Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a man whose wife was killed by a drunk driver as she was sitting under a cabana at the defendant hotel’s pool. The plaintiff claimed that the hotel should have erected some sort of barrier to prevent this type of accident from occurring. However, the court ultimately dismissed his case, finding that the hotel did not have a duty to erect a barrier under the circumstances. The case might be of interest to Maryland car accident victims.

Poolside CabanaThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and his wife were visiting the defendant hotel. The couple was outside under a cabana at the hotel’s pool when a drunk driver failed to negotiate a turn in the road, jumped a curb, crashed through the fence surrounding the pool area, and collided with the cabana. As a result of the collision, the plaintiff was injured, and his pregnant wife was killed.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the hotel, claiming that it was negligent in failing to take precautions to prevent this type of accident from occurring. The plaintiff called several expert witnesses, who testified that the way the road curved next to the hotel meant that cars would be going full-speed as they were heading directly at the hotel’s pool area. Additionally, the plaintiff presented evidence that hotel management knew that motorists would often speed down the section of road adjacent to the hotel.

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When a driver drinks too much and then gets behind the wheel, they put everyone on the road at risk. It is common knowledge that anyone injured in a Washington, D.C. drunk driving accident can seek compensation for their injuries from the drunk driver. However, what is less known is that a bar, club, or restaurant that over-serves a customer to the point of intoxication may also be held liable in some circumstances. This is known as Dram Shop liability.

Golf CourseIn most states that permit Dram Shop cases, there is a specific statute that allows victims to proceed against the serving establishment. However, there is no such statute in Washington, D.C. That being said, Washington, D.C. courts have routinely upheld a plaintiff’s right to seek compensation in Dram Shop cases based on D.C. Code Annotated section 25-781, which prohibits the sale of alcohol to anyone who is intoxicated, appears to be intoxicated, or is known to have a drinking problem. Importantly, Maryland courts have routinely rejected the theory of Dram Shop liability. Thus, Maryland drunk driving victims can hold the serving establishment liable for injuries caused by a drunk driver.

A recent appellate court decision out of Florida illustrates how Dram Shop liability can help an injured plaintiff seek the compensation they deserve.

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Maryland hit-and-run accidents present a number of legal questions. Most often, these questions are answered by the courts after an accident victim files a claim against their own insurance company that is subsequently denied. Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving two defendants:  a hit-and-run driver listed only as “John Doe,” as well as the named defendant. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s choice of venue was proper, given the fact that neither the plaintiff nor the named defendant lived in the county where the case was filed.

Car AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were traveling on a Georgia highway when an unknown motorist entered their lane of travel, causing them to slow down in order to avoid a collision. As the plaintiffs’ vehicle slowed, the defendant’s vehicle crashed into the back of the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The vehicle that cut the plaintiffs off drove off without stopping and was never located.

The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant who had struck their car as well as the hit-and-run driver who caused them to slow down in the first place. The plaintiffs’ claim against the defendant was that he was following too closely at the time. The case was filed in the county where the accident occurred.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued an interesting written opinion in a product liability case, discussing when a plaintiff is able to introduce evidence of similar defects in the defendant’s product that had occurred in the past.

car interiorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were stopped at a highway off-ramp when they were rear-ended by a 1996 Toyota that was exiting the highway, traveling at 75 miles per hour. Two of the people in the car were instantly killed, and three other passengers were seriously injured, with one suffering from quadriplegia.

Initially, the other driver was charged with vehicular homicide; however, Toyota later announced a recall of the braking systems of many 1996 Toyotas, including the other driver’s vehicle. He was later exonerated. After the recall and subsequent exoneration, the plaintiffs in the stopped vehicle filed a product liability lawsuit against Toyota.

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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.

RockslideThe 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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Last year, one man was killed when he was driving a vehicle equipped with a semi-auto-pilot feature and crashed into a truck. According to a recent report discussing the findings of a National Highway Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, it appears that the driver of the vehicle was given many warnings to take control of the vehicle in the moments leading up to the fatal accident.

Front-End DamageThe Accident

The driver of the vehicle was traveling on a Florida highway on a sunny day, using the auto-pilot feature on his Tesla Model S. At some point, a semi-truck made a turn in front of the Tesla, and the driver of the Tesla failed to stop, slamming into the side of the truck. The driver was killed instantly.

After the collision, the NTSB conducted a year-long investigation, only recently releasing its findings. Apparently, for the 41 minutes prior to the accident, the vehicle was in auto-pilot mode for 37.5 minutes. For all but 30 seconds of that time, the driver had his hands off the steering wheel. According to the newly released report, the vehicle’s automated system warned the driver seven times to place his hands back on the steering wheel and retake control of the vehicle.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case that required the court to determine whether the instructions provided to the jury by the trial judge were appropriate under the circumstances. Ultimately, the court concluded that the provided instruction was proper and affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Rental CarThe Facts of the Case

A rental car company rented a car to a woman while her car was in the shop. The woman lived in her parents’ house, with about 10 to 12 others, most of which were family. According to the woman, she kept the keys in her locked room. However, another witness testified that she kept the keys on the kitchen counter.

One day, a man who was dating one of the other residents in the home took the woman’s car keys, got in the car, and drove to the store. On the way, he struck the plaintiff, who was riding a motorcycle at the time. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries as a result of the accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the car, the woman who rented it, and the company that owned the car.

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It should come as no surprise that inexperienced drivers are responsible for a disproportionate number of Maryland car accidents. Indeed, according to the Maryland Highway Safety Office, there are approximately 15,800 accidents caused by motorists between the ages of 16 and 20 each year, resulting in about 87 deaths per year. This accounts for roughly 16% of all of the traffic fatalities in Maryland.

Muddy Car AccidentMaryland lawmakers have implemented a graduated licensing program to help ensure that those who drive on Maryland roads are properly educated and have the requisite amount of experience before getting behind the wheel on their own. First, new drivers must obtain a learner’s permit, and then a provisional license. And finally, assuming the new driver has passed all of the required tests and has been free of a traffic conviction, the new driver will be given a driver’s license.

While new drivers do have to jump through a number of hoops before they are able to obtain their license in Maryland, the fact remains that new drivers frequently cause car accidents. This may be due to a lack of experience, questionable judgment, distraction, or intoxication. In any case, the law does not excuse a driver from liability merely because they are new to driving. Those who have been injured in a Maryland car accident caused by a young or inexperienced driver may be able to pursue a personal injury claim to seek compensation related to the injuries sustained in the accident.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in South Carolina issued an interesting opinion in a case brought by a man who was injured when he was involved in an accident while driving a GM vehicle. The case required the court to determine if a plaintiff’s own negligence in causing their injuries is relevant when the plaintiff files a product liability claim against the vehicle’s manufacturer. Ultimately, the court concluded that a plaintiff’s own potential negligence is not relevant to the inquiry and should not be considered.

Old TruckThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a passenger in a 1987 Chevy Pick-up truck that was being driven by a friend. The evidence presented at trial suggested that the two had smoked synthetic marijuana earlier in the day. At one point, the driver of the pick-up failed to stop at a stop sign, and the vehicle was struck by another truck towing a horse trailer. The pick-up truck burst into flames after the collision. The driver of the vehicle died, and the plaintiff was seriously injured.

The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against GM, the manufacturer of the pick-up truck, arguing that the placement of the gas tank caused the fire. Importantly, the plaintiff was only seeking compensation for his enhanced burn injuries.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a case involving a motorcyclist who was killed after he fell off his motorcycle and was struck by a car. At issue in the case was whether the man’s insurance coverage was triggered. The lower court determined that it was not, but on appeal, the court held that there were material issues that should be submitted to a jury for resolution.

Suit on MotorcycleThe Facts of the Case

The accident victim was riding his motorcycle when a garbage can fell off a truck and got stuck in the wheel of his motorcycle. The man lost control of the motorcycle, fell off, and rolled to a stop in an adjacent lane. Before he could get up, he was struck by a passing vehicle.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. It could not be determined whether he died as a result of falling off the motorcycle onto the pavement, or whether he survived the initial fall and was killed when he was struck by the passing motorist.

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