Semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles can cause serious damage, injuries, and even death upon a collision with a passenger car. A February 12, 2018 wrongful death case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland arose after a woman died in a car accident involving a cement truck. The victim’s family brought a personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit against the cement truck company, arguing that it was overloaded. When the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the plaintiffs appealed.
At the time of the accident, the victim was driving on a two-way road while the surface was wet with rain and snow. As she attempted to give way to an oncoming emergency vehicle, she lost control of her car and crossed over the center line into oncoming traffic. Her vehicle was struck by a loaded cement mixer delivery truck owned by the defendant. The cement truck, weighing more than 60,000 pounds, was determined to be over the allowable weight limit of 10,000 pounds for the road on which it was traveling. The driver was also going about five miles over the posted speed limit.
The trial court granted summary judgment on the basis that the victim’s vehicle crossing into the oncoming traffic lane was the proximate cause of the accident, implicitly finding that the defendant’s actions did not cause the accident. The plaintiffs argued that the defendant’s violation of the weight restriction was evidence of its negligence, and they alleged that the violation contributed to the victim’s injuries and death.
In Maryland, a violation of a statutory regulation is evidence of negligence, and if the violation causes or contributes to the injuries that form the basis of the claim, it constitutes negligence. Generally, the purpose of traffic control devices is to promote highway safety and efficiency by facilitating the orderly movement of drivers. The appeals court noted, however, that traffic statutes are not always for the exclusive purpose of safety. The court went on to explain that the mere violation of a statute does not support a damages action, even though it may be evidence of negligence, unless there is legally sufficient evidence to show that the violation was a proximate cause of the injury. Instead, when a traffic violation is merely coincidental, having only the effect of placing a defendant at the wrong place at the wrong time, it is not contributory negligence as a matter of law.
The appeals court concluded that even if the defendant’s action were evidence of negligence, it must be the actual and proximate cause of the victim’s injuries. Actual causation raises the question of whether the defendant’s conduct actually produced an injury. In the case at hand, the appeals court found that the evidence was not sufficient to show that the defendant’s conduct was negligent, due to the lack of causation. Accordingly, the decision was affirmed.
The Maryland accident attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. handle personal injury and wrongful death claims arising out of truck accidents, car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and medical negligence. Schedule an initial consultation with an experienced injury lawyer by calling Foran & Foran, P.A. at (301) 441-2022 or submitting the contact form on our website.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Court Allows Plaintiff to Bring Wrongful Death Suit Based on Same Conduct as Prior Personal Injury Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 21, 2015
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