Maryland Car Accident Attorney Law Blog

Earlier this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued an opinion overruling a legislatively enacted rule that prevented defendants in personal injury cases from asserting that the accident victim’s failure to wear a seat belt at the time of the accident contributed to the cause of the victim’s injuries. In the case, Mendoza v. WIS International, Inc., the court determined that it is unconstitutional under the Arkansas Constitution to prevent a defendant in a civil case from arguing seat belt non-use at trial.

backseat-driver-1537280Importantly for Maryland plaintiffs, this is diametrically opposed to the state of the law in Maryland, where defendants are not permitted to submit evidence of an accident victim’s seat belt non-use. In other words, seat belt use has no relevance in Maryland personal injury cases.

The Facts of Mendoza

The plaintiff was injured when she was riding in the back seat of a vehicle driven by Adams. According to the court’s written opinion, Adams fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed into a parked excavator. Mendoza was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the accident.

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Over the past few years, U.S. and foreign auto manufacturers have been in the spotlight after issuing a record number of recalls totaling millions of vehicles. These recalls range from faulty ignition switches to airbags that fail to deploy when they should. In fact, it was recently discovered that 29 million vehicles may contain defective airbags. However, despite the shockingly high number of recalls, there is a relatively low compliance rate among drivers.

texture-860666_960_720Of course, it is ultimately the manufacturer’s burden to create and market a safe vehicle. And a company’s failure to adequately inform all owners of a recall cannot be considered to be a motorist’s fault. However, recent efforts by auto manufacturers to boost compliance among drivers seem to be in the works.

According to one national news source, about 25% of all recalled vehicles remain on the road with the recalled parts. However, car manufacturers are seeking to change that by getting the help of insurance companies. According to the news report, car manufacturers are asking insurance companies to remind motorists to take in recalled vehicles to get the repairs performed.

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Earlier last month, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a written opinion that reversed a $4.5 million jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, based on the lower court’s disallowance of the defendant’s low-impact defense. In the case, Rish v. Simao, the appellate court determined that the lower court erred when it entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff after the defendant repeatedly violated the court’s pre-trial order preventing the defendant from bringing up how minor the traffic accident was that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

glass-89068_960_720The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s car was struck from behind by the defendant’s vehicle when the two were in stop-and-go traffic. After the accident, an ambulance came, but all parties refused medical treatment. The plaintiff later filed a personal injury case against the defendant, alleging that he did in fact sustain serious injuries as a result of the rear-end accident, and that the accident was the defendant’s fault.

In a pre-trial motion, the plaintiff asked the court to prevent the defendant from bringing up that the traffic accident was only a minor one, with minimal property damage. The plaintiff also asked the court to prevent the jury from seeing photographs of the damage, which by all accounts was slight. The trial judge, relying on his interpretation of relevant case law, granted the plaintiff’s motion.

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For obvious reasons, auto accidents involving a pedestrian are some of the most likely to result in serious bodily injury or death. In fact, while all motor vehicle accidents combined result in about 32,000 fatalities a year, pedestrian accidents account for almost 4,500 of them. That figure represents about 15% of all traffic accident fatalities. Considering that pedestrian accidents account for only roughly 10% of all traffic accidents, pedestrian accidents present a much higher chance of resulting in a fatality.

people-1031169_960_720When a pedestrian accident does result in a fatality, the family of the accident victim is left with many questions, much grief, and few answers. While nothing will be able to bring back their lost loved one, families of those who are killed in pedestrian accidents are permitted to seek justice for their loss through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit.

A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought by qualifying family members on behalf of their lost loved one. In order to be successful, a wrongful death plaintiff must show the court that the driver’s negligent or reckless actions were the cause of their loved one’s death. In addition, they must also establish that their loved one was not at fault in any way in causing the accident. In pedestrian accident cases, this can be difficult to prove – although not impossible – when there is some evidence suggesting the pedestrian was crossing the street while not in a crosswalk at the time of the accident.

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Earlier this month, the Vermont Supreme Court issued an opinion in a personal injury case affirming the lower court’s decision that a landlord who leased his property to a tenant was not liable when the tenant’s horse escaped and caused an accident.

horse-1563686In the case, Deveneau v. Weilt, the plaintiff was injured when he was involved in a single-car accident after crashing into a horse on the highway. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against both the horse’s owner as well as the man who leased land to the animal’s owner. In a pretrial motion, the landowner asked the trial court to dismiss the case against him, because he had nothing to do with the horses, and only leased the land to the horse’s owner. The trial court agreed that there was insufficient evidence to hold the landowner liable, and dismissed the case against him.

The plaintiff then appealed the decision to the Vermont Supreme Court. On appeal, the court noted that this was a case of first impression, meaning that the exact issue had never come up before. However, the court ultimately agreed with the landowner and affirmed the dismissal of the case.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of West Virginia issued an opinion in a case that arose after an incident of road rage resulted in a commercial truck driver crashing and suffering injuries. The court held that the defendant’s act of failing to disclose the fact that he had several prior traffic offenses in the pre-trial discovery process resulted in the plaintiff not being able to properly rebut his testimony, and ultimately resulted in an unfair verdict.

speed-1505441Phillips v. Stear: The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, a commercial truck driver, crashed after a maroon vehicle cut him off and “gave him the finger.” The driver of the maroon vehicle fled the scene, but a witness followed him and called 911, providing the license plate number to police. Police ultimately tracked the owner down and he was sued by the truck driver.

At trial, the defendant introduced evidence of his “good character,” testifying that he is not a fast or aggressive driver, and that he normally drives below the speed limit in order to conserve fuel. When asked about any prior traffic offenses, the defendant responded that, as best he could remember, the last time he was issued a speeding ticket was 2006. In response, the plaintiff asked if he had been issued a ticket in 2011, to which the defendant replied he “did not recall the incident.” While the plaintiff had proof of the 2011 citation, an evidentiary ruling kept it out of evidence.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a case brought by a motorist against his own insurance company, after he was involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist. In the case, Fridman v. Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois, the plaintiff was injured after being struck by an uninsured motorist, and he sought compensation within the $50,000 policy limit of his insurance policy with the defendant. However, the defendant denied his claim. Ultimately, a jury awarded the driver $1,000,000 based on the insurance company’s bad-faith denial of the claim, and the court upheld that verdict.

car-85320_960_720The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a 2007 motor vehicle accident. Since the other driver was uninsured, the plaintiff filed a claim with his own insurance company for $50,000. The insurance company denied his request. He then filed a lawsuit against the insurance company, alleging bad faith in failing to settle his claim and seeking the full amount of compensation for his injuries, which “shall include the total amount of the claimant’s damages, including the amount in excess of the policy limits.”

The insurance company then cut the plaintiff a check for $50,000, the limit of his policy. The plaintiff refused the check as an offer to settle the case and opted to allow a jury to determine what his compensation should be. The jury ultimately determined that the plaintiff was entitled to $1,000,000 in compensation for his injuries, as well as for the bad faith of the insurance company. The insurance company filed an appeal, asking the court to consider the $50,000 check a final settlement that preempted the plaintiff’s case at trial.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in New York affirmed a lower court’s opinion keeping out a plaintiff’s expert’s testimony in a product liability lawsuit filed against BMW. In the case, Sean R. v. BMW, the plaintiff was a minor child who was born with severe disabilities allegedly caused by his in utero exposure to gasoline vapor in his mother’s BMW vehicle. Ultimately, the case was dismissed because the plaintiff’s expert witnesses were prevented from testifying because their opinions did not rely on “generally accepted methodologies.”

headlights-vintage-bmw-1526025The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s family bought a BMW 525i back in 1989. The car was primarily used by the plaintiff’s mother to run local errands. Two years later, the plaintiff’s mother noticed a smell of gasoline that “came and went.” It was at this time she became pregnant with the plaintiff. She continued to use the car despite the smell.

After getting the car looked at twice by a mechanic, it was discovered that the smell was caused by a split fuel line that resulted in fuel being spilled into the engine compartment. The plaintiff’s mother drove the car about 6,500 miles before the car was repaired. Two years later, BMW initiated a recall for all 525i models, due to defective fuel lines.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Mississippi released a written opinion in a case involving a pedestrian accident that took place in a gas station parking lot. The appeal was filed by the plaintiff after the lower court refused to give the plaintiff additional time to complete an investigation into whether the defendant gas station owner was negligent in failing to erect barriers to prevent out-of-control cars from entering its lot. The court ultimately determined that under the state’s rules of civil procedure, the parties should have been given more time to investigate the issue, thus presenting the court with more information.

gas-station-01-1463290The Facts of the Case

The case of Stanley v. Scott Petroleum Corporation arose after the two plaintiffs were struck by a vehicle as they were at a walk-up window paying for gas at the defendant gas station. The evidence presented suggested that the car that struck the plaintiffs suffered from some kind of mechanical malfunction with the braking system, and it was unable to slow down at the intersection adjacent to the station. It was estimated that the car was traveling at approximately 45 miles per hour at the time of the collision.

As a result, the car careened through the gas station and into a set of vending shelves. Those shelves then collided with the plaintiffs, causing them to be injured as a result.

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Earlier this month, a state supreme court handed down a very important decision regarding the scope of an unambiguous liability waiver signed in the wake of a serious car accident. In the case, Gores v. Miller, the court determined that a waiver signed after an accident, absolving the at-fault driver and his insurance company of any liability, also extended to any malpractice lawsuit stemming from the treatment related to the injuries sustained in the accident.

contract-signing-1474333The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a 15-year-old girl who was injured when the van she was riding in was involved in an accident. The girl, through her mother, negotiated and settled a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for $25,000.  The court was asked to accept the settlement waiver, and in so doing the plaintiff would forfeit her right to sue any “and all other persons, firms or corporations liable or who might be claimed to be liable,” for injuries both “known and unknown.”

The court accepted the settlement between the parties. However, two years after the settlement was made final, the girl and her mother filed a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who treated her in the wake of the accident.

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