Most people never expect that they will get into a head-on Maryland car accident. These accidents—where the front ends of two vehicles collide—are always shocking and can be incredibly dangerous. By following the basic rules of the road and driving in the proper direction and in the correct lanes, most drivers can avoid these collisions. But sometimes, circumstances outside of the driver’s control occur, and they find themselves hit head-on by another car. In many circumstances, because these accidents involve hitting vehicles close to the driver’s and passenger’s seats, these accidents can be fatal or result in life-changing injuries.

Take for example a recent fatal crash on I-95 implicating four vehicles, and killing three people. The crash was caused when one vehicle went to great lengths to avoid the police during a police chase. According to a local news article, a Dodger sedan, traveling north on the interstate, reached speeds as high as 80 miles per hour when state troopers tried to pull the vehicle over. However, the driver of the Dodge sped away, and police eventually ended their pursuit due to the significant traffic on the interstate. The Dodge continued north, and ultimately entered the Express Lanes only open to southbound traffic by breaking through three lighted Express Lanes gates. While in the Express Lanes, the Dodge hit a pickup truck head-on, causing it to flip over the guardrail. Two other cars then crashed into the Dodge, which caught on fire.

In the aftermath of this tragic accident, three people were reported dead. The driver of the Dodge was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, a 26-year-old woman, died after being ejected from the car. Additionally, a 61-year-old man driving one of the other vehicles involved in the accident also died at the scene. Other drivers and passengers involved suffered injuries, with one being transported to the hospital for treatment. The aftermath of the crash was so intense that portions of the interstate were shut down for almost seven hours, causing major traffic delays.

The Maryland legislature recently introduced a bill “essentially legalizing recreational use” of marijuana in Maryland, as one news source reported. In 2014, Maryland legalized the medical use of marijuana and also decriminalized less than 10 grams of cannabis. Similar bills have been previously introduced in the state, but none have passed. The recently proposed bill would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults 21 years and older. The bill would also allow for the release of individuals incarcerated for marijuana convictions and the expungement of previous records. Proponents say it would increase the state’s tax revenue and promote social justice. However, others claim that the legalization of marijuana would result in an increase in Maryland car accidents and injuries.

According to a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, after marijuana became legal in Washington state, fatal car accidents involving drivers who had recently used marijuana doubled. The organization also reported an increase in insurance claims in Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada after legalization in those states. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have now legalized marijuana for recreational use. Studies have found varying results on the effects of the legalization of marijuana. One study published by the National Institutes of Health found that three years after the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado motor vehicle crash fatality rates were not statistically different from those in similar states without legalization. However, as referenced, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana in Washington state has doubled since legalization. Another study published in the journal BMJ Open in 2019 found that after legalization in Colorado, car accidents increased 10 percent, and increases in alcohol abuse and overdoses that resulted in injury or death increased by 5 percent. The state legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012.

If someone is injured in a Maryland car accident, they may be able to seek compensation. In a Maryland car accident case alleging that a motor vehicle driver was negligent, the plaintiff must prove that the driver owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that the driver’s actions amounted to a breach of the relevant standard of care, that the driver’s negligent actions caused the plaintiff injuries (being both the cause-in-fact and a legally cognizable cause), and that the plaintiff suffered damages. A plaintiff must prove all of the elements in a negligence claim, and the plaintiff has the burden of proving each element by a preponderance of the evidence.

After being injured in a car crash, victims will often wonder if they are partially to blame for the accident. While this is often not the case, it can still be worrying. If a victim wants to bring a lawsuit against the responsible party in Maryland, they can bring a personal injury suit. However, Maryland is one of the few remaining states that rely on the doctrine of contributory negligence—meaning, if the plaintiff negligently contributed to his injuries, he cannot recover damages. Although this may then seem like a lost cause for many potential personal injury cases, personal injury attorneys are skilled at explaining to juries why their client was not at-fault for the accident that resulted in their injuries.

Earlier this month, a Southern California crash between an S.U.V. and a tractor-trailer has led to at least 13 deaths. According to a recent report, an S.U.V. and tractor-trailer collided on a California highway after the S.U.V. had crossed a fence from the U.S.-Mexico border. The S.U.V. pulled in front of the truck at an intersection, where they then collided. Investigators are still unsure what caused the collision. However, the S.U.V. had over 20 people inside the vehicle and all of the accident victims were in the S.U.V.

For individuals injured in similar car accident cases in Maryland, they victims want to bring charges against the responsible party. However, when it is unclear who is at fault for the accident, recovering can be a real challenge, especially when the others involved in the accident claim the injured motorist was at fault. Because contributory negligence is the law in Maryland, plaintiffs’ attorneys in negligence cases are prepared for defendants who assert the plaintiff is also at fault for the injury. Plaintiffs’ attorneys will examine their client’s case and assess whether there are shortcomings in their argument. This often involves an extensive discovery process—interviewing many witnesses, obtaining video evidence of the accident, and finding people who can speak about the plaintiff’s character. While this may seem time-consuming—and defendants do not often argue the plaintiff is partially responsible for the accident—it is worth it to ensure the plaintiff is prepared for this argument if it arises in court.

Police are investigating a fatal Maryland car accident that killed a pedestrian on a recent afternoon in Prince George’s County. According to one news source, the pedestrian was reportedly running across the I-495 highway where his vehicle was disabled on the shoulder. Traffic had slowed as the pedestrian was crossing the highway when one vehicle struck the pedestrian in the left lane. After the crash, the pedestrian was transported to a local hospital but unfortunately, he died at the hospital. He was 26 years old.

A pedestrian crash is a crash involving any person on foot, including a driver who has exited the vehicle. According to the most recent statistics from Maryland’s Department of Transportation, there were 123 pedestrian fatalities in 2019. There were 6,283 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes throughout the country in 2018, which was the most deaths in almost 30 years. That means that a pedestrian was killed in a traffic crash on average every 84 minutes. That year pedestrian deaths made up 17 percent of all traffic fatalities. The use of alcohol on the part of either the driver or the pedestrian was reported in 48 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 2018. Pedestrian crashes are likely to occur in urban areas. Between 2009 and 2013 about 90 percent of crashes involving a pedestrian in Maryland took place in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas.

Notably, although vehicle traffic has decreased overall during the COVID-19 pandemic, pedestrian and bicycle traffic has increased. To avoid pedestrian crashes, drivers should be on the lookout for pedestrians at all times and should slow down when approaching a crosswalk.

Last month, tragedy struck in Montgomery Village, when a 36-year-old man—a husband and a father—was killed in a Maryland car accident. According to a recent news report, the incident occurred early one morning. The man and his stepson were on their way to work, driving separate cars, when his stepson got into a minor crash on I-95 near Maryland Route 32. He pulled over to assist in the accident and check the damaged vehicle, allowing his stepson to continue on to work. While he was on the side of the road checking the damage, a Honda Civic came speeding by. A witness says the car seemed to be driving 100 miles per hour, despite the wintry conditions on the road. Unfortunately, the car lost control and hit one of the cars on the side of the road. The impact of the crash pushed the second car forward, and essentially pinned the victim between the two cars. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The victim leaves behind two stepchildren and two young daughters, ages 4 and 10, as well as a fiancée. He and his fiancée were planning on getting married last year, but because of COVID-19, they pushed their wedding date to May, which would have marked 14 years together. The family is, of course, heartbroken, struggling with the tragic loss of their fiancée and father.

Losing a loved one unexpectedly is one of the hardest tragedies a person can face. Unfortunately, hundreds of Maryland residents experience that heartbreak every year as a result of Maryland car accidents. In fact, in recent years there have been over 500 deaths on Maryland’s roads annually. Recognizing that families mourning in the aftermath of fatal car accidents may also be struggling financially to recover, Maryland state law gives them the option to file wrongful death lawsuits against whoever caused the crash that led to the fatality.

Maryland car accidents can be expensive. Individuals injured in these accidents often notice the costs piling up in the aftermath—medical bills and expenses from the crash itself, follow-up medical treatment required to recover, not to mention repairing damage to the car, and suffering lost wages due to the accident. One of the things that help Maryland residents, specifically low-income residents, pay for everything is Medicaid, a government program that provides health insurance to over one million people in the state. But sometimes, hospitals may refuse to send the bills to insurance providers like Medicaid, and instead may pursue strategies to charge accident victims full price.

The New York Times recently reported on this shocking practice. According to their article, wealthy hospitals have been quietly using century-old hospital lien laws to increase their own revenue at the expense of poor car accident victims. They use what is called a lien, which is a claim on an asset (such as a home) to make sure that someone repays a debt. By refusing to charge insurance providers the discounted price and taking out a lien instead, they can cripple car accident victims financially, right at the time they are struggling the most. One woman involved in a crash owed $12,856 after the hospital pursued a lien, even though Medicaid would have only had to pay $2,500 for her care. The liens cause accident victims to feel as though a cloud is hanging over their recovery. Some go into debt to cover their subsequent bills, all because they are being preyed upon by a wealthy hospital under an old law.

While it’s concerning, to say the least, in many states, it is perfectly legal.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released updated reports concerning traffic safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reports revealed that though fewer drivers were on the road during the pandemic, some who continued to drive engaged in riskier behaviors. These risky behaviors included failing to wear a seat belt, speeding, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The data reflected that people who sped during the second quarter of 2020, were more likely to drive at “extreme speeds.” These behaviors were also seen among Maryland drivers, where speed camera violations exceeding 100 mph were up 500% the last week of April 2020 compared to the previous year. The proportion of seriously or fatally injured drivers testing positive for opioids almost doubled after mid-March, compared to the previous six months and marijuana use increased by around 50%.

The consequences for Maryland drivers for reckless driving can be severe. State law defines reckless driving as driving with wanton or willful disregard for the safety of other people or property or in a way that indicates such a disregard. Drivers can be charged criminally and may also have to pay compensation to victims because of the damages that resulted.

Drivers must exercise reasonable care while driving, which means they have to drive carefully under the circumstances presented. A plaintiff in a Maryland car accident case must prove that the defendant was negligent in acting or failing to act in some way. In a simple negligence case, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant driver had a duty to exercise reasonable care toward the plaintiff, the defendant failed to exercise such care, and the plaintiff suffered damages, which were caused by the defendant’s failure to exercise care. In a gross negligence case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted with a wanton or reckless disregard for others.

A Maryland car accident lawsuit begins with the filing of a complaint against one or more defendants. Filing pleadings against fictitious persons are known as “John Doe” pleadings. Maryland law does not specifically authorize John Doe pleadings. However, Maryland does permit parties to amend pleadings to add a party or correct an incorrectly named party in some circumstances.

Maryland allows parties amending pleadings to apply the doctrine of relation back by not barring the amended cause of action by the statute of limitations as long as the facts remain essentially the same after the amendment. So, for example, a party may be able to correct the name of an originally-named party, but not to add a new party. A recent case serves as a warning for those who fail to sufficiently investigate and properly name parties before filing a complaint.

According to the state court appellate opinion, in September 2016, a police officer saw a driver run two red lights without stopping, and a police chase ensued. Another officer who joined in the chase and was pursuing the driver drove against the flow of traffic and hit another driver head-on, killing him. The man’s personal representative sued the police officer driving the car, the city, and other named and fictitiously named parties. More than a year later, the representative amended the complaint to substitute the names of the other police officers involved in the chase for the fictitiously named defendants. The defendant officers argued that the amended complaint was not timely filed and was barred by the statute of limitations.

Many Maryland car crashes are not straightforward and some cases involve many parties. Knowing who is to blame is not always clear, which is why so many insurance companies and defendants fight back. Oftentimes, defendants will try to lay blame on the victim in order to relieve themselves of liability. This is an especially useful strategy for defendants in Maryland, because the state follows a law that can be very harsh for car accident victims who are partially at fault.

If a Maryland plaintiff is found to be even partially at fault for an accident, the plaintiff cannot recover compensation from any other parties. This doctrine, known as contributory negligence, is no longer followed by the majority of states, but Maryland is among the few states that continue to apply it. The state legislature has continued to uphold the doctrine despite much criticism of the doctrine. The majority of states in the United States follow a version of comparative negligence. Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, a plaintiff may still recover some compensation even if the plaintiff is partially at fault, though some limit the plaintiff’s fault to 50% or less.

If a case goes to trial, a jury (or judge, in some cases) will consider the plaintiff’s fault while it is considering the defendant’s fault and decide whether the plaintiff is partially at fault. However, the defendant must provide evidence of the plaintiff’s negligence and has the burden to prove each element of a negligence claim to show that the plaintiff acted negligently. In addition, a court will only provide a jury instruction and allow the jury to consider the plaintiff’s fault if the defendant sufficiently establishes that the plaintiff was negligent. And just as any defendant, the plaintiff can defend against claims that the plaintiff acted negligently by submitting arguments and evidence in their defense.

Maryland car accidents happen every single day. Sometimes, they involve just one car, which might hit a tree, a sign, or even a pedestrian. Other times, they may involve two cars or vehicles, usually with one car hitting another. In some cases, however, Maryland car accidents may involve three or more vehicles, usually because one crash leads to a chain reaction of events and crashes, involving several vehicles outside of the original crash. These accidents can be devastating for Maryland drivers and their families, as many people can be seriously injured or even killed in the blink of an eye.

For an example of a chain-reaction, multi-vehicle crash, take a recent Maryland accident. This tragic six-vehicle car accident occurred earlier this month, unfortunately leaving one man dead and two others injured. According to a local news report covering the incident, the accident occurred around 2:45 PM on Maryland Route 32 in Dayton, Maryland. While the investigation of the crash is ongoing, given how recently it occurred, the police say that the preliminary investigation indicates that a Ford pickup truck was traveling north when it crossed the center line of the road and struck an oncoming dump truck. The dump truck then crossed into oncoming traffic and struck a Chevrolet pickup truck, which overturned. Additionally, the original Ford pickup truck continued into oncoming traffic, hitting a car head-on. A Jeep SUV traveling behind the car struck both the car and the Ford pickup truck, and a Toyota SUV was also struck by one of the other vehicles involved. Overall, six different vehicles ended up involved, all due to one driver crossing over the center line.

The driver of the car, which was hit head-on by the Ford pickup truck, was a 50-year-old Cooksville man, tragically pronounced dead at the scene. Three others were injured. A passenger in the car was taken to the Shock Trauma Unit of the hospital with serious injuries, where she was reported to be in critical condition. The driver of the dump truck was also taken to the hospital, though fortunately, his injuries were non-life-threatening. As a result of the crash, the section of Route 32 involved was closed for about six hours.

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