It may be necessary to take legal action against an insurance company or negligent driver after a car accident. A Maryland car accident attorney can assist plaintiffs by properly filing the lawsuit. An August 8, 2018 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland illustrates the importance of understanding these legal procedures.The plaintiffs in the case were injured when their car was rear-ended by another driver. The police report correctly named the driver but combined the name of the driver’s mother with the name of the driver when identifying the owner of the vehicle. In fact, the vehicle was co-leased by both the driver and his mother. The plaintiffs filed negligence actions solely against the mother. After the statute of limitations had expired, the plaintiffs filed motions to add the driver to the lawsuit. The circuit court denied the motions, and the plaintiffs appealed.
In Maryland, most civil actions must be filed within three years from the date they accrue. Failing to file a timely lawsuit, absent a statutory exception, bars the case from proceeding further. Amendments to the complaint, including the addition of another defendant, are freely allowed if filed within the statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitations has run, a party is generally barred from adding a new defendant to the complaint. The “relation back” doctrine, however, permits an amendment adding a misnamed party if the factual situation remains essentially the same after the amendment as it was before, and the party had timely notice of his status as a defendant.
On appeal, the court concluded that the plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint was essentially an attempt to add a new defendant to the proceedings, rather than merely an attempt to correct a misnomer. The court noted that the plaintiffs had the police report shortly after the accident. Although the vehicle owner name was incorrect, the report clearly identified the driver of the vehicle. The court found that by not naming him in the complaint, therefore, the plaintiffs’ conduct indicated an intent not to sue him as the driver of the vehicle. The court further stated that notice to only the owner of the vehicle is not sufficient to confer notice on the driver, even if the owner and driver are parent and son. Accordingly, the appeals court held that the driver did not have notice of his status as the intended defendant and went on to affirm the lower court’s decision denying the amendment to add him to the lawsuit.
If you were involved in a car accident, the Maryland injury lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide sound legal advice. Our knowledgeable attorneys have helped many victims recover compensation for medical expenses and other losses. To discuss a personal injury or medical malpractice case, call our office at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and request a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Plaintiff Awarded Past Medical Expenses from Car Accident in Maryland Negligence Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published April 13, 2018
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