The Law Office of John P. Zanelotti, PC Legal Blog

SUMMER BOATING ACCIDENTS

Posted by John Zanelotti | Aug 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

As summer progresses the injury and death toll from boating accidents continues to rise. There have now been 11 boating deaths this year with many more injured. In 2015 Maryland had a record 21 deaths, up from the typical 13 per year. What are the factors that increase the number of fatalities and injuries while on our waterways? It seems that the number of boats on the water may have increased dramatically due to the lower price of gasoline over the past several years. Gas prices dropped significantly between 2014 and 2015 by around $1.44 per gallon, giving rise to more boats and more time on the waterways. But the real factor in boating accidents is human error. Even though boat renters are required to read the boating safety course put out by the Natural Resources Police that notes that no boater shall operate while impaired by alcohol or drugs, and that all children under 13 shall wear a life vest, boaters continue to ignore some of the more basic safety rules.

Most boating accidents are avoidable if the operator maintains vigilance, knows the rules and uses common sense. Inexperienced boaters fail to know the rules and fail to know the waters in which they are boating. Recently a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old fell off a rented pontoon boat and were pulled into the propeller. Apparently the driver was not able to stop the boat quickly. The 9-year-old died despite quick help from an EMT and nurses passing by on another boat. There were 17 people on the pontoon boat at the time of the accident. In other incidents a powerboat ran over a woman on a jet ski, a woman was struck by a boat propeller and a man had an artery severed in a boat crash. Many incidents such as these could have been avoided with basic knowledge of boating rules and an awareness of their surroundings and their passengers. The negligence of the boat "captain" or boat operator can be investigated by an experienced attorney and proper compensation awarded to the injured victims.

Pedestrian Accidents

Posted by John Zanelotti | May 03, 2016 | 0 Comments

As the weather warms and the tourist season blossoms, pedestrians are being seen once again on Ocean Highway, and on Main Streets in our towns and cities. Today in Ocean City a 67-year-old Pennsylvania man was struck and killed while crossing 94th Street, apparently against a pedestrian signal. He was struck by an Ocean City police vehicle on Ocean Highway proceeding on a green light. As pedestrians we need to maintain a vigilance for motor vehicles on the right of way and to cross only at a traffic signal with a pedestrian "walk" sign especially on four lane roadways. Vehicles are traveling at a high rate of speed on this roadway and in the summer the traffic is congested. Even in towns like Berlin, traffic can be stop and go at times down Main Street with people paying more attention to the shops than the traffic.

If a pedestrian is struck while crossing on a "walk" signal while in a crosswalk by any vehicle, then there is a cause of action against the negligent driver of the car or truck. Keep in mind that if a government or police vehicle is negligent in the operation of a motor vehicle, there are rules and procedures for putting the town, county or state on notice of a claim or the claim could be rejected and dismissed. These rules fall under the Local Tort Claims Act or the State Tort Claims Act and have specific requirements. Anyone struck by a motor vehicle owned and operated by a governmental entity, while a pedestrian or a driver or passenger of a car, should contact an attorney shortly after the accident for many reasons beside putting the government on notice. We have handled these type of accidents for over 34 years and can guide you through the entire claim. Whether an accident occurs in Ocean City, Berlin, Pocomoke City, Easton, Cambridge, the Eastern Shore, Annapolis or in the Metropolitan Area, we have been exclusively representing the injured person and his or her family in the claim for injuries and damages.

Spring Arrives at Beaches

Posted by John Zanelotti | Apr 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

Spring has finally sprung at the shore. The boardwalk has walkers and strollers once again as the weather warms up. Both Ocean City and Salisbury open with their respective Restaurant Week beginning April 17 and April 11, and Springfest is right around the corner. In addition to Ocean City, Berlin St. Michaels and Snow Hill will be seeing an increase in visitors with events and activities scheduled. As we enter Spring and Summer, pedestrian traffic will be increasing exponentially and causing a rise in traffic incidents. Pedestrians do not always keep a strict eye on turning or oncoming traffic and generally enjoy the right way over vehicles at intersections and walkways. As drivers we must pay attention to our walking public....pedestrians do not have airbags! As noted in a prior blog, a pedestrian in the U.S. was killed every 2 hours and injured every 8 minutes in 2013. So as Spring and Summer unfold on the Eastern Shore lets drive with an eye out toward our vacationers, especially the children and elders, who are at greater risk than others.

Traffic Fatalities Up in 2015

Posted by John Zanelotti | Mar 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

NHTSA (National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration) just reported that traffic fatalities increased sharply in 2015 for the first time in years. Fatalities have been slowly declining, more than 22 percent from 2000 to 2014 as reported to NHTSA. Is cheaper gas the reason for the increase? Apparently, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of miles traveled in the U.S., up by 80.2 billion miles in the first nine months of 2015,from the year before. So more time on the road with more miles traveled may be the reason for the spike in traffic fatalities. It would be interesting to see if other countries with cheaper gas have the same increase in deaths.

So as we drive more miles in 2016 for vacation or just around town, keep in mind that we are extending our time on the road where accidents and traffic fatalities can occur. It makes sense that the more time we spend driving that the more risk we have in operating our cars, trucks and motorcycles. One of the downfalls of cheaper gas. And we Americans love our cars and trucks especially with cheaper gas.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Posted by John Zanelotti | Mar 06, 2016 | 0 Comments

Distracted driving occurs when a driver diverts his or her attention from the act of driving to focus on other types of activities. The diversion can be texting, using hand held and hands free systems, and can also be merely talking to a passenger, changing the radio, eating and adjusting the temperature controls. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) reported that ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2013 were reported as distraction-affected crashes. In 2013, there were 3,154 people killed and an estimated additional 424,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes. In 2013, there were 480 non-occupants killed in distraction affected crashes.

Studies by AAA and the University of Utah reported that even after hanging up from a hands free call, unsafe mental distractions occur for up to 27 seconds after hanging up. So even after hanging up a driver could miss a stop sign, a car or a pedestrian in the lane of travel. Different models of cars with voice activated systems had varying degrees of distraction depending on the level of complexity involved in its use. As drivers of public roads we need to be mindful of our driving habits and the numerous distractions we encounter on a daily basis. Be a model for your 15- to 19-year-old children who are the largest segment of distracted drivers. Drive safely out there.

NHTSA and Bus Seatbelts

Posted by John Zanelotti | Nov 09, 2015 | 0 Comments

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) through its Administrator Mark Rosekind today announced that it would support but not require three point seat belts in school buses. The hope is that school bus makers will now install seat belts in their new buses. This is a new position for NHTSA. It will now conduct further research into the issue of seat belts by studying jurisdictions that already have them and to determine the financial issue of cost. NHTSA will start working with other Federal agencies to find funds for the transition to seat belts. Presently California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana and New York have requirements for two or three point seat belts. Statistics from these states will provide basic information on the use of seat belts in school buses.

In the past NHTSA announced that starting next November, all new motor coaches (think Greyhound) will be required to have three point seat belts installed. Now the issue of whether seat belts will be required in school buses will again be addressed. In the past its position was that large school buses are safe due to the weight of the bus and the configuration of the interior or compartmentalization. It determined in the past that only one or two lives would be saved if seat belts were mandatory. In 2008, NHTSA required that all buses weighing under 10,000 pounds (Type A) are required to have three point seat belts primarily because they resemble regular vehicles in weight and size.

NHTSA is also addressing safety in other areas of concern such as students traveling by foot or bicycle, students waiting at school bus stops and vehicles illegally passing buses when they are picking up students with their lights on and safety arms out.

Red Light Green Light

Posted by John Zanelotti | Nov 09, 2015 | 0 Comments

A close friend of mine was in an accident this past weekend and it brings to mind many common issues that arise because of any accident. This collision happened in Delaware which has different motor vehicle insurance laws than Maryland but the concepts are the same. My friend came to a stop at the only red traffic signal in a small town on the Eastern Shore. After the light turned green she proceeded into the intersection and suddenly and without any warning her small vehicle was T-boned by a pickup truck coming from her right. The collision crushed the front driver's side of the car, spinning her around. She was taken to the local ER by ambulance where the doctor found a broken collar bone, multiple lacerations, bruises and a concussion. Her small car was totaled and towed to a lot. The driver of the truck was arrested for multiple violations primarily DWI, and failing to stop in response to a red light.

Red light intersections can be deadly. Had she entered the intersection a fraction of a second earlier she could have been killed or seriously injured if her car was struck exactly at the driver's door. Several concepts can be learned from this accident. When in an intersection, whether in a small town or a big city, please look just like you would at a stop sign and make sure no idiot is blowing through a red light. Another issue is your own insurance coverage. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. In this particular case my friend's automobile coverage was minimal with $15,000 per accident per individual for both liability and uninsured coverage. The primary reason for such low coverage was that she had young drivers on her policy which raised her premiums through the roof after several moving violations. The other driver who ran the red light also had only $15,000 in liability coverage so there will be no insurance coverage for more than his $15,000 for her injuries, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Had she uninsured or underinsured coverage for say $50,000, then she would have been able to make a claim under the uninsured/underinsured provision on her own policy for a total of $50,000 ($15,000 from the culpable party and $35,000 from her own insurance carrier).

The ultimate lessons for everyone from this specific incident is to make sure your own automobile insurance policy has adequate coverage for both liability and uninsured/underinsured of at least $50,000 to a $100,000. Just ask your agent how much more it would cost and you may be pleasantly surprised that the cost is not significant. Secondly, look before you enter any intersection, whether at a stop light or a stop sign, as someone may be barreling down at you. Of course it is never your fault when someone runs a red light or a stop sign but it may save you from injury or worse.

Ocean Pines Office

Posted by John Zanelotti | Aug 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

I have opened the Ocean Pines office near the south entrance to Ocean Pines, and will work there most Fridays and by appointment. There are several lawyers with offices nearby who specialize in the areas of real estate law, elder law and criminal defense. Since I limit my practice to personal injury and the representation of injured clients, I can see a referral type of relationship with some of these attorneys locally, or at least I hope so.

I lived in the original Ocean Pines back in the 70's, while working in Ocean City at the Ocean Pines Ocean Club on 49th Street, managing the pool on summer break from college. I also worked at the original Phillips Restaurant as a second job at nights. As a matter of fact all of my brothers and sisters worked at Phillips or other local restaurants during summer breaks from both high school and college. Ocean Pines at that time had only the North entrance with plenty of undeveloped lots and was owned then by Boise Cascade, the large wood product manufacturer. They were just developing the first Yacht Club and golf course. When I recently took a tour of South Ocean Pines with one of the local developers (and my landlord) it was just amazing to see what occurred over the past several decades. It truly is a full time resort community.

Hopefully I will meet many of the residents of this Community soon and look forward to representing them and other residents of Worcester and Wicomico Counties in any personal injury or workers compensation claims. As my site mentions, I have limited my practice to representing only individuals injured in auto, truck, motorcycle and pedestrian accidents as well as those with injuries sustained at work, construction sites, or by medical, hospital or nursing home malpractice. I will meet with any client in my office or at their home or hospital room anywhere on the Eastern Shore from Pocomoke City and Berlin to Easton and Kent Island.

Traffic Deaths Up First Half 2015

Posted by John Zanelotti | Aug 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL

The NSC, a nonprofit organization created by Congress to promote safety, announced that traffic deaths are up 14% for the first half of 2015. Nearly 19,000 people have died in motor vehicle related accidents and the increase began in 2014. If this continues then traffic deaths could exceed 40,000 for the first time since the year 2007. This growing trend has shown fatality increases for the last 15 months in a row and the nation's driving (mileage) passed the previous record set in 2007. The estimated annual mileage death rate this year is 1.3 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, which is also up from 2014's rate.

As far as good news in concerned, deaths due to drunken driving has dropped to 30% from 50% and teen driving deaths are also down. Some of the factors that seem to point toward the higher death rate this year are higher speed limits set by some states, and distracted driving caused by cell phone use and text messaging. The Council estimates that a quarter of all crashes involve cellphone use. Other factors include more travel in general due to a stronger economy, lower unemployment and low gas prices.

So it appears that because we, as a nation of drivers, are logging more miles every day of the week because more of us are employed, gas prices are lower and the economy is doing better since the "economic crash". In addition we are driving while distracted by using our handheld cellphones and reading and writing texts in the car. Psychologically, I would guess that we are also driving faster than the posted speed limits because gas is cheaper and we are not paying as much attention to speed and to the roadway while looking at our phones.

The moral of this story is to slow down, pay attention, drop the phone (or get hands free) and don't become a statistic.

Summer Motorcycle Accidents

Posted by John Zanelotti | Jul 08, 2015 | 0 Comments

There are typically a rash of motorcycle accidents beginning in the Spring and lasting through the Fall as motorcycle owners clean, polish and ride their motorcycles. Accidents can be single vehicle incidents where the driver of the motorcycle fails to negotiate a turn or multiple vehicle accidents where a car or truck fails to see an oncoming motorcycle. The most typical scenario that this office sees is a motorcycle being struck by an automobile when the car turns left in front of the motorcycle and directly into the path of the oncoming motorcycle. The result is a severely injured motorcyclist (and sometimes a passenger). This happens even though motorcycles have automatic on headlights and sometimes multiple headlights. I have seen this happen during Bike Week in Daytona Beach and Bike Week here in Ocean City, MD. All drivers must be aware of motorcycles and bicycles using the roadways of our public highways and streets. Keep an eye out for oncoming walkers, bikers and motorcyclists.

This exact scenario played out yesterday, July 7, 2015, when a Lexus driving down Route 113 turned left into the path of a motorcycle at Bishopville Road in Worcester County, killing the motorcyclist. The Lexus struck two more vehicles before it came to a stop. Of course the driver of the Lexus sustained minor injuries. As the summer progresses and we have more two wheeled vehicles on the roads, and more and more automobile traffic due to vacationers, we must be more vigilant about their existence on the roads and bike lanes. This law office has handled numerous motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian accidents at our Laurel Metro office and now at our Ocean Pines, Maryland office. If you need the assistance of an attorney with over 34 years of experience in personal injury, please call us.

Construction Worker Death on Route 95

Posted by John Zanelotti | Jun 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

A tractor trailer from North Carolina struck and killed a construction worker who was working in the area of northbound Route 95 near the ICC (Route 200) early this morning around 1:30 a.m. Route 95 was closed for a period of time and just recently reopened. Apparently the tractor trailer entered the construction zone, struck a parked work truck then struck another work truck which then hit the construction worker. The worker was from Pennsylvania. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

In the D.C. Metro area, construction zones on Route 95 and other major highways are in full bloom in the summer in order to take advantage of the warmer temperatures and weather. A majority of road construction in our area takes place at night so as not to hamper rush hour traffic and to keep traffic delays to a minimum. Posted speed signs and lit warning signs require motorists to not only slow down but to pay attention to lane changes and closures at a time when they are tired and run down in the middle of the night. As we all know tractor trailers run through the Route 95 corridor all day and night but these professional drivers are required to follow specific Federal laws regarding driving times, rest times and other rules.

This law firm has handled numerous tractor trailer accidents from our Laurel, Maryland location and now on the Eastern Shore from our Ocean Pines office. Construction workers injured in Maryland by a negligent driver such as in this occurrence have both a workers' compensation claim for benefits, as well as a third party claim against the driver and his employer for the injuries sustained, medical bills, lost pay, pain and suffering and in a case such as this, wrongful death. This is a complex area of the law and definitely requires the assistance of an attorney who is aware of the different requirements of each claim.

Pocomoke Auto Accident

Posted by John Zanelotti | Jun 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

A Ford Mustang from Virginia was traveling north on Route 113 when the driver attempted to turn left directly in front of a Salisbury man driving an Express van, crossing two lanes of traffic. The van struck the Mustang on the side which is typical of this type of accident. Route 113 was closed for several hours once again for investigation. Luckily it appears that the van driver and three passengers in the Ford were treated at Peninsula General and released. Unfortunately the Mustang driver was transported by helicopter to Peninsula Regional Medical Center and then to Shock Trauma in Baltimore due to her injuries.

If the van driver was working at the time he will be covered by both workers compensation insurance and have a third party claim against the driver of the Mustang. This office has handled many cases of this sort on behalf of workers injured on the job, whether on the Eastern shore near Berlin, Ocean Pines, Salisbury, Pocomoke City or Snow Hill or on the corridor from Ocean City to Annapolis.

IHIS 2015 Safety Picks

Posted by John Zanelotti | May 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has set forth the Top Safety Picks for all style of vehicles for 2015. IHIS does extensive crashworthiness testing to find the safest vehicles for each year. To qualify the vehicles must have good ratings in several areas of crash worthiness including moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, head restraint. A Top Safety Pick Plus rating is reserved for vehicles that also have a superior rating for front crash prevention. Some of the notable picks plus in small cars are the Subaru Crosstek, and Impreza, the Toyota Prius and the Mazda 3. In midsize cars, the Subaru has several vehicles again as does Toyota with the Mazda 6 showing its stats. In the small SUV vehicles category, the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-5 and the Subaru Forester took top honors. There are also several other size categories with many having Top Picks and Plus honors.

I suggest if you are looking to buy a new 2015 vehicle or even a used vehicle you should check out the IHIS ratings for that year and buy one of these safer vehicles for you and your family. A complete list can be found at:

www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/TSP-List

Eastern Shore Auto Accidents

Posted by John Zanelotti | May 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

Fatal and serious motor vehicle and truck accidents continue to occur in and around the Eastern Shore counties this year. Beginning in January, 2015, a Virginia family, including a pregnant woman and a 2 month old boy, were killed in a crash with a tractor trailer in Queen Anne's County. The family apparently was on their way to visit family in Baltimore when a tractor trailer collided with them in an intersection.

More recently in Caroline County, a person was killed and another driver injured when a Cadillac and a Ford bus collided while passing one another on Bethlehem Road near Preston, MD. Early investigation indicated that the Cadillac drifted over the center line into the path of the Ford state owned, bus, which was providing transportation for an adult day care facility. The bus was caused to overturn after being struck.

Two other citizens were killed near Kent Narrows Bridge in March, 2015, when a driver going the wrong way on the highway struck a car in the evening. A spy cam actually caught the accident as it occurred. The driver going the wrong way on Route 50 had a long history of prior charges from DUI to driving on the wrong side of the road and alcohol was deemed to be a probable factor in this particular accident.

Please, keep an eye out and drive as defensibly as possible as you never know what may be coming down the roadway. And if you need an Eastern Shore attorney you know you can count on this firm to aggressively investigate and pursue your claim for damages and injuries.

Auto Insurance Price Optimization

Traumatic Brain Injury/TBI Program

Posted by John Zanelotti | Mar 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

The recent outcry by professional athletes has led to a reevaluation of all sports programs and the issue of TBI and concussions both inside and outside the sports arena is prime for discussion by everyone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a new web based program called "Heads Up" intended for school officials, coaches and parents, which I strongly recommend every parent read for the information contained about TBI and concussions. The program explains concussion danger signs and symptoms, severe brain injury, returning to school or the sport program, and recovery. Concussion signs include the child or athlete not recalling events before or after a hit or fall, appears dazed or confused, moves clumsily, forgets an instruction or is confused about an assignment or play, answers questions slowly, loses consciousness even briefly, or shows mood, behavior or personality changes. Symptoms include nausea or vomiting, headache, balance problems or dizziness, feeling sluggish, groggy or foggy, or just not feeling right.

In addition to sports related concussions, the CDC notes that there are 52,000 deaths, 275,00 hospital admissions, and 1,365,000 ER visits related to TBI every year. About 75% of the TBIs that occur are concussions or other types of mild traumatic brain injury. The individuals most likely to sustain a TBI include children age 0-4, teenagers age 15-19 and older adults age 65 plus. Of course males sustain a TBI by a ratio of 2-1 over females. The leading causes of TBI are falls and motor vehicle accidents with auto accidents being the leading cause of TBI related deaths.

If you are injured and have symptoms of TBI as a result of a motor vehicle accident or a work related accident your should insure that you see a neurologist or other specialist in head trauma as soon as possible. In addition to a medical specialist you should contact an attorney to assist you in dealing with any potential claim. We have helped many individuals with accident related TBI or concussions by making sure they receive the best of medical care and treatment and that they receive the maximum amount of recovery for their injuries. We would be honored to discuss any issues your may have relating to TBI or concussions.

Police Officer Struck

Posted by John Zanelotti | Mar 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

Local paper and TV reports noted that a purported drunk driver struck a Howard County Police officer yesterday when the officer was stopped on the shoulder of the road with his emergency lights on to assist another officer from Takoma Park who had struck a deer. The accident happened near the Howard-Montgomery County line near Burtonsville, MD. Luckily he did not sustained life-threatening injuries.

These type of accidents involving first responders seem to happen all too often on our local roads, whether in the Metro area or in less populated areas such as Easton, Berlin, Prince Frederick or on the way to Ocean City. Just in early March another Howard County officer was struck while in Laurel and the person fled the scene. In Temple Hills an officer was struck by an SUV which later caused a fatal accident after fleeing.

Luckily police and other first responders have two avenues to pursue with regard to injuries sustained in such accidents. First there is the workers' compensation claim to be made as the officer was working at the time of the accident for medical care, temporary total disability and permanency benefits. Secondly, there is a claim to be made against the at-fault driver for the injuries sustained, medical bills, future medical care, lost wages and pain and suffering in addition to other damages. Of course there is a statutory lien held by the employer for any workers compensation benefits paid if such a recovery is made.

Although not relevant here Public Safety employees are entitled to a presumption that certain illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension and lung disease are occupational diseases suffered in the line of duty. Injuries for repetitive trauma or overuse are also covered as occupational diseases.

Keep an eye out for our local police and first responders and move over to the next lane if available!

Cellphone Use Causes 1 in 4 Car Accidents

Posted by John Zanelotti | Mar 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

Yes it is true. 1 in 4 auto accidents are caused by cell phone use based on a study from The National Safety Council's annual injury and fatality report of 2014. It found that the use of cell phones caused 26% of the nation's car accidents, an increase from the year before. There have been an estimated 245,358 car crashes involving cell phones. Most of the accidents involved someone using the cell phone while talking on hand held or hand free devices. This report along with a report done by Texas A & M demonstrates that just talking on a phone can be more dangerous than texting and that talk to text may not be a solution.

Cell phone use has an increased reaction time resulting in less chance of avoiding an accident. The NSC report also indicates a slight rise in observed manipulation of hand held devices. It was estimated that the actual incidence of cell phone use resulting in an accident or a fatality was under reported due to the drivers being unwilling to admit using their phones.

Texting itself makes you 23 times more likely to crash and is the same as driving 5 seconds without looking, which is the length of a football field if driving at 55 mph. It slows your brake reaction time by 18% and is the number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers.

National Safety Council Release