Insurance companies want to minimize the amount they pay out in the event of a claim, and unfortunately, do not always compensate Maryland car accident victims according to what they deserve. If an insurer fails to fairly settle a claim, the insured may be able to pursue a claim of bad faith against the insurer. In a recent case before a state appeals court, the state found the plaintiff could pursue a claim of bad faith against GEICO after it failed to timely pay her insurance claim.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was in a car accident and suffered serious injuries. Another driver caused the car crash, and both she and the other driver were insured by GEICO. The plaintiff made a claim under the driver’s insurance coverage, as well as under her own insurance plan for underinsured motorist (UM) benefits.

After the plaintiff did not receive payment on the claims, she sued the driver and GEICO. GEICO then paid the plaintiff the maximum benefits under the at-fault driver’s policy, but refused to pay the plaintiff benefits under her UM policy. The plaintiff then filed a civil remedy notice (CRN) with the Department of Financial Services, and mailed GEICO a copy. GEICO subsequently agreed to pay the plaintiff her full UM benefits, but the plaintiff’s lawyer did not receive the check and release until almost three weeks later. This was 65 days after the CRN was filed with the Department of Financial Services.

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In Virginia, like elsewhere in the country, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law. However, despite the known dangers and potential criminal consequences of drunk driving, there are approximately 7,500 Virginia DUI car accidents each year. Not surprisingly, roughly half of these accidents result in injuries and about 250 result in at least one fatality.

Virginia’s Wrongful Death Statute

When someone is killed due to the negligence of another, the surviving family members of the accident victim may be able to pursue a claim for financial compensation against the at-fault parties. This is referred to as a Virginia wrongful death claim.

Under Virginia Code § 8.01-53, a wrongful death claim is brought by the personal representative of the accident victim’s estate for the benefit of the statutory beneficiaries of the accident victim. The statutory beneficiaries are the surviving spouse, any children of the deceased, as well as any grandchildren of the deceased (if the accident victim’s child is also deceased). If no person fits in the above category, the claim can be brought on behalf of parents, siblings, or any other relative who lived with the victim and relied upon them for support.

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When an employee causes a Maryland car accident, anyone injured as a result of the accident may be able to pursue a claim against both the negligent driver and their employer under the doctrine of respondeat superior. However, to establish employer liability in a Maryland car accident, the plaintiff must be able to show that the employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident.

A recent decision issued by a state appellate court shows how claims against an employer can be proven, and the type of evidence that may be helpful pursuing such a claim.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a pedestrian who was struck by a GMC truck as she was attempting to cross the street. Evidently, the driver of the truck (“the employee”) was an employee of the defendant HVAC company. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the employee as well as the defendant HVAC company, claiming that the company was responsible for the employee’s negligent acts because they were made while he was acting within the scope of his employment.

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While the number of Maryland drunk driving accidents continues to slowly decrease year over year, impaired driving is still a leading cause of Maryland car accidents. Indeed, according to the most recent government statistics, there are on average 443 people seriously injured and 160 killed in Maryland drunk driving accidents each year. Drunk driving poses such a danger to Maryland motorists that impaired driving prevention and enforcement consume nearly half the state’s budget for traffic safety programs.

Over recent years, Maryland lawmakers have taken steps to discourage people from getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink. Most of the new measures focus on the criminal penalties associated with a drunk driving conviction. For example, new laws mandate an ignition interlock device be installed on certain offender’s vehicles. While the new laws may deter some motorists from driving drunk, the laws provide little consolation to those who have been seriously injured by a Maryland impaired driver.

That is not to say that Maryland accident victims are without a means of recourse. Anyone injured in a Maryland DUI accident can pursue a civil case for damages against a driver they believe to be responsible for their injuries. Similarly, those who have lost a loved one in a Maryland car accident can file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver. While seemingly simple in theory, in practice these cases can be exceedingly complex and should be handled by experienced Maryland personal injury lawyers.

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Under Maryland law, a party in a personal injury lawsuit may present testimony from an expert witness only in certain circumstances. That being the case, expert witnesses do not testify in most Maryland car accidents. However, there are cases where the need for an expert witness arises. Typically, this is when a case presents complex medical or scientific issues that are beyond the scope of a typical juror’s understanding. A recent case illustrates a situation in which the court held that the plaintiff’s claim required the testimony of an expert witness.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was involved in a chain reaction car accident. Evidently, one motorist collided with another driver, whose vehicle then struck the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff was transported to the hospital, where he was treated and released later that day. The record does not indicate the treatment that the plaintiff received at the hospital.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against two of the other drivers involved in the accident. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged injuries to his neck, head, back, right foot, right ankle, right hip, both shoulders, and both knees.” The plaintiff presented the testimony of medical experts to establish the extent of his injuries.

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Earlier this month, a fatal Maryland car accident claimed the lives of five children and seriously injured two adults. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, all seven passengers were in a single minivan, and no other vehicles were involved in the crash.

Evidently, the accident victims were traveling northbound on Route 301 in a Chrysler Pacifica when, just before 5 a.m. the driver of the vehicle lost control of the minivan. The vehicle slid off the road into a wooded area, where it struck several trees before spinning out into a snowy field. When police responded, they found two adults in the driver and passenger seats. Both were seriously injured. All five of the children in the back, ranging in age from five to 15, had been ejected during the crash and were pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders.

Police began an investigation into the cause of the accident, but told reporters that it seems as though none of the children were properly restrained in the back of the minivan. However, the two adults in the vehicle were wearing seatbelts.

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Few experiences behind the wheel are more terrifying than being on the wrong end of another driver’s road rage. While road rage may not be listed as a primary cause of Maryland car accidents, aggressive driving is more common than most motorists believe. For example, in 2015, there were approximately 3,300 Maryland car accidents caused by aggressive driving. Of those, someone was injured in over 1,200 of the crashes.

A Maryland driver can lose their temper and enter a state of road rage for any number of reasons. Even the slightest perceived infraction can send an already stressed motorist over the edge. This raises the question: who can be held liable in a Maryland road rage accident?

Aside from the enraged driver who caused the accident – who is an obvious choice – other potentially liable parties may include passengers in the at-fault driver’s car or other motorists on the road who may have contributed to the accident. A recent case illustrates that it isn’t just the person behind the wheel who can be at fault for an incident of road rage.

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In the wake of a serious Maryland car accident, accident victims face many difficulties. Of course, these include overcoming the physical and emotional injuries that come along with being involved in a serious accident. However, even after an accident victim has physically recovered as best they can, before they can obtain compensation for their injuries they will likely have to deal with one or more insurance companies.

While Maryland car insurance is required by law and, in theory, operates to the benefit of Maryland accident victims. In reality, insurance companies are for-profit corporations that are motivated by their bottom line. To remain profitable, insurance companies must make more in monthly premiums than they pay out in claims. Thus, insurance companies routinely dispute motorists’ claims or attempt to settle them for as little as possible. A recent opinion issued by a state appellate court illustrates the difficulties a motorist had when trying to file a claim under an underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance policy.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident that was allegedly caused by another driver. The at-fault driver had insufficient insurance coverage to adequately compensate the plaintiff for the injuries he sustained in the accident. The also plaintiff had two insurance policies, one with Allstate as well as a UIM policy with the defendant insurance company.

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While governments may be entitled to immunity in some car accidents that are based on a negligent-design theory, the government can still be held liable for failing to safely maintain a road or highway. However, the distinction between design and maintenance is not always clear-cut. For example, consider the following:

  • A turn with visibility obstructed by large trees or rocks;
  • An intersection with misleading or improperly marked signage;
  • Malfunctioning traffic lights;
  • Dangerous potholes or unmarked hazards; and
  • Landscaping that obscures motorists’ vision of an intersection or oncoming traffic

A Maryland car accident victim who is injured in an accident that was caused by any of the above scenarios may be able to pursue a claim for compensation against the government agency responsible for maintaining the road. A recent state appellate decision discusses one plaintiff’s case against a local government agency based on the road’s dangerous condition.

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Anyone who is injured in a Maryland car accident can pursue a claim for damages against the party or parties they believe to be responsible for causing the accident that led to their injuries. To succeed in a Maryland personal injury case, the plaintiff must be able to establish that the defendants were negligent.

In this context “negligence” is a legal term referring to a four-part analysis. Thus, in a negligence case, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed them a duty of care, which was violated by the defendant’s conduct, and that the defendant’s negligence was the cause the plaintiff’s injuries. Most often, Maryland personal injury cases that are filed after a car accident are filed against the other drivers involved in the crash. However, in some situations, a driver’s employer can also be named as a defendant.

In Maryland, a car accident victim can pursue a claim against an employer of a negligent driver if the following criteria are established:

  • The employer had control over the employee;
  • The driver’s allegedly negligent action was within the scope of the driver’s employment; and
  • The action was in furtherance of the employer’s business.

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