Maryland Court Addresses the Issue of Contributory Negligence in Fatal Car Crash

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.

In the case, the victim did not yield the right-of-way to the oncoming highway traffic.  The court concluded that, because her violation of the Boulevard Rule was the proximate cause of the crash, she was contributorily negligent as a matter of law.  The plaintiffs alleged that despite the victim’s violation, the defendant failed to exercise due care by speeding and failing to apply his breaks.  The plaintiffs argued, therefore, that a reasonable jury could find that the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the accident.

When reviewing the record on appeal, the court found no evidence that the defendant would have been able to avoid the collision, even if he had been traveling at the speed limit and applied his brakes.  The court also determined that the doctrine of last clear chance did not apply, as there was little, if any, time for the defendant to react to the victim’s car when she pulled out onto the highway.  The court therefore upheld the summary judgment entered in favor of the defendant.

If you are seeking legal advice after a motorcycle or auto accident, the Maryland personal injury attorneys Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide guidance.  We have successfully represented plaintiffs in negligence lawsuits and insurance claims to recover compensation for their injuries.  We also handle medical malpractice actions, premises liability cases, and wrongful death claims.  Call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to request a free consultation with one of our experienced accident lawyers.