Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) reports that thousands of people are hurt or killed in Maryland car accidents every year. Crash report statistics have shown there has been a rise in Maryland car accidents every year since 2012. These incidents range from minor to severe, and Maryland car accident victims often suffer significant financial repercussions as a result of these accidents. Many accident victims do not realize that their insurance companies may not cover the extent of damages that they sustained. In these situations, injury victims may need to file a dispute with their insurance company to recover fully for their losses. In some cases, a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party may be necessary.

Injury victims are often surprised to discover that their insurance company is taking an adversarial role when the policyholder attempts to collect on a claim. Many times, insurance companies will go to great lengths to dispute a claim, deny coverage, and escape making a payment.

For example, recently, a state appellate court issued a ruling in a lawsuit stemming from a claim dispute between a policyholder and her insurance company. In that case, a woman suffered injuries while she was exercising at a mobile gym. The woman filed and settled a negligence lawsuit against the gym’s owner and the personal trainer. The gym was run out of the back of a pickup truck, so she filed a car insurance claim with her provider to recover her remaining damages. Her insurance company disputed coverage, arguing that her uninsured/underinsured coverage did not extend to motor vehicles such as a mobile gym. The insurance company cited specific provisions in her policy that limited the insurance company’s obligation to pay a claim. Ultimately, the appellate court ruled in the insurance company’s favor finding that the coverage did not extend to motor vehicles that are “located for use as a premises,” such as a mobile gym.

When accidents happen and people are injured, many individuals rely on their insurance policies to help them cover the costs. For instance, homeowner’s insurance policies can protect individuals if something that they own hurts someone else or damages their property. Maryland law allows the injured party to sue the at-fault party in court to recover monetary compensation, and insurance can help the at-fault party cover all or part of the award. However, some insurance companies may try to escape liability for certain types of accidents, relying on vague or ambiguous language in the policy’s contract.

Take a recent state appellate case, for example. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff brought suit when she was injured by the defendant’s Ford truck. The truck had been parked on an incline on the driveway when the plaintiff, examining it, pulled the emergency brake. The truck subsequently took off and went down the driveway, rolling over the plaintiff’s ankles and causing her multiple injuries, including several fractures and a knee effusion. The plaintiff then filed suit against the defendant, alleging negligence.

Typically, in situations like this, a defendant with homeowner’s insurance would receive assistance from their insurance company. However, the defendant’s insurer filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment to determine whether or not it had to cover the incident. The insurance company argued that they did not provide coverage for claims arising out of the “use” of a motor vehicle, and thus were not obliged to cover the defendant here. Ultimately, the question came down to what the ambiguous term “use of a motor vehicle” meant, since there was no further definition in the policy contract.

Maryland car accidents are unfortunately far too common and often result in serious injuries and lifelong trauma for those involved. While some accidents are pure accidents with no one to blame, many accidents are unfortunately the result of someone’s negligence. Usually, the negligent party is the driver. For example, distracted driving, driving under the influence, or driving too fast and recklessly can all lead to accidents, and the driver engaging in the risky behavior may be liable to the victims from these accidents.

However, there are certain cases where someone other than the driver may be liable to an accident victim, even if they were not on the road when the accident happened. The doctrine of negligent entrustment can make someone liable if they entrust a car to another and give them permission to operate that car, even though they know or should know that they are incompetent, inexperienced, or reckless. For example, if you lend your neighbor a car, knowing that he recently had his license suspended for driving under the influence and is currently intoxicated, and they get into an accident and hurt someone else, you may be liable to the accident victim. Thus, one does not need to be directly involved in the accident in order to be liable to those harmed.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion on the topic of negligent entrustment. The defendant permitted his son, who he knew suffered from a seizure disorder, to drive his automobile. While driving, his son suffered from a seizure and struck another car, killing both the driver and the passenger inside. The deceased victim’s family filed an action against the defendant, claiming that it was negligent for him to have entrusted his car to his son. The jury found him liable, and the appellate court affirmed, making this case a perfect example of how a plaintiff may be able to recover from more than one party when there has been an injury or wrongful death.

In the aftermath of a Maryland car accident, a victim may have multiple sources from which to recover financially. This compensation can help pay for medical bills and other costs incurred as a result of the injuries. For instance, a plaintiff may be eligible for some money from their insurance company. However, money received from an insurance company may affect a plaintiff’s potential civil suit against the wrongdoer, because personal injury laws typically try to avoid allowing a plaintiff from being “unjustly enriched” by obtaining more compensation than needed for their injuries.

Take a recent Virginia case, for example. The Supreme Court of Virginia, in a recent written opinion, held that a Virginia car accident victim could receive monetary compensation from both her insurance company and the defendant responsible for the accident.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving down the road when the defendant pulled out of her driveway and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff suffered significant injuries as a result of the accident and had to undergo multiple extensive surgeries. Accordingly, the plaintiff filed suit to seek compensation for her injuries.

Maryland car accident victims have to carefully build their cases to prove the elements of a negligence claim. In a recent decision from state appellate court, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed after a pedestrian was killed because the plaintiff failed to prove the driver acted negligently. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant left his home to go to work at a brewing company in another town. At around 5:30 a.m., as he was on his way, he was shifting lanes when he hit the plaintiff’s husband. The windshield of the car broke and flew into the defendant’s face, and he parked on the side of the road further down the highway. He walked back to the scene of the crash and saw the plaintiff’s husband. According to the defendant, it was dark out and he did not see the plaintiff before hitting him. The plaintiff’s husband died as a result of his injuries.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim, alleging that the defendant was negligent in failing to exercise due care in driving his car, and striking and killing her husband. The plaintiff presented evidence from an accident reconstructionist who found that if the defendant was properly watching the road, he would have been able to avoid hitting her husband.

The court held that the plaintiff did not establish the required elements for a negligence claim. The court began its opinion by noting that in a negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove four elements: a legal duty owed to the accident victim, a breach of that duty, a causal connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury, and loss or damages to the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s breach of the duty.

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.

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