Articles Posted in Negligent Driving

One of the elements that individuals filing a Maryland negligence claim have to prove is causation. But even if a court finds a defendant’s acts or omissions were the cause-in-fact of the plaintiff’s injuries, the court will also consider whether the defendant’s negligent actions are a legally cognizable cause—that is, whether the defendant should be held liable under the circumstances. This consideration generally centers on whether the plaintiff’s injuries were within the harm that the defendant should have anticipated or expected due to the defendant’s negligent actions. Thus, a defendant may not be liable if the plaintiff’s injuries resulted only because of very unusual and unexpected circumstances. In considering whether a defendant may be liable for a plaintiff’s injuries, the court will consider any intervening negligent acts or omissions in the foreseeability analysis. If an intervening negligent action or omission is found to be a superseding cause, the defendant will not be held liable. Intervening acts may include the criminal acts of a third party after the defendant’s original act of negligence, as in the following case.

In a recent decision issued by a state supreme court, the court considered a case in which an employee at an Avis rental company stole an SUV from the rental lot where he worked after it had closed for the day. He drove the SUV around for hours in hopes of selling the vehicle. Police officers saw him driving erratically and approached him, and the driver sped off in an attempt to escape. As he was trying to escape, the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a wall where two people were sitting, severely injuring them. The two individuals sued the driver and others, including Avis rental car company, alleging negligence and vicarious liability. The juries in both cases found in favor of the plaintiffs.

However, the Supreme Court of George found that the plaintiffs could not recover because the driver’s intervening criminal conduct severed the chain of events for causation. The court held that the driver’s criminal acts were the intervening and independent wrongful act of a third person. The court decided that even if Avis was negligent in allowing the employee to gain access to a car and steal it after hours, the injuries to the plaintiffs were not a probable or natural consequence that could have been reasonably foreseen by the defendants. No evidence showed that the defendants could have reasonably foreseen that the driver would lead police on a high-speed chase and crash into the plaintiffs.

Although people generally must act reasonably so as not to harm others, you may wonder if that extends to protecting others from harm. In the context of a Maryland negligence claim, a plaintiff bears the burden of proving the claim, which includes proving that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury. Maryland courts have characterized the concept of duty as “an obligation, to which the law will give recognition and effect, to conform to a particular standard of conduct toward another.” Whether a duty exists depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.

Courts consider, among other things, whether the harm was foreseeable to the plaintiff, and the relationship between the defendant’s conduct and the injury. However, people do not have a general duty to the public at large to protect it against the actions of others. This was illustrated in a recent appellate case, in which the plaintiff claimed that a driver who had pulled over on the side of the road to help another stranded driver should have put out warnings to alert the plaintiff to the presence of the vehicles.

In that case, a pickup truck driver with an attached trailer experienced an electrical failure and pulled onto the shoulder of the highway. It was nighttime and the lights on the truck were not on due to the electrical failure. As another driver was passing by, he saw the truck and trailer and pulled over to help. A third vehicle was passing by, and veered off the highway and crashed into the trailer. The plaintiff was a passenger in the third vehicle. He sued the drivers, and a trial court dismissed the case.

The goal of a Maryland car accident lawsuit is to award the victim of the accident financial compensation for the injuries they sustained in the accident. However, sometimes, determining who is the victim is not an easy task. While some accidents present straightforward situations pointing to one or more parties being at fault, other accidents are much more complicated. In either case, conducting an in-depth investigation is a crucial step in filing a personal injury lawsuit.

A few basic facts that should be a part of any Maryland car accident investigation include:

  • the location and time of the accident;

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that raises an interesting issue that frequently comes up in Maryland car accident cases. The case required the court to determine if a jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant was proper, given that the defendant admitted to causing the accident and that the accident caused the plaintiff “some injury” but denied the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s claimed injuries.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant’s “admission” was limited and that the issues of causation and damages were still at issue. Thus, the jury was acting within its discretion to find in favor of the defendant.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when the defendant failed to yield while making a left turn. The plaintiff claimed that she suffered a serious injury as a result of the accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Virginia issued a written opinion in a car accident case that required the court to determine if the plaintiff should be entitled to a new trial after the jury found the defendant to be at fault for the car accident but awarded the plaintiff no damages. Ultimately, the court determined that the issue of damages depended in large part on the plaintiff’s own credibility and the medical evidence she presented. Since there was conflicting evidence presented about whether the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the accident, the court held that the jury’s verdict should stand.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a minor car accident when the defendant rear-ended her. Evidently, the plaintiff was stopped at a red light when the she heard “something boom.” She looked up, and her car was lurching into the intersection. The plaintiff was wearing a seatbelt, and no part of her body came into contact with the steering wheel or dash board. The plaintiff explained that she did not suffer and bruises, cuts, or swelling, but her body “tensed up” upon impact.

After the accident, the plaintiff requested to be taken to the hospital. She was seen by doctors and soon afterward released. The plaintiff testified that she saw her primary care doctor twice after the accident but provided no evidence of the visits. She did, however, provide evidence that she went to an orthopedic center, complaining of back and shoulder pain, 10 months after the accident. She subsequently had surgery on her shoulder.

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A state appellate court recently affirmed a jury’s decision to award no damages to a woman and her husband after they sued another driver for causing a motor vehicle accident. The driver of the other car admitted that he was at fault in the accident but denied that the woman was injured in the crash. The jury and the appeals court agreed with the defendant.

The accident occurred when the defendant swerved around a bus at a slow speed and sideswiped the woman’s car. The woman was alone in her car and wearing her seatbelt, and her body did not hit the dashboard, doors, or any other component inside the car. The airbags in the car did not deploy, and she did not request immediate medical attention. She drove herself home from the site of the accident.

The woman sued for injuries she claimed to have suffered to her back and neck. As a result of these injuries, she sought compensation for pain and suffering, as well as for future medical care, medications, and an inability to perform certain household chores and activities. In total, she requested compensation of between one and two million dollars. Her husband also sued the defendant for $275,000 for a loss of companionship, both past and present, due to the couple’s alleged inability to play golf, take walks, and engage in other forms of joint physical activity.

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Earlier this month in Jacksonville, an accident between a passenger car and an Amtrak train left three people injured. However, miraculously no one was fatally injured in the accident that resulted in the vehicle being cut in half by the train. According to one local news source, the accident was caused by the driver of the car attempting to cross the railroad tracks while the gate arms were in the down position.

Evidently, the vehicle had three people in it at the time of the accident. Video surveillance that was retrieved from the scene shows the driver of the vehicle trying to navigate around the crossing arms, which had been down for several seconds. The video also shows the car getting sheared in half by the massive train.

Miraculously, no one was seriously injured in the accident. In fact, the video shows the driver and one of his passengers outside the car walking around before emergency responders arrived on the scene. The back-seat passenger did sustain injuries and was taken to UF Health Jacksonville. Police issued a citation to the driver of the car for negligently crossing the tracks while the gate arms were down.

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Earlier this month, a Maryland man was arrested and charged with murder for his role in the drunk driving death of a passenger after he was involved in a DUI accident. According to a recent Washington Post article, the driver admitted to police that he had consumed at least two beers and a shot of cognac before getting behind the wheel that fateful night.

Evidently, the accident occurred on a road with a speed limit of just 25 miles per hour, but police claim that the driver was traveling well in excess of that speed when he slammed into a parked tractor-trailer. After crashing into the parked truck, the driver got out of his vehicle and pulled out his unconscious passenger by her arms. He began to shake her until another passenger in his car told him to stop. At this point, he dropped her, and she hit her head on the pavement.

The woman was taken to the hospital, where she died about a half-hour later. Prosecutors charged the driver with second-degree murder, claiming that the driver acted “with the intent to kill another . . . and with a conscious disregard of an extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury to another.”

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Late last month, a 47-year-old woman was killed when she lost control of her car on the Beltway. According to a prominent national news report, the woman was driving on Interstate 495 in Capitol Heights when the accident occurred. Maryland State Police were called to the scene of the accident at around 3:45 a.m.

A preliminary investigation revealed that the woman’s Dodge Avenger was traveling south on I-495 when she crossed three lanes of traffic and veered off the road. She proceeded to hit a safety rail before coming to a stop. Unfortunately, the woman was pronounced deceased at the scene of the accident. The Maryland State Police believe that fatigue could have played a role in the accident. However, the crash is still under investigation by Maryland State Police.

Risks Associated with Fatigued Driving

The above case was incredibly tragic because someone lost their life, but it could have been much worse. In many highway accidents, there are multiple cars involved, increasing the number of victims. Fatigued driving is a serious problem and can result in severe injuries and even death. The effects of drowsy driving often mirror the effects of alcohol and other substances. It can decrease awareness, lower reaction times, and impair vision and judgment.

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Earlier this month in Queen Anne’s county two people were killed in a traffic accident on Route 50 when a car unexpectedly began traveling the wrong way down the highway. According to a report by the local CBS affiliate, police dispatchers received numerous calls about a car driving wildly down Route 50 over the course a few minutes. However, by the time they were able to respond, the damage had been done.

One driver told reporters that she was on Route 50 when the driver flew by at a high rate of speed. At some point shortly after that, she recalls the driver getting into the left lane of traffic and making a wide U-turn into oncoming traffic.

Evidently, the 25-year-old driver who was traveling the wrong way down Route 50 has a history of similar conduct, including a prior DUI and also a prior charge for driving the wrong way on the highway. Unfortunately, this time tragedy ensued when he collided head-on with another car, killing both inside instantly as the car went up in flames.

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