Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

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.

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;
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