Articles Posted in Single-vehicle Accidents

After a car accident, injury victims may experience a slew of physical and psychological trauma, resulting in lengthy and costly medical treatment. Moreover, Maryland accident claims tend to be more complex than other states because of strict contributory negligence laws. Under this standard, a victim who holds any responsibility for the accident cannot recover any damages.

Fortunately, in the overwhelming majority of cases, passengers do not have control over the vehicle, and as such, they are unlikely to be liable for the accident. However, while contributory negligence may not be an issue, other factors may complicate Maryland accident claims.

While drivers are more likely to die in an accident than passengers, thousands of passengers suffer injuries every year. Recent reports by the Maryland Department of Transportation indicate that nearly 50,000 people suffer injuries on Maryland roads every year. Passengers are particularly vulnerable because they have zero to little control over the actions or negligence of the driver or other motorists.

When someone is injured in a Maryland car accident due to another driver’s negligence, state law allows them to sue the responsible driver in a personal injury suit. However, what is less well known is that someone who is injured in a single-vehicle Maryland car accident may still be able to obtain compensation for their injuries. For example, in some situations, dangerous and hazardous conditions on the roads may lead to accidents, and injured victims may be able to sue their city government, who is responsible for maintaining roads and ensuring their safety.

For example, take a recent state appellate court decision. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was driving in August of 2016, when she suddenly hit an uncovered manhole. This caused an accident, and the plaintiff was seriously injured as a result. She decided to file a personal injury suit against the city, alleging that the manhole was a public nuisance and presenting evidence in the form of photographs. The photographs showed that the manhole sat several inches below the surface of the street and that there were cracks in the surrounding pavement. According to her expert witness, this meant that there was an increased risk of the cover being dislodged. The jury in the case sided with the plaintiff and found the city to be liable, and the city appealed.

On appeal, the court reversed the jury verdict and directed a verdict for the defendant city. The court found that the plaintiff did not establish the elements required to hold a city liable for a public nuisance, because she had to show that the deteriorated condition of the manhole existed on the day of the accident or that the city had notice of the condition before the accident. Because the photographs she submitted into evidence were taken over a year after the accident occurred, the court found that she had failed to establish these elements, and a jury could not find the city liable. As such, the verdict was reversed, and the plaintiff’s suit ended.

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.

Despite the recent push by the federal and state governments, fatigued driving remains a leading cause of Maryland car accidents. The dangers of drowsy driving are undisputed, even when a driver remains awake. Drivers who do not obtain enough sleep, or are otherwise drowsy, suffer from decreased attention span, increased reaction time, and compromised judgment. Of course, there is also the chance that a driver falls asleep behind the wheel, losing all control of the vehicle.

It is estimated that 21% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involve a fatigued driver. Most often, a driver experienced fatigue due to a lack of sleep. However, intoxication, medication, and various medical conditions can also cause sleepiness. In almost all cases, a driver should be able to notice the effects of drowsiness setting in and should pull off the road when it is no longer safe to operate a motor vehicle.

When a drowsy driver causes a Maryland car accident, anyone injured as a result of the accident may be entitled to compensation through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. This includes passengers of the car being driven by the at-fault driver. However, establishing liability for a drowsy driving accident may not always be straightforward. Anyone considering filing a Maryland personal injury lawsuit should consult with a dedicated personal injury attorney.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nevada issued a written opinion in a product liability case that will be of interest to anyone who is considering filing a Maryland product liability lawsuit. The case required the court to consider the defendant auto manufacturer’s argument that the risk-utility test should be adopted over the consumer-expectations test, which had long been the prevailing test for product liability claims. Ultimately, the court rejected the auto manufacturer’s request to adopt the risk-utility test and affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

Maryland courts apply the consumer-expectations test when evaluating a product liability lawsuit. This test requires courts to put themselves in the position of a consumer, asking whether the product at issue performed as expected under the circumstances. Some other jurisdictions apply the risk-utility test, which asks whether there is a reasonably safe alternative design that the manufacturer could have used rather than the design that was actually used. Under this test, it is the plaintiff’s burden to establish that the reasonable alternative exists.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving an SUV manufactured by the defendant, with her husband riding as the front-seat passenger. As the plaintiff attempted a lane change, the trailer she was towing began to fishtail, and the SUV flipped over, rolling several times. When the vehicle came to a stop, it was resting on its roof. The plaintiff was able to slip out of the window, but her husband was crushed. The plaintiff filed this product liability lawsuit against the auto manufacturer, claiming that the SUV’s roof was not sufficiently tested and was defectively designed.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Hawaii issued a written opinion in a personal injury case brought by the occupants of a vehicle that was struck by rocks that fell onto the highway during a rock slide.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were driving on a Hawaii highway when a rock slide occurred, and debris contained in the slide struck their vehicle. At the time, Hawaii had a system to rate various roads that are at risk of being affected by rock slides. The area where the plaintiffs were injured was known as an area with the highest risk level. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit, claiming that the government was negligent in failing to address the area and implement measures to prevent a slide from occurring.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the government, finding that while the government was negligent, the government’s negligence was not the cause of the plaintiffs’ injuries. The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to show that had the government taken action, the slide would have been prevented. The court also determined that the government was entitled to immunity because the decision to have a rock-slide mitigation system was a discretionary one. The plaintiff appealed.

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Earlier this month, the Vermont Supreme Court issued an opinion in a personal injury case affirming the lower court’s decision that a landlord who leased his property to a tenant was not liable when the tenant’s horse escaped and caused an accident.

In the case, Deveneau v. Weilt, the plaintiff was injured when he was involved in a single-car accident after crashing into a horse on the highway. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against both the horse’s owner as well as the man who leased land to the animal’s owner. In a pretrial motion, the landowner asked the trial court to dismiss the case against him, because he had nothing to do with the horses, and only leased the land to the horse’s owner. The trial court agreed that there was insufficient evidence to hold the landowner liable, and dismissed the case against him.

The plaintiff then appealed the decision to the Vermont Supreme Court. On appeal, the court noted that this was a case of first impression, meaning that the exact issue had never come up before. However, the court ultimately agreed with the landowner and affirmed the dismissal of the case.

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Earlier this month, a Montana court dismissed a plaintiff’s claim based on the fact that the plaintiff failed to introduce evidence of the applicable standard of care to which the defendant’s conduct could be compared. In the case, Not Afraid v. Montana, the plaintiff was paralyzed after the vehicle he was riding in as a passenger collided with and then crashed through a concrete barrier, ultimately sliding down a steep hillside.

Several years after the accident, the man filed suit against the State, County, and City governments, alleging that negligence in the placement and maintenance of the concrete barriers contributed to his injuries. Most relevant was the plaintiff’s claim against the City, which was charged with maintaining that particular section of roadway.

The Plaintiff’s Case

The plaintiff claimed that the City was negligent in the placement, installation, and maintenance of the concrete barriers. To support his claim, the plaintiff submitted a four-page report prepared by an accident-reconstruction expert. That report concluded that the vehicle the plaintiff was traveling in was likely going about 45 miles per hour when it collided with the barrier, and “the barriers were relatively ineffective in containing higher speed vehicles traveling around the curve.”

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Two years ago, actor Paul Walker was killed in a car accident when the Porsche he was riding in as a passenger crashed on a California road. According to one national news source following the lawsuit filed by Walker’s daughter, Porsche recently filed a request with the court to dismiss the case against the company, arguing that Walker’s death was his own fault for getting into the car on the day of the accident.

Evidently, the filing claimed that Walker’s death was the result of his own “comparative fault,” since he knew and assumed the risks involved with getting into the car. The filing claimed that Walker “knowingly and voluntarily assumed all risk, perils, and danger” involved with riding as a passenger in the vehicle, and the vehicle he was riding in was “abused and altered” and improperly maintained. Porsche claims that Walker was aware of these facts when he got into the passenger seat that day, and by doing so he knew the risks involved.

A representative for Walker’s daughter told reporters that Walker was a “passenger in a car that was not designed to protect its occupants, in a crash on a dry, empty straightaway in broad daylight and at speeds well below the vehicle’s advertised capabilities.” He also claimed that, had the car been manufactured with the proper safety features, Walker would likely still be alive today.

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Earlier this month, a five-year-old girl was killed and her nine-year-old sister seriously injured when the children’s mother veered off the road and into another vehicle. According to a report by the local NBC News affiliate, the accident occurred at around 5:30 in the afternoon around the 3600 block of North Franklintown Road at Leakin Park in West Baltimore.

Evidently, the two children were riding in the car with their mother when she lost control of the vehicle and crashed into another nearby car. Both children in the car were taken to the hospital. The five-year-old girl was pronounced dead shortly after her arrival, and her nine-year-old sister was admitted in serious condition. The driver of the other vehicle sustained only minor injuries.

Police are still in the process of conducting their official investigation. However, they did tell reporters that the roadway was wet and slick at the time of the accident, and the specific section of road where the fatal accident occurred is particularly curvy.

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