While governments may be entitled to immunity in some car accidents that are based on a negligent-design theory, the government can still be held liable for failing to safely maintain a road or highway. However, the distinction between design and maintenance is not always clear-cut. For example, consider the following:
- A turn with visibility obstructed by large trees or rocks;
- An intersection with misleading or improperly marked signage;
- Malfunctioning traffic lights;
- Dangerous potholes or unmarked hazards; and
- Landscaping that obscures motorists’ vision of an intersection or oncoming traffic
A Maryland car accident victim who is injured in an accident that was caused by any of the above scenarios may be able to pursue a claim for compensation against the government agency responsible for maintaining the road. A recent state appellate decision discusses one plaintiff’s case against a local government agency based on the road’s dangerous condition.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured when he was struck by a police vehicle as he entered an intersection. Evidently, the plaintiff came to a stop at the white line indicating the beginning of the intersection, and then began to proceed into the intersection. However, due to the presence of several large trees, the plaintiff’s view was obstructed, and he could not see the officer approaching the intersection.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the government entity charged with maintaining the intersection. The plaintiff claimed that the city was negligent in marking the intersection in such a way that motorists could not see oncoming traffic. The city made several arguments in response to the plaintiff’s claim, including that it was entitled to governmental immunity.
The Court’s Opinion
The court began by explaining that government agencies are not immune from liability stemming from the agency’s failure to safely maintain public streets. However, the court explained that a plaintiff must establish that the government agency was on notice of the danger before a plaintiff can recover for their injuries. This can be proven through prior accident reports or traffic-safety studies that were available to the city before the accident.
Here, the court weighed the factors on each side and determined that a jury should have the final decision as to whether the placement of the tree near the intersection exposed the city to liability. Thus, the city’s motion for summary judgment was denied, and the case was permitted to proceed towards trial.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, contact the dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. The experienced team of Maryland personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen have extensive experience handling personal injury claims for clients across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland and Virginia Car Accidents Caused by Unsafe Roads, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published December 24, 2018.
Employer Liability in Maryland Auto Accidents, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published January 10, 2019.