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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Seatbelt use is one of the best ways to limit the potentially disastrous effects of a serious car accident. According to a recent news report, over the past few decades, lawmakers across the country have tried to cut back on the number of fatal car accidents by passing “click it or ticket” laws, requiring motorists to wear a seatbelt or be fined.

Seat BeltIndeed, Maryland has its own version of the click it or ticket law, which can result in an $83 fine if a motorist is caught driving without their seatbelt. In Maryland, a failure to wear a seatbelt is a primary offense – meaning a police officer can pull a motorist over based solely on not wearing a seatbelt – for drivers, front-seat passengers, and minors under the age of 16. For back-seat passengers over the age of 16, it is a secondary offense, meaning a police officer can only ticket a motorist if there was some other valid reason for the traffic stop.

While it cannot be disputed that seatbelts save lives, seatbelts can only limit the injuries sustained in an accident and can do nothing to prevent accidents themselves. As a result, courts across the country have had to determine whether a car accident victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt should be admissible evidence at a trial involving the at-fault driver.

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Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a product liability case involving the question of which types of damages are appropriate when a party acts in bad faith during the discovery process. Ultimately, the court concluded that damages to compensate the plaintiff for actual costs incurred are appropriate, but punitive damages may not be awarded by the court.

Tire TreadThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were involved in a serious accident when their motor home swerved off the road and flipped over. At the time of the accident, the plaintiffs’ motor home was equipped with Goodyear tires. The plaintiffs filed a product liability lawsuit against Goodyear, claiming that the tire was not safe for motorhome applications because it was not designed to withstand the amount of heat generated when driven at highway speeds.

The pre-trial discovery process lasted for several years. Goodyear was slow to respond to many discovery requests. Specifically, the plaintiffs repeatedly asked Goodyear to hand over the internal test results for the model of tire installed on the motor home, but the information released by the company failed to include any of the requested information.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a car accident case brought by a man who was involved in an accident with a school bus. The issue presented to the court was whether a default judgment that had been entered against the school district should be reopened based on the plaintiff’s failure to effectuate proper service. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s method of service was proper and declined the opportunity to reopen the default judgment.

School BusThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant school district, claiming that it was negligent in the hiring, training, and supervision of the school bus driver who allegedly caused the accident. After filing the lawsuit in the local court, the plaintiff hired a process server to serve the defendant school district, as was required by law.

The process server went to the school district’s main building, passed a secure entrance point, and asked where he could serve the district notice of the pending lawsuit. The process server was directed to the desk of the assistant to the Human Resources Director, where he served the school district.

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In order to safely operate a car or truck, the driver must exhibit skill, patience, and good judgment while on the road. When drivers fail to exercise the appropriate level of caution while behind the wheel, the chance of causing a serious or fatal accident greatly increases. Drivers with little experience, particularly minor children, cause a disproportionate number of accidents. In fact, while teen drivers make up only a small percentage of the overall number of motorists, they are responsible for over 12% of all traffic accidents.

Missing HeadlightWhen a minor causes a car accident, certain legal considerations arise regarding the accident victim’s ability to receive compensation for their injuries. As a general rule, those under 18 years of age are considered minors. Maryland law places limits on when minors and their parents can be held responsible for certain conduct. For example, the parents of a minor can be held responsible to pay for damages caused by their child’s willful misconduct.

Generally speaking, parents are not liable for the negligent actions of their children because “kids will be kids.” However, there is an exception under Maryland law when the minor negligently causes a motor vehicle accident. In this situation, the parent or guardian who co-signed the minor’s driver’s license application can be held financially responsible for any injuries that occurred as a result of the minor’s negligence.

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Earlier this month, a Florida jury awarded a victim of a drunk driving accident $8 million for her medical expenses, permanent injuries, and pain and suffering related to the accident. According to one local news source covering the case, the accident occurred back on October 1, 2010, and it involved allegations that the drunk driver was traveling at about 100 miles per hour when he ran into the back of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

Blurred CityscapePolice conducted a blood test after the accident, which indicated that the driver’s blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. In an interesting turn, the driver responsible for the accident was not criminally charged, despite the evidence of intoxication. Reporters attempted to contact the prosecutor’s office to ask why the case never was brought, but prosecutors did not have an answer, explaining only that there was no record that the case ever reached the office.

The victim of the accident explained to reporters that she had “experienced countless doctors’ appointments, therapy, injections, and then surgery.” Finally, almost seven years after the accident, she received the compensation she deserved.

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According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, each day, eight people are killed in preventable accidents that were caused by distracted driving. Furthermore, it is estimated that there are about 1,000 people who are injured per day in distracted driving accidents. Due to the recent increase in distracted driving and the continuing temptation for drivers to text or talk on the phone while behind the wheel, the National Safety Council designates the month of April as distracted driving awareness month.

Cell PhoneDistracted driving can take many forms. Any time a driver engages in an activity that removes their attention from the road, they are engaging in distracted driving. A few of the most common examples of distracted driving are:

  • Talking or texting on a cell phone,
  • Eating or drinking,
  • Talking to a front- or rear-seat passenger,
  • Inputting a destination on a GPS system, and
  • Reading or playing games on a cell phone.

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By accepting a Maryland driver’s license, all motorists assume a legal duty to operate their vehicles in a safe and responsible manner and in accordance with the state’s traffic laws. In some cases, a driver’s dangerous driving habits do not rise to the level of criminal conduct, but they may still be the basis for a personal injury lawsuit. For example, if a driver causes an accident while daydreaming behind the wheel, it is most likely that they will be issued a citation, and no further criminal charges will be pursued. However, the accident victim may still choose to pursue a personal injury case to recover for the damages they sustained in the accident.

CocktailOther dangerous driving behavior, such as drunk driving, is both a violation of a criminal law as well as a basis for civil liability. This means that if a drunk driver causes an accident, they will likely face criminal charges that could result in probation, fines, and even imprisonment. However, the focus of a criminal trial is not to obtain compensation for the injuries sustained by the accident victim. If an accident victim would like to obtain compensation for their injuries, this must be done through a personal injury lawsuit.

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Despite the millions of dollars spent by the state and federal governments to curb the dangerous habit of drunk driving, the reality is that drunk drivers still pose a serious threat to Maryland motorists. While the total number of alcohol-related deaths has fallen, the percentage of alcohol-related deaths in relation to the total number of vehicle fatalities remains the same as in years past. In fact, in 2016, 159 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes across the State of Maryland. This represents about 31% of the total number of traffic fatalities.

White Knuckle GripMaryland lawmakers are aware of the drunk driving problem facing the state and continue to take action to stop it. In fact, according to a recent local news source, Maryland lawmakers are currently trying to pass a bill that would increase the criminal penalties for drunk drivers who cause serious injuries as a result of their actions. Evidently, the law currently calls for enhanced penalties when a drunk driver causes “life-threatening injury;” however, the proposed bill would amend that language to include any “serious physical injury.”

This most recent move to implement stricter criminal penalties reflects Maryland lawmakers’ dedication to reducing drunk driving. However, the criminal consequences of drunk driving only represent part of a drunk driver’s potential liability. Drunk drivers may also be liable to their victims through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving a two-car collision that resulted in a nearby crossing guard being struck and seriously injured by one of the vehicles. The court had to decide whether both parties to the car accident could potentially be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Ultimately, the court held that a jury should be able to determine and apportion fault between the motorists, and allowed the case to proceed toward trial against both parties.

CrosswalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a crossing guard stationed on the corner near the school. A few minutes before her shift was scheduled to end, she looked up and saw a black car speeding down the road, passing cars in the opposing lane of traffic. As the car approached the intersection where the plaintiff was stationed, it ran a red light. The car entered the intersection at the same time as a pick-up truck also entered the intersection with a green light on its side. The vehicles collided, and the force of the collision sent the pick-up truck careening into the plaintiff. She was thrown against a nearby wall and suffered serious injuries as a result.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both drivers. During summary judgment proceedings, the pick-up truck driver asked the court to dismiss the case against him, because it was uncontested that he’d entered the intersection with a green light. The trial judge agreed that the pick-up truck driver was not negligent because he had a green light, and granted summary judgment in his favor. The plaintiff appealed.

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