Most people do not think about the possibility of filing a Maryland personal injury lawsuit until they need to—until they themselves get injured in an accident. A common catalyst for these lawsuits are Maryland car accidents, which are unfortunately all too common and occur every day. Some of these accidents are somewhat predictable and common—perhaps a driver runs a red light, or a drunk driver swerves into the wrong lane. While these accidents are tragic, they are also pretty usual and expected—driver’s education courses teach Maryland drivers to be on the lookout for these risky behaviors which would lead to accidents.

Other accidents, however, are less predictable and, frankly, quite unusual. Take a recent tragedy that occurred just last month. According to a news article covering the incident, a pickup truck was driving southbound one morning, around 11 am, when it unexpectedly crossed the median and northbound lanes before leaving the road and crashing into a house. Tragically, one person inside the house was killed. The driver of the pickup truck was also injured, and taken to the hospital in serious condition. It is unknown what caused the driver to leave the road and crash into the house—the crash is still under investigation.

Regardless of how the Maryland car accident happens—whether it’s a slight fender-bender or someone crashing into a house—the state allows those injured as a result to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover for the damages incurred. These lawsuits are civil, meaning the defendant in the case (usually the driver who caused the accident) will not face any jail time or criminal charges as a result. Instead, if they are held liable for the accident, they will likely be ordered to pay the plaintiff (the injured person who brought the suit) for the costs they incurred as a result. The goal is to make the plaintiff whole, as close to as if the accident had never happened as possible. So if the plaintiff had to pay $100,000 in medical fees and expenses as a result of the accident, then the court may instruct the defendant to pay the plaintiff $100,000. In tragic cases like the one described above, when someone dies, their family or estate may be able to bring the suit instead. In this circumstance, they can also recover for funeral and burial costs, in addition to any medical expenses or other costs.

The weather is getting colder, and the days are getting shorter, which also signals the beginning of the holiday season. While the holiday season is exciting and a source of joy and community for many, it can also be a dangerous time of the year for Maryland drivers. With an increase in family gatherings and alcohol consumption, as well as generally worse driving conditions in the wintry weather, Maryland car accidents caused by drunk or intoxicated drivers are especially concerning in the winter months. Although driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is against the law in Maryland, people unfortunately still do it all the time, leading to tragic and preventable car accidents.

For example, take a recent Maryland car accident that occurred last month in Churchville in Harford County. According to a local news article covering the incident, a Maryland man was driving home one night just after 8 PM with his fiancé and their two children, 7 and 11 years old. Tragically, on their way home, a driver in a Jeep crashed into the passenger side of their car, hurting his fiancé and his children. His fiancé and his daughter, only 7 years old, were both severely injured and had to be airlifted to Shock Trauma in a nearby hospital for emergency surgery. His fiancé suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding, but is out of the ICU now and expected to recover fully.

Tragically, however, one week later, the young girl was still in the ICU, heavily sedated in a coma and hooked up to a ventilator. Her injuries were substantial—the right side of her body was crushed, and she had multiple broken bones and a severe brain injury. Family and community members are waiting hopefully for a recovery. However, the injuries are so substantial that she will likely still have months of medical care ahead of her, even if she survives. While nothing has been confirmed yet, the police report created after the accident stated that alcohol contributed to the crash.

Maryland hit and run accidents can be incredibly frustrating for accident victims and their loved ones. Hit and run accidents are accidents where the at-fault party, flees from the scene of the accident, usually by driving away before any identifying information can be collected. Like all car accidents, hit and run accidents can cause serious injuries or even death. In hit and run accidents, the chance may be higher because, if someone is seriously injured or trapped and unable to call for help themselves, they may rely on the other party to do so. If the other party leaves the scene, it may be a while before emergency services are called in to help the victim.

For an example of a hit and run, take a recent Maryland accident that occurred on November 1st of this year. According to a local news article, the crash occurred around 1:30 AM, when a 17-year-old girl who was attempting to cross the street was hit by an unknown vehicle in Howard County. The vehicle that hit her left the scene. The victim was transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where she remained in critical condition until she tragically passed away.

When drivers run from the scene of a crash like this, their goal is usually to escape liability for the accident—particularly if they were intoxicated or someone was injured. However, by fleeing, drivers may find themselves in more trouble than if they had stayed at the scene. Maryland state law provides that leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury is a felony, which may carry a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The punishments are worse when the accident results in a death—up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. In the case described above, the police are actively looking for the responsible driver, with a general idea of the type of car they are looking for and the damage likely on the vehicle. If and when the driver is identified, they may face criminal charges in addition to civil liability, and probably will be in a worse position than if they stayed at the scene.

Most Maryland drivers hope that they never have to deal with the car manufacturer once they purchase a car. When someone purchases a Ford, or Toyota, or Chrysler, they do not typically expect to have to contact that company again to have to deal with repeated issues in the car. However, occasionally cars bought and sold in Maryland will have defects in them, which may make the car non-functional or even dangerous to drive. In these cases, drivers should know that they may have a civil cause of action against the car manufacturer—they may be able to hold them liable in a court.

For example, take a recent state appellate court case dealing with a defective car. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff purchased the brand new car in 2011 for $44,748. The car came with a three-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and a five-year, 100,000-mile power-train warranty. But the plaintiff almost immediately experienced problems with the vehicle. About six months after purchase, only 9,466 miles in, he brought it in for repair because the vehicle would not start. This was a recurring problem for the plaintiff; he estimated that it happened more than ten times. Additionally, the plaintiff brought his car in for repair more than 10 times over a 3.5 year period.

After 3.5 years of multiple problems with his vehicle, due to a suspected defect supported by expert opinion, the plaintiff gave up when the seat belt malfunctioned for the third time. He reached out to the defendant company to utilize his guaranteed warranty, since he was only at 44,457 miles. But he was told that his initial warranty had expired and he did not qualify for a buy-back. A few months later, while driving, the plaintiff experienced a concerning incident—the dashboard of his car lit up, the temperature gauge spiked, the car stopped, and smoke came out from under the hood. Because the plaintiff now had no trust in this vehicle and thought it was only a matter of time before it caused an accident, he purchased another vehicle.

Last month, a 16-year old boy was tragically killed in a Maryland car accident. According to the Baltimore Sun, which covered the incident, the teenage boy was attempting to cross the road in Hampstead along with three other young people just before 8 pm one night. He never made it across the road—a 2020 Toyota Corolla hit him, and he was taken to Carroll Hospital where he passed away. A sergeant with the Maryland State Police said that the accident is under investigation, and that the other three young people crossing the road were not injured.

The incident is a tragic example of the harm Maryland car accidents involving pedestrians can cause. Pedestrians involved in car accidents are often seriously injured, or even killed, because they do not have any protection. Maryland specifically is plagued by pedestrian accidents—the state was recently ranked as the fourteenth deadliest state for pedestrians. In the first six months of 2018, for example, there were 60 pedestrian deaths due to motorists. This was a 25 percent increase from 2017, highlighting the importance of both drivers and pedestrians taking safety precautions while on the road.

Drivers can do their part to avoid pedestrian accidents by following all traffic signs, posted speed limits, and limiting distractions whilst driving. Many car accidents involving pedestrians occur because drivers are distracted and not paying attention, not seeing the pedestrian until it’s too late. Pedestrians should also take extra precautions to avoid being hit, such as crossing roads at crosswalks and other designated areas, looking both ways before crossing to ensure a clear path, and avoiding crossing roads with a blind turn, where neither cars nor pedestrians can see each other coming.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is very dangerous, not to mention illegal. Unfortunately, however, thousands of people still drive while intoxicated in Maryland every year, and many of them end up causing Maryland car accidents as a result. Driving under the influence is dangerous because alcohol and drugs impact your judgment, your decision-making, and your vision. Drunk drivers are more likely to make careless or even reckless driving maneuvers, run red lights, drive the wrong way down the street, or drive at speeds far above the speed limit. These actions can tragically have devastating consequences on the lives of other drivers.

For example, a drunk driver was recently arrested after causing a car crash that killed a mother and sent her two children to the hospital. According to a local news report covering the incident, the driver was driving in the wrong direction on the road when he collided with the victim’s car. She and her two children, ages six and eight, were all rushed to the hospital, where the mother tragically passed away.

This story is tragic, but unfortunately not all that uncommon. According to a recent report, Maryland has 308.7 DUI-related arrests per 100,000 people. The 2018 Maryland Highway Safety Plan reports that from 2011 to 2015, impaired/intoxicated driving caused one in three fatal crashes, one in ten crashes overall, and nearly one in ten crashes resulting in injuries.

Proving damages is an essential part of any Maryland car accident case. In addition to establishing a defendant’s liability, the plaintiff has the burden to prove their damages. Generally, damages must be proven by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that it is more likely than not to be true. The plaintiff must prove that the injury and damages were proximately caused by the wrongful acts of the defendant. This means that the damages cannot be based on speculation or conjecture. Some future expenses or losses, which may be recoverable in some cases, such as lost wages and lost earning capacity, can be difficult to establish. However, they are ways of proving these damages.

A recent case provides an example of a plaintiff’s failure to sufficiently prove damages for future medical expenses. In that case, the plaintiff filed suit against another driver after he suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident. The plaintiff was stopped in a left-hand turn lane when he was rear-ended by the defendant driver. The plaintiff’s SUV suffered significant damage, but the plaintiff did not initially seek medical treatment. However, the plaintiff’s back began hurting later that day, and he went to a local hospital, where he was prescribed pain medication and was told to follow up with his primary care physician. He saw his primary care physician and was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed him with an L3-4 level disk herniation. The surgeon recommended initial treatment of steroid epidural injections, and saw him a few more times, until he told the plaintiff that he could follow up if it was necessary.

At trial, the defendant admitted she was at fault for the accident, and a jury awarded the plaintiff $25,000 in damages and $100,000 for future medical expenses. The defendant argued that the future damages award was not supported by the evidence and the trial court agreed, vacating the future damages award. The plaintiff appealed the decision.

In Maryland, it is essential for drivers to purchase a specific type of automobile insurance called “Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist” coverage (UIM coverage). This coverage protects you if you are hurt in a Maryland car accident caused by someone who does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover the resulting damages. For example, if Driver A is hit by Driver B, and incurs medical expenses of 100,000, they will likely seek to recover the $100,000 from Driver B. But if Driver B doesn’t have insurance, or only has enough insurance to cover $25,000, this may leave Driver A thousands of dollars in debt from an accident they did not cause. This tragic scenario can be avoided, however, if Driver A has UIM coverage.

UIM insurance is not just for individuals—companies can purchase it for company vehicles and employees. Sometimes, however, Maryland residents might think that they are protected by their commercial UIM insurance, when they are not. This is why it is important to carefully read each insurance policy, to avoid a situation like one discussed in a recent state appellate opinion.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiffs in the case were a husband and wife, members of a pet and feed supply store limited liability company (LLC). The LLC had a commercial automobile insurance policy from the defendant, including UIM coverage for the LLC’s vehicles. One day, the wife drove her personal vehicle to a feed supply store to purchase inventory—a trip she made purely for business reasons. Whilst walking towards her parked car, she was hit by another vehicle in the parking lot. The driver of the second vehicle was an underinsured motorist, and had only $25,000 in liability insurance. The injured plaintiff suffered severe injuries, costing her over $200,000 in medical expenses. She could only recover $25,000 from the at-fault driver, however, and her personal insurance could not cover the full remaining amount, meaning she was not fully compensated for her injuries. Because of this, she submitted a UIM claim to the LLC’s automobile insurance carrier, the defendant in this case.

Drunk driving remains an issue in Maryland, just as it does across the country. Due to the severity of the issue, in some states, social hosts and commercial establishments can be held liable for providing alcohol to guests if another person is injured as a result of a Maryland car accident. A recent decision a state appellate court considered whether a 19-year-old could be held liable after his friends drank at his home.

In that case, the 19-year-old defendant had friends over at his home where they all drank alcohol. His friends were also underage, but adults. Two of his friends, who were 19 years old and 20 years old, left severely intoxicated. The 20-year-old drove and crashed his car, and the 19-year-old passenger died at the scene.

The state’s supreme court considered whether an adult under the age of twenty-one had a duty to stop others from allowing underage guests to consume alcohol in their homes. The court decided that an underage adult may be held liable if 1.) the defendant knowingly permitted and facilitated the consumption of alcohol by allowing others to drink in his home; 2.) the defendant knowingly provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated underage guest or allowed the guest to drink there; 3.) it was reasonably foreseeable that the driver would leave to operate a motor vehicle, thereby putting others at risk; 4.) the defendant did not take any reasonable steps to prevent the intoxicated guest from getting behind the wheel of the vehicle; and 5.) the guest negligently drove and injured a third party due to his intoxication. In this case, the court decided that the defendant could be held liable.

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.

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