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When someone is involved in a Maryland car accident, they have the right to file a claim against any party they believe to be at fault for the accident. Typically, these personal injury claims are made against other motorists. However, when the named defendant has an auto insurance policy – as all Maryland motorists are required to have – the insurance company steps into the shoes of the at-fault motorist to defend against the accident victim’s claim. Thus, in most Maryland car accident cases, the plaintiff is actually going up against an insurance company, rather than the at-fault driver.

Unfortunately, it can be challenging for accident victims to work with insurance companies. This difficulty is illustrated in a recent opinion released by a state appellate court. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was killed in a car accident after he was involved in a verbal dispute with the defendant outside of a bar. Evidently, as the plaintiff was leaving the bar, the defendant ran him over, killing him. The defendant was charged with voluntary manslaughter.

The plaintiff’s family filed a wrongful death claim against the defendant, who was insured through the defendant insurance company. The policy limit was $20,000 for compulsory insurance and $480,000 in optional insurance. The insurance company paid the $20,000 but argued that the optional insurance coverage did not apply because the defendant’s actions were intentional, and intentional conduct was not covered under the policy.

Maryland car accidents are unfortunately far too common and often result in serious injuries and lifelong trauma for those involved. While some accidents are pure accidents with no one to blame, many accidents are unfortunately the result of someone’s negligence. Usually, the negligent party is the driver. For example, distracted driving, driving under the influence, or driving too fast and recklessly can all lead to accidents, and the driver engaging in the risky behavior may be liable to the victims from these accidents.

However, there are certain cases where someone other than the driver may be liable to an accident victim, even if they were not on the road when the accident happened. The doctrine of negligent entrustment can make someone liable if they entrust a car to another and give them permission to operate that car, even though they know or should know that they are incompetent, inexperienced, or reckless. For example, if you lend your neighbor a car, knowing that he recently had his license suspended for driving under the influence and is currently intoxicated, and they get into an accident and hurt someone else, you may be liable to the accident victim. Thus, one does not need to be directly involved in the accident in order to be liable to those harmed.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion on the topic of negligent entrustment. The defendant permitted his son, who he knew suffered from a seizure disorder, to drive his automobile. While driving, his son suffered from a seizure and struck another car, killing both the driver and the passenger inside. The deceased victim’s family filed an action against the defendant, claiming that it was negligent for him to have entrusted his car to his son. The jury found him liable, and the appellate court affirmed, making this case a perfect example of how a plaintiff may be able to recover from more than one party when there has been an injury or wrongful death.

In the aftermath of a Maryland car accident, a victim may have multiple sources from which to recover financially. This compensation can help pay for medical bills and other costs incurred as a result of the injuries. For instance, a plaintiff may be eligible for some money from their insurance company. However, money received from an insurance company may affect a plaintiff’s potential civil suit against the wrongdoer, because personal injury laws typically try to avoid allowing a plaintiff from being “unjustly enriched” by obtaining more compensation than needed for their injuries.

Take a recent Virginia case, for example. The Supreme Court of Virginia, in a recent written opinion, held that a Virginia car accident victim could receive monetary compensation from both her insurance company and the defendant responsible for the accident.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving down the road when the defendant pulled out of her driveway and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff suffered significant injuries as a result of the accident and had to undergo multiple extensive surgeries. Accordingly, the plaintiff filed suit to seek compensation for her injuries.

Maryland car accident victims have to carefully build their cases to prove the elements of a negligence claim. In a recent decision from state appellate court, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed after a pedestrian was killed because the plaintiff failed to prove the driver acted negligently. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant left his home to go to work at a brewing company in another town. At around 5:30 a.m., as he was on his way, he was shifting lanes when he hit the plaintiff’s husband. The windshield of the car broke and flew into the defendant’s face, and he parked on the side of the road further down the highway. He walked back to the scene of the crash and saw the plaintiff’s husband. According to the defendant, it was dark out and he did not see the plaintiff before hitting him. The plaintiff’s husband died as a result of his injuries.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim, alleging that the defendant was negligent in failing to exercise due care in driving his car, and striking and killing her husband. The plaintiff presented evidence from an accident reconstructionist who found that if the defendant was properly watching the road, he would have been able to avoid hitting her husband.

The court held that the plaintiff did not establish the required elements for a negligence claim. The court began its opinion by noting that in a negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove four elements: a legal duty owed to the accident victim, a breach of that duty, a causal connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury, and loss or damages to the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s breach of the duty.

Accidents involving pedestrians are often some of the most serious due to the extent of the injuries involved. Thus, it is essential for a Maryland pedestrian accident victim to locate all potential sources of compensation. Of course, the defendants named in a lawsuit will almost always be the driver that hit the pedestrian. However, there may be other potentially liable parties as well, such as the government entity in charge of designing and maintaining the area where the accident occurred.

Pedestrian accidents often occur in areas with unique and potentially dangerous traffic features. For example, a poorly maintained, improperly marked, or misplaced crosswalk may give pedestrians a false sense of security as they cross the road. This is essentially the situation in a case discussed in a recent appellate opinion.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was killed on Halloween night as she was crossing the street at a marked crosswalk. The motorist was traveling well over the posted 45 mile-per-hour speed limit. The crosswalk is marked, and there are signs notifying approaching motorists of the crosswalk. After the accident, the driver fled the scene, but was later arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Earlier this month, a Maryland car accident in Charles County resulted in one fatality and several injuries. According to a recent news report covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred on Route 6 in La Plata, around noon. Evidently, a Chevy Blazer was traveling eastbound on Route 6 near King Edward Place when the driver attempted to pass another vehicle on the right shoulder. As the driver re-entered the eastbound lane, she lost control of the vehicle, and it spun out, drifting into the westbound lane. At that time, a westbound SUV struck the Blazer.

As a result of the collision, the Blazer rolled at least once, ejecting the rear passenger. Emergency responders transported the passenger to MEDSTAR/Washington Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. In addition, four other people were injured in the accident. Police are in the midst of an official investigation; however, at this early juncture, authorities believe that speed and driver error are the leading causes of the fatal accident.

Those recently injured in a Maryland car wreck can bring a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the party or parties they believe to be responsible for the accident. To successfully bring a negligence claim, an accident victim must be able to establish four elements:

The Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) is a law that allows for Maryland accident victims to bring certain claims against the Maryland government based on the negligence of the government or its employees. Historically, Maryland accident victims were unable to recover compensation for their injuries from the government due to the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However, the MTCA changed that, allowing accident victims to pursue claims for compensation provided they follow the procedures outlined in the MTCA.

Claims under the MTCA differ from other Maryland personal injury cases in two significant ways. First, a plaintiff bringing a claim under the MTCA must provide notice to the Treasurer within one year of the injury. This notice must contain the following:

  • The names and addresses of the people involved;

Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case raising an important issue that frequently comes up in Maryland personal injury cases. The case deals with the concept of personal jurisdiction. In the case, the court found that a plaintiff’s lawsuit against a car manufacturer should proceed based on specific personal jurisdiction.

Personal jurisdiction refers to the court’s ability to exercise power over a party. A court must have personal jurisdiction over every party involved in a case. In certain instances, defendants may object to the court exercising jurisdiction over them, and argue for a case dismissal. This defense can delay a lawsuit or, if the statute of limitations has passed, completely preclude the plaintiff’s recovery.

The current ruling stems from injuries that a plaintiff suffered when the passenger-side airbags in their vehicle did not deploy during an accident. The accident occurred when the plaintiff was a passenger in the car. Evidently, a Minnesota resident drove the vehicle on a Minnesota road. The driver hit a snowplow and ended up in a ditch. The passenger-side airbag did not deploy, and the plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury. The plaintiff alleges that the airbag did not deploy because of a defect. He filed a lawsuit in Minnesota; however, the car manufacturer moved to dismiss the claims based on lack of personal jurisdiction.

In courtroom dramas on television, it is common to see a party keep a witness in their back pocket, only to present the witness to testify on the day of trial. However, in real Maryland personal injury cases, this sort of “trial by ambush” is not permitted under the state’s evidentiary rules. In fact, under Maryland Rule 2-402(g)(1)(A), a party must generally make their expert witnesses available for deposition or interrogatory in advance of trial.

In a recent case, a state appellate court affirmed this long-held prohibition against trials by ambush when it precluded a plaintiff’s expert witness from testifying regarding an opinion he formed only on the day of trial. According to the court’s opinion, the case involved a 2014 car accident between the plaintiff and the defendant. The defendant acknowledged that he was at fault for causing the accident, and the only issue at trial was the appropriate amount of damages.

Evidently, the plaintiff suffered a pre-existing injury in 2010. In pre-trial discovery, it was clear that the plaintiff’s expert medical witness reviewed the plaintiff’s MRI from 2014, but not from 2010. The defendant’s expert, however, examined both the 2010 and 2014 MRIs. During opening statements, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s expert did not have all the information necessary to back his conclusion regarding the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Years ago, Maryland personal injury cases relied more on witness testimony than any other type of evidence. However, with recent technological advancements has come a recent reliance on new types of evidence. Video evidence is among that which is becoming more common. In some situations, courts must revisit old rules when dealing with new evidence.

In a recent opinion issued by a state appellate court, the court certified a question to the state’s supreme court regarding the use of video evidence. Specifically, the question involved how lower courts should handle video evidence at the summary judgment stage when the video flatly contradicts one parties testimony.

Summary judgment is a stage in many personal injury trials in which a party claims that, taking the agreed-upon facts, it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Generally, courts will consider the uncontested evidence and apply the law to the facts. If the court determines that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the court will enter judgment without the case ever going to trial.

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