Maryland Car Accident Attorney Law Blog

Earlier this month, a Michigan appellate court issued a written opinion in a case involving a woman who was struck by a vehicle that was insured by State Farm in which the alleged damages were just $25,000, but the actual damages were far greater. In the case, Hodge v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, the court determined that the plaintiff proved damages far greater than the $25,000 jurisdictional limit of the court where the case was filed.

Broken Taillight

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was struck by a car that was insured by State Farm. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against State Farm, seeking compensation for her injuries. She filed the lawsuit in District Court, which has a jurisdictional limit of just $25,000. This means that the court cannot hear cases that seek damages in excess of $25,000.

In her pleadings, the plaintiff sought damages of just $25,000. However, she presented evidence indicating that the actual damages incurred were closer to $150,000. State Farm asked the court to prevent the plaintiff from introducing any evidence that would show her damages were greater than $25,000, since that is all that she would be able to recover in the court in which she filed the case.

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Being involved in a car accident can take a major toll on the body. While many serious car accidents result in new injuries that require treatment when none was needed before, other accidents can aggravate pre-existing injuries. This may be the case in even a low-speed collision when the impact is too slight to cause any new injury.

X-ray of Knee

In lawsuits alleging the aggravation or acceleration of a pre-existing condition, a plaintiff must be careful to distinguish the symptoms of the injury before and after the accident. This is because a court will not hold a defendant liable for the pre-existing condition itself, but it may hold a defendant liable for an aggravation of the pre-existing condition. This can often be a very contested element of a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. A recent case illustrates the difficulties one plaintiff had seeking compensation for the aggravation of a pre-existing knee injury.

Harnish v. Corra: The Facts

Corra was injured when he was struck from behind by Harnish’s vehicle while waiting to make a left-hand turn into a parking lot. Having recently undergone neck surgery, Corra was most concerned with his neck in the moments after the accident. However, once he was transported to the hospital, he began to notice that he had pain in his right knee.

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Driving is a privilege that many people take for granted. It used to be that not everyone needed a driver’s license. However, in today’s society, with urban sprawl an ever-increasing reality, even young drivers need a license to get to and from school and work. These young drivers, while they are required to attend a driver’s education course and pass applicable practical tests, do not always possess the judgment and real-world experience necessary to safely operate motor vehicles in all conditions.

Curved RoadIndeed, according to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control, young drivers aged 15-25 represent only 14% of the total driving population, but they end up being involved in over 30% of the total accidents. Interestingly, there are several contributing factors that experts cite when explaining the heightened dangers:

  • Speeding is involved in about 35% of all teen-driver crashes.
  • The presence of at least one male passenger in the car increases the likelihood of an accident.
  • Alcohol is involved in 25% of accidents involving teens.
  • Teens are less likely to wear their seat-belts, increasing the severity of the injuries suffered in most of the accidents.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nebraska issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who was hit by a car while standing in the parking lot of the bar he had visited. In the case, Pittman v. Rivera, the plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the bar that had kicked out the patron who eventually got into his car and struck the plaintiff. However, since the court held that the bar could not have reasonably foreseen that such an injury could have resulted from its conduct in kicking out the other patron, the case was dismissed.

Diner at NightThe Facts of the Case

Pittman was inside the defendant bar with some friends. Earlier in the night, Rivera was kicked out of the same bar for getting into an argument with his girlfriend, an employee of the bar. Initially, Rivera left with a designated driver. However, a few hours later, he returned in his own vehicle. Rivera attempted to get back into the bar, but the bouncer refused him access. Angry and likely still intoxicated, Rivera left the bar and made several U-turns in an aggressive manner, revving his engine loudly outside the bar. At some point, Rivera lost control of his vehicle and struck Pittman, who was now outside the bar talking with some friends.

Pittman filed a lawsuit against several parties, including, most notably for this opinion, the bar owner. The bar owner argued that he had no duty of care to protect Pittman because he was standing outside the bar, and even if there was a duty to protect him, that duty was not violated by disallowing Rivera to enter the bar.

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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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