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When accidents happen and people are injured, many individuals rely on their insurance policies to help them cover the costs. For instance, homeowner’s insurance policies can protect individuals if something that they own hurts someone else or damages their property. Maryland law allows the injured party to sue the at-fault party in court to recover monetary compensation, and insurance can help the at-fault party cover all or part of the award. However, some insurance companies may try to escape liability for certain types of accidents, relying on vague or ambiguous language in the policy’s contract.

Take a recent state appellate case, for example. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff brought suit when she was injured by the defendant’s Ford truck. The truck had been parked on an incline on the driveway when the plaintiff, examining it, pulled the emergency brake. The truck subsequently took off and went down the driveway, rolling over the plaintiff’s ankles and causing her multiple injuries, including several fractures and a knee effusion. The plaintiff then filed suit against the defendant, alleging negligence.

Typically, in situations like this, a defendant with homeowner’s insurance would receive assistance from their insurance company. However, the defendant’s insurer filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment to determine whether or not it had to cover the incident. The insurance company argued that they did not provide coverage for claims arising out of the “use” of a motor vehicle, and thus were not obliged to cover the defendant here. Ultimately, the question came down to what the ambiguous term “use of a motor vehicle” meant, since there was no further definition in the policy contract.

Understanding insurance coverage is a crucial part of any Maryland car accident case. After an accident, many unfamiliar terms may come up, potentially confusing an accident victim. Insurance stacking refers to a coverage option that some states allow policyholders to obtain to protect themselves if they are in a car accident with an under or uninsured motorist (UIM). Stacking enables policyholders to make claims under two policies or make two claims from different vehicles under the same policy. To obtain stacked insurance coverage, the policyholder must live in a state that allows this type of coverage.

State laws vary on whether policyholders are permitted to stack insurance policies. For example, Maryland does not permit policyholders to stack with multiple policies or within one policy if the language is clear and unambiguous. Whereas, Virginia allows drivers to stack policies unless there is clear and unambiguous language prohibiting stacking. Additionally, policyholders who wish to get this coverage must have UIM coverage on two cars under one policy or two separate policies on two vehicles. This coverage allows motorists to increase their bodily injury coverage if they are involved in an accident with a UIM.

States that allow stacking remove some unfair and burdensome barriers that motorists face when they are involved with a negligent uninsured driver. For example, a state appellate court recently issued an opinion in a case stemming from a car accident involving an underinsured driver. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff purchased a car insurance policy for two of her vehicles. She initially waived her right to stack her UIM coverage but then increased her coverage and was not presented with the same waiver at that time. Several years later, she was involved in an accident with an underinsured driver, and the insurance company attempted to limit her coverage and claimed that she waived stacking when she increased her coverage. The appellate court found that it was the insurance company’s responsibility to provide her with a new waiver; otherwise, it could not be said that the plaintiff waived her right to the coverage.

When someone is involved in a Maryland car accident, they have the right to file a claim against any party they believe to be at fault for the accident. Typically, these personal injury claims are made against other motorists. However, when the named defendant has an auto insurance policy – as all Maryland motorists are required to have – the insurance company steps into the shoes of the at-fault motorist to defend against the accident victim’s claim. Thus, in most Maryland car accident cases, the plaintiff is actually going up against an insurance company, rather than the at-fault driver.

Unfortunately, it can be challenging for accident victims to work with insurance companies. This difficulty is illustrated in a recent opinion released by a state appellate court. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was killed in a car accident after he was involved in a verbal dispute with the defendant outside of a bar. Evidently, as the plaintiff was leaving the bar, the defendant ran him over, killing him. The defendant was charged with voluntary manslaughter.

The plaintiff’s family filed a wrongful death claim against the defendant, who was insured through the defendant insurance company. The policy limit was $20,000 for compulsory insurance and $480,000 in optional insurance. The insurance company paid the $20,000 but argued that the optional insurance coverage did not apply because the defendant’s actions were intentional, and intentional conduct was not covered under the policy.

Maryland car accidents are unfortunately far too common and often result in serious injuries and lifelong trauma for those involved. While some accidents are pure accidents with no one to blame, many accidents are unfortunately the result of someone’s negligence. Usually, the negligent party is the driver. For example, distracted driving, driving under the influence, or driving too fast and recklessly can all lead to accidents, and the driver engaging in the risky behavior may be liable to the victims from these accidents.

However, there are certain cases where someone other than the driver may be liable to an accident victim, even if they were not on the road when the accident happened. The doctrine of negligent entrustment can make someone liable if they entrust a car to another and give them permission to operate that car, even though they know or should know that they are incompetent, inexperienced, or reckless. For example, if you lend your neighbor a car, knowing that he recently had his license suspended for driving under the influence and is currently intoxicated, and they get into an accident and hurt someone else, you may be liable to the accident victim. Thus, one does not need to be directly involved in the accident in order to be liable to those harmed.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion on the topic of negligent entrustment. The defendant permitted his son, who he knew suffered from a seizure disorder, to drive his automobile. While driving, his son suffered from a seizure and struck another car, killing both the driver and the passenger inside. The deceased victim’s family filed an action against the defendant, claiming that it was negligent for him to have entrusted his car to his son. The jury found him liable, and the appellate court affirmed, making this case a perfect example of how a plaintiff may be able to recover from more than one party when there has been an injury or wrongful death.

In the aftermath of a Maryland car accident, a victim may have multiple sources from which to recover financially. This compensation can help pay for medical bills and other costs incurred as a result of the injuries. For instance, a plaintiff may be eligible for some money from their insurance company. However, money received from an insurance company may affect a plaintiff’s potential civil suit against the wrongdoer, because personal injury laws typically try to avoid allowing a plaintiff from being “unjustly enriched” by obtaining more compensation than needed for their injuries.

Take a recent Virginia case, for example. The Supreme Court of Virginia, in a recent written opinion, held that a Virginia car accident victim could receive monetary compensation from both her insurance company and the defendant responsible for the accident.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving down the road when the defendant pulled out of her driveway and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff suffered significant injuries as a result of the accident and had to undergo multiple extensive surgeries. Accordingly, the plaintiff filed suit to seek compensation for her injuries.

Maryland car accident victims have to carefully build their cases to prove the elements of a negligence claim. In a recent decision from state appellate court, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed after a pedestrian was killed because the plaintiff failed to prove the driver acted negligently. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant left his home to go to work at a brewing company in another town. At around 5:30 a.m., as he was on his way, he was shifting lanes when he hit the plaintiff’s husband. The windshield of the car broke and flew into the defendant’s face, and he parked on the side of the road further down the highway. He walked back to the scene of the crash and saw the plaintiff’s husband. According to the defendant, it was dark out and he did not see the plaintiff before hitting him. The plaintiff’s husband died as a result of his injuries.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim, alleging that the defendant was negligent in failing to exercise due care in driving his car, and striking and killing her husband. The plaintiff presented evidence from an accident reconstructionist who found that if the defendant was properly watching the road, he would have been able to avoid hitting her husband.

The court held that the plaintiff did not establish the required elements for a negligence claim. The court began its opinion by noting that in a negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove four elements: a legal duty owed to the accident victim, a breach of that duty, a causal connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury, and loss or damages to the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s breach of the duty.

Accidents involving pedestrians are often some of the most serious due to the extent of the injuries involved. Thus, it is essential for a Maryland pedestrian accident victim to locate all potential sources of compensation. Of course, the defendants named in a lawsuit will almost always be the driver that hit the pedestrian. However, there may be other potentially liable parties as well, such as the government entity in charge of designing and maintaining the area where the accident occurred.

Pedestrian accidents often occur in areas with unique and potentially dangerous traffic features. For example, a poorly maintained, improperly marked, or misplaced crosswalk may give pedestrians a false sense of security as they cross the road. This is essentially the situation in a case discussed in a recent appellate opinion.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was killed on Halloween night as she was crossing the street at a marked crosswalk. The motorist was traveling well over the posted 45 mile-per-hour speed limit. The crosswalk is marked, and there are signs notifying approaching motorists of the crosswalk. After the accident, the driver fled the scene, but was later arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Earlier this month, a Maryland car accident in Charles County resulted in one fatality and several injuries. According to a recent news report covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred on Route 6 in La Plata, around noon. Evidently, a Chevy Blazer was traveling eastbound on Route 6 near King Edward Place when the driver attempted to pass another vehicle on the right shoulder. As the driver re-entered the eastbound lane, she lost control of the vehicle, and it spun out, drifting into the westbound lane. At that time, a westbound SUV struck the Blazer.

As a result of the collision, the Blazer rolled at least once, ejecting the rear passenger. Emergency responders transported the passenger to MEDSTAR/Washington Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. In addition, four other people were injured in the accident. Police are in the midst of an official investigation; however, at this early juncture, authorities believe that speed and driver error are the leading causes of the fatal accident.

Those recently injured in a Maryland car wreck can bring a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the party or parties they believe to be responsible for the accident. To successfully bring a negligence claim, an accident victim must be able to establish four elements:

The Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) is a law that allows for Maryland accident victims to bring certain claims against the Maryland government based on the negligence of the government or its employees. Historically, Maryland accident victims were unable to recover compensation for their injuries from the government due to the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However, the MTCA changed that, allowing accident victims to pursue claims for compensation provided they follow the procedures outlined in the MTCA.

Claims under the MTCA differ from other Maryland personal injury cases in two significant ways. First, a plaintiff bringing a claim under the MTCA must provide notice to the Treasurer within one year of the injury. This notice must contain the following:

  • The names and addresses of the people involved;

Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case raising an important issue that frequently comes up in Maryland personal injury cases. The case deals with the concept of personal jurisdiction. In the case, the court found that a plaintiff’s lawsuit against a car manufacturer should proceed based on specific personal jurisdiction.

Personal jurisdiction refers to the court’s ability to exercise power over a party. A court must have personal jurisdiction over every party involved in a case. In certain instances, defendants may object to the court exercising jurisdiction over them, and argue for a case dismissal. This defense can delay a lawsuit or, if the statute of limitations has passed, completely preclude the plaintiff’s recovery.

The current ruling stems from injuries that a plaintiff suffered when the passenger-side airbags in their vehicle did not deploy during an accident. The accident occurred when the plaintiff was a passenger in the car. Evidently, a Minnesota resident drove the vehicle on a Minnesota road. The driver hit a snowplow and ended up in a ditch. The passenger-side airbag did not deploy, and the plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury. The plaintiff alleges that the airbag did not deploy because of a defect. He filed a lawsuit in Minnesota; however, the car manufacturer moved to dismiss the claims based on lack of personal jurisdiction.

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