Maryland Car Accident Attorney Law Blog

Hit-and-run accidents can be devastating. On top of the physical injuries and property damage sustained in the accident, there is often no party to look to for responsibility. This can leave an injured accident victim in a very unfortunate financial situation. Thankfully, under Maryland law, a driver’s own insurance company can be looked to for financial compensation, even if the hit-and-run driver responsible for the accident is never located.

car-accident-5-1426862This is exactly what happened in the recent case of Doe v. Pak. The case was filed by an accident victim, Ms. Pak, against an unknown hit-and-run driver, John Doe. Since Doe could not be located, Pak looked to her insurance carrier, State Farm, for the financial compensation she needed to cover her medical expenses.

Before the case even made it to trial, State Farm agreed to pay Pak $30,628 for her injuries. However, not satisfied with the offer, Pak turned it down and instead asked a court to decide what was fair. While the case was proceeding through the trial process, State Farm gave Pak the $30,628 amount as a credit toward any future award. The agreement in place at the time was that the amount was not an agreement to settle for that amount, but was merely a credit toward any future amount that may be awarded by the court.

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Some accidents involve only one or two vehicles, and it is easy for authorities to determine who was at fault and to issue the necessary citations. However, other accidents involve multiple parties, and in these situations authorities may have a difficult time ascertaining what caused the initial accident and who was at fault in subsequent collisions between motorists that may not have been involved in the initial collision at all.

urban-accident-1455874In multi-vehicle car or truck accidents, it may be that the fault for the accident was entirely attributable to one driver because they were drunk or distracted at the time. However, it is also possible that one driver’s negligent conduct started a chain-reaction accident that could have been prevented if other drivers had been diligent. A prime example of this is a multi-vehicle accident that involves a single collision and then several smaller collisions, due to approaching vehicles following too closely.

In these situations, establishing who is liable to whom can be a difficult task to sort out. The bottom line is, however, that an innocent driver should not have to worry about whether or not they will be able to recover compensation for their injuries just because it is difficult to determine who caused the accident leading to their injuries. It is for this reason that a thorough investigation is often necessary in multi-vehicle accidents.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of the State of Montana decided a case that illustrates how courts view expert testimony in personal injury cases. While the case arose under Montana law, the laws applied in the case are similar to those in Maryland, and Maryland accident victims should be on notice that a similar issue may arise in their case.

gavel-1238036Cleveland v. Ward:  The Facts of the Case

The facts giving rise to the appeal are quite simple. The plaintiff was stopped at an intersection when the defendant rear-ended her. The impact from the collision pushed the plaintiff’s vehicle into the intersection and totaled her car. The defendant admitted that she was negligent in rear-ending the plaintiff’s car, and the plaintiff filed a lawsuit seeking monetary compensation for her injuries, including amounts for “damages for emotional distress, past medical costs, and business loss/lost income.” One of the specific injuries the plaintiff was seeking compensation for was a torn rotator cuff.

As a part of the discovery process, the defendants were given the opportunity to interview the plaintiff’s treating physician, Dr. Steele, in what is called a deposition. A deposition is a formal, out-of-court, interview whereby both parties are present and can ask a witness questions pertaining to the case. In his deposition, Dr. Steele explained that he could not say that the accident “more likely than not” was what caused the rotator-cuff tear.

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Earlier this month, a state supreme court heard a case that was filed by one motorist against another, alleging that the defendant’s negligence caused not only the accident but also the injuries the plaintiff suffered. The case contained claims of both compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that the defendant’s “willful, wanton, and reckless” actions entitled the plaintiff to punitive damages. Ultimately, however, the court disagreed with the plaintiff and not only denied the request for punitive damages but also sanctioned the plaintiff for making the claims when there was no basis to do so.

yield-in-the-name-of-love-1554444Smizer v. Drey: The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was traveling to church with several family members in the car, when the defendant crashed into them. In the specific intersection where the accident occurred, the defendant had a yield sign. Evidence showed that the speed limit was 65 miles per hour and that the defendant was traveling at 45 miles per hour and slowed to 35 miles per hour as she entered the intersection. However, as she entered the intersection, she did not see the plaintiff’s vehicle because a cornfield obscured her view.

By the time she did see the plaintiff’s vehicle, it was too late, and the vehicles collided. The defendant admitted to failing to yield at the intersection and was cited by police for the same.

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Earlier last month, a state supreme court handed down a decision reversing a lower court’s ruling in favor of a defendant who struck a pedestrian as she was crossing the street. The court based its reversal on the improper jury instructions that were given by the trial judge.

crosswalk-1538871Samson v. Nahulu:  The Facts of the Case

In the case, Samson v. Nahulu, the plaintiff was the family of a young girl who was seriously injured when she was struck by an SUV driven by the defendant. The facts of the case were hotly contested at trial, with testimony from several eyewitnesses differing as to many of the important variables, such as whether the girl was in the crosswalk at the time of the accident, how far into the road she was when she was hit, and where exactly the nearby buses were parked in relation to the point of collision.

During trial, the judge made several important rulings regarding the evidence that the jury was allowed to consider. Specifically, the judge determined that the plaintiff would not be permitted to have a lay witness testify that the defendant was going “too fast,” and the court would not allow a photo of the intersection annotated by a witness that showed the young girl was in a crosswalk at the time of the accident.

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Earlier last month, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island issued a decision affirming a lower court’s dismissal of a case against a defendant in a car accident case. In the case, Wray v. Green, the plaintiffs’ case was dismissed because they failed to submit any evidence indicating that the defendant was negligent in the operation of his vehicle.

car-crash-1411857The Facts of Wray v. Green

The crash giving rise to the case in Wray v. Green was a three-car accident. Wray was the driver of the first vehicle. According to the court’s written opinion, Wray came to a stop at an intersection, waiting to make a left turn into a parking lot.

Roy was the driver of the second vehicle, and the defendant in the case. The evidence at the pre-trial motion suggests that Roy came to a complete stop behind Wray. However, it is not known how far away from Wray Roy’s vehicle was when it came to a stop.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Iowa heard a case that required the court to determine whether the jury-determined award of $1 for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering was consistent with the jury’s determination that the man incurred nearly $17,000 in medical bills. Ultimately, the court held that the $1 award was in line with the jury’s determination that the plaintiff’s reimbursable medical expenses were $17,000.

no-turning-1444130Bryant v. Parr: The Facts of the Case

The facts giving rise to the case are fairly straightforward. The plaintiff was a salesperson at a car dealership who was injured while he was riding as a passenger in a vehicle that was being test-driven by the defendant. According to the court’s written opinion, the driver of the vehicle made an illegal left turn, causing an accident with another vehicle.

As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffers continuing headaches and pain in his back, neck, and shoulder. The injured salesperson filed suit against both the potential customer who was driving the car he was riding in as well as the other driver involved in the accident.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Texas decided a case that involved a State Trooper who caused an accident while in pursuit of a fleeing offender. The court determined that since the Trooper was in the course of his duty, and likely acting in good faith at the time of the accident, official immunity attached, and the case filed by the injured accident victim was dismissed.


In the case, Texas Department of Public Safety v. Bonilla, the plaintiff was injured when a State Trooper ran a red light while he was pursuing a reckless driver. The Department filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit against it based on the Trooper’s official immunity, since he was acting within the scope of his employment, was responding to an emergency situation, and was acting in good faith when he caused the accident. The parties agreed that summary judgment is only appropriate if there are no issues of material fact when the evidence is viewed in favor of the non-moving party, and in this case the evidence was to be viewed in favor of the plaintiff.

The trial court hearing the case determined that the Trooper did not conclusively show that he was acting in good faith, since a reasonably prudent Trooper could have made a different decision regarding the chase of the offender. Since the Trooper’s actions were not the only course of action available, and there was no evidence suggesting he considered other means, the court determined that there was a triable issue, and summary judgment was not appropriate. The intermediate appellate court affirmed the decision.

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Earlier this month, a Montana court dismissed a plaintiff’s claim based on the fact that the plaintiff failed to introduce evidence of the applicable standard of care to which the defendant’s conduct could be compared. In the case, Not Afraid v. Montana, the plaintiff was paralyzed after the vehicle he was riding in as a passenger collided with and then crashed through a concrete barrier, ultimately sliding down a steep hillside.

the-curve-1-1370321Several years after the accident, the man filed suit against the State, County, and City governments, alleging that negligence in the placement and maintenance of the concrete barriers contributed to his injuries. Most relevant was the plaintiff’s claim against the City, which was charged with maintaining that particular section of roadway.

The Plaintiff’s Case

The plaintiff claimed that the City was negligent in the placement, installation, and maintenance of the concrete barriers. To support his claim, the plaintiff submitted a four-page report prepared by an accident-reconstruction expert. That report concluded that the vehicle the plaintiff was traveling in was likely going about 45 miles per hour when it collided with the barrier, and “the barriers were relatively ineffective in containing higher speed vehicles traveling around the curve.”

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Over the past few years, cars with keyless ignitions have become more and more popular, not just on high-end models but across the board. However, according to some news reports, there are some serious safety concerns about keyless ignition systems that anyone considering a car equipped with one should be aware of.

ignition-key-1473503A keyless ignition system allows for a car to be started without actually putting a key into the ignition and turning it. Instead, a wireless key fob allows for the car to be started anytime the fob is inside the car. Usually, drivers carry the fob in their pocket and start the car with a push of a button. However, there is no “shut-off” mechanism in place in most of these systems, and once the driver gets out of the car the car can continue to run. This has led to a number of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

In fact, two years ago, a Pennsylvania couple was found dead in their home. Their Lincoln was still running in the attached garage with the key fob used to start the car still in the vehicle. Instances like this one have led some lawmakers to seriously consider the regulation of keyless ignition systems. While this may seem like an unusual situation, there have been at least 13 confirmed carbon monoxide poisoning deaths caused by cars with keyless ignitions.

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