When several motor vehicles are involved in a Maryland personal injury accident, questions regarding liability and negligence may be more complex than in a typical two-vehicle collision. An April 21, 2021 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland illustrates some of the issues that may arise in a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a multi-vehicle accident.
The case at issue involved the chain-reaction, rear-end collisions of four motor vehicles on a Maryland highway. The plaintiff in the case was driving when the vehicles in front of him came to a stop. When the plaintiff applied his breaks to avoid hitting them, a second driver collided into the rear of the plaintiff’s car. A third driver then rear-ended the second driver, which caused her vehicle to hit the plaintiff’s car again. The repeated impact caused the plaintiff’s car to strike the fourth vehicle, which was directly in front of his.
The plaintiff filed a negligence suit against the second and third drivers, and the case went to trial. After denying the defendants’ motions for judgment, the court submitted the case to the jury. The jury found that the defendants were negligent, and awarded the plaintiff $34,000 for medical expenses, over $10,000 for lost income, and $500,000 in noneconomic damages.
One of the issues on appeal was whether or not the defendants could have stopped in time to avoid hitting the plaintiff’s car. In general, negligent driving is the failure to exercise the degree of care which a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under similar circumstances. Under Maryland law, the driver of a motor vehicle may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the other vehicle and of the traffic on and the condition of the highway.
In rear-end collisions that occur when the lead driver comes to a sudden stop, without giving any warning to a second driver following behind at a reasonable distance, the second driver is not presumed negligent unless they had a chance to stop. However, the rear driver still has a duty to exercise reasonable care while driving and maintain a safe distance between vehicles to avoid hitting a driver who stops in an emergency. Since a rear-end collision itself does not constitute negligence, the burden is on the plaintiff to show that the defendant’s negligence directly contributed to the accident.
On appeal, the court pointed to evidence of the near-immediate collision following the plaintiff’s stop, which he testified was not sudden. The court found that it was reasonable for the jury to find that the defendants were unable to avoid the collision because they were following too closely or driving too fast. The appeals court went on to affirm the verdict for the plaintiff.
If you need legal advice after an accident, a Maryland personal injury lawyer can assist you in evaluating your options. At Foran & Foran, P.A., we represent people seeking compensation for their medical expenses and other losses due to automobile collisions, medical malpractice, premises liability accidents, and other negligence. Schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.