Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

Recently, a Virginia appellate court issued an opinion discussing the state’s dead man statute, which may preclude a witness from testifying to conversations that the witness had with someone who has died. Ultimately, the Virginia court determined that the deceased defendant’s statement was properly entered into evidence. While Maryland’s dead man’s statute is a little different than Virginia’s, this case helps illustrate the differences. As always, reach out to a Maryland car accident attorney for help answering questions about the facts of your specific situation.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was involved in a Virginia car accident where the defendant rear-ended him. After the crash but before the case reached trial, the defendant died from unrelated causes.

Evidently, at trial, liability was not at issue because the defendant’s estate admitted the defendant was at fault. However, the estate contested the amount of damages the plaintiff was seeking. In support of its case, the estate presented testimony from the deceased defendant’s son, who testified to a conversation he had with his father shortly after the accident in which the defendant told his son that the accident occurred at “five to seven miles per hour.”

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For the most part, Maryland car accident cases present straightforward issues that jurors are capable of understanding and digesting. However, some car accident cases may present more complex issues. In this situation, an expert witness will be necessary to help the jurors understand the negligent acts of the defendant and how they led to the plaintiff’s injuries. Thus, the importance of expert witnesses cannot be overstated.

Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether the plaintiff’s expert should have been allowed to submit an amended report after reviewing additional information. Ultimately, the court concluded that the expert’s subsequent report was not admissible and precluded its admission.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who was killed in a single-car accident. Evidently, the man’s vehicle inexplicably swerved off the road, crashing into a concrete pillar. Investigators noticed that the grass underneath the man’s vehicle was charred. Days after the accident, the vehicle’s manufacturer issued a recall related to the transmission oil cooler (TOC) based on concerns that a defective TOC may result in an undercarriage fire.

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The judge’s role in a Maryland personal injury case is to oversee the trial. This includes making pre-trial discovery and evidentiary decisions, as well as ruling on objections made by the parties during the trial. The judge is also responsible for instructing the jury on the applicable law after the parties have presented their evidence.

Judges, however, are human and occasionally make mistakes. Thus, the Maryland court system allows for a party to appeal an adverse legal decision that was made by a trial judge. In order to preserve a claim of error for appellate review, a party must be sure to follow specific procedures. Otherwise, the appellate court may determine that the error was not preserved. A recent case discusses error-preservation in the personal injury context.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a rear-end accident she claimed was caused by the defendant. Before trial, the plaintiff filed proposed jury instructions including an instruction on the doctrine of negligence per se. After the trial had begun, the court held a charging conference; however, the conference was not memorialized. At the end of the conference, the court determined that it was not going to instruct the jury on the plaintiff’s proposed negligence per se instruction. The court asked the parties if either had anything it wanted to put on the record, and the plaintiff’s attorney responded: “I have no issues with the charge, Your Honor.”

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A Maryland personal injury lawsuit is a civil claim, the purpose of which is to seek compensation for the plaintiff’s injuries. However, the defendant’s actions that resulted in the accident may also rise to the level of criminal conduct. If this is the case, then the defendant may face both criminal and civil charges.

It is not uncommon for a defendant to face both criminal and civil charges. For example, in most Maryland DUI accidents, the defendant can be found both criminally and civilly liable. However, for the most part, a personal injury victim will wait until the outcome of a criminal trial to file their lawsuit. There are several reasons for this, including that a criminal conviction can be helpful to a personal injury plaintiff in proving their case against the defendant. However, there are also other considerations that should be taken into account.

A recent opinion from a state appellate court illustrates one potential issue a personal injury plaintiff could face while litigating a civil claim while the defendant’s criminal matter is pending.

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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 accident cases. Specifically, the case involved the question of employer liability following an accident allegedly caused by the negligent actions of an employee.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff, a young child, was seriously injured in an accident with a dump truck. The dump truck driver was hired by Company A, which was working under a contract with Company B. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the dump truck’s driver, Company A, and Company B. The court’s opinion dealt with the potential liability of Company B.

Apparently, the driver of the dump truck tested positive for several controlled substances. The plaintiff claimed that Company B was negligent in failing to ensure that Company A performed a background check on the driver and also that Company B was negligent in failing to determine if the truck driver was drug-free.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case presenting an interesting issue that will be relevant to many Maryland car accident cases. The case involved the potential liability of a landowner for their alleged failure to trim trees that were on their property that obscured motorists’ view of an adjacent intersection.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a driver who was killed in a two-car automobile accident. According to the court’s opinion, the collision occurred at the intersection of two gravel roads. The plaintiff owned the property that was adjacent to the southeast corner of the intersection.

Evidently, after the accident, investigating officers noticed that it was impossible for northbound traffic to see vehicles approaching from the west, and vice-versa, due to the presence of dense foliage on the southwest corner of the intersection. The driver of the other vehicle also explained that he was unable to see the deceased driver’s car until he had entered the intersection.

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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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