Maryland Court Orders New Trial for Pedestrian Injured After Driver Lost Control of Car

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.

In Maryland, a trial court must properly instruct the jury on a point of law that is supported by some evidence in the record.  On appeal, the court found that the plaintiff, despite being on a driveway, was a pedestrian, as defined under Maryland law.  The court also concluded that there was evidence relating to the horn instruction proposed by the plaintiff.  The court pointed to the defendant’s testimony at trial, admitting that she had not used her horn, and stating that the incident could have been possibly avoided if she had sounded her horn.

The defendant responded that the substance of the horn instruction was included within the court’s other instructions on the general standard of care for drivers.  The appeals court disagreed, finding that no other instruction adequately advised the jury of a driver’s specific duty to warn pedestrians by sounding a horn.  Because the horn instruction correctly stated the applicable law, was generated by the evidence presented, and was not fairly covered in the circuit court’s other instructions, therefore, the appeals court held that the circuit court was required to give it.

The appeals court went on to find that the plaintiff was prejudiced by the lack of instruction.  The court explained that, had jury been made aware of the driver’s separate duty to warn pedestrians by sounding their horn, the plaintiff could have argued to the jury that the defendant was negligent by failing to warn, even if she was otherwise driving in a reasonable manner.  Accordingly, the appeals court reversed the jury verdict and remanded for a new trial.

The Maryland personal injury attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can represent victims of negligence in legal actions against the responsible parties.  Our experienced litigators can handle wrongful death claims, medical negligence actions, auto accident cases, premises liability claims, and many other injury cases arising out of negligence.  Schedule an appointment with one of our skilled attorneys by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.