It may be necessary to take legal action against an insurance company or negligent driver after a car accident.  A Maryland car accident attorney can assist plaintiffs by properly filing the lawsuit.  An August 8, 2018 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland illustrates the importance of understanding these legal procedures.The plaintiffs in the case were injured when their car was rear-ended by another driver.  The police report correctly named the driver but combined the name of the driver’s mother with the name of the driver when identifying the owner of the vehicle.  In fact, the vehicle was co-leased by both the driver and his mother.  The plaintiffs filed negligence actions solely against the mother.  After the statute of limitations had expired, the plaintiffs filed motions to add the driver to the lawsuit.  The circuit court denied the motions, and the plaintiffs appealed.

In Maryland, most civil actions must be filed within three years from the date they accrue.  Failing to file a timely lawsuit, absent a statutory exception, bars the case from proceeding further.  Amendments to the complaint, including the addition of another defendant, are freely allowed if filed within the statute of limitations.  Once the statute of limitations has run, a party is generally barred from adding a new defendant to the complaint.  The “relation back” doctrine, however, permits an amendment adding a misnamed party if the factual situation remains essentially the same after the amendment as it was before, and the party had timely notice of his status as a defendant.

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The plaintiff has the burden to prove each element of a negligence claim arising out of lead paint exposure.  In many cases, the plaintiff in a Maryland personal injury case will have an expert testify to assist the jury in understanding the evidence or determining a fact at issue.  In a July 31, 2018 lead paint case, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered whether a medical study cited by an expert provided a sufficient factual basis for his testimony.  The court also addressed whether an expert could offer an opinion on specific causation by relying on medical study data along with an individualized analysis of the plaintiff’s injuries.The plaintiff in the case sued the owners of a residential property, alleging that his injuries, including mental and attention deficits, were caused by exposure to deteriorating lead paint at the property.  At trial, the parties agreed that, due to the defendants’ negligence, the plaintiff was exposed to lead paint and that the exposure was the cause of the plaintiff’s elevated blood lead levels.  The remaining questions for the jury were whether the lead exposure caused an injury to the plaintiff and, if so, the amount of damages.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded approximately $1.3 million in damages.  The defendants subsequently filed an appeal, arguing that the plaintiff had not sufficiently proven that his alleged injuries resulted in any damages.  The plaintiff contended that the testimony of his expert witnesses satisfied his burden of proof.

In Maryland, an expert’s opinion must be based on facts that sufficiently indicate the use of reliable principles and methodology, which thus support the expert’s conclusions.  The expert must also have a rational explanation for how the factual data led to the expert’s conclusion. On appeal, the court examined the medical studies used by the plaintiff’s experts.  The first expert used medical studies that examined the relationship between ADHD and lead exposure.  The court found that the studies indicated an association between the two, but not causation.  This was significant, since it led the court to conclude that the expert’s testimony suffered from an analytical gap by overstating the known effects of lead exposure.  Lacking a scientific basis, the expert’s testimony was therefore inadmissible.

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Filing an insurance claim after a car accident can be overwhelming.  Many people seek guidance from a Maryland injury attorney to help them navigate through the process.  In a July 12, 2018 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland decided a complex dispute between two insurance companies.  The primary issue was which company’s policy provided primary coverage to an injured claimant.

The claimant in the case was a passenger of an automobile that was involved in an accident.  The driver of the other vehicle that caused the accident was uninsured.  The claimant was insured by the plaintiff (Company A), while the owner of the automobile she rode in was insured by the defendant (Company B).  Both of the policies provided uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage and it was not disputed that UM/UIM coverage was available to the claimant.  However, the Company B policy had a UM/UIM limit of $100,000, while the limit under the Company A policy was $300,000.  The dispute was whether one policy provided primary UM/UIM coverage, or whether both policies provided coverage on a pro rata basis.

Company A argued that Company B was the primary carrier, so Company B must pay out its full policy limit of $100,000 before Company A has any obligation to cover the remaining amount.  Company B argued that the dispute must be resolved by looking to the language of the insurance contracts, which limited its obligation pro rata to coverage of other primary insurers.

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Most civil legal actions must be filed within prescribed periods, known as the statute of limitations and the statute of repose, or the plaintiffs may be barred from bringing suit.  However, there are exceptions, and in some cases, Maryland law may allow plaintiffs to pursue a their claim long after the allegedly negligent actions of the defendants.  In a June 25, 2018 Maryland wrongful death case, the Court of Appeals considered whether the plaintiffs could hold the defendants liable under an exception to the statute of repose.

The victim in the case needed access to the roof of a restaurant to repair an HVAC unit.  He placed a ladder on an exterior wall of the building that seemingly led to the roof, but instead, simply enclosed an open air area.  After mounting the wall, the plaintiff fell 20 feet over the other side, sustaining fatal injuries.  The plaintiffs filed suit against several defendants, including the owner and the manager of the shopping center in which the restaurant was located.  The building, however, was completed 22 years ago, which was beyond the 20 year limit imposed by the state of repose.  The defendants argued that the exception to the statute of repose asserted by the plaintiffs only applied in asbestos cases.

A statute of repose shields certain groups, designated by the legislature, from liability after a certain period of time.  Under Maryland’s statute of repose, a plaintiff is prohibited from bringing a claim for wrongful death resulting from an improvement to real property more than 20 years after the improvement.  There are exceptions to the statute listed in its subsections.  The first is a possession and control exception, which allows the plaintiff to bring an action against a defendant who was in actual possession and control of the property as owner, tenant, or otherwise when the injury occurred, despite the statute of repose.  While the other subsections of the statute relate to claims against manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos products, the possession and control exception makes no mention of them.

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The procedures for bringing a Maryland medical malpractice action can be complicated in some cases.  In a June 28, 2018 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the plaintiff could pursue a claim against his  doctor and hospital after the circuit court dismissed his case for failing to comply with requirements of the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (Act).  The primary issue for the appeals court was whether the lower court’s dismissal was improper.

The plaintiff in the case underwent heart surgery and, following medical complications, was admitted to the intensive care unit.  In the ICU, he developed pressure ulcers, which required additional treatment.  He filed a claim against the defendants, alleging negligence in failing to implement procedures to prevent the ulcers and failing to treat them.

To initiate a claim under the Act, a plaintiff must first file his claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office and, within ninety days, submit a certificate of a qualified expert attesting to the alleged negligence.  The plaintiff can then waive arbitration and file suit in circuit court.  The certificate must meet specific requirements, one of which is to identify the allegedly negligent physician by name.  If the certificate is not filed or it is insufficient, the claim will be dismissed, unless a 90 day extension is granted for the plaintiff to submit a valid certificate.

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In some Maryland negligence cases, it is difficult to determine exactly how the victim’s personal injury occurred.  Legal recourse may nevertheless be possible under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur if the jury could infer that negligence on the part of the defendant was more probable than not responsible for the victim’s injury.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland addressed whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applied in a June 25, 2018 case involving an escalator injury.

The plaintiff in the case was using the escalator in a department store in the mall.  She was injured when the escalator stopped suddenly.  The plaintiff brought suit against the companies which owned, operated, and/or maintained the escalator.  However, the lower court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment because the plaintiff failed to designate an expert witness on the issue of liability.  The plaintiff appealed, contending that, as she had met her burden to apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, expert testimony was unnecessary.

In Maryland, a plaintiff seeking to rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur must establish that the accident was one that does not ordinarily occur absent negligence, that the accident was caused by an instrumentality exclusively within the defendant’s control, and the accident was not caused by an act or omission of the plaintiff.  If the plaintiff can prove these elements, then the issue of negligence may be presented to a jury, which may then choose to infer a defendant’s negligence without the aid of any direct evidence.

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After a car accident, a claim for medical expenses and other damages is typically submitted to the insurance company.  If the insurance company delays or refuses to pay the claim, however, accident victims may be unsure of their legal recourse.  Many people choose to hire a Maryland car accident attorney to file an insurance claim on their behalf and represent them in any subsequent legal action.  A lack of legal knowledge and training could be detrimental in bringing a lawsuit against a big insurance company.

In a June 12, 2018 case, the plaintiff represented himself in a lawsuit against his insurance company to recover medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.  The plaintiff in the case had been involved in a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured motorist.  The plaintiff’s insurance company paid him the $2,500 policy limit of his personal injury protection benefits as a result of the accident.  Thereafter, the plaintiff sought additional coverage pursuant to his uninsured motorist policy for medical expenses he incurred approximately six months after the accident to treat whiplash.  The insurance company rejected the claim, and the plaintiff filed a lawsuit with the Maryland circuit court.

The plaintiff’s bad faith claim and claim for punitive damages were dismissed by the court, and the matter went to trial on the breach of contract claim.  At trial, the plaintiff attempted to introduce his medical records and bills without expert testimony.  The court sustained the insurance company’s objection, ruling that the plaintiff could not testify as to the medical opinions, diagnoses, or amount of the bills.  Consequently, and due to the lack of expert testimony, the court granted the insurance company’s motion for judgment, concluding that the plaintiff had failed to prove his claim that the insurance company had breached their contract.  The plaintiff then appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

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Knowing when to seek medical treatment can be a complicated and very personal decision.  Whether that decision has any effect on a health provider’s liability for negligence was the issue in an April 26, 2018 Maryland medical malpractice case before the Court of Special Appeals.  

The plaintiff in the case filed a medical malpractice claim against his physician, alleging that the physician negligently cut the plaintiff’s bile duct while surgically removing his inflamed gallbladder.  Before visiting the physician, the plaintiff had gone to the emergency room for stomach pains.  The plaintiff left, however, before the condition could be diagnosed, and he waited an additional 11 days before seeking treatment again from the defendant, who performed the surgery.

The defendant denied any negligence and further alleged, as a defense, that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent in failing to timely seek treatment for severe abdominal pains.  The jury ultimately found that the defendant was not negligent.  The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the defense was improper because any alleged contributory negligence occurred before he sought treatment from the defendant.

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In a tragic Maryland wrongful death case, five people residing in a house died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their sleep.  The source of the leak was a negligently installed bathroom ventilation fan, which was connected to a flue carrying carbon monoxide gas from the water heater to the roof vent.  On the evening they died, someone had left on the bathroom fan.  Due to the improper fan connection, the carbon monoxide entered the rooms occupied by the victims.

The spouses and children of the victims brought suit, alleging negligence claims against the home warranty company that covered repairs to appliances in the house, two independent contractors with which the home warranty company contracted to do the repairs, and other defendants.  The trial court ruled that the home warranty contract absolved the independent contractors from any duty to address rust and holes in or around the flue pipes, and it granted summary judgment in favor of the independent contractor defendants.  The plaintiffs appealed the matter to the higher court.

In Maryland, negligence actions generally require proof of the elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages.  In reviewing whether the trial court erred by finding the independent contractor defendants did not owe a duty to the victims, the appeals court looked at the provisions of the contract between the home warranty company and the homeowners, as well as the agreements between the home warranty company and the independent contractors.  The court held that nothing in either of the agreements limited or controlled the work that the independent contractors could perform.  As a result, the home warranty company did not control the independent contractors, and nothing in the agreements precluded the existence of any other duty owed by the contractors to the victims.

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If you are seeking compensation from the person responsible for your injuries, fair legal proceedings are important.  An experienced Maryland car accident attorney can assert your rights at trial by objecting to the submission of prejudicial evidence.  As demonstrated in a May 18, 2018 car accident case, the admission of certain documents and testimony in a jury trial could have a significant impact on the outcome.

The plaintiff in the case was rear-ended by the defendant while she was stopped in traffic.  The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, alleging that she was injured as a result of his negligent driving.  One of the defenses asserted by the defendant was that his brakes failed.  After a three-day trial, a jury found that the defendant was not negligent.  One of the plaintiff’s major arguments on appeal was that the trial court erred by allowing evidence of a repair invoice.  The invoice contained notes written by the mechanic about information he obtained from the defendant, as well as statements regarding the repairs made to the defendant’s vehicle.

It was undisputed that the statements contained in the invoice concerning the condition of the defendant’s brakes were hearsay.  Hearsay is generally inadmissible, unless it falls under an exception.  The trial court admitted the invoice under the residual exception.  The residual exception to the hearsay rule provides that a hearsay statement that otherwise does not fall under any other exception may be admitted if it is relatively trustworthy, if it is more probative as to an issue than any other evidence that can reasonably be obtained, if advance notice of the statement is provided, and if doing so will best serve the interests of justice.

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