Articles Posted in SUV Accidents

A four-vehicle automobile accident in Benedict, Maryland, around noon on Friday, September 9, 2011 killed two local senior citizens and injured at least three others. Franz and Evelyn Isabelle Sommer, a married couple, were driving east on Route 231 in their Ford Focus near the Patuxent River Bridge when a Penske rental truck rear-ended their vehicle. The collision caused the Sommers’ vehicle to veer into the westbound lane of Route 231, where it collided head-on with a Mitsubishi Galant. The Penske truck went on to strike a Saturn L200 in the westbound lane. The Sommers’ car and the Saturn L200 were wedged under the Penske truck.

Five people were taken to the hospital for injuries: Deborah Ellen Parkinson, the driver of the Galant; Kimberly Leighanne Garcia, the driver of the Saturn and two children who were in her car; and Michael Anthony Duckett, the driver of the Penske truck. Police report that none of the injuries were life-threatening. A passenger in the truck was unharmed, according to police on the scene. According to witnesses, Parkinson’s vehicle flipped over in the accident, and she had to be pulled out by firefighters.

Investigators have concluded that Duckett’s failure to control the speed of the truck caused the accident, and that alcohol was not a factor. Criminal charges have not yet been filed, pending the completion of the investigation. Duckett could potentially face up to ten years in prison if he is charged under Maryland’s “manslaughter by vehicle” statute, which covers deaths resulting from “driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a grossly negligent manner.”

In addition to any potential criminal charges, the driver of the truck could also face civil liability to all of the people injured in the accident, from a wrongful death claim by relatives of the Sommers to injury claims by the other drivers and their passengers. The driver of the truck is responsible not only for the actual rear-end collision of his truck and the Sommers’ vehicle, but for every collision directly caused by that collision. At least three collisions occurred in this case, causing multiple injuries.

A popular notion is that a driver who rear-ends another driver is by definition “at fault.” This is not always the case, but it is a useful principle. If the driver of the rear-ended vehicle behaved negligently, such as braking abruptly without good cause, then both drivers may be at fault. If a driver swerves into a lane of traffic and is rear-ended by a car already in that lane, the swerving driver is probably 100% at fault. A driver who rear ends a vehicle because he was pushed into the car after being rear-ended himself should not be liable, but the driver doing the original rear-ending might be liable for all collisions in that situation. A better general principle to apply to rear-end collisions might be that the driver who creates the conditions leading to the rear-end collision should be primarily liable, and that the driver is liable for injuries caused by those collisions.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently issued its 2009 Traffic Safety Facts Research Note, which includes its motor vehicle traffic crash statistics for the year. According to the NHTSA, 33,808 people were killed in auto collisions in the US, which was a 9.7% drop from the 37,423 people that died in traffic crashes in 2008. This is the lowest number of US highway deaths to occur in a year since 1950.

The drop in traffic deaths happened even as estimated vehicle miles traveled went up by 0.2% in the past two years. NHTSA also says that the lowest injury and fatality rates at 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled occurred last year.

Locally, our Maryland motor vehicle crash lawyers and Washington DC car accident attorneys are happy to report that there also was a decline in the number of traffic deaths for the year. There were 549 Maryland traffic fatalities last year—down from the 591 motor vehicle deaths in 2008 and 29 Washington DC auto crash deaths in 2009—a drop from the 34 Washington DC motor vehicle traffic deaths the year before.

The nation also saw a reverse in the yearly increase in motorcyclist deaths, which has been on the rise for 11 years. In 2009, there were 4.462 US motorcyclist fatalities. Compare that to 2008 when there were 5,312 motorcyclist deaths.

More 2009 US Traffic Facts:
• 23,382 passenger vehicle deaths
• 503 large truck crash fatalities
• 4,092 pedestrian accident deaths
• 630 pedalcyclist crash fatalities
• 2,217,000 traffic crash injuries
• 1,976,0000 passenger vehicle injuries
• 17,000 large truck injuries
• 90,000 motorcyclist injuries
• 59,000 pedestrian injuries
• 51,000 pedalcyclist injuries
• 10,839 drunk driving deaths
• 162 Maryland drunk driving deaths
• 10 Washington DC drunk driving deaths

Highlights of 2009 Motor Vehicle Crashes, Traffic Safety Facts (PDF)

2009 Data Show Major Across-the-Board Declines in all Categories
Despite a Slight Increase in Road Travel
, NHTSA, November 9, 2010
Related Web Resources:

Maryland Department of Transportation

District Department of Transportation

Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog

Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog

Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports even though more car accidents happened in urban areas, 56% of the 37,261 traffic deaths that occurred in 2008 took place on rural roads. There were 20,905 rural traffic deaths last year.

One reason for the number of deaths that occur in rural areas is that people tend to drive faster on roads that are not as designed and engineered as well as they are in urban areas. Two of the other reasons that rural auto accident deaths happen is people failing to use seat belts or driving drunk. It can also take longer for medical help to arrive at a rural car accident site. 222 of the 591 Maryland traffic fatalities in 2008 occurred in rural areas.

Findings from another traffic accident study, recently discussed in, affirmed the NHTSA’s findings that driving in rural areas is not safer than driving in urban areas. The study, conducted by researchers abroad, reports that:

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, about 83% of the 609,000 Marylanders traveling 50 miles or more over the Memorial Day weekend will travel by car—that’s 508,000 motor vehicle riders. A decrease in local gas price is one of the reasons cited for an increase in road travelers from last year. Air travel is also expected to increase this year by 7%. Another reason cited for this rediscovered travel bug is that a poor economy has forced hotels, cruises, airlines, and car rental companies to lower their prices.

With more people getting into their cars and heading toward vacation destinations and family reunions, the roads will likely be more crowded this weekend. Traffic and the excitement and rush to arrive at a specific location can create a less relaxed travel climate that can increase the chances that a motorist might become involved in a catastrophic Maryland car accident.

Here are a number of safe driving tips to help you navigate your way through the Memorial Day weekend:

• Make sure you have your maps organized and travel routes planned before leaving.
• Check the Internet, listen to the radio, or watch TV to see where there may be traffic backlogs that you can avoid.
• Make sure that your car is in proper working condition before you head out.
• Have a roadside emergency kit with you.
• Get plenty of rest before you drive.
• Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination.
• Take periodic breaks while driving so you don’t get lethargic or drowsy.
• Don’t speed.
• Obey traffic laws.
• Don’t talk on the cell phone or text message or read maps while driving.
• Drive defensively.
• Don’t drive drunk.

• Keep emergency numbers at your disposal.

More Marylanders to hit the road this weekend, Baltimore Sun, May 21, 2009
Related Web Resources:
AAA Mid-Atlantic
MD Roads

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This week, the Maryland Senate approved by a 43 to 4 vote a bill banning drivers from text messaging whenever they are operating their motor vehicles. If the bill becomes law, it would make reading, composing, sending, or receiving text messages a misdemeanor crime punishable by a $500 fine. Maryland would also join a growing list of states and jurisdictions, including Virginia and Washington DC, that are banning text messaging—whether on a cell phone, PDA, or IPod Touch or another device—while operating a motor vehicle.

Sending short messages via cell phone or other electronic devices is a bad habit that has grown more popular in recent years—especially among younger, more inexperienced drivers. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one of its studies last year found that about 50% of young drivers, ages 18 – 24, text message while driving. The study found that among drivers ages 45 and older, less than 5% engaged in text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.

Text messaging is a type of distracted driving, and like all other forms of distracted driving, including talking on a handheld cellular phone, applying making, or reading the newspaper, can lead to deadly auto accidents. ABC News says that a 2006 study showed that 65% of near-motor vehicle collisions and 80% of auto crashes occur because of distracted driving.

For example, one Maryland child lost her right forearm in a catastrophic bus accident that occurred while the bus driver was texting on his cell phone. 30 people were injured in this Maryland motor vehicle accident. In another traffic accident, a 26-year-old woman died last year in a truck accident when she was struck by a tractor-trailer while the truck driver had been texting.

These kinds of catastrophic motor vehicle collisions could have been avoided if the drivers had not been engaged in distracted driving.

Md. Is Latest State to Target Text Messaging by Drivers, Washington Post, March 18, 2009
Texting While Driving Could Spell Trouble, ABC News, May 8, 2007
Driving and Dialing Bus Drivers May Case Accidents, ABC News, Feb 7, 2007
Related Web Resources:

Examination of Maryland Senate Bill 98 (PDF)

Cell Phone Driving Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association

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The National Safety Council wants all US states to ban motorists from using cell phones while driving. NSC CEO and President Janet Froetscher noted that talking on the phone while driving increases a driver’s chances of becoming involved in an auto crash by four times more than if he or she were driving without using one.

Currently, six US states have laws banning the use of hand held cell phones while driving:

• District of Columbia
• Washington
• California
• Utah
• New Jersey
• Connecticut

Seven US States have a ban on text messaging while driving:

• District of Columbia
• Connecticut
• Alaska
• New Jersey
• Washington State
• Minnesota
• Louisiana

While some localities within US states that do not have statewide bans have imposed their own cell phone restrictions, including bans on hand-held phones and text messaging and bans affecting teen drivers and school bus drivers, the states of Kentucky, Florida, Nevada, Louisiana, Oregon, Mississippi, Utah, and Louisiana prohibit their localities from imposing any such bans.

The NSC is quick to point out that just because someone is using a hands-free phone does not mean that he or she is now operating the vehicle safely. According to a Harvard Center of Risk Analysis 2003 study, cell-phone use while driving is a contributing factor in 6% of auto accidents each year. Some 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries result from such collisions.

According to a Nationwide Insurance public opinion poll, 81% of US drivers use a cell phone when driving. Froetscher notes that cellular phone use while driving is more dangerous than talking to a passenger who is in the same vehicle. While talking to a real person makes the driver aware that lives are at stake if he or she doesn’t drive safely, talking on the cell phone places the motorist’s attention not on the road and in the present moment but elsewhere.

In addition to pushing for a change in current driving laws, the NSC is advocating more education about the dangers that come from driving with a cell phone, as well as better training.

National Safety Council Calls for Nationwide Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving,, January 12, 2009
Safety council urges ban on cell phone use while driving,, January 12, 2009

Related Web Resources:

Maryland Cell Phone Law,
Washington D.C. Hands-Free Law, Driving
Cell Phone Driving Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs more time to revise its auto roof standards. The deadline to toughen the current regulation setting standards, which are 35 years old, is July 1, but the NHTSA is allowed to ask the US Congress for an extension.

The NHTSA’s current proposal, introduced in 2005, requires new roofs to be able to endure a force equal to 2.5 times the weight of a vehicle, while allowing for enough head room protection for the average adult male. It also calls for testing both sides of a roof. The current standard calls for a roof to withstand 1.5 times it’s vehicles weight and the testing of only one side of the roof.

The auto strength regulations are designed to provide safety protection for people that are involved in rollover accidents, which account for 1/3rd of all motor vehicle fatalities. About10,000 people are killed in rollover accidents each year.

The NHTSA has said that increasing the weight standard to the proposed regulations should save 13-44 lives and prevent some 800 injuries annually. Opponents of the current proposal, however, say that the new proposed standard is not enough. Some critics also want the NHTSA to get rid of a provision in the new proposal that prevents injured plaintiffs from filing state injury lawsuits if the vehicle involved in the accident had met the new roof safety standards.

While motor vehicle rollover accidents can happen because of driver negligence, there are rollover crashes that do occur because of defects in the design or manufacture of a motor vehicle, including a poorly designed roof structure, an auto designed with a gravity center that is too high, and defective tires.

Our Maryland and Washington DC law firm has helped drivers and passengers injured in accidents obtain compensation from negligent auto manufacturers. We have the resources and experience to successfully take on your case.

New auto roof rules delayed,, June 23, 2008
`Roof Crush’ Rule for Rollovers Faces Deadline,, June 17, 2007
Related Web Resource:
Roof Crush Resistance Proposal, NHTSA

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Test results conducted by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety found that the stronger the SUV’s roof, the lower the risks of serious injury or death.

The IIHS tested 11 sport utility vehicles and found that the stronger roofs had a 39%-57% lower injury risk than SUVs with weaker roofs.

The IIHS says that over 200 lives could have been saved in 2006, during rollover accidents, if the SUVs had better roofs. 35% of motor vehicle deaths involve rollover crashes, with 60% of these rollovers involving SUVs.

The SUV’s roof that received the highest strength rating was the 2000-2004 Nissan Xterra. The SUV’s roof that received the lowest strength rating was the 1999- 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

A roof that crushes in during a rollover can cause serious injuries to passengers, who can sustain traumatic brain injuries or traumatic brain injuries when struck by the crushed roof.

Examples tragic SUV rollover accidents involving crushed roofs:

• Tyler Moody, 18, died of “positional asphyxiation “during an SUV rollover crash. His family’s wrongful death attorneys said the crushed roof cut off his breathing.

• Recently, a California appeals court ordered Ford to pay a paralyzed woman $82.6 million for injuries sustained during an SUV rollover also involving a crushed roof.

A trade group that represents Toyota, GM, Chrysler, and a few other auto makers, called the study flawed.

SUV Accident Facts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

• Over 90% of SUV rollover crashes are single-car accidents.

• The most common kind of injury sustained in rollover crashes is head trauma.

In Maryland and Washington D.C., our personal injury law firm represents clients in SUV rollover accidents and other kinds ofproducts liability and car accident cases.

Report Says Weak SUV Roofs Are Deadly, U.S. News, March 13, 2008
Crash-test report backs stronger roofs on SUVs, USA Today, March 12, 2008

Related Web Resource:

Roof Strength and Injury Risk in Rollover Crashes (PDF)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

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Five teenagers died in a fiery motor vehicle collision on Tuesday when the SUV they were riding in struck a tractor-trailer. Bailey Goodman, Hannah Congdon, Meredith McClure, Katherine Shirley, and Sarah Monnat had been members of Fairport High’s varsity cheerleading squad in New York, although Shirley left the team following her freshman year.

The girls were headed to a vacation home along Keuka Lake when the sports utility vehicle that they were riding in swerved into ongoing traffic and crashed into the tractor-trailer. Both vehicles then crashed into a fence next to a bed-and-breakfast outside East Bloomfield. The five girls died in the fiery collision. Four friends traveling in another motor vehicle witnessed the deadly crash. The driver of the tractor-trailer was not hurt.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

An investigation to determine who is at fault will have to take place anytime there is a motor vehicle collision and someone is seriously injured or killed.

A person who sustains serious injuries from an SUV, truck, car, or motorcycle accident because someone else was at fault may have grounds to file a personal injury claim. If someone was killed in a traffic accident because another person was negligent, the victim’s family members may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

A good personal injury lawyer can determine who was at fault for causing the accident. He or she also has the knowledge, tools, and experience to figure out if a defect in the vehicle caused the accident and a manufacturer or distributor is to blame. Common grounds for a motor vehicle product liability claim include defective tires, defective airbag, defective seatbelts, and defective breaks.

Recovering from an accident is stressful enough without having to worry about medical or recovery costs.

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