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.

In the tragic event of a crash caused by a drunk driver, victims have a range of damages available if they are successful in a lawsuit. A lawsuit against the driver (or others that may be responsible for the crash) permits Maryland car accident victims to recover damages for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages, or special damages, are generally the out-of-pocket expenses that a victim incurs, including medical bills, loss of income, loss of earning capacity, transportation costs, future expenses, and others. Non-economic damages, or general damages, are other damages that do not have a fixed dollar value, such as emotional distress, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering.

Maryland has a limit on non-economic damages available in civil cases. As of January 1, 2020, the limit available for non-economic damages was $830,000, although more may be available in some instances. There is no limit on economic damages. Economic and non-economic damages are known as compensatory damages, because they are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the injuries they suffered.

Punitive damages also may be available in some cases. Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, are not meant to compensate the victim, but rather to punish the defendant and to serve as a warning for others. To be awarded punitive damages in a Maryland DUI crash case, a plaintiff has to prove that the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongful conduct. The plaintiff has to prove punitive damages by the higher clear and convincing evidence standard, while other damages have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence. The plaintiff has the burden to prove damages as an element of the plaintiff’s case. The types of damages available vary depending on the person bringing the claim and the type of claim.

If an individual is injured in a Maryland car crash with a police officer or after an encounter with an officer, the individual’s ability to recover damages may be limited by qualified immunity. Qualified immunity, a doctrine that has been scrutinized in recent months, limits the ability of individuals to sue police officers after they have suffered injuries caused by police officers and other government officials.

42 U.S.C. § 1983 authorizes suits against state and local officials for violations of federal constitutional and statutory rights. The statute allows an individual to file a claim against a government official if the individual was deprived of a federal right and the government official acted under the color of state law. The statute is used by many Maryland plaintiffs to sue government officials in the state. Local governments may also be liable if the actions resulted from a local government policy, practice, or custom.

Qualified immunity protects government officials from lawsuits after the official violates an individual’s civil rights. The doctrine only allows lawsuits if an official is found to have violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right, of which a reasonable person would have known. This often means that a plaintiff must show that the officer violated a right that was recognized by a prior court. In considering whether a right was clearly established, courts consider the action that an objectively reasonable officer would take. Courts may also consider what the officer was aware of at the time. In practice, this often means that officers are protected from lawsuits by the courts. Qualified immunity is meant to protect the government and its officials from frivolous lawsuits. However, critics have been calling for an end to qualified immunity, arguing that it bars many injured victims from recovering financial compensation.

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