On February 17, 2011, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a survey that showed that 710,000 Teens between the age of 12 to 14 drank alcohol per month. The survey was conducted from 2006 to 2009, and over 44,000 teens were surveyed.

The research showed that of those teens who drank, 93.4% obtained their alcohol for free from underage persons, 19.6% from parents and/or guardians, 15.7% from home, 15.2% from adult relatives, 13.9% from unrelated adults, 13.5% from someone's home, and 6.8% from other resources. Of the ones surveyed, 6.6% bought the alcohol at bars and liquor stores.

According to Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. , SAMHSA Administrator, "People who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are six times more likely than those who start at age 21 and older to develop alcohol problems. Parents and other adults need to be aware that providing alcohol to children can expose them to an increased risk for alcohol abuse and set them on a path with increased potential for addiction."
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Underage drinking can lead to alcohol dependence and abuse and to serious heath problems. Alcohol not only affects the liver and pancreas, but it can also cause other chemical problems. It can lead to water loss, electrolyte depletion, deficiency of thiamine, etc.

About 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year, as a result of alcohol use. 1,900 from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 from homicides, 300 from suicide and hundreds more from various other injuries. Therefore, parents need to be more careful and aware of the alcohol intake of their children and teens.

December 27, 2010

If Google Cars Drive Themselves, Who Would You Sue?

Google-Car-auto-toyota-prius.jpgGoogle has developed a new car called the "Google Car". It is a Toyota Prius that is equipped with software that allows it to drive itself. The Google cars use video cameras, installed on the roof, radar sensors and laser range finders to travel through traffic on its own. These cars also navigate the road by using detailed maps. According to Sebastian Thrun, a Google software engineer, "Our automated cars use... Google's data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain."

The Google car was made with the intention to help prevent traffic accidents, free people's time, reduce distracted driving and drunk driving, and reduce carbon emissions. So far, the Google Car, has traveled about 140,000 miles and has only been involved in one traffic accident, a rear-end.

Google has yet to determine when these Google Cars will be available to the general public, but when they are, a question arises, if there is an accident, who would you sue?. The current statutes and case law in the United States were written for cars with human drivers, in order to determine the liability in an automobile accident. Therefore; once these Google Cars are put out on the market, laws would need to change.
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There are three factors that could determine liability in case of an automobile accident:

1) Google - the author of the software used by the Google Car;
2) Toyota - the current and only car Manufacturer of the Google Car; and
3) The Owner of the vehicle.

Liability would be determined on the type of accident and could have one or more of these parties at fault. The legal process would examine who is at fault. For example, was it a software issue or a mechanical failure? A software issue would be if the program made the wrong decision and caused a crash, and a mechanical failure would be if a part used to build the Google car was defective or malfunctioned.

All in all, the Goggle Car was created to make driving and roadways safer. In 2008, the NHTSA reported that there were 37,261 automobile fatalities. Lets hope that if and when the Google Car is put on the market it will lower the yearly number of deaths in the United States.

December 6, 2010

Drugged Drivers Increase Fatal Car Accidents Nationwide

Out of the 21,798 drivers who were killed in motor vehicle accidents in the United States in 2009, 63 percent of them were tested positive for drugs, and according to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, 18 percent of them tested positive for drugs.

Drug data was collected Nationwide and analyzed by the NHTSA as part of a Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The types of drugs reported were over-the-counter medicines, prescription drugs and illicit drugs as well.

Previous reports by the NHTSA have shown that alcohol and drowsiness are some of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents, but this new report will begin to explore the role that legal and illegal drug use play in accidents. This report has shown that drug involvement in fatal motor vehicle accidents is indeed increasing nationwide. This report will pave the way for more research and could ultimately lead to the establishment of standardized testing methods that would look into drug involvement and fatal accidents.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also published various reports that offer a look at roadway risks and show ways that lives can be saved. One IIHS report estimates that 7,440 driver deaths could have been prevented had blood-alcohol content levels been below .08%. The report also states that ignition interlock systems are one way to fight the problem of blood alcohol.

The ultimate solution would be that if you are impaired, whether it be from drowsiness, lack of sleep, alcohol use or legal or illegal drugs, it is best to not get behind the wheel and let someone else drive. Do not put yourself or others at risk of an accident and/or an untimely death. Common sense and caution need to be put at the forefront of your decision making and you need to give your keys to someone else. If you are impaired, Do not drive!

November 30, 2010

What States Have the Safest Roadways in the U.S.?

The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) released a report in early October 2010 that shows that the two safest roadways are in Washington and Oregon, according to their 2010 ENA National Scorecard of State Roadway Laws. The District of Columbia has a score of 12, Maryland a score of 11 and Virginia a score of 9.

The 2010 ENA National Scorecard ranks states based on 14 types of legislation that address such things as seat belt use, motorcycle helmet requirements, devices to prevent drunk driving and cell phone use laws. States receive one point for each type of legislation they currently have. Oregon and Washington both had a score of 14, making them the safest roadways to travel in the United States.

Date collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that someone dies in a car crash in the US every 12 minutes and someone is injured, taken to and treated in an emergency department for injuries as a result of an automobile accident every 10 seconds. These injuries and deaths are preventable through roadways laws and enforcement of these safety laws, it is the passing of these safety laws that save lives.

Twenty six states and the District of Columbia have passed or enacted laws that prevent the entering, sending, reading or otherwise retrieving data for all drivers using wireless communication devices (i.e.: cell phones). 5,474 people died in 2009 as a result of distraction-related automobile accidents, according to the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration (NHSTA). This means that 18% of annual fatalities are a result of distracted drivers nationwide.

To view the full 2010 ENA National Scorecard and State Roadway Laws report please visit www.ena.org.

October 19, 2010

Involved in a Hit and Run Accident: Here is What You Need to Do

A hit and run accident is when you are involved in an automobile accident and one of the parties involved leaves the scene. This can leave you shaken and upset.
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Hit and run accidents have been on the rise for the last 10 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports that over 10% of all automobile accidents are hit and run accidents. There are numerous reasons why a person would leave the scene of an accident, but the two most common reasons are: being uninsured and being under the influence of alcohol of drugs.

Here are a few tips in case you are a victim of a hit and run accident:
- Assess your physical well-being as well as any other person involved;
- Call the police and report the accident;
- Write down any information you remember about the vehicle that left the scene;
- Identify any witnesses and obtain contact information from them, so you can contact them at a later time; and
- Call the Ambulance, if necessarily

If you are injured as a result of the hit and run accident it is important to seek emergency medical care. You will also need to contact you insurance company and report the accident. You will need to handle your property damage directly with your insurance company. You will also need to make sure that you have under-insured or un-insured coverage under your own person automotive insurance policy. You may find all this a bit much to handle, and if you do you will need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to assist you in dealing with the insurance company on your behalf.