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Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

For victims of hit-and-run accidents in Maryland, seeking compensation for injuries may seem hopeless.  In many cases, uninsured motorist coverage may be available through an auto insurance policy held by the driver or injured passenger.  In a September 13, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether or not an insurance company wrongfully denied the plaintiff’s claim for uninsured motorist benefits.

The plaintiff in the case was riding as a passenger in her daughter’s vehicle when they were rear-ended by a truck.  The truck then fled the scene before the driver could be identified.  At the time of the accident, the plaintiff and her daughter lived in the same household.  The plaintiff’s daughter was insured under a policy that provided uninsured motorist coverage of up to $30,000 per individual.  The plaintiff held a separate policy issued by the same insurer, with limits of $300,000 per individual for uninsured motorist coverage.

Because the plaintiff’s medical expenses exceeded the amount of her daughter’s policy limits, the plaintiff sought uninsured motorist benefits under both policies.  The insurance company accepted the claim made under her daughter’s policy, but denied the claim made under her own policy.  The plaintiff subsequently filed suit against the insurer for breach of the insurance contract.  After the circuit court granted summary judgment for the insurer, the plaintiff appealed to the higher court.

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Generally, a car accident victim may seek compensation from the negligent driver for injuries.  In Maryland, however, a person may be barred from recovering damages if their own negligence contributed to the accident.  In a July 29, 2021 case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether a defendant could assert the defenses of contributory negligence or assumption of the risk to bar recovery in two successive automobile collisions.

The plaintiff in the case was driving in the left lane of the highway when the defendant, who was in the middle lane, attempted to enter the left lane.  The defendant did not see the plaintiff’s vehicle, however, and collided with the side of it.  The plaintiff stopped on the left shoulder of the highway, with part of his vehicle remaining on the road.  The defendant pulled over immediately behind him.  As they exchanged information, a third car traveling in the left lane stopped abruptly in order to avoid striking their vehicles.  A fourth vehicle rear-ended the third car, causing it to strike the defendant, who was outside her vehicle.

The plaintiff sued the defendant and the driver of the fourth vehicle, and the defendant asserted counterclaims.  Neither party disputed that the plaintiff was solely negligent in causing the first accident.  With respect to the second accident, a jury found both the plaintiff and defendant negligent.  Based on that verdict, the circuit court ruled that the plaintiff was barred from recovering damages for the first accident, due to his contributory negligence in causing the second accident.

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Commercial and heavy-duty trucks can cause severe damage when they are involved in accidents with cars and smaller motor vehicles.  In a July 2, 2021 Maryland injury case, the plaintiff alleged that she suffered substantial personal injuries and damages after colliding with a garbage truck.  She brought a negligence action against the driver, the owner of the truck, and the operator of the trucking company that employed the driver.  The case was on appeal before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals following a jury verdict in favor of the defendants.

The plaintiff in the case was driving her grandson to elementary school, traveling northbound.  On the same road, a southbound garbage truck was attempting to turn across the northbound lane and onto a side street.  The plaintiff testified at trial that the driver of the garbage truck failed to yield to her, and that she was unable to avoid hitting the back of the truck as it turned across her lane of traffic.  The driver testified that he crossed the road when the plaintiff was approximately a quarter mile away, and that he believed the plaintiff was speeding and appeared distracted.

At the start of trial, the plaintiff moved to preclude the defendants’ expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion and allowed the expert to testify that in his opinion, if the plaintiff was driving 45 mph, she would have had ample time to see the truck and stop to avoid a collision.  After the jury found in favor of the defendants, the plaintiff appealed on grounds that the disclosure of the expert’s opinion was untimely.

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When several motor vehicles are involved in a Maryland personal injury accident, questions regarding liability and negligence may be more complex than in a typical two-vehicle collision.  An April 21, 2021 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland illustrates some of the issues that may arise in a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a multi-vehicle accident.

The case at issue involved the chain-reaction, rear-end collisions of four motor vehicles on a Maryland highway.  The plaintiff in the case was driving when the vehicles in front of him came to a stop.  When the plaintiff applied his breaks to avoid hitting them, a second driver collided into the rear of the plaintiff’s car.  A third driver then rear-ended the second driver, which caused her vehicle to hit the plaintiff’s car again.  The repeated impact caused the plaintiff’s car to strike the fourth vehicle, which was directly in front of his.

The plaintiff filed a negligence suit against the second and third drivers, and the case went to trial.  After denying the defendants’ motions for judgment, the court submitted the case to the jury.  The jury found that the defendants were negligent, and awarded the plaintiff $34,000 for medical expenses, over $10,000 for lost income, and $500,000 in noneconomic damages.

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Reckless or negligent driving can cause accidents that result in serious injuries or even death to passengers.  In a March 8, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a wrongful death case arising out of a fatal car accident.  The wife of the decedent filed the lawsuit against the police officers involved in a high-speed chase that led up to the vehicle collision.  After a jury awarded damages of over $475,000 to the plaintiff, the trial court entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict for the defendants, effectively negating the jury verdict.  The plaintiff appealed the issue to the higher court.

On the night of the accident, the defendant was pulling over a motorist for driving after dark without headlights on.  The defendant called for back up after noticing that the driver had not put his SUV in park, and a second officer pulled up shortly thereafter.  At that point, the driver drove away and accelerated at a high rate of speed.  The defendant gave a thumbs up and yelled to a third officer who had just arrived to “go, go!”  The officers were pursuing the SUV when the driver lost control, went airborne, and crashed into the decedent’s car.

At trial, the plaintiffs presented evidence that the high speed chase of the driver was prohibited by a written policy of the police department.  The jury found the defendant negligent in instituting a police pursuit of the driver, which resulted in the fatal accident and death of the decedent.  After the verdict, the defendant argued that he was entitled to statutory immunity.  The trial court granted judgment for the defendant after ruling that he was immune based on common law and Maryland law.

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A person who is injured in an auto accident may be able to recover damages against the negligent driver who caused the collision.  Negligence on the part of the injured driver is not necessarily a bar to recovering damages.  In a February 26, 2021 negligence case, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered the effect of the plaintiff’s alleged negligence with respect to a multi-vehicle collision.

The plaintiff in the case was driving on a three-lane boulevard in rush hour traffic when her mini-van overheated and stalled in the right lane.  The road did not have any shoulder onto which she could move the van.  The driver of the car behind the plaintiff’s van attempted to move into the middle lane just as a pick-up truck from the far left lane merged into the same middle lane.  The truck collided with the car, causing the car to be propelled into the plaintiff’s stalled mini-van.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury action against the drivers of the car and the truck, alleging negligence.  The defendants, in turn, claimed that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent in causing the accident.  The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that the plaintiff had been negligent.  The plaintiff then appealed the decision.

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To establish a personal injury claim, the plaintiff must prove each element of the cause of action.  In a January 19, 2021, Maryland car accident case, the only element at issue was the matter of damages suffered by the plaintiff.  Although the defendant had admitted his negligence in causing the collision, the plaintiff was nevertheless required to prove her injuries and damages flowing from the accident.  After the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff but awarded no damages, the plaintiff appealed, and the matter came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case was stopped at an intersection when the defendant collided into the rear of her vehicle.  The defendant admitted that he had taken his eyes off the road and apologized to the plaintiff.  The plaintiff did not seek medical attention at the time of the accident.  The next morning, however, the plaintiff felt that her body was starting to stiffen up.  She went to see an orthopedic surgeon who had previously treated her for a neck condition.  Her surgeon concluded that the plaintiff’s injuries were consistent with whiplash.  Over the next two years, the plaintiff continued to seek medical treatment for cervical and lumbar strains.

At trial, the sole issue was the amount of damages, if any, suffered by the plaintiff.  The plaintiff presented witness testimony from her doctors and parents.  She did not introduce any of her medical bills into evidence, relying purely on testimony to establish her damages.  After a brief deliberation, the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff zero damages.

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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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