When a pedestrian is struck by a motor vehicle, it can result in serious or life-threatening injuries to the person on foot. In a February 14, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed an appeal involving a Maryland pedestrian accident. After being hit by a patrol car, the plaintiff had filed a Maryland negligence claim against the police officer driving the vehicle and the County. The case went to trial, in which the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him damages. The defendants brought the instant appeal.
The accident occurred as the police officer was pursuing another vehicle for a moving traffic violation. When the officer turned the corner of an intersection at a high rate of speed, he lost control of his police cruiser. The cruiser skidded over the median, through the intersection, and off the road, where it struck two telephone poles and landed in a ravine. The plaintiff was walking home from work, near the telephone poles, when he was struck by the police car and knocked unconscious.
In a Maryland negligence action, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to establish the duty of the defendant based on the applicable standard of care, breach of that duty, causation that relates that breach to the plaintiff’s injury, and damages. On appeal, the defendants argued that the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence at trial to support the jury verdict in his favor.
The appeals court examined the evidence of record to determine whether there was sufficient proof of each element for the jury to find negligence. The court held that the police officer had a duty to use reasonable care and keep a proper lookout when operating his patrol car and drive at a reasonable speed. For the element of breach, the court pointed to witness testimony regarding the officer’s speed and the wet weather conditions, and found that the evidence supported the jury’s inference that the officer breached his duty of care.
The defendants argued that, because the actions of the other driver prompted the police officer to follow him at a greater speed, the officer did not cause the accident. The appeals court explained that to establish causation, the plaintiff must show some reasonable connection between the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injury. Further, the defendant does not have to be the sole proximate cause of the accident. The court went on to find that the evidence showed that the officer’s driving was a substantial factor in causing the accident. As such, the appeals court affirmed the verdict.
Pedestrians and cyclists injured in motor vehicle accidents may pursue legal action against a careless driver. At Foran & Foran, our Maryland personal injury attorneys have helped victims of negligence and their loved ones in seeking compensation from those responsible for their losses. In addition to auto accident cases, we handle a wide range of injury claims, such as premises liability and medical malpractice suits. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced injury lawyer by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran & Foran online.