The judge’s role in a Maryland personal injury case is to oversee the trial. This includes making pre-trial discovery and evidentiary decisions, as well as ruling on objections made by the parties during the trial. The judge is also responsible for instructing the jury on the applicable law after the parties have presented their evidence.

Judges, however, are human and occasionally make mistakes. Thus, the Maryland court system allows for a party to appeal an adverse legal decision that was made by a trial judge. In order to preserve a claim of error for appellate review, a party must be sure to follow specific procedures. Otherwise, the appellate court may determine that the error was not preserved. A recent case discusses error-preservation in the personal injury context.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a rear-end accident she claimed was caused by the defendant. Before trial, the plaintiff filed proposed jury instructions including an instruction on the doctrine of negligence per se. After the trial had begun, the court held a charging conference; however, the conference was not memorialized. At the end of the conference, the court determined that it was not going to instruct the jury on the plaintiff’s proposed negligence per se instruction. The court asked the parties if either had anything it wanted to put on the record, and the plaintiff’s attorney responded: “I have no issues with the charge, Your Honor.”

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A Maryland personal injury lawsuit is a civil claim, the purpose of which is to seek compensation for the plaintiff’s injuries. However, the defendant’s actions that resulted in the accident may also rise to the level of criminal conduct. If this is the case, then the defendant may face both criminal and civil charges.

It is not uncommon for a defendant to face both criminal and civil charges. For example, in most Maryland DUI accidents, the defendant can be found both criminally and civilly liable. However, for the most part, a personal injury victim will wait until the outcome of a criminal trial to file their lawsuit. There are several reasons for this, including that a criminal conviction can be helpful to a personal injury plaintiff in proving their case against the defendant. However, there are also other considerations that should be taken into account.

A recent opinion from a state appellate court illustrates one potential issue a personal injury plaintiff could face while litigating a civil claim while the defendant’s criminal matter is pending.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue that frequently arises in Maryland car accident cases. Specifically, the case involved the question of employer liability following an accident allegedly caused by the negligent actions of an employee.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff, a young child, was seriously injured in an accident with a dump truck. The dump truck driver was hired by Company A, which was working under a contract with Company B. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the dump truck’s driver, Company A, and Company B. The court’s opinion dealt with the potential liability of Company B.

Apparently, the driver of the dump truck tested positive for several controlled substances. The plaintiff claimed that Company B was negligent in failing to ensure that Company A performed a background check on the driver and also that Company B was negligent in failing to determine if the truck driver was drug-free.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case presenting an interesting issue that will be relevant to many Maryland car accident cases. The case involved the potential liability of a landowner for their alleged failure to trim trees that were on their property that obscured motorists’ view of an adjacent intersection.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a driver who was killed in a two-car automobile accident. According to the court’s opinion, the collision occurred at the intersection of two gravel roads. The plaintiff owned the property that was adjacent to the southeast corner of the intersection.

Evidently, after the accident, investigating officers noticed that it was impossible for northbound traffic to see vehicles approaching from the west, and vice-versa, due to the presence of dense foliage on the southwest corner of the intersection. The driver of the other vehicle also explained that he was unable to see the deceased driver’s car until he had entered the intersection.

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Late last month, one woman was killed in a Maryland car accident that occurred on the side of Highway 50 near Route 410 in Prince George’s County. According to a local news report, the victim pulled over and got out of her car to assist another motorist who had lost control of their vehicle and crashed into a wall.

Evidently, shortly after the woman exited her car and was approaching the disabled vehicle, another car struck her. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency workers. The driver of the car that hit the victim was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Drunk Driving Accidents in Maryland

Despite countless government campaigns, motorists routinely get behind the wheel after having consumed too much to drink. In fact, in Maryland alone, there are approximately 170 people killed each year due to drunk driving. While the government often prosecutes drunk drivers, there is little that the criminal justice system can do to provide compensation to those who have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a Maryland DUI accident.

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Over the past few decades, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of Maryland roadside accidents. Some attribute this increase to the more prevalent role technology has taken in most American’s lives, which in turn has led to more instances of distracted driving. Regardless of the underlying cause, many roadside accidents involve police officers, emergency medical technicians, and other emergency workers who are carrying out their duties when they are struck by a passing motorist.

Thus, back in 2010, Maryland lawmakers passed the state’s ‘move over’ law to protect those most at risk of being struck by a distracted driver. Under Maryland Code § 21-405, motorists are prohibited from passing an emergency vehicle while going in the same direction without either safely changing lanes or slowing down “to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.”

Initially, Maryland’s ‘move over’ law applied only to tow trucks and emergency vehicles such as police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. This offered some protection to these discrete classes of workers; however, the statute did not apply to non-emergency workers who still spent a significant amount of time along the side of the road.

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While limousines are not a common form of transportation for most people, many find themselves occasionally riding in a limo for special occasions such as weddings, proms, or birthday parties. In addition, limousine touring has become increasingly popular as a way to more safely enjoy the Maryland wine country. Given the number of passengers a limousine can carry, Maryland limousine accidents have the potential to cause serious injury to a large number of people.

Earlier this month, a limousine accident in Upstate New York claimed the lives of 20 people, including everyone inside the limo and two pedestrian bystanders. Federal authorities have declared the crash as the deadliest in the United States in nearly a decade. According to a recent news report, the accident occurred in the early afternoon hours in Schoharie, New York. Evidently, a 2001 Ford Limousine approached a T-intersection at a high rate of speed, traveling through the intersection and into the parking lot of a restaurant. The limo then crashed into an unoccupied SUV.

Authorities noted that several people witnessed the accident, but it was clear from the physical evidence at the scene where the limo was coming from. It appears as though the roads leading to the intersection where the accident occurred are steep and offer only limited visibility of the approaching intersection. In fact, the New York Department of Transportation recently prohibited large trucks from using the road due to fears that the vehicles would lose their ability to brake effectively down the steep hill.

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As this blog has discussed in the past, Maryland law continues to employ a very strict framework in determining which accident victims can recover for their injuries. Under Maryland’s contributory negligence doctrine, only those accident victims who are truly free of all fault will be able to successfully pursue a claim against other at-fault drivers.

This doctrine has repeatedly been called into question, and lawmakers have submitted bills 21 times over the past few decades in an attempt to bring the state’s law more in line with the rest of the country. However, none of these measures have passed. Maryland’s contributory negligence law has also come under attack in the court system. That said, in the most recent case bringing the issue to the court’s attention, the court declined to get rid of the doctrine, explaining that it was up to the lawmakers to pass a new law. So, for the time being, Maryland accident victims are stuck with the state’s contributory negligence doctrine.

Given this reality, it is imperative that Maryland vehicle accident victims know what constitutes negligence. One common – but incorrect – assumption is that an accident victim will not be able to pursue a claim for compensation if they were injured while not wearing a seatbelt.

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In some Maryland car accident cases, the testimony from both sides is in direct contradiction, and the case ultimately boils down to the issue of credibility. That is, which party or witness presented the more convincing testimony and evidence. However, in some cases, one party may not have any evidence that directly contradicts the other side’s evidence, and instead presents circumstantial evidence supporting their position.

Circumstantial evidence is evidence that requires an inference be made to reach the conclusion that the party presenting the evidence is asserting. For example, a defendant’s fingerprints left at the scene of a crime would be considered circumstantial evidence that the defendant had been present. In this situation, direct evidence would be testimony from a witness that saw the defendant at the scene of the crime.

A recent case illustrates the difference between circumstantial and direct evidence, as well as how an accident victim can use circumstantial evidence to help prove their case.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a decision in a wrongful death case arising out of a drunk-driving accident that occurred at the 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case, which was brought against the venue organizers as well as the City where the festival occurred, should be permitted to proceed toward a jury trial over the defendants’ summary judgment motion. Ultimately, the court determined that the case should be dismissed against each of the defendants, albeit for different reasons.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was killed when a drunk driver fleeing from police drove through a barrier and into a crowd of people at the city-wide SXSW festival. Due to the multi-venue nature of the festival, festival organizers needed to apply for several use permits from the city. In particular, the use permit stated that “[a]ll traffic controls must be provided in accordance with the approved traffic control plan.”

Evidently, festival organizers closed three linear blocks, installing traffic barriers at each intersection. A police officer was also placed at each intersection to keep watch. However, the barricades failed to stop a drunk-driver from crashing through them and driving into a crowd of people. The plaintiff’s spouse was among four who were killed.

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