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 plaintiff sued the truck driver under a theory of negligence per se. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s failure to properly secure the mattress to the trailer was in violation of a specific provision of the vehicle code. The defendant responded by arguing that the eyewitnesses were wrong and that he was never carrying the mattress that day. The defendant argued that, even if the mattress did come from his truck, the defendant was not negligent because he told an employee to secure all cargo in the trailer.
At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court instructed the jury on the doctrine of negligence per se, but included an additional instruction that, “A violation of a law is excused if the following is true: that despite using reasonable care, a person was not able to obey the law.” The jury found in the defendant’s favor and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the lower court erred when it gave the jury the additional “excuse” instruction. The court agreed, noting that the facts presented by the defendant did not warrant the instruction. The court explained that to obtain this type of instruction, a defendant must present evidence showing that they tried to comply with the law but were unable to do so. Here, the court noted that the only evidence offered by the defendant was that he asked his employee to ensure that the trailer was empty. The court then reversed the jury’s verdict, reasoning that the error was not harmless and required a new trial.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a love one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At the Maryland car accident law firm, Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we represent injury victims in all types of Maryland auto accidents, including truck and motorcycle accidents. We also offer free consultations to accident victims to discuss how we can help them pursue a claim for compensation. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.