Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

The Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) is a law that allows for Maryland accident victims to bring certain claims against the Maryland government based on the negligence of the government or its employees. Historically, Maryland accident victims were unable to recover compensation for their injuries from the government due to the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However, the MTCA changed that, allowing accident victims to pursue claims for compensation provided they follow the procedures outlined in the MTCA.

Claims under the MTCA differ from other Maryland personal injury cases in two significant ways. First, a plaintiff bringing a claim under the MTCA must provide notice to the Treasurer within one year of the injury. This notice must contain the following:

  • The names and addresses of the people involved;

Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case raising an important issue that frequently comes up in Maryland personal injury cases. The case deals with the concept of personal jurisdiction. In the case, the court found that a plaintiff’s lawsuit against a car manufacturer should proceed based on specific personal jurisdiction.

Personal jurisdiction refers to the court’s ability to exercise power over a party. A court must have personal jurisdiction over every party involved in a case. In certain instances, defendants may object to the court exercising jurisdiction over them, and argue for a case dismissal. This defense can delay a lawsuit or, if the statute of limitations has passed, completely preclude the plaintiff’s recovery.

The current ruling stems from injuries that a plaintiff suffered when the passenger-side airbags in their vehicle did not deploy during an accident. The accident occurred when the plaintiff was a passenger in the car. Evidently, a Minnesota resident drove the vehicle on a Minnesota road. The driver hit a snowplow and ended up in a ditch. The passenger-side airbag did not deploy, and the plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury. The plaintiff alleges that the airbag did not deploy because of a defect. He filed a lawsuit in Minnesota; however, the car manufacturer moved to dismiss the claims based on lack of personal jurisdiction.

In courtroom dramas on television, it is common to see a party keep a witness in their back pocket, only to present the witness to testify on the day of trial. However, in real Maryland personal injury cases, this sort of “trial by ambush” is not permitted under the state’s evidentiary rules. In fact, under Maryland Rule 2-402(g)(1)(A), a party must generally make their expert witnesses available for deposition or interrogatory in advance of trial.

In a recent case, a state appellate court affirmed this long-held prohibition against trials by ambush when it precluded a plaintiff’s expert witness from testifying regarding an opinion he formed only on the day of trial. According to the court’s opinion, the case involved a 2014 car accident between the plaintiff and the defendant. The defendant acknowledged that he was at fault for causing the accident, and the only issue at trial was the appropriate amount of damages.

Evidently, the plaintiff suffered a pre-existing injury in 2010. In pre-trial discovery, it was clear that the plaintiff’s expert medical witness reviewed the plaintiff’s MRI from 2014, but not from 2010. The defendant’s expert, however, examined both the 2010 and 2014 MRIs. During opening statements, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s expert did not have all the information necessary to back his conclusion regarding the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Years ago, Maryland personal injury cases relied more on witness testimony than any other type of evidence. However, with recent technological advancements has come a recent reliance on new types of evidence. Video evidence is among that which is becoming more common. In some situations, courts must revisit old rules when dealing with new evidence.

In a recent opinion issued by a state appellate court, the court certified a question to the state’s supreme court regarding the use of video evidence. Specifically, the question involved how lower courts should handle video evidence at the summary judgment stage when the video flatly contradicts one parties testimony.

Summary judgment is a stage in many personal injury trials in which a party claims that, taking the agreed-upon facts, it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Generally, courts will consider the uncontested evidence and apply the law to the facts. If the court determines that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the court will enter judgment without the case ever going to trial.

Under state and federal law, government entities are generally provided immunity from personal injury lawsuits. However, Maryland lawmakers passed the Maryland Tort Claims Act (the “Act”), which waives governmental immunity in most circumstances, provided an injury victim follows the strict procedural requirements outlined in the Act. Thus, Maryland car accident victims can typically pursue a claim against a government entity overseeing the area where the accident occurred.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case discussing whether the government could be held liable for the accident victim’s injuries. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving a motorcycle northbound on a divided road. As the plaintiff approached an intersection, he noticed a slow-moving SUV approaching from the opposite direction. The SUV attempted to make a left turn in front of the plaintiff, cutting him off and leaving him no time to react. The plaintiff crashed into the passenger side of the SUV, and was seriously injured as a result.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city where the accident occurred, claiming that the city negligently placed trees along the center median, which obstructed motorists’ views. The city argued it was not liable because it was not aware of the hazard the trees presented. In its defense, the city presented the court with 13 accident reports from accidents occurring at the same intersection. The city claimed that nowhere in the reports did any of the parties involved claim that the trees obstructed their vision.

Car accidents often result in serious, lifelong injuries that can change an accident victim’s life. There are almost limitless causes of Maryland road accidents, ranging from the common to the obscure. A recent state appellate decision discusses a situation that, while may seem to be uncommon, is actually responsible for more accidents than most motorists believe.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving along the highway when a mattress suddenly flew towards her car. The plaintiff veered to avoid hitting the mattress, crashing into a barrier. Eyewitnesses obtained the license plate of the truck that was carrying the mattress, and  police eventually found the driver towing a flatbed trailer.

The driver offered varying explanations regarding the mattress. Essentially, he claimed that there “may” have been a mattress in the trailer but he wasn’t sure. He explained that there was a bunch of items in the trailer the day before, and that he had told an employee to empty the items in the trailer. The defendant acknowledged that, at one point, there was a mattress, but he did not check the trailer that morning, so he wasn’t sure if it was still there. The defendant also stated that he did not see anything fly off the back of the trailer.

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;

One of an injury victim’s most important considerations when filing a Maryland car accident claim is which parties to name as defendants. Generally speaking, an injury victim should include all potentially liable parties in a case to avoid one of the named parties from shifting liability onto a non-present party. This could have the effect of reducing a plaintiff’s total recovery amount, or even preventing a plaintiff from recovering for their injuries altogether.

Of course, the most obvious defendant in a Maryland car accident lawsuit is the other driver. However, it is important for Maryland accident victims to realize that individual motorists rarely have sufficient assets to fully compensate a plaintiff for their injuries they have sustained in a serious accident. While insurance coverage can help to cover a damages award, many motorists only carry the minimum amount of insurance which, in Maryland, is just $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident. Of course, the amount of damages in a serious Maryland car accident often far exceeds these figures.

By naming additional parties as defendants, a plaintiff increases their chances of being able to collect on any award they receive. This is especially the case when an added defendant is a business or government entity. For this reason, perhaps the most commonly named party other than the at-fault driver is the at-fault driver’s employer.

When an accident victim is injured due to the negligence of another person, the injured party can pursue a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the party or parties she believes are responsible for her injuries. To succeed in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to establish that the named defendants were legally negligent.

The standard used by courts to determine whether a defendant acted negligently will depend on a variety of factors. For example, Maryland law generally imposes a duty on all motorists to drive carefully and in accordance with all applicable traffic laws. On the other hand, Maryland premises liability law may only impose a duty on a landowner not to willfully or maliciously cause a visitor harm.

Most Maryland personal injury cases involve just one standard; however, it is not uncommon for the parties to argue over which standard applies. A recent case illustrates how important the determination of the legal standard can be to a personal injury case.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion explaining how the collateral source doctrine is applied under Virginia personal injury law. The case actually involved a breach-of-contract claim, however, in answering whether the collateral source doctrine applied to breach-of-contract claims, the court thoroughly explained the collateral source doctrine, its origins, and how it applies in Virginia personal injury accidents.

In this case, the claim was between a power plant and contractor what was paid to perform certain work at the power plant. According to the court’s opinion, there was a boiler accident at the power plant that resulted in the deaths of three workers. The families of the deceased workers filed claims against the power plant, the contractor, and several other parties.

Evidently, there was a contract between the power plant and the contractor that required the contractor to obtain certain insurance coverage. However, the contractor did not purchase the specified insurance coverage. Nonetheless, after the power plant paid out nearly $5 million to settle the cases, and incurred nearly $10 million in legal fees, the power plant was fully reimbursed by all available insurance policies. However, the power plant pursued a breach-of-contract claim against the contractor, arguing that it failed to obtain the specified insurance. The court had to determine if the power plant could pursue such a claim, given the fact that it had undisputedly already recovered for the total costs of defending and settling the lawsuit.

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