Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

Proving that a negligent driver caused a plaintiff’s injuries can be difficult in some car accident cases, as illustrated in a September 26, 2017 case before the Court of Special Appeals.  It can help, however, to hire a dedicated Maryland car accident attorney to ensure that the facts are presented persuasively to a jury.  The plaintiff in the case brought a negligence claim against the driver who rear-ended her vehicle as they were both merging onto a traffic circle.  After a jury found the defendant was not negligent, the plaintiff appealed.

At the time of the accident, the defendant was driving behind the plaintiff in the same direction as they approached a traffic circle in the middle of three lanes.  The plaintiff stopped her vehicle, as did the defendant.  The defendant testified that she saw the plaintiff started to accelerate, which prompted her to accelerate into the circle.  The defendant checked her blind spot to check traffic, and in that brief interval, their vehicles collided.  The plaintiff, however, testified that she had been at a complete stop for some time when the defendant rear-ended her.

In Maryland, every driver must exercise the degree of care that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under similar circumstances.  In a rear-end collision, the question of whether the following driver neglected to use care is ordinarily for the jury to decide.  Only in exceptional cases, in which it is clear that reasonable minds would not differ with regard to the facts, will the court disturb a jury verdict on the question of negligence.  The question on appeal, therefore, is whether there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the defendant was not negligent.

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Pedestrians can suffer serious and life-long injuries in Maryland car accidents, even when traveling at a low speed. In an October 3, 2017 case, a plaintiff was struck by a car as she walked from the parking lot toward the entrance of a grocery store, resulting in a broken knee. On the night of the accident, it was dark and rainy, and the plaintiff was wearing black clothes and carrying a black umbrella. She walked toward the crosswalk after looking both ways, and she was then struck by a car. The plaintiff subsequently brought a Maryland negligence claim against the driver of the vehicle.

The case went to trial, and although the jury found both parties negligent, it also found that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the injury and awarded the plaintiff damages for her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The defendant moved the court to enter a judgment in favor of him, notwithstanding the jury verdict. The trial court granted the motion, finding the evidence on the issue of last clear chance was insufficient, and the plaintiff appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in granting a judgment for the defendant because the evidence was sufficient to find that the defendant had failed to avail himself of the last clear chance to avoid the collision, and secondly, the contributory negligence instruction was erroneous and prejudicial. The court first explained that the doctrine of last clear chance generally requires a sequential, fresh opportunity for the defendant to avoid the plaintiff’s injury. While the court admitted it strained to find evidence of such a fresh opportunity, it did not definitively answer the question, choosing instead to focus on the dispositive issue of contributory negligence.

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Maryland law holds every person responsible for their negligent actions, which may lead to harsh results for those who have been injured in Maryland car accidents.  In an October 5, 2017 case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed an injury claim arising out of a head-on motor vehicle accident.  The plaintiff in the case was driving southbound when the defendant attempted to make a left turn.  The defendant’s vehicle struck the plaintiff’s vehicle on the driver’s side, causing it to flip.  The plaintiff suffered significant injuries in the accident, including two broken legs.  He brought suit against the driver of the other vehicle, alleging negligence.

At trial, the primary issue for the jury was whether the plaintiff’s speed contributed to the accident.  The speed limit on the road was 40 miles per hour.  The plaintiff testified that he believed he was driving 45 miles per hour, but he admitted that he typically drove with the flow of traffic and that he was not paying attention to his speedometer.

The defendant contended that the plaintiff’s actual speed was much higher and supported his argument with an accident reconstruction engineer.  The expert presented a series of calculations that indicated the plaintiff was likely traveling at a rate of at least 60 miles per hour.  The expert explained that if the plaintiff had been traveling at the speed limit, the defendant would have cleared the intersection before the plaintiff reached the point of collision.  The jury ultimately returned a verdict finding that the defendant was negligent but also finding that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and was therefore barred from recovery.

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Insurance companies who deny coverage to their insureds after a Maryland car accident can be held liable in court. In a September 26, 2017 opinion, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict that awarded an $8,000 judgment to the plaintiff in his action against his insurance company. The plaintiff brought an appeal for the rest of the amount he claimed for his non-economic damages.

The plaintiff in the case alleged that he was injured in an automobile accident when another motorist negligently collided with the side of his vehicle at a stop sign intersection. The driver of the other vehicle and his passenger jumped out of the vehicle and ran from the scene of the accident. The police could not determine the identity of the other driver because the vehicle had been stolen prior to the accident. Nor could the owner of that vehicle be liable for damages.

After the accident, the plaintiff received medical treatment from a chiropractor. He then filed a claim with his insurance company, seeking uninsured motorist benefits under his policy. The uninsured motorist benefits provision allowed him coverage in the event that he was in an accident with someone who didn’t have insurance. The insurance company admitted it was responsible for the claim but disputed the amount owed to the plaintiff. The case went to trial, where the issue for the jury, therefore, was the amount of damages that the plaintiff was entitled to receive.

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Following a Maryland car accident, the passenger of the vehicle that was rear-ended sued the other driver for negligence. The case went to trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her damages for all of her past medical bills and $650 for pain and suffering. The plaintiff appealed the judgment amount for non-economic damages, arguing that she was prejudiced by the admission of her medical records into evidence. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland published its decision in a June 28, 2017 opinion.

On the day of the accident, the plaintiff was sitting in the rear passenger seat of a small SUV, while her son was driving. As they came to a complete stop in heavy traffic on the exit ramp, the SUV was rear-ended by a vehicle being driven by the defendant. Although police and ambulances were called to the scene, the plaintiff did not seek medical treatment. On the next morning, she went to the emergency room with low back pain and was released the same day. A week after the accident, the plaintiff sought treatment from a chiropractor. Three years later, she underwent shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff, which her doctor testified was caused by the accident. A doctor for the defendant examined the plaintiff pursuant to the litigation and reviewed her medical records. Based on the physical examination and records, the doctor testified that the plaintiff did not sustain her shoulder injury in the accident. The plaintiff’s medical records were admitted into evidence.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred by admitting the medical records into evidence and that she was prejudiced by their admission. The records at issue were admitted under an evidentiary rule concerning the bases of opinion testimony by experts. The rule provides that facts or data upon which the expert relies may be disclosed to the jury if they are determined to be trustworthy and necessary to illuminate the testimony. The court explained that there is no significant difference between disclosure and admission of a writing under the rule. Therefore, if it satisfies this rule, the court has discretion to allow otherwise inadmissible evidence in order to explain the factual basis for an expert’s opinion. Upon request, the court must instruct the jury that the facts or data may only be used to explain how the expert reached an opinion.

Bicyclists are particularly vulnerable to injuries arising out of motor vehicle collisions, many of which are caused by negligence.  In a July 11, 2017 case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a personal injury claim filed by a bicyclist against a driver following a Maryland car accident.  The plaintiff was employed as a delivery person by a sandwich chain and was in the process of making a delivery via bicycle when he collided with a van driven by the defendant.  As a result of the collision, the plaintiff suffered injuries to his head, neck, and knee.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s negligence caused his injuries.

In the case, the defendant had slowed her van to turn left into a parking spot across the street.  The plaintiff hit the back left window of her van while on his bike, shattering the glass.  The plaintiff was not wearing a helmet when the accident occurred.  After a trial, the jury returned a verdict finding that both parties had been negligent.  The plaintiff appealed the verdict, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting evidence that he was not wearing a helmet and by allowing the issue of contributory negligence to go to the jury.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the question of whether he was wearing a helmet was irrelevant and therefore inadmissible, since Maryland law did not require him to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.  The appeals court agreed that Maryland law did not legally require the plaintiff to wear a helmet.  However, the court went on to find that this fact alone did not compel the conclusion that the question of whether the plaintiff was wearing a helmet was completely irrelevant.  Furthermore, the court explained that even if the question was irrelevant, at most, the trial judge’s ruling on the issue was a harmless error and would not have affected the jury’s decision.

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Fighting with an insurance company after a car accident can be frustrating and burdensome.  Accordingly, many people choose to hire a Maryland personal injury attorney to help resolve their claim and obtain payment for their losses.  As demonstrated in a February 22, 2018 case, an accident victim can bring suit against her own insurance company if it refuses coverage for a valid claim.

The plaintiff in the case was involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver and went to the hospital for medical treatment.  She notified the defendant, her insurance company, of the accident.  The defendant denied the plaintiff’s claim for uninsured motorist coverage of her medical expenses and other damages arising from the accident.  The defendant asserted that the plaintiff did not qualify as a family member covered under the policy because she was not a resident of the named insured’s household at the time of the accident.

After the denial of her claim, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant in district court, alleging that the defendant breached the insurance contract.  She sought damages for her medical bills, pain and suffering, and car rental costs.  After a trial, the court ruled that the plaintiff was a temporary resident of the named insured’s household at the time of the accident, and as a result, she was entitled to uninsured motorist coverage under his automobile policy.  The plaintiff was awarded a judgment against the defendant for her medical bills and general damages.

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In Maryland personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove the amount of damages caused by the defendant’s negligence.  In a July 6, 2017 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed the jury’s verdict in a negligence claim arising out of a car accident.  At the trial, the defendant stipulated that he was responsible for causing the accident by running a red light.  The question for the jury was whether, and in what amount, the plaintiff was entitled to damages.  When the jury returned a verdict of zero dollars, the plaintiff brought an appeal, arguing that the court should have granted her request for a new trial.

In the case, the plaintiff was driving her car when it was struck by a vehicle operated by the defendant, who drove through a red light.  The plaintiff suffered injuries to her neck, which were treated with physical therapy and injections of anti-inflammatory medication in the months following the accident.  At trial, the testimony of the plaintiff’s doctors differed on the amount of physical therapy that was necessary after the accident, but they agreed that some treatment was reasonable and causally connected to the accident.  There was also testimony that the plaintiff had spinal problems for which she had sought treatment several months before the accident.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in refusing to grant a new trial because the verdict for the defendant was not supported by the evidence.  The plaintiff pointed to the facts that the defendant admitted responsibility for the accident and that her doctors agreed that medical treatment was necessary and causally connected to the crash.

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In an opinion issued on July 6, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a personal injury claim arising out of an accident between an automobile and a pedestrian. The plaintiff was attempting to cross the street when she was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant. The plaintiff brought a negligence claim against the defendant, which proceeded to trial. Ultimately, the jury found that the defendant was negligent, but it also found that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent, thereby precluding any recovery of damages. The plaintiff subsequently appealed to the higher court.

Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, a plaintiff who fails to exercise ordinary care for his or her own safety and thus contributes proximately to his or her injury is barred from all recovery, regardless of the defendant’s primary negligence. Unfortunately for plaintiffs, it is an all-or-nothing doctrine in Maryland. As a result, if contributory negligence is found on the part of the plaintiff, it prevents the plaintiff from recovering any damages for his or her injuries, even if the defendant was also found negligent. The burden of proving contributory negligence is on the defendant, and the issue is a question of fact for the jury to resolve.

In the case, the defendant had stopped at a stop sign and started to make a left turn, when she struck the plaintiff in the middle of the crosswalk. The defendant testified that she didn’t see the plaintiff until the last moment, when she slammed on her brakes. Ordinarily, a pedestrian crossing a street within a designated crosswalk in Maryland has the right-of-way over oncoming traffic, and the driver of an approaching vehicle must come to a stop when approaching a pedestrian in a cross-walk. The pedestrian’s right-of-way, however, is not absolute, and in some circumstances, a pedestrian may be found to be contributorily negligent. In crossing a street, a pedestrian has a duty to look out for vehicles and protect herself from danger. Although there is no law that she must stop until a vehicle has passed, whether she was negligent in proceeding is a question for the jury.

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Pedestrians who are hit by motor vehicles can suffer serious injuries, often requiring expensive medical care for months or even years into the future.  In a May 9, 2017 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a car accident case involving a plaintiff who was struck by a vehicle.  The plaintiff filed negligence actions against the owner of the vehicle and the driver.  Since the plaintiff alleged the driver was uninsured, the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund/Uninsured Division was allowed to intervene in the action.

After the trial, the court found the driver, as the operator of the vehicle, liable for negligently striking the plaintiff as a pedestrian.  The court granted judgment in favor of the owner of the vehicle at the close of the plaintiff’s case, finding no agency relationship between the owner and the driver.  The circuit court awarded no damages, concluding that the plaintiff’s evidence of lost wages was legally insufficient, and there was no evidence that the plaintiff’s medical bills were fair, reasonable, and necessary.  The plaintiff brought the current appeal.

The plaintiff’s medical records and bills were admitted into evidence pursuant to the streamlined procedures permitted by Md. Code § 10-104.  Under that rule, as long as the health care provider’s opinion was adequately expressed in the written report, it would be considered without any supporting witness testimony from the health care provider.  As a result, plaintiffs may establish causation by submitting the proper records.  However, the appeals court explained that the mere admission of such records could not, by itself, function as proof of causation by a preponderance of the evidence.

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