Maryland Left-Turn Liability

Maryland Left-Turn Liability

You may not think twice about making a left-hand turn at an intersection, but did you know that it’s one of the more dangerous things you can do as a driver? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that in 2019, accidents involving left turns (where the oncoming car crashed into the passenger side of the turning car) accounted for nearly a quarter of all road fatalities.

Why are left turns so dangerous? It makes sense when you think about it. You’re crossing a lane of traffic with cars coming in the opposite direction (often quickly), accelerating into the turn, and trusting your judgment with regard to how much time you have to complete it. 

And while you may think that the car hitting you is always at fault, in left-hand turns that’s not the case (unless you’re turning on a green arrow). According to Maryland’s Transportation Code § 21-402, drivers turning left (or making a U-turn, for that matter) always have to yield the right-of-way to cars coming from the opposite direction.

Are left-turning cars ever not at fault? The answer to this question is yes – but these instances are rarely clear-cut or easy to prove. As mentioned above, if a left-turning car has a green arrow and is hit by an oncoming car, the oncoming car is at fault. Otherwise, you might have a situation involving negligence on the part of the oncoming driver; perhaps they are speeding or have run a stop sign, or they’re distracted (texting or talking on the phone, for example). 

In these circumstances, a case could be made on your behalf – particularly since Maryland follows what’s called the contributory negligence law, which states that if the other driver (in this case, the oncoming driver) contributed even 1% to the accident, they aren’t eligible for compensation. But you’d need a witness to attest to the other driver’s contributory negligence, or other indisputable evidence that the fault was shared. If it’s just the other driver’s word against yours, you’re unlikely to get the benefit of the doubt.

What if I’m the passenger in a left-turning car? This is an interesting question. If you’re a passenger in a car and you’re injured in an accident involving a left turn, technically the person you’d be making a claim against is the driver of the vehicle that you’re riding in – which is obviously a little awkward if the person in question is a family member or friend. If you’re a passenger in a cab or a ride-share vehicle like an Uber or Lyft, you should speak to a qualified attorney to assess the situation and determine your rights.

If you’ve been involved in a left-turn accident in Maryland, a lawyer can help you determine the best course of action. Contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to schedule your free consultation. We don’t receive a fee unless we win.

Should I hire a lawyer to fight a traffic ticket?

Traffic Light at an Intersection

It might sound unnecessary to bring in a lawyer to contest a traffic ticket, but moving violations can seriously affect your life, and going to court can get very complicated. As the old English proverb puts it, “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” You don’t want to be standing before a judge before you realize that you’re not able to properly defend yourself. In fact, at one point in history, some states’ Bar Associations forbade even lawyers from representing themselves in court. This was later ruled constitutional, but if it was considered a bad idea for lawyers to act as their own counsel, non-lawyers defending themselves is even worse. 

Any sort of driving violation can bring plenty of trouble. In addition to the fines, the points on your driving record can raise your insurance rates and possibly even affect your career if your job requires you to drive. The loss of your driver’s license can seriously impair your ability to support yourself and your family at worst and is a major inconvenience at best. Once you’ve worn out family and friends for rides, you’re stuck with paying hefty Uber/cab fees or relying on public transportation. 

Should you take your own case, here are just a few of the issues you’ll need to consider:

  • Can I beat the charge?
  • If convicted, how many points will I get on my record?
  • Can I lose my license?
  • Can I go to jail?
  • How will this affect my insurance?
  • Who do I have to notify about the charge? My employer? My school? Licensing boards or potential new employers? 

Types of traffic offenses

Typically, minor offenses like speeding, running a stop sign or red light, or driving without having your license with you do not require you to personally appear in court. Your lawyer can handle them without you having to take off time from work. Maryland does require you to show up in court for more serious offenses like driving without a license or insurance, DUI/DWI or other alcohol- or drug-related driving offense, hit and run, or driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license. 

Fighting a traffic citation in Maryland

So you’ve been treated unfairly and have decided to fight City Hall on your own. Here’s what will happen. For starters, you’ll have to request time off from work to go to court. Once you take your spot at the defense table you had better understand your legal rights and potential defense strategies under Maryland law. If not, you’re seriously jeopardizing your chances of avoiding substantial fines, points on your driving record, and maybe even jail time. In addition to being familiar with the judge and courtroom procedures, an experienced traffic ticket lawyer will have researched your case to make sure everything runs smoothly. Was the stop legal? Do the police have any evidence, and, if so, how reliable is it? Are there witnesses who might testify on your behalf? Is it a good idea to put the police officer who stopped you on the witness stand? Above all, judges have zero patience for people who waste their time. Stumbling around in court while you’re trying to figure out what to say or do is never a good look. Hiring an attorney shows the judge that you’re taking the situation seriously and are looking to resolve it most expeditiously. And in some minor cases, your lawyer can take care of everything for you without you having to take off work. 

If you’re considering hiring a lawyer to fight a traffic violation, Attorney Nick Parr will evaluate your case and explain your options. Contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to schedule your free consultation. We don’t receive a fee unless we win.

Is it possible to get a DUI in Maryland without drinking alcohol?

DUI without Drinking in MD

The rule is standard and absolute no matter which state you call home: It is illegal to drink alcohol before or during the operation of a motor vehicle. In Maryland, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.07% or higher while driving brings a charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI), while a BAC of 0.08% or higher warrants a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. Of the two, a DUI is considered the more serious offense. 

But this doesn’t mean that alcohol has to be the official influence or intoxicant if you’ve been stopped on suspicion of impaired driving. While alcohol is what almost everyone thinks of when a DUI or DWI is mentioned, the truth is that numerous substances can cause physical difficulties and affect judgment when operating a motor vehicle: 

  • Illegal Drugs: Drivers under the influence of marijuana, morphine, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, heroin, or another illegal drug can be arrested for DUI.
  • Prescription Medications: Just because you have a doctor’s prescription for it doesn’t mean you can drive while taking it. Read the warning label on your medication bottle before getting behind the wheel or operating any sort of heavy machinery. 
  • Over-the-Counter Medications: As with prescription meds, there are plenty of OTC medications that can impair you, such as allergy medicines that can cause drowsiness or disorientation. 

How can I get caught for driving on drugs/medication?

It’s more difficult for a police officer to determine on the spot whether you’re impaired by something other than alcohol. Drugs and medications don’t leave an aroma on your breath and won’t register a reading on a breathalyzer, but if the officer suspects that something is wrong, he/she can request that you take a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST). In Maryland, this roadside examination involves mental and physical acuity tests like following the officer’s pen with your eyes as it moves from side to side, a one-leg stand test during which you stand withone foot lifted six inches off the ground while counting to 30, and a walk-and-turn test instructing you to take nine steps heel-to-toe, stop, pivot, and take nine steps heel-to-toe back to the starting point. During this time, the officer is looking for signs of impairment like loss of balance, turning incorrectly, or failure to obey simple commands like when to start the test. 

Possible defenses for DUI charge when alcohol wasn’t consumed

Without a definitive breathalyzer reading to serve as evidence, the results of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests can be challenged as the sole indicator of driver impairment. Factors include the officer’s level of training in performing the test. A surprising number of police officers aren’t properly trained on the finer points of administering an SFST. The test results can also be challenged if the conditions were such that even a sober person might have trouble passing, and an experienced DUI/DWI attorney can dispute the results based on any number of questions. Was the ground level? Was there gravel that might lead to instability walking? Was it rainy or windy? What kind of shoes was the driver wearing? Were the lights from passing traffic enough to influence or distract the test taker? The answers to these and other questions can mean the difference between a DUI/DWI conviction and acquittal/dismissal.  

Contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to discuss whether your DWI/DUI charges can be dismissed or reduced based on faulty or incorrect Standardized Field Sobriety Tests results. Consultation is free.