More states are joining Maryland are creating laws against using handheld devices in cars. In turn,  automakers are rapidly developing new hands-free technology to assist drivers with texts, calls, and navigation by using voice commands or touch screens.

Is this a good thing?  Certainly, these interactive programs in vehicles are supposed to make it easier for drivers to multitask without losing their focus on the road. However, a new study has come out that suggests these new “infotainment” systems may increase the risk of car accidents in older drivers by limiting their response time and causing distractions while driving.

The New Report

The Maryland high court granted certiorari in an unreported Court of Special Appeals opinion that has great ramifications for Maryland accident lawyers and their clients.

Facts of Dackman v. Robinson

This is a lead paint case.  The plaintiff alleged a brain injury as a result of lead paint exposure at the defendant’s property.  At the close of discovery, Dackman filed a motion for summary judgment claiming there was no dispute of material fact because the plaintiff did not adequately meet his burden of establishing that his elevated blood lead levels were from exposure at the defendant’s property.

In Gables Construction, Inc. v. Red Coats, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals earlier this month addressed the issue of whether a party can be liable for contribution as a joint tortfeasor even if that party was able to avoid direct liability because of it passed along its responsibility in a contractual waiver of subrogation.

In other words, can you sneak out of responsibility as a joint tortfeasor if someone else has accepted your responsibility for the loss?   This is the first time a Maryland court has ever addressed this issue.

Facts of Gable Construction

All litigation attorneys in Maryland are probably very familiar with the Maryland Pattern Jury Instructions (“MPJI”). The MPJI published by the Maryland State Bar Association through the efforts of a special MSBA committee comprised of practitioners.

Both the Criminal and Civil MPJI are widely used by judges across the state to give written instructions to juries. The Court of Appeals has repeatedly made clear that the Pattern Jury Instructions have “no official status” and trial courts are not obligated to use or adopted them. Armacost v. Davis (Md.2019) However, the reality is that the MPJI are universally relied on by judges and attorneys alike when instructing juries.

The Maryland Pattern Jury Instructions are intended to provide short, understandable and accurate statements of certain points of law in Maryland. The original version of the Pattern Jury Instructions was first published back in the 1980s. Since then the MPJI have been periodically revised and republished to reflect significant changes and developments in Maryland law. The most recent revision of the MPJI is the 5th Edition which the MSBA published in the fall of 2017. Among the many changes and revisions in the 5th Edition of the MPJI is a new definition of proximate causation at § 19:10.

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              Pedestrian Deaths Rose in 2018

Pedestrian deaths in Maryland jumped 25 percent in 2018 to a 28-year high.  We had 48 pedestrian deaths in 2017 and that jumped to 60 in 2018.

We are not the only ones.  The national average is also at a 28-year high, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association report published Thursday.

Our law firm handles a lot of brain injury cases, both from childbirth and from traumatic collisions like a car or truck accident.  Below are questions we are frequently asked about these claims.

Traumatic brain injury overview

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by force impact or force to the head disrupting normal brain activity and causing neurologic damage. TBIs account for about 30% of injury deaths in the United States. According to the CDC, about 153 people die from TBI-related injuries every day in the United States.

snowbaltimore-300x141It is not explicitly illegal, but it is recommended by all jurisdictions that you should clear snow off your car. The driver’s manuals in Maryland and Virginia both include snow removal.

Is there a Maryland law that says that you should not be able to have snow on your car so it does not come flying off and blind me?   Sort of.  Transportation Code §21-1104 states that a person may not drive a vehicle if obstructs the driver’s view of the front or sides of the vehicle. They may not drive a vehicle if it interferes with the control of the driver’s. However, the law would likely have a broad application in cases involving snow on top of cars. But no one is going to pull you over for having too much snow on your case.

About a decade ago, the D.C. city council approved legislation that required drivers to remove snow and ice from their vehicles. However, the law never became permanent.

Police in Layton, Utah are investigating a crash they believe was connected to the “Bird Box Challenge.”  If you have been sleeping under a rock, this challenge consists of covering one’s eyes while performing tasks just like Sandra Bullock’s character must in Netflix’s hit movie “Birdbox”.

The crash happened on the evening of January 7, 2019. The driver, a 17-year-old girl, was driving a pickup truck with a 16-year-old passenger. She pulled her beanie over her eyes while driving. The girl then lost control of her car and skidded along the road into oncoming traffic. Her car ended up hitting another car and a light pole.

At first, she told police that her conversation with her friend had distracted her from the road. Nonetheless, police were able to connect the crash to the Bird Box challenge after conducting a few follow-up interviews. The driver of the other vehicle, a 56-year-old man, was one of the other people interviewed by the police.

If you drove to a New Year’s Party in Utah on Monday and decided to have a few drinks,  the risk of getting arrest for drug driving increased dramatically.  On Saturday (December 30th) Utah lowered its legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit from 0.08 to 0.05.  This gives Utah the strictest DUI laws in the country. This follows a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation that all states should lower their legal BAC limits to 0.05.

Whiskey-keys-and-handcuffs-300x200Before we go further, you are saying you know you fine at .05, right?  But define “fine”.  Do I feel like I can drive a car at .05?  I do.  Do I ever drive at .05 with my kids in the car?  I don’t.  Setting aside the stunning hypocrisy for a second, I do this because I’ve been competing with my friends and family at goofy things my whole life.  So I know that a little bit of alcohol slows me down just a bit because I can’t play video games or golf or anything else quite as well after two drinks than zero.

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The recent technological advances in car safety are nothing short of dramatic.  The result is lives are being saved on our highways.  The pros of these technologies far outweigh the cons.  But that does not means there will not be bumps in the road.

One bump is people do not understand the technologies they now have access to in the vehicles. According to a September 2018 report conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, most drivers do not realize the limitations of using advanced driver safety systems in their car. It also indicates that people are becoming dependent on the technology to drive safely.

What was the study?