Maryland Plaintiff Wins Appeal to Pursue Car Accident Claim That Originated Ten Years Ago

A skilled Maryland car accident attorney will thoroughly investigate the facts of an accident in order to support the viability of a client’s negligence claim.  As illustrated in a February 20, 2018 decision by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the details were crucial in reversing the dismissal of a plaintiff’s car accident case.

The case arose out of a December 2008 motor vehicle collision, which occurred within the federal enclave of a military base.  The defendant was driving a government vehicle when she struck the plaintiff’s SUV.   At the time of the accident, the defendant was on active duty.

In November 2009, the plaintiff filed a claim with the appropriate federal agency, as required before bringing a lawsuit in federal court against the United States.  The matter was transferred to another agency, and the plaintiff subsequently filed her case in federal court in 2011.  The federal court dismissed the case, finding that the defendant was not acting within the scope of her employment because she was going to a medical appointment.  The plaintiff then filed suit in Maryland circuit court against the defendant and the plaintiff’s own insurance carrier in 2013.  The circuit court dismissed the case, ruling that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the statute of limitations began to run on her claim in 2012, when the United States, for the first time, asserted that the defendant was not acting in the course of her employment with the United States Air Force.  The plaintiff also maintained that a jury question was presented as to whether the defendant’s alleged concealment prevented the plaintiff from discovering her cause of action.

The primary issue for the appeals court, therefore, was whether the plaintiff could bring suit more than three years after an accident if the defendant had provided fraudulent information at the scene of the accident, which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the defendant was acting within the scope of her duties as a federal employee.

In Maryland, equitable estoppel can operate to save an untimely claim in some situations.  In order to apply, the plaintiff must have been misled by the defendant and, having believed and relied on the misrepresentations, changed her position for the worse.  Although wrongful conduct is generally an element of estoppel, estoppel may arise even when there is no intent to mislead, if the actions of one party cause a prejudicial change in the conduct of the other.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had stated to the investigating officer on the scene that she was on her way to a recruiting appointment.  In fact, the defendant was on a personal errand attending a medical appointment.  The appeals court ruled that, since a jury could find that the defendant misrepresented that she was engaging in government work when the accident occurred, estoppel could apply to toll the statute of limitations.  As a result, the court reversed the dismissal and remanded the issue back to circuit court.

If you have been injured in a car accident, the Maryland lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can assist you in pursuing the compensation you deserve.  We have represented plaintiffs in a diverse range of negligence claims, including medical malpractice and premises liability cases.  To discuss your injury with a legal professional, schedule a consultation by calling (301) 441-2022 or submitting the contact form on our website.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Orders Insurance Company to Cover Loss for Wrongful Death Claims Arising Out of Car Accident, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 17, 2016

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