Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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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Failure to comply with certain procedural rules may be detrimental to a Maryland wrongful death action, as illustrated in a March 10, 2020 case.  Following the fatal car accident of his daughter, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death suit against the mayor and city council, alleging faulty construction and maintenance of the road on which the accident occurred.  However, the plaintiff had failed to provide timely notice of his claim within the required deadline.  As a result, the lower court granted summary judgment in favor the City.  The plaintiff subsequently appealed the matter to the Court of Special Appeals.

Under Maryland law, an action for damages against a local government or its employees requires that notice of the claim be given within 180 days after the injury.  However, the plaintiff’s failure to provide proper notice to the appropriate governmental body may be overcome by a showing of good cause, as long as the defendant was not prejudiced as a result of the lack of notice.

The general standard used to determine “good cause” is whether the plaintiff prosecuted his claim with the degree of diligence that an ordinarily prudent person would have exercised under the same circumstances.  When deciding whether that standard has been met, Maryland courts typically consider five factors: (1) excusable neglect or mistake, as determined by the reasonably prudent person standard, (2) serious physical, mental injury, and/or location out-of-state, (3) the inability to retain counsel in cases involving complex litigation, (4) ignorance of the statutory notice requirement, or (5) misleading representations made by representative of the local government.

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Highway collisions involving commercial rigs or semi-trucks frequently cause life-threatening, and even fatal, injuries to people who are riding in passenger cars.  While negligent truck drivers and their employers may be held liable for the full amount of economic damages suffered by the victims, compensation for pain and suffering and non-economic damages is limited under Maryland law.  The plaintiff in a March 18, 2020 Maryland car accident case challenged the state’s cap on non-economic damages, arguing before the Court of Special Appeals that the cap was unconstitutional.

The plaintiff in the case was driving on a Maryland highway when the defendant crossed the center median strip and struck her vehicle head on.  At the time of the collision, the defendant was driving a commercial vehicle for his employer, which was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.  The plaintiff sustained catastrophic injuries as a result of the accident and underwent multiple surgeries in order to save her life and her arm.  Thereafter, the plaintiff began a significant and life-changing recovery process, requiring near continuous medical care and psychological treatment for the trauma.

It was determined that the truck driver was intoxicated at the time of the collision, and that his employer was aware of his prior drunk driving charges.  After a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff over $314,000 for medical expenses, $2.5 million for non-economic damages, and $3 million for punitive damages against the employer.  The trial court, in accordance with Maryland law, reduced the non-economic damages to $830,000.  On appeal, the plaintiff solely challenged the constitutionality of Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages.

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While a significant number of motor vehicle collisions are caused by careless drivers, negligence on the part of non-drivers may play a role in causing a car accident.  In a February 18, 2020 case, the plaintiff filed a Maryland car accident case against the City after losing control of her vehicle on the road.  The plaintiff alleged that the accident was caused by black ice or water from a leaking fire hydrant, for which the City was responsible.  After the circuit court ruled that the City was entitled to summary judgment, the plaintiff brought an appeal before the Court of Special Appeals.

The plaintiff in the case was driving home from the store on a cold morning, traveling around 30-35 mph.  A car pulled in front of her, and she applied her brakes.  At that moment, the plaintiff lost control of the vehicle, and it began sliding and turning.  The vehicle then hit the sidewalk, causing it to flip on its side.  The plaintiff was able to call 911 while trapped inside, and the paramedics arrived to remove her from the vehicle.  In her lawsuit against the City, the plaintiff alleged that water leaking from a fire hydrant had frozen on the roadway.  The circuit court, however, held that she failed to produce evidence that water or ice or some other defect was the cause of her accident.

In Maryland, a plaintiff must establish four elements to state a claim of negligence: a duty owed to him or her, a breach of that duty, a legally cognizable causal relationship between the breach of the duty and the harm suffered, and damages.  Generally, a municipality owes a duty to pedestrians and drivers to make its public streets and sidewalks reasonably safe for passage.  When a person is injured because a municipality failed to maintain its streets, the municipality may be held liable only if it had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition that caused the injury.

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When a pedestrian is struck by a motor vehicle, it can result in serious or life-threatening injuries to the person on foot.  In a February 14, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed an appeal involving a Maryland pedestrian accident.  After being hit by a patrol car, the plaintiff had filed a Maryland negligence claim against the police officer driving the vehicle and the County.  The case went to trial, in which the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him damages.  The defendants brought the instant appeal.

The accident occurred as the police officer was pursuing another vehicle for a moving traffic violation.  When the officer turned the corner of an intersection at a high rate of speed, he lost control of his police cruiser.  The cruiser skidded over the median, through the intersection, and off the road, where it struck two telephone poles and landed in a ravine.  The plaintiff was walking home from work, near the telephone poles, when he was struck by the police car and knocked unconscious.

In a Maryland negligence action, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to establish the duty of the defendant based on the applicable standard of care, breach of that duty, causation that relates that breach to the plaintiff’s injury, and damages.  On appeal, the defendants argued that the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence at trial to support the jury verdict in his favor.

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A serious car crash may cause permanent injuries and lasting pain.  In Maryland, an individual may recover damages for pain and suffering, as well as past and future medical expenses and other losses, in a personal injury suit.  In a November 14, 2019 Maryland car accident case, a jury awarded the plaintiff over 1.1 million dollars in damages for the injuries he suffered.  The defendant appealed the jury award as excessive, and the matter came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff was driving home from work when he was struck by the defendant’s vehicle in a head-on collision.  The day after the accident, the plaintiff sought medical treatment for severe pain and decreased range of motion.  Further testing indicated that the plaintiff had suffered a disk injury in his back, which likely would not heal due to various factors.  The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the defendant, who conceded liability for the accident.  The only issue at trial was damages.

At trial, the plaintiff’s medical experts testified that the injury permanent, painful, and would continue to cause substantial pain.  Despite the pain, the plaintiff declined pain relief medication that would prevent him from working as an equipment operator.  The jury awarded the plaintiff approximately 1.1 million dollars for future pain and suffering, which was subject to the Maryland non-economic damages cap, and also awarded damages for his medical bills and lost wages.  One of the arguments asserted by the defendant on appeal was that the jury verdict was excessive.

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