Maryland Car Accident Attorney Law Blog

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alaska issued a written opinion holding that a lower court erred when it denied the plaintiff the opportunity to submit evidence of the payments made by the defendant’s insurance company to the plaintiff to help establish the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries. In the case, Luther v. Lander, the court determined that the insurance payments to the plaintiff were relevant to the determination of how serious the plaintiff’s injuries were.

Snowy RoadThe Facts of the Case

Back in 2010, the defendant’s vehicle slipped on some ice and rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle. At first, the plaintiff did not notice any serious injury, but as time went on, she realized that she had lingering pain in her back and buttocks. She eventually sought medical care but did so in a very conservative manner, seeking only non-invasive, physical therapy-type treatment.

About two years later, the plaintiff filed this lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for her injuries. However, throughout the trial, the defense evidence seemed to indicate that the plaintiff’s injuries were minor and that she was making them seem more serious than they were.

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Drunk driving is one of the top causes of fatal traffic accidents across the United States as well as in Maryland. In fact, so far this year, there have already been 130 fatal traffic accidents caused by drunk driving in Maryland alone. This represents about one-third of all fatal traffic accidents.

Bottle of WineMaryland lawmakers, police, and judges all take drunk driving seriously, and the state has a strict system in place to punish those who are found to have driven while intoxicated. Moreover, in cases when another party is hurt due to the driver’s negligent decision to get behind the wheel while he or she is intoxicated, Maryland law allows for the injured party to file a civil claim for damages against the driver as well as his insurance company.

Civil cases brought against a drunk driver proceed under the legal theory of negligence, specifically negligence per se. Negligence per se is a type of negligence claim that is available to plaintiffs when the conduct in which the defendant was engaging at the time of the accident has already been determined to be illegal. For example, since drunk driving is illegal in Maryland, any plaintiff bringing a case against a Maryland drunk driver can benefit from the doctrine of negligence per se.

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Drunk driving is a serious problem not just in Maryland but across the entire United States. In fact, it is estimated that each day there are about 27 people who lose their lives to a drunk-driving related accident. While some of these cases involve people who were drinking in their own home, many of these accidents are the result of a restaurant or social host over-serving the driver who eventually causes the accident. It is for this reason that many states have adopted “Dram Shop Laws” that can act to hold a restaurant, bar, or social host liable for the injuries caused by a drunk driving accident involving someone to whom they served liquor.

Bar SceneA Recent Application of Dram Shop Laws

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion allowing a woman’s wrongful death case to proceed against the establishment that served her father alcohol moments before he was fatally injured in a single-vehicle car accident. In the case, Bayless v. TTS Trio Corporation, the plaintiff’s case survived a summary challenge brought by the defendant, claiming that the plaintiff pleaded no personal knowledge of her father’s state when the defendant restaurant served him the alcohol.

Before trial began, the plaintiff interviewed a number of people who were present on the day of her father’s accident. It was discovered that the man had been at the bar for about six hours and had been served about 12 drinks during that time. However, since the plaintiff was not personally present on the day in question, none of the evidence presented to the court was first-hand in nature. The defendant challenged this as insufficient. However, the court ultimately determined that at the early stage at which the challenge was brought, enough evidence was presented to allow the case to proceed to trial.

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Taxi-cabs may be a thing of the past. Companies such as Uber and Lyft offer people seeking a ride the ease of opening an app on their phone and securing a ride with a few clicks on their phone. The people providing these rides are often regular drivers who are looking to make some extra cash on their time off. They rarely have commercial driver’s licenses, and they are not required to get any special training before they can accept customers.

taxi-cab-381233_960_720While convenient for many, this new model presents several legal issues if someone is struck by an Uber or Lyft driver. Whether the driver has a customer in the car may determine the level of assistance that the company will be willing to provide to the driver, and in turn to anyone hurt by the driver’s negligence.

The way the new model of ride-sharing works is that drivers can roam around waiting for fares to pop up on their smart phones. According to one article analyzing the potential legal implications, the process breaks down into three steps. First, the driver turns on the app and looks for a passenger. Second, the app matches the driver and the passenger. And third, the driver picks up the passenger and takes them to their destination. In the latter two stages, Uber or Lyft will likely cover the driver if anything goes wrong. However, if an accident occurs while a driver is roaming and waiting for a fare to come in, the company may deny any involvement.

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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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