Articles Posted in Weather Related Accidents

Although most Maryland locals are probably familiar with snow and ice, not every Maryland resident knows how to properly drive when there are snowy road conditions. Even for experienced drivers, winter weather conditions can make for dangerous and stressful drives because visibility is low and the roads are slippery. To stay safe during icy conditions, it is best to drive proactively and to prepare your vehicle in advance.

According to a recent local news report, multiple vehicles were involved in a fatal crash on Interstate 81 near Hagerstown. Local authorities reported that the accident was a four-vehicle, chain-reaction crash during poor weather conditions. Under heavy snow conditions, the crash took place when a Mazda, tractor-trailer and Dodge stopped in a southbound lane because of traffic congestion. A separate tractor-trailer approached the three vehicles from behind and collided with the rear of the Dodge, which pushed it into the Mazda. The Mazda was then pushed forward into the rear of the first tractor-trailer. The woman in the Mazda was pronounced dead on the scene and two other drivers were transported to a local hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The accident remains under investigation.

Driving in winter weather can be a challenge even for the most experienced and careful of drivers. In addition to the annual maintenance of your vehicle, you should always prepare and winterize your car so that you are equipped to hit the roads with confidence. Some steps include testing your battery regularly, getting winter tires or keeping an eye on the treads of your all-season tires, checking on tire pressure and wiper blades, and keeping your gas tank at least half full during the colder months to prevent gas line freeze.

December is here, which, for many, signals that the holidays are fast approaching—a time to reflect on the year, take some time off, and spend time with family. But unfortunately, with December and winter comes wintry cold weather, which can pose a danger to drivers and even lead to Maryland car accidents.

How Many Weather-Related Accidents Are There Each Year?

According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are over 5.8 million vehicle crashes every year, on average. Approximately 21% of these crashes—or 1.2 million—are weather-related, meaning they occurred in adverse weather or on pavement affected by the weather. On average, nearly 5,000 people are killed, and over 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year.

So, while it can be very exciting to see a fresh snowfall in Maryland, those who are planning to drive should be aware of the impact the snow, or other wintry weather, might have. Snow might make the roads slushy, leading to difficulty turning or stopping vehicles. Perhaps even more dangerous, sleet or freezing rain can freeze over on the road, causing icy roads that may not even be visible while driving, but can cause serious and even fatal crashes. It may be difficult for drivers to see in wintry weather, as well, further exacerbating the problems.

Earlier this month, a fatal Maryland car accident claimed the lives of five children and seriously injured two adults. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, all seven passengers were in a single minivan, and no other vehicles were involved in the crash.

Evidently, the accident victims were traveling northbound on Route 301 in a Chrysler Pacifica when, just before 5 a.m. the driver of the vehicle lost control of the minivan. The vehicle slid off the road into a wooded area, where it struck several trees before spinning out into a snowy field. When police responded, they found two adults in the driver and passenger seats. Both were seriously injured. All five of the children in the back, ranging in age from five to 15, had been ejected during the crash and were pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders.

Police began an investigation into the cause of the accident, but told reporters that it seems as though none of the children were properly restrained in the back of the minivan. However, the two adults in the vehicle were wearing seatbelts.

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Last month, an appellate court in South Dakota issued a written opinion in a car accident case that will be of interest to Maryland car accident victims considering filing a personal injury case seeking compensation for their injuries. The case illustrates the procedural mechanism of summary judgment and when it is appropriate in personal injury cases. In this case, since the evidence presented gave rise to a material fact that needed to be resolved by the jury, the appellate court determined that the lower court was proper to deny the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.

Summary Judgment in Maryland Car Accident Cases

Summary judgment is a motion that can be filed by either a plaintiff or a defendant, seeking early judgment in that party’s favor based on the other parties’ inability to legally succeed. Commonly, summary judgment motions are filed by defendants in Maryland car accident cases, arguing that there is some defect in the plaintiff’s case, such that, even if all of the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s case will still fail.

In order to survive a summary judgment challenge, a party must establish that there is some factual question in the case that needs resolution. If that is the case, the court will deny the motion for summary judgment and submit the case to a jury. However, if the parties essentially agree on the facts and are arguing only over the application of the law, the judge can make the determination.

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Earlier this week, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an auto accident case, affirming a jury verdict in favor of the defense. In the case, Marshall v. Peter, the jury determined that the defendant was not negligent when he ran into the back end of the plaintiff’s vehicle as both drivers were stopped at an intersection. The appellate court determined that reasonable jurors could have found that the defendant’s conduct was not negligent, and therefore it affirmed the verdict below.

The Facts of the Case

Marshall was stopped in first position at an intersection, waiting for a green signal. When the signal changed to green, she started to proceed into the intersection with the defendant behind her. The defendant had removed his foot off the brake pedal, but he had not yet depressed the gas pedal when he noticed that Marshall’s car had stopped. He tried to brake but slid on the ice and collided with the rear end of Marshall’s vehicle.

Marshall filed a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver, claiming he was negligent in causing the collision. Marshall was seeking over $200,000 in economic and non-economic damages. The case was submitted to a jury, and it was decided the driver was not negligent. In a post-trial motion, Marshall asked the judge to override the jury’s verdict because “no reasonable juror” could have found that the defendant was not negligent.

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Workers’ compensation is a program that is designed to compensate workers who are injured while on the job. In order to qualify for the program, an employer must meet certain criteria. If these criteria are met, an employee who is injured or killed while on the job may be required to seek compensation through the workers’ compensation program. However, if an employer fails to meet the necessary criteria, a personal injury case will not be barred, and an injured party may pursue a claim against their employer. A recent case illustrates how these cases proceed through the court system.

Kay v. Wiggins:  The Facts

Wiggins ran a furniture business. On the side, he would move Budget rental trucks from one location to another for extra income. Kay was an employee of Wiggins, who would help out both with the furniture business and also with the truck-relocation project. On the day in question, Wiggins asked Kay to relocate a truck. Because of inclement weather, Kay was reluctant. Wiggins told Kay that if the truck was not moved on that evening, it would have to be moved the next morning.

That next morning, Kay arrived, planning to relocate the truck. However, on the way to his destination, he was involved in an accident that claimed his life. Kay’s estate sued Wiggins, arguing that he was at least in part responsible for Kay’s death. In response, Wiggins asked the court to dismiss the case and showed the court documentation that he was in compliance with the state’s workers’ compensation program. Kay provided nothing to rebut this evidence.

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The State Supreme Court of Maine recently affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of a truck rental company and an employer after an employee who was driving the truck was killed when the van slid off an icy road. About a year and a half after the fatal accident, the estate of the victim brought a lawsuit against the rental company and the driver’s employer. Both parties moved to dismiss the case and argued that they did not breach a duty owed to the employee, they did not proximately cause the employee’s death, and they were not vicariously liable for his death.

The lower court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff’s estate then appealed. However, in a recently released opinion, the higher court agreed with the court below and concluded that they did not need to determine the specific and actual nature of the relationship between the two defendants because the plaintiffs did not present evidence to show that they were responsible.

Employer Responsibility and Liability in Maryland Personal Injury Lawsuits

In certain situations, a person may be actually injured by one party, but another party or entity may also be proximately liable. Essentially, proximate liability means that although a party may not have actually caused the injury, they engaged in some behavior that led to the injury or accident. A common situation in which this arises is when an employee is injured or causes an injury while they are performing a duty in the scope of their employment.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alaska issued a written opinion holding that a lower court erred when it denied the plaintiff the opportunity to submit evidence of the payments made by the defendant’s insurance company to the plaintiff to help establish the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries. In the case, Luther v. Lander, the court determined that the insurance payments to the plaintiff were relevant to the determination of how serious the plaintiff’s injuries were.

The Facts of the Case

Back in 2010, the defendant’s vehicle slipped on some ice and rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle. At first, the plaintiff did not notice any serious injury, but as time went on, she realized that she had lingering pain in her back and buttocks. She eventually sought medical care but did so in a very conservative manner, seeking only non-invasive, physical therapy-type treatment.

About two years later, the plaintiff filed this lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for her injuries. However, throughout the trial, the defense evidence seemed to indicate that the plaintiff’s injuries were minor and that she was making them seem more serious than they were.

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