Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

In some Maryland car accident cases, the testimony from both sides is in direct contradiction, and the case ultimately boils down to the issue of credibility. That is, which party or witness presented the more convincing testimony and evidence. However, in some cases, one party may not have any evidence that directly contradicts the other side’s evidence, and instead presents circumstantial evidence supporting their position.

Circumstantial evidence is evidence that requires an inference be made to reach the conclusion that the party presenting the evidence is asserting. For example, a defendant’s fingerprints left at the scene of a crime would be considered circumstantial evidence that the defendant had been present. In this situation, direct evidence would be testimony from a witness that saw the defendant at the scene of the crime.

A recent case illustrates the difference between circumstantial and direct evidence, as well as how an accident victim can use circumstantial evidence to help prove their case.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a decision in a wrongful death case arising out of a drunk-driving accident that occurred at the 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case, which was brought against the venue organizers as well as the City where the festival occurred, should be permitted to proceed toward a jury trial over the defendants’ summary judgment motion. Ultimately, the court determined that the case should be dismissed against each of the defendants, albeit for different reasons.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was killed when a drunk driver fleeing from police drove through a barrier and into a crowd of people at the city-wide SXSW festival. Due to the multi-venue nature of the festival, festival organizers needed to apply for several use permits from the city. In particular, the use permit stated that “[a]ll traffic controls must be provided in accordance with the approved traffic control plan.”

Evidently, festival organizers closed three linear blocks, installing traffic barriers at each intersection. A police officer was also placed at each intersection to keep watch. However, the barricades failed to stop a drunk-driver from crashing through them and driving into a crowd of people. The plaintiff’s spouse was among four who were killed.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue that frequently arises in Maryland car personal injury cases that name a government employee or entity as a defendant. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case against a police officer and the city that employed the officer could proceed to trial over the defendants’ claim that they were immune from liability under the state’s tort claims act.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer’s conduct at the time of the accident was within the scope of his duty and, while it may have been negligent, was not “reckless.” Thus, immunity was appropriate for both the individual officer and the city.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant police officer received a call that an intoxicated person was lying unconscious on the sidewalk outside a Days Inn. The officer hastily responded to the call, and cut through a parking lot on his way to the scene.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a plaintiff’s case against the city that was responsible for maintaining the intersection where she was struck by another motorist could proceed to trial. The case presents important issues of government immunity that may arise in Maryland car accident cases that are filed against the state or federal government.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving northbound, and was approaching an intersection. As the plaintiff entered the intersection, she did not stop or slow down and continued through the intersection without seeing that another car was coming. The plaintiff was side-swiped by the other motorist and sustained serious injuries as a result.

The plaintiff later learned that the stop sign for northbound traffic had fallen and was lying on the ground. She explained that she did not see the stop sign or the car before entering the intersection. The plaintiff then filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city based on its failure to maintain the road signs at the intersection.

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In some Maryland car accident cases, where the case is filed and litigated may be one of the first disputed issues that must be resolved by the court. For example, most Maryland accident victims would prefer to file their cases in a convenient venue, making trips to court less burdensome. In some cases, certain other considerations may also come into play, such as the local court rules or customs.

In a recent state court appellate opinion, the court discussed whether the defendant’s request to transfer the plaintiff’s case to a venue more convenient to him was properly denied by the lower court.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were injured in a car accident when the defendant rear-ended them. Evidently, a vehicle swerved into the plaintiff’s lane, requiring the plaintiff-driver to quickly apply the brakes. The defendant, who was traveling directly behind the plaintiffs’ vehicle at the time, failed to stop in time and ran into the back of the plaintiff’s car. The driver that swerved in front of the plaintiff’s car sped away and was never located.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue that frequently arises in Maryland car accident cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether an employee who caused an accident injuring the plaintiff was a “permissive user” under his employer’s insurance policy. Finding that the employee was a permissive user, the insurance company will be required to satisfy the judgment against the employee.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident that occurred when the defendant rear-ended his vehicle while he was stopped at a red light. The defendant later admitted to having had a few drinks and being intoxicated. As it turns out, the defendant, who worked for a railroad company, was not from the area, and was there on business. The vehicle that the defendant was driving at the time of the accident was a company car.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, which resulted in a nearly $1.5 million verdict. However, after 30 days of not receiving payment, the plaintiff filed this case against the insurance company that wrote the policy for the railroad company that employed the defendant. The plaintiff argued that the defendant was covered under that policy and, therefore, the insurance company was on the hook for the $1.5 million verdict.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a personal injury case raising an important issue that frequently arises in Maryland car accident cases. Specifically, the case considered whether motorists were covered under a third party’s uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Finding that the third party specifically rejected obtaining coverage for those other than the named individuals in the policy, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims.The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs arranged to test-drive a car from a local car dealership. While they were out on the test-drive, another motorist rear-ended the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were injured as a result of the collision and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who hit them.

That driver, however, did not have sufficient insurance coverage to fully compensate the plaintiffs for the injuries they sustained in the accident. Therefore, the plaintiffs then named the insurance company that wrote the policy for the car dealership as a party to the case, seeking to obtain coverage under that policy’s UIM coverage.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a product liability lawsuit discussing when, if ever, another state’s statute of repose applies. The case presents an interesting issue for Maryland product liability plaintiffs because although Maryland law does apply other state’s statutes of repose in some circumstances, courts will not do so if the case is brought by a Maryland resident.

The Facts of the Case

In 2012, the plaintiff’s Ford Escape caught fire while parked in her garage. The fire spread to her home, and she was injured as she attempted to flee the fire. The plaintiff filed a product liability case against Ford in federal court. The vehicle was manufactured in 2001 in Missouri, and first sold later that year. The plaintiff lived in Oregon.

Oregon’s statute of repose requires all cases to be brought by the later of:

  • Ten years from the time when the vehicle was manufactured, or
  • “The expiration of any statute of repose for an equivalent civil action in the state in which the product was manufactured.”

Missouri, the state where the vehicle was manufactured, did not have a statute of repose. Thus, there was a question as to what, if any, statute of repose applied to the plaintiff’s case.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing when an employer can be held liable when an employee causes a serious car accident on the way to or from work. Ultimately, the court concluded that an employer may be held liable in situations where the employer requires an employee to use the car on the day of the accident. The case is important for Maryland car accident victims because it illustrates the types of arguments employers may make when one of their employees causes an accident.

Vicarious Liability

As a general rule, an employer is responsible for the negligent acts of an employee, if the act is during and within the scope of employment. The idea is that the employee is carrying out the business of the employer, so it is only fair to allow anyone injured as a result of the employee’s negligence to seek compensation not just from the employee, but also the employer.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was serious injured when he was struck by another car as a result of a collision caused by a county public defender (the “public defender”). While the county did not state that the public defender needed a have a car, practically speaking it was not possible for him to perform the functions of his job without a car. For example, the public defender had to attend various courthouses across the county, visit clients in prison, and investigate crime scenes.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to interpret an insurance policy to determine if the policy provided uninsured motorist (UIM) protection to a man who was killed by an uninsured driver. Ultimately, the court concluded that the decedent’s employer’s insurance policy did not provide UIM coverage to the decedent and, thus, rejected the plaintiff’s claim.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the estate of a man who was killed when he was struck by a driver who was high on methamphetamine while he was riding his personal lawnmower. The at-fault driver was not insured.

The estate of the decedent filed a UIM claim under the decedent’s employer’s insurance policy, which contained coverage for UIM benefits. Specifically, that clause stated that UIM benefits under the policy extended to “you or others we protect.” The estate argued that the term “others we protect” included the decedent.

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