Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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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In a Maryland personal injury case, a plaintiff must present proof of the amount of their damages.  Recoverable damages may include past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and other economic and non-economic losses incurred by the plaintiffs.  In a November 15, 2019 car accident case, the issue of damages came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.  The plaintiff appealed after a jury awarded her $3,100 for her injuries caused by the accident.

The plaintiff in the case was involved in a car accident when she was a junior in high school.  While seated as a passenger in her father’s vehicle, the defendant had rear-ended their car, which caused her head to hit the head rest very hard.  She immediately had a slight headache, but appeared unharmed following the accident.  Over the next few months, however, the plaintiff’s headaches worsened, and she showed signs of memory loss.  Her symptoms prevented her from playing in golf tournaments, and although she received a golf scholarship her senior year, and she felt that her poor performance after the accident prevented her from securing a scholarship in her junior year.

The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the defendant, who conceded to liability.  At trial, the issue for the jury was the amount of damages.  The plaintiff argued on appeal that the trial court erred by suppressing some evidence and testimony regarding college scholarships, her memory loss, and other matters.

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In some Maryland car accident cases, the driver who caused the collision is not insured, or does not have enough insurance coverage to pay for the entire amount of damages for which they are liable.  However, if you have underinsured motorist coverage from your own auto insurer, you may file a claim to recover payment for your remaining medical expenses when the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits are insufficient.  Pursing a claim with an insurance company may be difficult, but you have the option of retaining legal representation at any time.  A Maryland car accident attorney can deal with the insurance companies on your behalf and attempt to negotiate an acceptable settlement.

In an August 20, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed an appeal from a plaintiff that had filed an underinsured motorist claim with his insurance carrier for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision.  When his claim was denied, he brought the instant lawsuit against his insurance company.  Although he was advised repeatedly by the court to hire counsel, he proceeded as a pro se litigant and represented himself.

In his lawsuit, the plaintiff stated that he suffered serious and permanent physical injuries in a motor vehicle collision that occurred in December of 2009.  He also alleged that the costs of his medical treatment and related expenses exceeded the $20,000 policy limits of the other driver’s Maryland insurance policy.  The plaintiff therefore sought coverage from the uninsured/underinsured motorist policy he held with his auto insurance company, which had a policy limit of up to $100,000.

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In some Maryland car accident cases, the actions of multiple drivers may be the causes of the collision.  Proving a defendant’s liability in these injury cases can be difficult, and the plaintiff may not be able to recover damages in a Maryland personal injury lawsuit if her own negligence was a proximate cause of the accident.  In a July 9, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland grappled with a tragic wrongful death case brought by the family of a young driver who killed in a fatal car accident.

The victim in the case was driving on her learner’s permit.  Traveling westward on a side road, the victim reached a stop sign at the intersection of a four-lane highway.  The defendant was driving a truck northbound on the highway, traveling at 11 miles over the speed limit.  As the victim entered the intersection, the defendant’s truck collided with her vehicle.  Following the fatal accident, the victim’s family filed a negligence suit against the truck driver and his employer.

The issue on appeal was whether or not the victim was contributorily negligent in causing the accident, as she was required to yield the right-of-way to vehicles traveling on the highway.  In Maryland, the Boulevard Rule requires the driver of a car approaching an intersection from a road controlled by a stop sign to stop and yield the right of way to cars traveling on the main road.  Nevertheless, a failure to yield will not necessarily relieve the driver on the main road of liability.  If the negligence of the highway driver was the proximate cause of an accident, they may be held liable, despite the other driver’s failure to yield the right-of-way.

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In a typical Maryland car accident case, plaintiffs may recover damages if they establish that the negligence of the other driver caused their injuries.  In collisions involving government or police officer vehicles, however, the issue of immunity may arise, as in a July 22, 2019 case.  The question before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was whether a police officer could claim partial immunity under a statute that provided immunity for operators of emergency vehicles.

The plaintiff in the case had suffered injuries as a result of a car accident involving a police officer.  The accident occurred as the police officer, responding to a call for an assault in progress, drove towards the location to serve as backup for another officer.  The officer and other witnesses testified that she had activated her vehicle’s emergency lights and siren before approaching an intersection.  As she proceeded through the intersection, the plaintiff’s car collided with the front end of the police officer’s car.  The plaintiff subsequently filed suit to recover damages stemming from the accident.

The police officer claimed immunity under a statute for emergency service responders.  Under the Maryland law, the operator of an emergency vehicle is granted partial immunity when the vehicle is involved in an accident that occurs in the performance of emergency service.  After the trial court concluded that the police officer was entitled to such immunity, the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed.  She then pursued an appeal with the higher court.

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Car accident cases involving pedestrians can result in serious and life-long injuries.  Many injury victims choose to pursue a Maryland personal injury claim to recover for their damages, as the plaintiff did in a July 16, 2019 case.  The case arose out of an automobile accident on a snowy winter day.

The defendant in the case was driving her car slowly through the snow.  As she approached a sharp, downhill turn, however, she lost control of the vehicle and left the roadway.  Her vehicle reportedly hit the plaintiff, who was clearing snow in his neighbor’s driveway.  The plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of the collision and filed a negligence suit against the driver for damages.

After a trial, the jury returned a verdict finding that the defendant was not negligent.  The plaintiff brought an appeal, arguing that the trial court erred in its instructions to the jury.  Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the jury should have been instructed to consider a statute under the Maryland Transportation Code providing that the driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian and shall, if necessary, warn any pedestrian by sounding the horn of the vehicle.

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