Child Car Seat Laws in Maryland

Car Seats Law in Maryland

Keeping a child safe in a motor vehicle requires a little effort on the parents’ part. As cars do not automatically come with seats that protect infants and toddlers, parents must install such devices separately. According to the American Society for Positive Care of Children (American SPCC), using the right car seats and safety restraints can reduce the risk of serious injuries by 50 to 70 percent. It is critical to understand the car seat laws in Maryland to avoid legal trouble and to keep your child safe from injuries.

Safety seat requirements for children

Maryland Transportation Article 22-412.2 requires that children must be secured according to the following conditions:

  • Age 0-7:  Any child, age 0-7, who is shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches, must be secured in a child safety seat. If a child is less than 8 years old, but at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall, they must be secured in either a child safety seat or a seat belt.
  • Age 8-15:  Any child under age 16 must be secured in either a child safety seat or a seat belt.

Choosing the right car seat

It is not enough to install just any car seat. The seat must be the appropriate type for the age, size, and weight of the child. A child safety seat is defined as any child restraint device, including a booster seat, that the manufacturer certifies to meet federal standards. The law requires that you use the child safety seat according to its instructions, and the instructions of the vehicle manufacturer.

Rear-facing car seat. The Maryland Department of Health recommends that babies and young toddlers ride rear-facing as long as possible.  A child should ride in a rear-facing seat until reaching the maximum weight or height of the seat. A typical infant-only (carrier style) seat may be used to 22 pounds – though a few new infant-only seats have weight limits of 30 – 35 pounds.  Once a child outgrows the infant-only seat, a rear-facing convertible seat should be used. Convertible seats may be used rear-facing until 30 – 45 pounds. Always check the car seat instruction manual or labels for specific weight and height limits.

Forward-facing car seat. A child can move to a forward-facing car seat only when he or she outgrows the rear-facing seat. This typically occurs at two years old, but the age can vary according to the child’s height and weight. Read the instructions on your forward-facing seat to make sure your child fits the parameters before making the switch. It is safest for your child to use a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible.

While the law does not prohibit children from riding in the front seat, car seats should always be installed in the back seat of a vehicle unless the vehicle does not have a back seat. However, if a driver is unable to turn off the passenger-side airbag, it is a violation to place a child in a rear-facing car seat in the front seat. It’s not only illegal but extremely dangerous, as an airbag deploys with enough force to seriously injure, or kill, a child.

If you are unsure whether your car seat is properly installed, the Maryland Kids In Safety Seats (KISS) program provides free in-person car seat checks by state police officers as well as Car Seat Assistance Program webinars via Zoom.

Seat Belts Required for Teens

In addition to the child safety seat laws mentioned above, a child under the age of 16 must be secured in a child safety seat or a seat belt. Maryland Transportation Article §22-412.2(e) states subject to this law, “a person may not transport a child under the age of 16 years” unless the child is secured in a child safety seat in accordance with the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturers’ instructions OR with a seat belt. Additionally, it is unlawful to strap more than one child in the same seat belt. The rule is one seat belt per child.

All of the laws stated above apply to both in-state and out-of-state vehicles, and it is the driver’s responsibility to make sure all children are properly secured. Any person convicted of a violation of these statutes is subject to a fine of $50.

If your child has been injured in a car accident in Maryland, contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, Maryland today to schedule your free consultation. We’re here to protect your rights, and we don’t receive a fee unless we win.

What to ask when looking for a personal injury attorney in Maryland

Injury Lawyer Justice

When considering a personal injury lawsuit in Maryland, it’s vital to choose your lawyer carefully. If you’re going against an insurance company, consider that they have deep pockets and experienced attorneys who specialize in defending exactly the sort of case you’re bringing against their client. The lawyer you hire will play a key role in determining how much compensation you receive.

But it’s easy to find an attorney, right? They’re all over TV and local billboards. Well, just keep in mind that some of the lawyers you see on television and billboards pay for those expensive ads by unscrupulously turning and burning cases. They take your case and settle quickly for whatever the insurance company offers, bringing low compensation for you and a high return for them based on the amount of time they’ve spent – which is very little. They make their money on the high volume of cases they resolve exactly the same way. Unfortunately, that leaves you with low-quality legal representation.

Here are some key questions you should ask during your free consultation with a Maryland personal injury lawyer.

  1. Do I need a personal injury lawyer? Often people assume that in a ‘minor’ accident, they can get a fair settlement on their own. But it makes good sense to talk to an attorney, especially when the consultation is free. Sometimes a simple case can be more complicated than you realize, so why take the risk of losing what you are entitled to for your injury?
  • Is your practice dedicated to personal injury law? General practitioners are lawyers who handle a wide range of legal cases, including the occasional personal injury case. Make sure you find a lawyer who handles personal injury cases on an everyday basis. An attorney who doesn’t is likely to be at a major disadvantage when he or she goes up against a law firm that specializes in the defense of personal injuries cases.
  • How often do you handle cases like mine? Every case presents different issues. During your consultation, make sure that your personal injury lawyer has experience in your specific type of case. Just ask. You should also read reviews and testimonials online. The Martindale-Hubbell Bar Registry (www.martindale.com) and The Best Lawyers in America (www.bestlawyers.com) are highly recommended sources.
  • What percentage of your cases are referrals from other lawyers? Nobody knows a lawyer better than other lawyers, and no lawyer is going to refer business to a lawyer he or she doesn’t respect or trust. It’s important to find out how much of a lawyer’s caseload comes from referrals from other lawyers. In any field or profession, the professionals who work in the field usually know who’s good and who’s not. If you have an attorney or a friend who practices law, that might be a good place to start. Even if he or she doesn’t handle injury cases, they are bound to have colleagues who are familiar with the personal injury or malpractice lawyers who are recognized by their peers as being the best in your community.
  • How much does a personal injury lawyer cost? Most potential clients are unaware that even the top personal injury attorneys typically charge fees that are the same as inexperienced lawyers who have no track record of success in the courtroom. Most also work on contingency, which means they don’t receive a fee unless they win. The lawyer’s take is usually around 33% of the award, but that can vary depending on circumstances. Keep in mind, also, that you may be responsible for any expenses your attorney incurs while handling your case. Such expenses include fees paid to third parties to keep the case going: expert witness fees, court reporter fees, charges for medical records, charges for physician reports, filing fees and the many other expenses that go into a personal injury lawsuit. All potential charges and fees should be explained to you and clearly laid out in the attorney-client agreement.  
  • Does it make sense financially to hire a personal injury lawyer? A study by the Insurance Research Council found that claim payouts were 40% higher for claimants who had legal representation. Another IRC study examined lawsuits that were settled before trial and found that the recovery amount was 3.5 times higher for plaintiffs represented by a personal injury attorney.
  • What should I bring to the consultation? Your attorney needs to know the whole story so that he or she can represent you effectively. You should gather as much relevant documentation as you have, such as insurance coverage, medical bills, repair estimates, etc. Your attorney will also want to know how the accident has impacted your work and your daily life.
  • Will I need to go to trial? Probably not. Most personal injury cases do not end up in a courtroom. Typically, the parties settle without a lawsuit ever being filed. In a case with ongoing disputes, however, a trial can happen, so you need to have an experienced negotiator and advocate in your corner.
  • How long will it take? This is difficult to answer. A settlement could take weeks, months, or even years, but it is typically less than a year. The severity of the injuries and the recovery period will play a role. Accident victims should be skeptical of an insurance company’s initial offer and not simply accept it in the interest of timing.
  1. How do I pay my medical bills if I am waiting for a settlement? Hopefully, your insurance carrier will cover most of the costs for your treatment providers. In some cases, healthcare providers will seek reimbursement through a process known as subrogation. If money is awarded to you for medical costs as part of your settlement, it could be assigned to them. Your attorney can help you find treatment providers and help you address how and when these providers will be paid.

If you’ve been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence and are seeking a personal injury lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, Maryland today to schedule your free consultation. We’re here to protect your rights, and we don’t receive a fee unless we win.

Recent birth injury lawsuit award is the largest in Iowa history

Birth Law Injury Settlement

An Iowa jury’s recent award of $97.4 million to a child and his family as a result of medical malpractice that occurred during his birth is the largest medical malpractice compensation award in Iowa’s history.

The suit claimed that the obstetrician and the staff of Mercy Hospital Iowa City failed to act on the information that the baby was suffering from oxygen deprivation. The doctor and staff’s negligence – not providing adequate support or initiating delivery by emergency C-section – led to the newborn spending 46 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Subsequent CT and MRI scans showed signs of severe damage to the skull and brain, and the child had surgery to place a shunt in his head that will remain in place for the rest of his life. Now three years old, the child cannot walk without assistance and can speak only a few words. The lawsuit alleges that he will require 24-hour care for the rest of his life.

The plaintiffs claimed that “had [the baby] been delivered sooner as required by the standard of care, he would be neurologically intact and would have avoided injury,” rather than experiencing “permanent brain damage.” The jury agreed, finding for a $97.4 million award that included:

  • $42 million for future medical and care expenses
  • $11.6 million for loss of future earnings
  • $20 million for pain and suffering
  • $20 million for loss of function of the mind and body

This led me to wonder how a case like this might play out in Maryland…

Proving Birth Injury Malpractice in Maryland

Maryland law defines medical negligence as occurring when a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional injures a patient with negligent or inappropriate medical care. Obviously, doctors and hospitals will fight any claim that they committed malpractice, so to show that you are legally entitled to financial compensation you must prove 1) that the doctor’s care deviated from accepted medical standards or practices; and 2) that this deviation from standard medical practices caused your child’s injury.

Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations

It’s important to remember that malpractice lawsuits must be filed in a timely fashion to be considered valid. Maryland Code, Courts & Judicial Proceedings, section 5-109 states that “a medical malpractice claim must be filed within five years after the injury happened, or within three years after the plaintiff (the injured patient) discovered or reasonably could have discovered the injury, whichever comes first.”

 In the event that no exception applies to alter or extend the Maryland Code’s filing deadline, your medical malpractice lawsuit will be dismissed by the court if filed after the deadline.

Maryland cap on medical malpractice awards

While medical malpractice cases have a much higher value than any other type of personal injury case,

Maryland law places a cap on the maximum amount of compensation that can be awarded for losses resulting from medical malpractice. Set by Maryland Code, Courts & Judicial Proceedings section 3-2A-09, the cap is $860,000 for injuries that occurred in 2022. That maximum increases by $15,000 per year after 2022 and decreases by the same amount for each year previous to 2022.

Keep in mind that this cap applies to “noneconomic damages,” which include compensation for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, and other negative effects of the malpractice. However, the cap does not apply to “economic damages” that result from medical malpractice. Economic damages include compensation for all medical expenses, payment for ongoing and future medical care, reimbursement for lost income, and reparation for any harm to the plaintiff’s ability to earn a living.

Recent birth malpractice awards in Maryland

In 2012, a Baltimore jury awarded $21 million to a Glen Burnie family whose son was born prematurely at MedStar Harbor Hospital. The lawsuit claimed that the doctors continuing with a prolonged vaginal birth, rather than opting for a C-section when conditions indicated, caused a loss of oxygen in the womb, which was directly responsible for the newborn’s cerebral palsy.

In July 2019, a Baltimore judge upheld a $205 million verdict in favor of a Maryland woman whose daughter suffered a brain injury during birth at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The lawsuit alleged that, during the baby’s birth in 2014, the doctor and hospital gave the woman incorrect information by telling her that while the baby was viable outside of the womb, she would die or be severely brain damaged if she was delivered via Cesarean section.

As a result of that incorrect information, the mother declined a C-section and medical staff stopped monitoring the fetus. The baby was delivered without enough oxygen to her brain and survived. Now almost 8, she has catastrophic brain damage, kidney damage, microcephaly, cerebral palsy, and a seizure disorder, and requires 24-hour care.

Attorneys say that the $205 million verdict is the largest medical malpractice award in U.S. history.

More recently in August 2021, an Anne Arundel County plaintiff was awarded $34.7 million by a Baltimore jury. The family claimed that MedStar Harbor Hospital in South Baltimore neglected to properly treat one of their newborn twin’s sinking oxygen levels, leading to severe brain injuries that will disable the child for the rest of his life and require him to have around-the-clock care.

The jury agreed with the plaintiff’s claim that the hospital staff mishandled initial signs of the newborn’s condition and that the nurses who first treated him knew about his declining oxygen levels but did not properly contact the on-call pediatrician.

The nearly $35 million verdict included approximately $1.2 million for past medical expenses, $32.2 million in future medical expenses, and $1.4 million in future lost earnings.

If you are seeking advice about Maryland’s medical malpractice laws and how they apply to your child’s birth, contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to schedule your free consultation. We’re here to protect your rights, and we don’t receive a fee unless we win.

Attorney Fees in Maryland for Personal Injury

Attorney Fees in Maryland

How do I get paid?

I’ve had several current and potential personal injury clients ask me about that last line down there at the bottom of my articles. Take a peek below; it’s the one that says, we don’t receive a fee unless we win.”

So how does that work?

Like many personal injury attorneys, I, Nicholas A. Parr, work on a contingency fee basis under certain circumstances. What this means is that I do not take an upfront fee from my personal injury clients. I understand that, in the weeks following an accident or injury, victims may have to deal with unexpected challenges such as high medical bills, paying for auto or property damages, and lost wages due to missed work. They may not have the means to pay for what can be an expensive and time-consuming lawsuit, but they still deserve representation. Thinking that you cannot afford lawyer’s fees and expenses should never stop you, or anyone else, from pursuing a lawsuit.

Here’s how I can help you without your incurring any upfront charges….  

I represent my clients on a contingency basis

I mentioned earlier that I work on contingency. This means that I charge my clients a fee if, and only if, I win or settle the case. I can assume the costs of litigating a case on the front end because I have the financial resources to cover my overhead and expenses while I work. While it may be years before a personal injury case is settled or goes to trial, I make sure that all my clients know that I will work as long as necessary to achieve a favorable result.

Examples of the types of costs and expenses I incur when working on a Maryland lawsuit include:

  • Photocopying and faxing
  • Phone and mail charges
  • Paying paralegals and secretaries who work on the case
  • Messengers
  • Research costs
  • Costs of depositions and court reporters
  • Postage fees
  • Filing fees
  • Expert witness fees
  • Witness interviews
  • Medical treatments
  • Doctor visits
  • Medical records retrieval expenses
  • Police report expenses
  • Compiling witness statements

Typically, at the beginning of a case, a personal injury attorney asks clients to sign an agreement that specifies the percentage that he/she will receive if the case is successful. The percentage can vary depending on the difficulty of the case, but as a general rule, an attorney will receive 33% of the final amount [PC1] in the event that the case is settled. However, cases that go to trial often incur different costs and a different percentage may apply. The goal of any fee structure is to minimize your financial risk in hiring an attorney to represent you and make sure you’re aware of all charges and fees that may apply.

If an attorney does not win a case, he or she will not charge a fee for the legal work. However, lawyers almost always charge for the expenses they incurred while pursuing the case. If a plaintiff decides to change lawyers or to ultimately not bring a lawsuit, most lawyers will charge for the time they put into the case up to that point. All of these charges should be described in the attorney-client agreement.

Why a contingency-based lawyer might work best for you

Hiring a lawyer to litigate your case on contingency involves little to no risk on your part. We incur all of the initial costs, freeing you of any financial worry while you concentrate on overcoming any injuries and addressing any unexpected expenses resulting from your accident. Once the case is either settled or a verdict is awarded after trial, our costs and fees will be addressed in a manner agreed upon ahead of time so all parties understand the payment agreement.

The Maryland Bar Association has detailed rules about how lawyers calculate contingency fees and the types of cases for which these types of fees are permitted. If you have a legal matter that you think can be handled on a contingency basis, contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to schedule your free consultation. We’re here to protect your rights, and we don’t receive a fee unless we win.

Boating regulations & liability laws in Maryland

boat on a Body of Water in Maryland

Summer is in full swing, and that means the beautiful and bountiful waterways of Maryland – which include the Atlantic Ocean, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay – are teeming with recreational boaters. Whether you’re fishing, sailing, tubing, or just cruising, your boat has to conform to state laws and regulations, and you could be held liable if your negligence leads to an accident. In addition to knowing Maryland’s boating laws, always be cognizant of the latest weather and water conditions, the boaters around you, and your safety and that of your passengers. 

Maryland boating requirements

The laws of Maryland’s waterways are governed by the Department of Natural Resources, and you can find detailed rules and regulations here. Here are the basics:

  • Any person born on or after July 1, 1972, must have in their possession a certificate of boating safety education while operating a numbered or documented vessel on Maryland waters.
  • Anyone under the age of 16 operating a motorized vessel 11 feet in length or greater without a valid boating safety certificate must be supervised by an individual 18 years of age or older who possesses a valid boating safety certificate or an individual born before July 1, 1972.
  • Every boat is required to have a Coast Guard-approved PFD (life jacket) for each person on board. Life jackets must be in good condition, readily available, and the correct size for the wearer.
  • Maryland law requires the operator of a vessel to safely assist any individual in danger on the water.
  • When approached by a Maryland Natural Resources Police patrol vessel using a flashing blue light, the vessel operator, unless otherwise directed by the officer, shall yield the right-of-way, stop the vessel and stay in that position until the Natural Resources Police vessel has passed.
  • A boater whose blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher is presumed to be under the influence of alcohol. If a person is impaired by alcohol or drugs, they can also be found guilty of BUI (boating under the influence).
  • Boats must remain at 6 knots or slower when within 100 feet of another boat, pier, pilings, bridge structure, abutment, or people in the water.
  • You may not operate a boat where the water is less than 18 inches deep unless crossing or overtaking.
  • A boat may not come within 300 feet of a person swimming or fishing in the water.
  • A Natural Resources Police officer who determines that your boat is operating in an unsafe manner can direct you to take immediate steps to correct the condition, including returning to port. Termination for unsafe use may be imposed for, but is not limited to:
    • An insufficient number of U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
    • Insufficient fire extinguishers.
    • Overloading beyond the manufacturer’s recommended safe loading capacity.
    • Improper navigation light display.
    • Insufficient ventilation for tanks and engine spaces.
    • Fuel leakage.
    • Fuel in bilges.
    • Improper backfire flame arrestor.

What to do after a boating accident

The operator of any boat involved in an accident must stop, render assistance, and offer identification including name, address, and identification of the operator’s vessel.

An accident report must be made to the department within 48 hours if:

  • The accident causes the death or disappearance of a person.
  • As a result of the accident, a person receives medical treatment beyond first aid.

All other boating accidents must be reported to the Department of Natural Resources within 10 days if the damage is greater than $2,000 or there is a loss of a boat. Running aground or hitting a fixed or floating object is considered a boating accident and must be reported to the Natural Resources Police.  

Liability for boating accidents in Maryland

Liability for Maryland boating accidents is determined the same way it’s determined for auto accidents. Generally, the person who is at fault for the accident is held financially responsible for damages. However, Maryland follows the “pure contributory negligence” rule of fault. Meaning if you have any fault for the accident, you can’t recover any damages from the other party in a lawsuit.

 If you have a boating-related legal issue, contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to schedule your free consultation. We’re here to protect your rights, and we don’t receive a fee unless we win.

What can I do if my police report is wrong?

Police Report Paperwork

If you’ve been in an auto accident in Maryland, a police report is vital when making a legal claim against a negligent driver. A full report contains crash details, date, location, damages, whether a driver was ticketed or arrested, witness statements, and contact information of all involved parties. And while police reports aren’t considered evidence in a Maryland lawsuit, they can still help support your claim against a negligent driver.

But what if your police report incorrectly names you as the responsible party?

Nobody’s infallible, even police officers. An officer reporting to the scene of a crash is walking into a highly stressful, confusing situation. After determining whether anyone needs medical assistance and making sure everybody is safely away from the road, the officer must wade through what are most likely conflicting stories from agitated parties. And if you believe the officer responding to your accident got something wrong, it’s up to you to provide any information necessary that might convince him/her to correct the report. 

Why is correcting an erroneous police report so important?

So the police report is wrong, but you know what happened, you have the witnesses and evidence to back you and justice will prevail in court, right?

No.

The police report is probably the most important factor in deciding your case. The officer who filed the report is seen as an unbiased neutral party who has professional experience in assessing and documenting accidents. His/her word is going to be given more weight than yours, both by the court and the insurance companies.

The biggest police error that can work against you is being mistakenly ticketed. If you are cited for a violation that you didn’t commit, you must defend yourself by fighting the ticket in court. Unless you can clear yourself of any violations, you will be held liable for the accident and get little or nothing from an insurance company. However, there are several other errors that a police report can contain:

  • Errors such as an incorrect date, the wrong location or contact information, or the absence of witness statements are easily rectified. Make sure you have photos or videos of the scene and the other driver’s license and the names and contact information of all witnesses.
  • Subjective or disputed information, e.g., the other driver claiming you did or didn’t do something that caused the crash, is more problematic. If the officer believes the other driver, present witnesses or facts that back your version of events.

How to dispute an auto accident police report in Maryland

No matter the error, the most important thing is that you work to correct the police report as quickly as possible. Maryland is an “at-fault” state, meaning that if you are found to have any fault for the accident, even if the other driver is found to be at fault too, you can’t recover damages from the other party in a lawsuit. As a result, the other party’s lawyer and the insurance company will use any tool available to show you’re at fault so that they don’t have to pay. Don’t let an incorrect police report be that tool.

In almost all cases, hiring an attorney with experience in car accident cases can make a huge difference. Whether or not you do, there are several things you can do:

  • Speak to the Officer. If you or your lawyer can make the officer understand his/her error, it will most likely be corrected.
  • File your own report. If you believe the officer’s report is wrong, you can file your own report. Some Maryland police departments allow you to report an accident online, while others require you to file in person at the station.
  • Get medical attention. After examining your injuries, a doctor may be able to validate your claim that a negligent driver was at fault.
  • Track down security camera footage. If your accident occurred on a major road or near businesses, it may have been caught on camera, perhaps even several. This is the best way to refute any false claims.
  • Speak to eyewitnesses. Sometimes the police report gets the account of a witness wrong. Either you or your attorney should interview all witnesses to ensure that their version of events on the police report matches what they tell you.

Don’t let an incorrect police report derail your chance at compensation after a car accident, contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, Maryland today to schedule your free consultation. We’re here to protect your rights, and we don’t receive a fee unless we win.