Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

Some personal injury actions are complicated due to the involvement of multiple defendants and competing theories of liability.  In an April 3, 2019 Maryland car accident case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, which resulted in a judgment against the two defendants.

The plaintiff in the case was injured in a three-car accident.  The first defendant owned the vehicle that caused a chain reaction collision.  On the night of the accident, the first defendant was socializing at a restaurant bar with a man she had met that night.  Believing that she was too intoxicated to drive, she allowed the man to drive her vehicle because she had not seen him consume any drinks.  During the drive, the man began driving erratically and at an excessive rate of speed.  While being pursued by police, the first defendant’s vehicle struck the median past a traffic intersection and became airborne, traveling over three other cars before crashing into the side of the street.

The plaintiff alleged that, after the first defendant’s vehicle came to a stop, the second defendant’s vehicle suddenly accelerated through the intersection, hit the median, and struck the front driver’s side of her vehicle.  Throughout the case, the second defendant maintained that he was rendered unconscious as a result of being hit by the first defendant’s vehicle, and that his incapacitation led him to strike the plaintiff’s vehicle.  The plaintiff testified that she could not determine whether the second defendant was unconscious as his vehicle approached hers, nor could she recall how much time had passed after the first defendant crashed and when the second defendant’s vehicle struck her car.

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In some in Maryland car accident cases, the evidence presented to a jury may have a significant impact on the outcome of the trial.  In a February 12, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether evidence of prior auto accident injuries was irrelevant or prejudicial to a plaintiff seeking underinsured motorist benefits from his auto insurance company.

The plaintiff in the case was rear-ended at low speed while his vehicle was stopped at a red light.  Later that day, the plaintiff sought medical treatment for pain in his neck, back, knees, hips, elbows, and for nausea and headaches.  He underwent an MRI, which revealed preexisting, degenerative changes to his neck and back.  Over the next several years, the plaintiff intermittently received medical treatment for the pain.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit for underinsured motorist benefits against his insurer, as the policy limits of the at-fault motorist did not cover all of his damages.  Before trial, the plaintiff filed a motion to prevent the jury from learning about his other claims and injuries in six previous car accidents, as well as the one that occurred after the accident at issue in the case.  The trial court, however, allowed the defendant to introduce evidence of the accidents that had caused injuries to the same parts of the plaintiff’s body as the crash at issue.  The jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff over $28,000, but it only covered a fraction of his medical expenses.  As such, the plaintiff sought review from the appeals court, seeking the full amount of his damages.

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In some Maryland personal injury cases, a business employer may be responsible for injuries caused by the carelessness of their employees.  When an independent contractor or state or government entity is involved, however, there may be specific legal concepts to consider.  In a January 23, 2019 Maryland negligence claim, the plaintiff appealed after the circuit court dismissed his claims against a local sanitary commission for the negligence of an independent subcontractor.

The plaintiff in the case was injured in an accident that occurred when his vehicle hit a manhole that was only partially covered.  The plaintiff sued to recover damages from the local sanitary commission, which was responsible for the manhole cover.  The commission argued that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the negligence of a subcontractor of an independent contractor that it hired.  The commission claimed it had no control over the subcontractor and, therefore, could not be vicariously liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

In Maryland, the general rule is that the employer of an independent contractor is not liable for the negligence of the contractor or his employees.  However, there are a number of exceptions to the general rule that would extend liability to those who hire independent contractors.  These exceptions include the employer’s negligence in selecting or supervising the contractor, non-delegable duties of the employer to the public or a particular plaintiff, and work that is inherently dangerous.

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Negligent drivers may be held liable for property damage, medical expenses, and other losses that they cause to others.  In some Maryland personal injury cases, proving the extent of the injuries caused by the accident and the amount of damages is complicated.  In a December 18, 2018 case, the plaintiff filed a negligence suit after he was injured in a car accident caused by the defendant.  The matter came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland on the issues of damages and causation.

In the case, the defendant caused a multi-car accident when she failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle.  The impact pushed the plaintiff’s vehicle off the road into a tree. The parties stipulated to the fact that the defendant was at fault for the accident.  However, the plaintiff still had to establish that the accident caused the plaintiff’s injuries.  The case was tried before a jury, which found the defendant negligent and awarded damages to the plaintiff in the amount of $20,000.  The plaintiff appealed, as the jury award was less than the amount of damages he sought.  The plaintiff argued that the trial court improperly ruled on evidentiary issues that affected his proof.

The plaintiff had designated an orthopedic surgeon to testify as an expert witness at trial. The expert had been suspended from practicing for a period of three years by both the Maryland State Board of Physicians and the American Association for Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). During the pre-trial motions, the plaintiff asked the court to exclude the parts of the expert’s deposition where he was questioned regarding his suspension.  The plaintiff contended that that the line of questioning violated the medical review committee privilege.  The trial court agreed to redact some of the deposition, but allowed a question about whether he had been suspended from the AAOS.

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A Maryland car accident victim may take legal action against a negligent driver to recover their medical expenses and other losses.  To succeed, the plaintiff must present sufficient evidence to establish each element of a Maryland personal injury claim.  In a November 15, 2018 car accident case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether the circuit court erred by not allowing the plaintiff’s expert witness to testify.  The issue was crucial, as the lack of a causation expert subsequently led the circuit court to dismiss the plaintiff’s negligence claims against the defendants.

The case arose out of a rear-end motor vehicle collision.  One of the defendants was driving an automobile that struck the rear of the plaintiff’s car, causing the plaintiff to hit her head on the steering wheel.  A few days later, the plaintiff began to feel dizzy and nauseous. She went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with a concussion.  The plaintiff sought treatment from three other doctors, all of whom diagnosed her with a concussion, for fifteen months following the accident.  The plaintiff also received psychiatric counseling to treat the anxiety, irritability, and cognitive difficulties that she reported after the accident.

Three years after the car accident, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle that rear-ended her car, the owner of the driver’s vehicle, and her insurance company.  The plaintiff designated her doctor as an expert witness well before the deadline provided by the court.  However, two days before trial, the plaintiff provided to the defendants a report from her doctor based on a medical exam that had taken place a month before.  The defendants objected, arguing that there was no time to depose the doctor regarding her report before the trial date.  The court agreed and excluded the testimony without continuing the trial to a later date.  The defendants then moved for summary judgment reasoning that, without expert testimony, the plaintiff did not have any evidence that her injuries were caused by the accident.  The trial court granted the motion.

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The legal knowledge of a skilled Maryland personal injury attorney is often crucial to present the case persuasively to a jury and object to inadmissible evidence.  In a recent Maryland car accident case, the plaintiff obtained a favorable jury verdict on the issues of her damages.  On appeal, the defendant argued that the plaintiff should not have been permitted to introduce evidence of bias regarding the relationship between the defendant’s expert witness and the defendant’s auto insurance company.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered the issue in an opinion released on October 9, 2018.

The plaintiff in the case was a passenger in the backseat of a vehicle driven by the defendant, which rear-ended another vehicle on the highway.  The plaintiff received medical treatment the day after the accident for injuries to her knee, neck, and back.  The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the defendant, alleging that he negligently struck the vehicle in front of him, thereby causing her injuries.

The defendant conceded that he was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, and the case proceeded to trial on the issue of the plaintiff’s damages.  The parties both produced expert witnesses who testified as to the plaintiff’s injuries.  During cross-examination, the plaintiff questioned the defendant’s expert witness about an investment of over one million dollars that he received for his corporation from the defendant’s insurance company.  The defendant’s objection to the line of questioning was overruled by the trial court.  Ultimately, the jury awarded the plaintiff compensatory damages in the amount of $353,000.   The defendant brought the subsequent appeal.

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An individual who has suffered an injury caused by negligence may have legal recourse against the liable party, as illustrated in an August 17, 2018 case.  The plaintiff in the case was inside a retail store when a motorist lost control of his car and crashed through the fire doors of the building.  The plaintiff suffered serious injuries in the accident, which resulted in the amputation of his leg.  Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a Maryland negligence claim against the corporate owner of the nationwide store chain, arguing that it failed to take reasonable steps to protect customers against the foreseeable risk of vehicle-building crashes.  After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded approximately 6.5 million in damages.

The defendant appealed to the Court of Special Appeals on several grounds, one of which was that the plaintiffs asserted facts that were not in evidence while cross-examining the defendant’s witnesses.  During discovery, the plaintiffs had obtained information from the defendant regarding three prior vehicle-into-building crashes that had occurred at the defendant’s other store locations between 2008 and 2013.  The plaintiff questioned the defendant’s corporate representative about those incidents, as well as a dozen other incidents the plaintiff had discovered.

In general, questions that assume facts that are not supported by evidence already admitted are objectionable.  The appeals court explained that the admissibility of the plaintiff’s questions regarding the prior vehicle-into-building crashes depended on whether these incidents had actually occurred.  Without any proof in evidence verifying that the incidents had occurred, the incidents were not relevant to the case, and therefore, were inadmissible.

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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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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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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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