Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion discussing whether a private company that had contracted with a city to maintain back-up battery power for traffic lights could be held liable for an accident that occurred during a power outage. The case presents interesting issues that are relevant for all Maryland car accident victims who are considering filing a claim for damages against the parties they believe to be responsible for the accident that caused their injuries.

Traffic LightThe Facts of the Case

Back in 2004, the City of Glendale installed back-up battery packs in all of the city’s traffic lights so that when there was a power outage, the lights would continue to be operational. A few years later, the city contracted with the defendant, a private company, to perform all necessary maintenance on the back-up battery system.

In 2011, the traffic light at one specific intersection began showing “low voltage” indicators. For whatever reason, the battery packs were not holding a charge. In August of that year, new battery packs were installed, but no batteries were placed in the units.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued an opinion in a personal injury case that may be of interest to Maryland car accident victims who are considering filing a claim against an insurance company. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s failure to comply with a contractual term in her insurance contract barred her from recovering on her claim. The court explained that the insurance company’s position was correct; however, since it did not raise the issue in a timely manner, the court considered the company’s objections waived.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident that was caused by a driver who did not have adequate insurance to cover the injuries the plaintiff sustained in the accident. However, the plaintiff was covered by two other insurance policies:  her mother’s policy with Allstate and her father’s policy with Geico. The Allstate policy had underinsured motorist protection of $25,000; the Geico policy’s protection offered $20,000.

The plaintiff filed a claim only with the Allstate policy, claiming that the insurance company should cover her expenses that were not covered by the at-fault driver’s policy. When she filed her claim, the plaintiff averred that all necessary conditions had been satisfied.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a car accident case that applies a principle of law also seen in Maryland car accident cases. The case required the court to discuss and apply the “fireman’s rule,” which may act to prevent emergency responders from recovering compensation from those whose negligent acts necessitated their services. Ultimately, the Georgia court determined that the facts as presented fit within the fireman’s rule, and it dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

LawnmowerThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a law enforcement officer who was injured while responding to a car accident. The court’s version of the facts showed that the defendant, a used car dealership, mowed the lawn surrounding the dealership and failed to clean up the clippings. The clippings then blew into the roadway. Shortly afterward, it began to rain.

The wet clippings made the roadway slick, and a motorist was involved in a collision. The plaintiff and another law enforcement officer received a radio call for assistance. As the plaintiff was responding to the scene of the accident, he lost control of the vehicle when he encountered the wet grass clippings.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nevada issued a written opinion in a product liability case that will be of interest to anyone who is considering filing a Maryland product liability lawsuit. The case required the court to consider the defendant auto manufacturer’s argument that the risk-utility test should be adopted over the consumer-expectations test, which had long been the prevailing test for product liability claims. Ultimately, the court rejected the auto manufacturer’s request to adopt the risk-utility test and affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

Wrecked CarMaryland courts apply the consumer-expectations test when evaluating a product liability lawsuit. This test requires courts to put themselves in the position of a consumer, asking whether the product at issue performed as expected under the circumstances. Some other jurisdictions apply the risk-utility test, which asks whether there is a reasonably safe alternative design that the manufacturer could have used rather than the design that was actually used. Under this test, it is the plaintiff’s burden to establish that the reasonable alternative exists.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving an SUV manufactured by the defendant, with her husband riding as the front-seat passenger. As the plaintiff attempted a lane change, the trailer she was towing began to fishtail, and the SUV flipped over, rolling several times. When the vehicle came to a stop, it was resting on its roof. The plaintiff was able to slip out of the window, but her husband was crushed. The plaintiff filed this product liability lawsuit against the auto manufacturer, claiming that the SUV’s roof was not sufficiently tested and was defectively designed.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Arizona issued a written opinion in a car accident case, illustrating the importance of abiding by all procedural court rules as well as naming the proper parties at the outset of a case. The case acts as an important reminder to car accident victims that there is no substitute for a knowledgeable and dedicated personal injury attorney to assist in the preparation of a Maryland car accident case.

Car AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with a driver who was insured by the defendant insurance company. After the accident, the responding police officer provided the plaintiff with the at-fault driver’s name and insurance information. One day before the two-year statute of limitations expired, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s insurance company, seeking compensation for the injuries she sustained in the crash. The plaintiff’s lawsuit claimed that the insurance company “intentionally delayed, postponed, or otherwise disregarded the resolution of this matter; at times providing false information.”

In the state where the case was filed, accident victims do not have a right to file a lawsuit directly against an insurance company; the claim must be filed against the driver. The defendant insurance company objected to it being named as a defendant, and the plaintiff withdrew the case so that she could name the at-fault driver as a defendant and remove the driver’s insurance company.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion that presented an interesting legal issue that may be of interest to Maryland car accident victims. The case presented the court with the opportunity to determine whether an accident victim should be able to seek compensation for her injuries against the insurance company of the at-fault motorist when that motorist had subsequently filed for bankruptcy. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim was not barred and allowed her claim against the insurance company to proceed.

SUV AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the surviving husband of a woman who was injured in a car accident and then subsequently died. There was conflicting evidence as to whether the woman’s death was related to the accident; however, the husband’s claim asserted that the at-fault driver was at least liable for his wife’s injuries, and potentially for her wrongful death. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver as well as the insurance companies for both drivers.

After the lawsuit was filed, but before the case was resolved, the at-fault driver filed for bankruptcy. As a part of the bankruptcy proceeding, the pending case against the driver would be dismissed. The plaintiff’s own insurance company then sought dismissal of the case against it as well, arguing that since the plaintiff no longer had a right to recover from the at-fault driver, the insurance company could no longer be held liable. In support of its claim, the insurance company pointed to a pertinent state law stating that a plaintiff can only seek insurance benefits from an insurer if he is “legally entitled to recover damages” from the at-fault party.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that illustrates the kinds of difficulties that Maryland car accident victims routinely face when filing claims against an insurance company following an accident. The decision issued by the court held that the plaintiffs were only entitled to $250,000, which was the limit under their single insurance policy, despite the plaintiffs’ claim that they had two policies with the insurance company.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of two people who were killed in a tragic car accident. The driver responsible for the accident had insufficient insurance coverage to compensate the plaintiffs for their loss, so they filed a claim with their own insurance company under the underinsured motorist provision. The insurance company paid the plaintiffs $250,000, which was the maximum under the policy.

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion that may be of interest to anyone injured in a Maryland car accident due to a dangerous or defective component in a vehicle. In the case, the court affirmed a jury’s verdict in favor of a man who was permanently paralyzed after being involved in a car accident while riding as a passenger in a van manufactured by the defendant. However, since the manner in which the verdict was rendered may suggest that the jury was confused, a new trial was awarded to determine the appropriate amount of damages the plaintiff is owed.

Westphalia VanThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving a van manufactured by the defendant when he was involved in a low-speed collision with the vehicle in front of him. The van rolled onto its side after the collision. Despite the fact that he was wearing his seatbelt at the time, the plaintiff slammed his head against the van’s roof, resulting in his spinal cord being severed. The plaintiff was paralyzed from the neck down after the accident. No one else in the van suffered any injuries.

The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the van’s manufacturer, alleging several theories of liability. However, after a trial was conducted, the jury found the manufacturer liable only for failing to conduct adequate testing on the seatbelt mechanism. The jury awarded the plaintiff $1 million in past damages and nothing for future damages.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in an interesting car accident case involving the applicable standard to apply to a designated driver’s conduct in a lawsuit brought against the designated driver by an intoxicated passenger. This case is important for Maryland car accident victims because this is a relatively new legal issue that Maryland courts have yet to address.

Drinking and DrivingThe Fact of the Case

The plaintiff was at a party with several friends, when the group decided to leave and head back to one of their apartments. The one sober person in the group volunteered to drive. At some point in the trip back to the apartment, two of the passengers climbed on the trunk of the car. The driver told them several times to get back inside the car, but the two insisted that they wanted to ride on the trunk. The driver continued to head toward the apartment, traveling at 15 miles per hour, slowing down for curves, and checking on the two every 30 seconds through the rear-view mirror.

When the car was nearing the apartment complex, the front-seat passenger pushed the driver’s right leg down, causing her foot to step on the accelerator. The car sped up, and the two people sitting on the trunk fell off. One of the passengers who fell off the trunk filed a claim with their insurance company under the underinsured motorist provision. The company denied the claim, and the injured passenger filed a personal injury claim in hopes of compelling the insurance company to pay out on the claim.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Kentucky issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case that may be of interest to Maryland car accident victims who are considering filing a claim with their insurance company. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether an insurance company can require accident victims to submit to questioning under oath before approving a claim. Ultimately, since the questioning at issue was related to the underlying accident, which in turn related to the vehicle’s coverage, the court held that the insurance company was permitted to question the accident victims under oath.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were several people in the same vehicle who were injured in a rear-end accident while they were stopped at a red light. The vehicle that struck the car occupied by the plaintiffs fled the scene, and no information was obtained to help locate the vehicle.

After the accident, several of the plaintiffs filed a claim with the driver’s insurance policy. In the processing of their claims, the plaintiffs each answered questions related to the accident. Specifically, the questions were regarding where the plaintiffs were going, where they had come from, and so on. The plaintiffs also answered questions from the police officer who arrived on the scene after the accident.

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