Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case that required the court to determine whether the instructions provided to the jury by the trial judge were appropriate under the circumstances. Ultimately, the court concluded that the provided instruction was proper and affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Rental CarThe Facts of the Case

A rental car company rented a car to a woman while her car was in the shop. The woman lived in her parents’ house, with about 10 to 12 others, most of which were family. According to the woman, she kept the keys in her locked room. However, another witness testified that she kept the keys on the kitchen counter.

One day, a man who was dating one of the other residents in the home took the woman’s car keys, got in the car, and drove to the store. On the way, he struck the plaintiff, who was riding a motorcycle at the time. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries as a result of the accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the car, the woman who rented it, and the company that owned the car.

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It should come as no surprise that inexperienced drivers are responsible for a disproportionate number of Maryland car accidents. Indeed, according to the Maryland Highway Safety Office, there are approximately 15,800 accidents caused by motorists between the ages of 16 and 20 each year, resulting in about 87 deaths per year. This accounts for roughly 16% of all of the traffic fatalities in Maryland.

Muddy Car AccidentMaryland lawmakers have implemented a graduated licensing program to help ensure that those who drive on Maryland roads are properly educated and have the requisite amount of experience before getting behind the wheel on their own. First, new drivers must obtain a learner’s permit, and then a provisional license. And finally, assuming the new driver has passed all of the required tests and has been free of a traffic conviction, the new driver will be given a driver’s license.

While new drivers do have to jump through a number of hoops before they are able to obtain their license in Maryland, the fact remains that new drivers frequently cause car accidents. This may be due to a lack of experience, questionable judgment, distraction, or intoxication. In any case, the law does not excuse a driver from liability merely because they are new to driving. Those who have been injured in a Maryland car accident caused by a young or inexperienced driver may be able to pursue a personal injury claim to seek compensation related to the injuries sustained in the accident.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in South Carolina issued an interesting opinion in a case brought by a man who was injured when he was involved in an accident while driving a GM vehicle. The case required the court to determine if a plaintiff’s own negligence in causing their injuries is relevant when the plaintiff files a product liability claim against the vehicle’s manufacturer. Ultimately, the court concluded that a plaintiff’s own potential negligence is not relevant to the inquiry and should not be considered.

Old TruckThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a passenger in a 1987 Chevy Pick-up truck that was being driven by a friend. The evidence presented at trial suggested that the two had smoked synthetic marijuana earlier in the day. At one point, the driver of the pick-up failed to stop at a stop sign, and the vehicle was struck by another truck towing a horse trailer. The pick-up truck burst into flames after the collision. The driver of the vehicle died, and the plaintiff was seriously injured.

The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against GM, the manufacturer of the pick-up truck, arguing that the placement of the gas tank caused the fire. Importantly, the plaintiff was only seeking compensation for his enhanced burn injuries.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a case involving a motorcyclist who was killed after he fell off his motorcycle and was struck by a car. At issue in the case was whether the man’s insurance coverage was triggered. The lower court determined that it was not, but on appeal, the court held that there were material issues that should be submitted to a jury for resolution.

Suit on MotorcycleThe Facts of the Case

The accident victim was riding his motorcycle when a garbage can fell off a truck and got stuck in the wheel of his motorcycle. The man lost control of the motorcycle, fell off, and rolled to a stop in an adjacent lane. Before he could get up, he was struck by a passing vehicle.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. It could not be determined whether he died as a result of falling off the motorcycle onto the pavement, or whether he survived the initial fall and was killed when he was struck by the passing motorist.

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Seatbelt use is one of the best ways to limit the potentially disastrous effects of a serious car accident. According to a recent news report, over the past few decades, lawmakers across the country have tried to cut back on the number of fatal car accidents by passing “click it or ticket” laws, requiring motorists to wear a seatbelt or be fined.

Seat BeltIndeed, Maryland has its own version of the click it or ticket law, which can result in an $83 fine if a motorist is caught driving without their seatbelt. In Maryland, a failure to wear a seatbelt is a primary offense – meaning a police officer can pull a motorist over based solely on not wearing a seatbelt – for drivers, front-seat passengers, and minors under the age of 16. For back-seat passengers over the age of 16, it is a secondary offense, meaning a police officer can only ticket a motorist if there was some other valid reason for the traffic stop.

While it cannot be disputed that seatbelts save lives, seatbelts can only limit the injuries sustained in an accident and can do nothing to prevent accidents themselves. As a result, courts across the country have had to determine whether a car accident victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt should be admissible evidence at a trial involving the at-fault driver.

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Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a product liability case involving the question of which types of damages are appropriate when a party acts in bad faith during the discovery process. Ultimately, the court concluded that damages to compensate the plaintiff for actual costs incurred are appropriate, but punitive damages may not be awarded by the court.

Tire TreadThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were involved in a serious accident when their motor home swerved off the road and flipped over. At the time of the accident, the plaintiffs’ motor home was equipped with Goodyear tires. The plaintiffs filed a product liability lawsuit against Goodyear, claiming that the tire was not safe for motorhome applications because it was not designed to withstand the amount of heat generated when driven at highway speeds.

The pre-trial discovery process lasted for several years. Goodyear was slow to respond to many discovery requests. Specifically, the plaintiffs repeatedly asked Goodyear to hand over the internal test results for the model of tire installed on the motor home, but the information released by the company failed to include any of the requested information.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a car accident case brought by a man who was involved in an accident with a school bus. The issue presented to the court was whether a default judgment that had been entered against the school district should be reopened based on the plaintiff’s failure to effectuate proper service. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s method of service was proper and declined the opportunity to reopen the default judgment.

School BusThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant school district, claiming that it was negligent in the hiring, training, and supervision of the school bus driver who allegedly caused the accident. After filing the lawsuit in the local court, the plaintiff hired a process server to serve the defendant school district, as was required by law.

The process server went to the school district’s main building, passed a secure entrance point, and asked where he could serve the district notice of the pending lawsuit. The process server was directed to the desk of the assistant to the Human Resources Director, where he served the school district.

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In order to safely operate a car or truck, the driver must exhibit skill, patience, and good judgment while on the road. When drivers fail to exercise the appropriate level of caution while behind the wheel, the chance of causing a serious or fatal accident greatly increases. Drivers with little experience, particularly minor children, cause a disproportionate number of accidents. In fact, while teen drivers make up only a small percentage of the overall number of motorists, they are responsible for over 12% of all traffic accidents.

Missing HeadlightWhen a minor causes a car accident, certain legal considerations arise regarding the accident victim’s ability to receive compensation for their injuries. As a general rule, those under 18 years of age are considered minors. Maryland law places limits on when minors and their parents can be held responsible for certain conduct. For example, the parents of a minor can be held responsible to pay for damages caused by their child’s willful misconduct.

Generally speaking, parents are not liable for the negligent actions of their children because “kids will be kids.” However, there is an exception under Maryland law when the minor negligently causes a motor vehicle accident. In this situation, the parent or guardian who co-signed the minor’s driver’s license application can be held financially responsible for any injuries that occurred as a result of the minor’s negligence.

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Earlier this month, a Florida jury awarded a victim of a drunk driving accident $8 million for her medical expenses, permanent injuries, and pain and suffering related to the accident. According to one local news source covering the case, the accident occurred back on October 1, 2010, and it involved allegations that the drunk driver was traveling at about 100 miles per hour when he ran into the back of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

Blurred CityscapePolice conducted a blood test after the accident, which indicated that the driver’s blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. In an interesting turn, the driver responsible for the accident was not criminally charged, despite the evidence of intoxication. Reporters attempted to contact the prosecutor’s office to ask why the case never was brought, but prosecutors did not have an answer, explaining only that there was no record that the case ever reached the office.

The victim of the accident explained to reporters that she had “experienced countless doctors’ appointments, therapy, injections, and then surgery.” Finally, almost seven years after the accident, she received the compensation she deserved.

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According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, each day, eight people are killed in preventable accidents that were caused by distracted driving. Furthermore, it is estimated that there are about 1,000 people who are injured per day in distracted driving accidents. Due to the recent increase in distracted driving and the continuing temptation for drivers to text or talk on the phone while behind the wheel, the National Safety Council designates the month of April as distracted driving awareness month.

Cell PhoneDistracted driving can take many forms. Any time a driver engages in an activity that removes their attention from the road, they are engaging in distracted driving. A few of the most common examples of distracted driving are:

  • Talking or texting on a cell phone,
  • Eating or drinking,
  • Talking to a front- or rear-seat passenger,
  • Inputting a destination on a GPS system, and
  • Reading or playing games on a cell phone.

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