Maryland Car Accident Case Involves Issue of Reasonable Care When Facing a Sudden Emergency

To succeed in a Maryland negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed to use reasonable care.  The standard of care required often depends on the circumstances of the case.  In a Maryland car accident case, for example, a driver is expected to exercise reasonable care for the safety of others.  A November 14, 2017 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland illustrates how the standard of care may vary when a person driving on icy roads is faced with a sudden emergency.

In the case, the plaintiff was driving her family minivan at night on an wet and icy road.  The defendant drove an armored truck behind her at a distance of approximately two vehicle lengths.  When the plaintiff suddenly stopped her van, the defendant immediately applied his brakes but slid on the road.  In an attempt to avoid hitting the plaintiff’s van, the defendant swerved to the right and moved his truck onto an elevated grassy area beside the road.  Although the defendant avoided a direct collision, his truck clipped the rear bumper of the plaintiff’s van.  The plaintiff subsequently filed a negligence claim against the defendant.

After trial, the jury was instructed to measure the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions compared to those of other drivers facing the same sudden and real emergency.  The jury returned a verdict finding that the defendant was not negligent.  The plaintiff appealed the verdict, arguing that the trial court erred in providing the jury instruction for acts in emergencies.  In particular, the plaintiff contended that it was not sufficiently supported by the evidence.

On appeal, the court explained that the jury instruction for sudden emergencies only applies when the driver of a motor vehicle is faced with a sudden and real emergency, which was not created by the driver’s own conduct.  In such cases, the reasonableness of the driver’s actions is measured by the standard of other drivers of ordinary skill and judgment, when faced with the same situation.  The defendant is not required to use the same judgment required of a driver who is not facing a sudden and real emergency.

The appeals court ruled that there was sufficient evidence that the defendant’s vehicle slid on the slippery road, creating a sudden and real emergency, and that the defendant did not create the danger because he was driving well behind the plaintiff.  Furthermore, there was sufficient evidence that the defendant was faced with alternative choices to avoid hitting the plaintiff’s vehicle.  The court therefore found that the jury was properly instructed on how to measure the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions and affirmed the verdict.

The Maryland injury lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. provide legal guidance to plaintiffs who have suffered damages as a result of a negligent person or business.  We handle personal injury lawsuits arising out of premises liability, car accidents, medical malpractice, and many other situations.  Discuss the facts of your case with an experienced negligence attorney in a free consultation.  Call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or submit our contact form online to schedule yours today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Finds Error in Admission of Past Traffic Offenses in Auto Accident Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 10, 2016

Maryland Court Reviews Plaintiff’s Proof of Damages in Car Accident Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published July 28, 2017