Baltimore Auto Injury Update: Poor Legal Decisions Can Limit One’s Ability to Recover Medical Costs, Damages

Choosing the right lawyer following a serious injury-related traffic collision is an important step toward bringing a successful personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent party. As Maryland auto, bike and trucking accident attorneys, we have the training and legal skills to represent victims of car, truck and motorcycle accident here in Maryland.

Whether one is injured in Baltimore, Bowie, Annapolis or the District, there is nothing enjoyable about being hurt, laid up in the hospital and then having to foot the bill for another person’s thoughtless or negligent act. More than one family has been hurt physically, emotionally and financially by a reckless or inattentive driver. With medical treatment costs going through the roof, it only makes sense to choose the right attorney when planning one’s strategy to recover medical, rehabilitation and other costs following a roadway accident.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, we have seen enough post-accident carnage to know how shaken a victim of a car or truck collision must feel in the aftermath of a serious highway wreck. The same goes for cyclists and pedestrians who are hurt as a result of being struck by a car or commercial delivery truck. In cases where a victim is incapacitated or even killed, the family may need to bring a suit on their behalf to compensate for possible long-term care costs brought on by a careless driver.

A recent court decision (Schwering v. TRW Vehicle Safety Sys., Inc.) in Ohio points up the importance of finding the right attorney to represent you in a personal injury or wrongful death case. In the particular instance an older couple was involved in a car accident, which caused the death of the wife, although both individuals were wearing their safety belts. Based on court records, the husband filed a suit against Ford Motor Company, the manufacturer of the car, as well as TRW Safety Systems. In the suit, the plaintiff asserted certain products-liability and negligence claims.

Once the case went to trial, the presiding judge declared a mistrial, but before a second trial could be arranged, the plaintiff reportedly filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice pursuant to that state’s legal statutes. Following the voluntary dismissal, the plaintiff filed a new suit in U.S. district court, asserting essentially the same claims against both Ford and TRW.

The defendants attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit basing their argument on the fact that the voluntary dismissal of a state action had not taken place prior to the commencement of new trial, which was apparently required by state law. In doing so, the defendants stated that the dismissal could not have been “without prejudice.”

Ultimately, this case was elevated to the Ohio Supreme Court, which after accepting certification from the U.S. district court ruled in favor of the defendants. That state’s supreme court held that a plaintiff may not voluntarily dismiss, without prejudice, a lawsuit against another party when a trial court declares a mistrial after the jury has been empaneled and the trial has, in fact, begun.

While this case took place in another state, the lesson learned is that the law in any state can be complex. Without the best possible representation, a client may be taking a chance with the potential outcome of a case simply by choosing an attorney who may not be completely familiar with the ins and outs of that state’s laws and legal statutes. What may have turned out to be a successful products liability lawsuit instead became a non-starter due to a technical misstep on the plaintiff’s part.

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