In Maryland, it is essential for drivers to purchase a specific type of automobile insurance called “Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist” coverage (UIM coverage). This coverage protects you if you are hurt in a Maryland car accident caused by someone who does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover the resulting damages. For example, if Driver A is hit by Driver B, and incurs medical expenses of 100,000, they will likely seek to recover the $100,000 from Driver B. But if Driver B doesn’t have insurance, or only has enough insurance to cover $25,000, this may leave Driver A thousands of dollars in debt from an accident they did not cause. This tragic scenario can be avoided, however, if Driver A has UIM coverage.

UIM insurance is not just for individuals—companies can purchase it for company vehicles and employees. Sometimes, however, Maryland residents might think that they are protected by their commercial UIM insurance, when they are not. This is why it is important to carefully read each insurance policy, to avoid a situation like one discussed in a recent state appellate opinion.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiffs in the case were a husband and wife, members of a pet and feed supply store limited liability company (LLC). The LLC had a commercial automobile insurance policy from the defendant, including UIM coverage for the LLC’s vehicles. One day, the wife drove her personal vehicle to a feed supply store to purchase inventory—a trip she made purely for business reasons. Whilst walking towards her parked car, she was hit by another vehicle in the parking lot. The driver of the second vehicle was an underinsured motorist, and had only $25,000 in liability insurance. The injured plaintiff suffered severe injuries, costing her over $200,000 in medical expenses. She could only recover $25,000 from the at-fault driver, however, and her personal insurance could not cover the full remaining amount, meaning she was not fully compensated for her injuries. Because of this, she submitted a UIM claim to the LLC’s automobile insurance carrier, the defendant in this case.

Drunk driving remains an issue in Maryland, just as it does across the country. Due to the severity of the issue, in some states, social hosts and commercial establishments can be held liable for providing alcohol to guests if another person is injured as a result of a Maryland car accident. A recent decision a state appellate court considered whether a 19-year-old could be held liable after his friends drank at his home.

In that case, the 19-year-old defendant had friends over at his home where they all drank alcohol. His friends were also underage, but adults. Two of his friends, who were 19 years old and 20 years old, left severely intoxicated. The 20-year-old drove and crashed his car, and the 19-year-old passenger died at the scene.

The state’s supreme court considered whether an adult under the age of twenty-one had a duty to stop others from allowing underage guests to consume alcohol in their homes. The court decided that an underage adult may be held liable if 1.) the defendant knowingly permitted and facilitated the consumption of alcohol by allowing others to drink in his home; 2.) the defendant knowingly provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated underage guest or allowed the guest to drink there; 3.) it was reasonably foreseeable that the driver would leave to operate a motor vehicle, thereby putting others at risk; 4.) the defendant did not take any reasonable steps to prevent the intoxicated guest from getting behind the wheel of the vehicle; and 5.) the guest negligently drove and injured a third party due to his intoxication. In this case, the court decided that the defendant could be held liable.

In some cases, a plaintiff may need to add or change the defendant in a Maryland car accident case after the case has already been filed. Maryland Rule 2-341 explains when a party may amend pleadings in a case. Some of the circumstances in which a party may amend pleadings under the rule are to “correct misnomer of a party” and to “add a party or parties.” However, amending a pleading may be tricky after the statute of limitations has run, depending on the amendment.

In a recent case, the Virginia Supreme Court explained under what circumstances an amendment is allowed after a party is misnamed, under Virginia law. In that case, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident and filed suit seeking damages. In the complaint, the plaintiff identified the at-fault driver as Michael M. The police report had listed Michael M. as the driver, but the plaintiff later learned that the driver was actually Michael’s son, Noah M. The plaintiff then filed a new complaint, arguing that the use of the wrong name in the complaint was a misnomer rather than a misjoinder. But the defendant argued that the suit was barred by the statute of limitations because the second complaint was filed after the statute of limitations had run.

The Virginia Supreme Court explained that a misnomer is a mistake in the name, as opposed to a misjoinder, which is a misidentification of the party. The distinction is significant because, in the case of a misnomer, a party can amend the pleading even after the statute of limitations expires. The court held that in this case the misidentification was a misnomer. The complaint alleged that the driver was negligent, but used the driver’s wrong name, based on the incorrect police report. Thus, it was not a mistake of a party but only of the name.

In a Maryland car accident case, the plaintiff has an obligation to mitigate their damages. This means that they must use reasonable efforts to minimize the effects of their injuries, for example, by undergoing medical treatment to avoid more serious injuries. If a defendant can establish that a plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages, the plaintiff’s damages award may be reduced. If the doctrine of mitigation applies, it is the defendant that has the burden to prove that the plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages.

In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court held that there was evidence that the plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages after a car accident. In that case, the plaintiff was driving a rental car and was sideswiped by a tractor-trailer. The plaintiff hit his head against the car’s window. The plaintiff later found a sliver of glass in his eye and sought treatment at a hospital, where they determined that the plaintiff had a preexisting tumor. The plaintiff filed suit against the tractor-trailer driver and his employer, claiming that his preexisting tumor swelled due to trauma from the accident.

The defendants did not contest that they were at fault for the accident, but disputed the amount of damages they were responsible for. Under state law, a plaintiff has a duty to mitigate post-injury damages. If they fail to mitigate damages, the damages will be reduced by the damages that “reasonable care would have prevented.”

When someone pictures a car accident, they usually picture two cars crashing into each other while driving. While this is often the case, and describes many Maryland car accidents, it is important to remember that crashes can occur even when one party is not driving. For example, car accidents may occur when one car crashes into a parked car, or a car stopped at a stoplight, or even into something other than a car such as a light post or traffic sign. This is why it’s important for Maryland drivers to always stay aware of their surroundings while driving.

Take for example one recent Maryland car accident that occurred on I-83 in Baltimore County one Saturday morning. According to a news article covering the incident, a 32-year-old woman was driving a black Dodge Dart along the highway when she pulled over to the right shoulder to tend to a child sitting in the back. As the driver opened the rear passenger side door, a white Toyota Tacoma struck the rear of the Dodge, crashing into it. Tragically, a 7-year-old boy—one of the passengers in the Dodge—was killed as a result. The driver and two other children—a 9-year-old girl and a 9-month-old infant—also suffered injuries due to the crash.

This case illustrates how immensely a single family can suffer as a result of a Maryland car accident. Assuming that the 32-year-old woman and the three children in the car were related, it means that one family is now mourning the loss of a 7-year-old child while three members are also recovering from their own injuries—injuries which may require future surgery, physical therapy, or specialists. For one family, dealing with medical bills and expenses while simultaneously making funeral and burial arrangements can be overwhelming and cause significant psychological despair, not to mention financial strain.

In a Maryland car accident case, evidence is legally sufficient if a reasonable jury could find it satisfies the party’s burden of proof. In any case, the party that has the burden of proof must produce some evidence supporting their position. If the party fails to do so, the judge may decide the case in the other party’s favor without having a jury consider the case. If a case is sent to a jury for consideration, the party that has the burden of persuasion must also meet that burden, which is generally measured by a preponderance of the evidence standard. Under that standard, a plaintiff must prove that it is more likely than not that something occurred. If a reasonable jury could not find in the plaintiff’s favor under the standard, a judge will not send the case to the jury and will instead find in the defendant’s favor.

A recent state appellate case serves an example of a situation in which a lower court erred in deciding certain issues instead of submitting them to the jury. In that case, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident and filed a negligence claim against another driver that was involved in the accident and the owner of that vehicle. She also filed an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim against her own insurer. The plaintiff reached a settlement with the driver and the owner and only continued to trial against her insurer.

The evidence at trial revealed that the plaintiff injured her left knee. She had previously injured her knee while she was attending the Naval Academy and injured it again when she was out walking several years after that. She had arthroscopic surgery on her knee two months before her car accident which showed that she had a torn meniscus. After the surgery, she said that her knee was getting better until the accident occurred. After the accident, a doctor performed arthroscopic surgery on her knee and found that she had suffered an ACL tear in the car accident and was permanently injured. The court directed a partial verdict in the plaintiff’s favor finding that the plaintiff suffered a permanent injury to her left knee that was caused by the accident. The jury found in the plaintiff’s favor and awarded her $446,000.

Most drivers know that if they drive recklessly or carelessly, they risk getting into a Maryland car accident and hurting themselves. Driver’s safety school teaches the basic principles of accident avoidance, such as staying aware while driving, never driving while under the influence, and following all traffic rules. While these are all good habits to avoid getting into a car accident and getting hurt or killed yourself, it is important to remember that driving safely is not just about you. Maryland car accidents can, and usually do, have impacts on other people—whether they be passengers in the driver’s vehicle, individuals in another vehicle, or even pedestrians on the road. Maryland drivers should be sure to always drive cautiously to avoid harming others, as well as themselves.

Recently, a tragic Maryland accident illustrated what’s at stake when driving carelessly. According to a news report from the Baltimore Sun, the accident occurred in Baltimore, on Howard street downtown one morning. Around 7:30 a.m., a sedan was driving when it failed to stop at a red light and instead drove onto the Howard Street tracks. The sedan was struck first by a southbound Baltimore Light Rail train, and then additionally a second northbound train.

One witness described how the sedan became sandwiched between the two trains—“one hit them this way; the other hit them that way.” First responders were needed to extricate the driver and the passengers. The woman in the car was tragically pronounced dead at the scene. The 7-year-old child and 30-year-old man fortunately survived but were taken to a local hospital with severe injuries. But the accident did not just harm those in the sedan—the operator of the southbound train was also taken to the hospital with injuries. At this time, it is unclear whether anyone else was hurt.

The Court of Appeals of Maryland recently issued a decision holding that insurers are required to pay rental expenses and other loss-of-use damages in uninsured motorist claims. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is required by law in Maryland for every motor vehicle insurance policy issued in the state. The coverage is meant to protect insured drivers by covering their out-of-pocket expenses when involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured tortfeasor.

The state’s highest court considered whether the phrase “damage to property” in the state’s uninsured motorist law included the loss-of-use damages. Loss-of-use damages provide coverage for the period of time that the property could not be used, such as the expenses of a rental car while a vehicle cannot be driven. The court decided two cases involving the same legal issue. In the first case, the plaintiff was hit by an uninsured motorist and sought to recover rental car expenses from his insurer after the accident. In the second case, the plaintiff was hit by an uninsured motorist and sought to recover out-of-pocket expenses from her insurer.

Under section 19-509(e) of the Maryland Uninsured Motorist statute, a motor vehicle liability insurance policy must contain uninsured motorist coverage equal to the coverage set forth in Maryland’s financial responsibility law. That law requires coverage at least for claims for “property of others damaged or destroyed in an accident of up to $15,000, in addition to interest and costs.”

Maryland car accidents are unfortunately common. In fact, on average there are more than 100,000 Maryland car accidents each year. These car accidents can be caused by a variety of different factors, including vehicle malfunctions, distracted driving, and hazardous driving conditions. Sometimes, accidents are caused by a blatant violation of driver safety laws and road rules. In these cases, the act and the resulting harm may actually result in criminal penalties, in addition to civil liability.

For example, take a recent and tragic Maryland car accident that occurred on Crain Highway on Croom Station Road in Upper Marlboro. According to a local news report covering the incident, the crash occurred at 12:30 PM one afternoon, when a driver in a 2019 Ford F-150 pickup truck failed to stop at a red light. The driver went right into the intersection and struck a 2016 Subaru Legacy driven by a 49-year-old woman as it was making a left turn. The pickup truck struck the Subaru in the passenger side door, which caused the car to rotate and strike the guardrail. The pickup also rotated, overturned onto its roof, and caught on fire. The driver of the Subaru and her passenger—a 66-year-old man—both were pronounced dead at the scene by members of the Prince George’s County Fire Department.

Following the incident, the driver of the pickup truck who ran the red light was arrested and charged with two counts each of motor vehicle manslaughter and criminally negligent manslaughter. The charges in the case may be confusing, since this blog talks about civil cases against negligent Maryland drivers. However, it is important for Maryland drivers to know that, when they are injured in a Maryland car accident, they may be able to file a civil negligence suit against the irresponsible driver who caused the accident regardless of whether or not criminal charges have been filed.

The attorney-client privilege is a fundamental privilege essential in any Maryland car accident case. The privilege prevents an attorney and his client from being forced to disclose confidential communications made by the client to his attorney for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. To fall under the attorney-client privilege, the client must be seeking legal advice from a legal adviser in his capacity as such, the communication must relate to seeking legal advice, and the communication must have been confidential and made by the client. Communication that falls under the privilege is protected from disclosure permanently by the client and by the attorney. However, the protection may be waived. The privilege exists in order to foster trust and confidence between attorneys and clients.

Under Maryland law, a person cannot be forced to testify in violation of the attorney-client privilege. In Maryland, if an individual invokes this privilege during a trial, a court is supposed to make a preliminary inquiry and hearing testimony about the privilege outside of the presence of a jury. The court must consider whether a privilege exists before requiring the individual to disclose the communication itself.

In a recent state appellate case, the court considered whether an individual was required to disclose whether her attorney had referred her to her chiropractor. In that case, the plaintiff’s car was hit from behind as two vehicles were exiting a highway. The plaintiff filed suit against the other driver alleging that she received a permanent back injury because of the accident. A jury found that the other driver caused the plaintiff’s injury but that she did not suffer a permanent injury and thus did not award her damages for pain and suffering. The court denied the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial and the plaintiff appealed.

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