Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

In a typical personal injury suit arising out of a car accident, the plaintiff has the burden to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.  In a December 10, 2020 opinion, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reviewed a case involving an automobile collision. Following a trial, the jury concluded the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused or aggravated by the Maryland car accident.  After the lower court denied the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, the plaintiff filed an appeal.

The plaintiff in the case was making a left turn at an intersection pursuant to a green arrow when the defendant proceeded through a red light and collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle.  The plaintiff testified that she felt some discomfort immediately after the collision, so she went home instead of going to work.  Weeks later, the plaintiff sought care from her regular health care provider, who had been treating her neck and back pain for several years.  She began physical therapy, but when that caused her pain, she went to an orthopedist who recommended surgery.  The plaintiff underwent shoulder surgery thereafter.

The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, alleging that the accident caused her shoulder injury and seeking compensation for her medical expenses.  The case went to trial, and although the jury found that the defendant was negligent in the accident, it also found that the injuries to the plaintiff were not caused or aggravated by the accident.  On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the statements made by the defendant’s counsel during opening arguments were prejudicial and violated the “golden rule.”

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In some Maryland personal injury cases, the parties will resolve their claims before trial by a settlement agreement.  Occasionally, an issue may arise, as in a September 30, 2020 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.  The case involved a negligence claim against a hotel, and a settlement offer from the hotel’s insurance company.

The plaintiff in the case had filed a negligence suit against the hotel, alleging that she suffered personal injuries as a result of its negligence.  Prior to trial, the insurance adjuster for the hotel offered to pay the plaintiff $18,000 to settle her personal injury claims.  One day into the trial, counsel for the plaintiff informed the insurance adjuster that the plaintiff would be willing to accept $21,500.  The insurance adjuster declined, but confirmed that the $18,000 offer was still on the table.

The trial continued, and the plaintiff closed her case without calling any witnesses.  During the lunch recess, the plaintiff’s counsel informed the defendant that the plaintiff accepted the offer of $18,000 from its insurance company.  Counsel for the defense then contacted the insurance adjuster, who stated that the offer was no longer available.  The next day, the jury returned a verdict finding that the hotel was not negligent.

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Motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians can result in serious personal injuries to the more vulnerable people who are on foot.  If a Maryland pedestrian accident was caused by a careless driver, the person on foot may be able to recover damages for medical expenses and other losses in a negligence action.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently issued an October 14, 2020 opinion in an unusual car accident case.

The plaintiffs in the case filed a personal injury action against the defendant, alleging that the defendant had injured them by negligently striking them with her vehicle.  More specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant was making a left turn and struck the plaintiffs in the middle of a marked crosswalk on the street, knocking them to the ground and injuring them.

The defendant, in turn, argued that her vehicle never made contact with the plaintiffs.  The defendant further claimed that the plaintiffs were already injured before they entered the crosswalk and had laid down in the road as her vehicle approached them.  At trial, a witness testified that she saw the plaintiffs standing on the sidewalk prior to the incident and noticed that their faces were bloody.  The witness went on to testify that the plaintiffs had laid down in the street before the defendant had even approached. Following trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant.

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The surviving family members of a decedent may bring a wrongful death action against the person responsible for the death of their loved one by working with a Maryland personal injury attorney.  When negligence is alleged against a municipality or law enforcement officers, they may be held to a different legal standard.  In a July 20, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a wrongful death claim against the county and a police officer.  One of the issues on appeal was whether summary judgment was property granted in favor of the defendants as to the gross negligence of the officer.

The plaintiffs in the case were the parents of a 17-month-old child.  The police officer was pursuing a suspect who had fled the scene of a hit-and-run accident at a high rate of speed.  The officer was driving at an average speed of 90 miles per hour to keep up with the suspect, in a residential and commercial area.  The car chase ended when the suspect ran a red light and struck another vehicle.  That vehicle was forced onto the curb, where it struck a stroller carrying the plaintiffs’ child.

The plaintiffs sued the county and the police officer, alleging gross negligence and wrongful death, among other claims.  The defendants claimed immunity from liability under Maryland law.  After the lower court granted summary judgment for the defendants, the plaintiffs appealed on multiple grounds.

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Auto insurance laws vary widely among states.  When the court must determine which state’s law to apply in a car accident case, multiple factors are considered.  In an August 11, 2020 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed whether Maryland law was properly applied in a case involving an insurance policy issued in Pennsylvania.

The plaintiff in the case was a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a rear-end accident in Maryland.  Both the plaintiff and the driver of the vehicle in which she rode were Pennsylvania residents.  The driver and owner of the other vehicle that rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle were residents of Maryland.  As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered neck and back injuries that required extensive medical treatment, including multiple surgeries.

The plaintiff filed suit in Maryland, seeking damages for medical expenses.  She brought claims against the other driver and the other driver’s insurance company, as well as her own insurance company and the insurance company of the driver of the vehicle in which she rode. The plaintiff settled with the other driver’s insurer for the liability limits of their policy.  The plaintiff continued to pursue her claims against the other insurers for underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage.

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In a Maryland personal injury action, the plaintiff may seek damages for economic and non-economic losses.  Non-economic damages may include compensation for pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life, among others.  Unlike economic damages, which are based on objective evidence of the monetary loss and expenses incurred from an injury, non-economic damages are determined subjectively.  In a July 1, 2020 decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reviewed a jury verdict awarding the plaintiff $250,000 for non-economic damages in a car accident case.

The defendant in the case was involved in a motor vehicle accident while operating a truck owned by his employer.  A piece of the truck’s drive shaft flew off in the accident and bounced into the road, striking the plaintiff’s windshield and landing in her passenger seat.  The plaintiff was treated for a soft tissue sprain injuries.  She was also treated for anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues related to the accident.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit claiming emotional distress, mental anguish, and pre-impact fright.  At trial, the defendant sought to introduce evidence of the plaintiff’s personal history and prior assault conviction, arguing that those issues were the source of emotional distress for which she sought counseling.  The trial court allowed the defense to cross-examine the plaintiff and other witnesses about other causes of her emotional distress, but excluded evidence of the conviction itself.  Following deliberations, the jury awarded the plaintiff $250,000.00 for non-economic damages.

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“Phantom vehicle” is a term that refers to a vehicle that causes personal injury or property damage without making any physical contact with the person or car.  Accidents involving phantom vehicles may be problematic when filing a claim with your insurance company, as illustrated in a June 18, 2020 Maryland injury case.

The plaintiff in the case was stopped in his car at a red light, when his vehicle was struck from behind by a car driven by the defendant.  The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the defendant, seeking damages of $25,000.  The plaintiff also filed a claim for uninsured motorist benefits against his own insurer, arguing that his auto policy covered damages caused by a phantom vehicle that did not remain at the scene of an accident, as alleged by the defendant in the case.

In a hearing before the trial, the defendant admitted that she caused the accident, eliminating any possibility that the jury would find that a phantom vehicle caused the accident.  On the morning of trial, the court severed the plaintiff’s claims against his insurance company, so that those claims would be decided in a separate trial.  As such, the only issue for the jury to decide at trial was the amount of damages that the defendant caused to the plaintiff.  The jury returned a verdict awarding damages of $1,560.  Because that amount was within the liability limits of the defendant’s insurance policy, the court entered a directed verdict in favor of the insurance company on the plaintiff’s remaining claims.  The plaintiff then appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

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Although medical expenses and other losses resulting from a car accident may be covered under more than one insurance policy, as a general rule, you cannot recover duplicate benefits for the same incident.  A Maryland injury attorney can help by pursuing the maximum benefits allowable under the facts of a specific case.

A March 18, 2020 case involving a pedestrian-auto accident illustrates some issues that may arise when multiple sources of coverage may be available.  The plaintiff in the case was on foot and about to enter his company vehicle when he was struck by a car.  He sustained injuries as a result of the accident, which he alleged caused damages of approximately $90,000 to $100,000.

The driver’s insurance company agreed to pay the $30,000 policy limit to the plaintiff.  Because the accident occurred while the plaintiff was working, he filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, for which he received almost $46,000.  The plaintiff was also covered under the insurance policy for the company vehicle, which provided underinsured motorist coverage up to $50,000 per person.  The plaintiff filed suit against the insurer of the company vehicle to recover underinsured motorist benefits.

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In Maryland, drivers are required to have a motor vehicle insurance policy that includes uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  This mandatory coverage protects insured drivers from paying out-of-pocket expenses for their injuries if they are involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by an uninsured or inadequately insured driver.  It may also give rise to a claim against a driver’s own insurance company, as in an April 20, 2020 Maryland personal injury case.

The plaintiff in the case was involved in an automobile accident in April of 2011, in which her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle traveling behind her.  The plaintiff’s injuries required extensive medical treatment from the date of the accident until July 2014.  The driver who caused the accident had an insurance policy with a $20,000 limit per person for bodily injuries, which was not enough to cover the full amount of the plaintiff’s medical expenses.  Under the plaintiff’s auto insurance policy, she was covered up to $300,000 per person for injuries caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

The plaintiff collected the $20,000 policy limit settlement offer from the other driver’s insurer nearly two years after the accident.  She then attempted to collect additional underinsured motorist benefits from her own insurer.  The settlement negotiations went on for several years and, with her claim still pending, the plaintiff filed suit against her insurer in September of 2016.  The insurance company filed a motion to dismiss, contending that her suit was barred by the three-year statute of limitations.

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Accidents can be caused by negligence of more than one person.  In some Maryland personal injury cases, the damages are apportioned to each defendant by fault.  Unfortunately, this may result in reduced damages when one of the defendants is the local government, as illustrated in an April 14, 2020 case.  The plaintiff was awarded over 2.6 million in damages for personal injuries after a jury found the City and contractor negligent.  However, because the City’s negligence was a superseding cause to the contractor’s negligence, the contractor was released from liability, and the damage award was reduced pursuant to the Local Government Tort Claims Act.

The facts of the case are as follows.  In 2007, the City hired the contractor to restore a ball field.  The project included installation of wooden bollards along the adjacent public road, with a barrier gate to allow restricted access from the roadway into the park.  The project was completed in 2011.  In April of 2014, the plaintiff in the case sustained severe injuries when his car collided with the barrier gate, which had swung open into the roadway.  At trial, the evidence established that the gate was not constructed in conformance with the blueprints created by the architect.

In Maryland, a plaintiff must prove four elements to prevail in a claim of negligence: 1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to conform to a certain standard of care; 2) the defendant breached this duty; 3) actual damage to the plaintiff; and 4) causation.  The City is generally allowed immunity for governmental and discretionary acts, such as the maintenance of a public park.  However, a municipality has a private proprietary obligation to maintain its streets, as well as the sidewalks, footways and the areas contiguous to them, in a reasonably safe condition.

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