Presumptions of Negligence in Maryland Rear-End Collisions

In some cases, a presumption of negligence can work in a party’s favor. However, presumptions can also work against a party. For example, in rear-end collisions, in many states, there is a presumption that the rear driver was negligent. Maryland courts have found that in Maryland rear-end collision cases, if a vehicle is lawfully stopped while waiting for traffic to clear and that vehicle is rear-ended by another car, the operator of the car that rear-ended the stopped vehicle is presumed to have been negligent. However, the presumption is rebuttable, and the burden of persuasion remains with the plaintiff. Thus, a plaintiff still has the ultimate responsibility to prove that the defendant was negligent, which includes establishing all the elements of negligence.

In addition, Maryland courts have found that in the case of a rear-end collision that occurs after the first vehicle stops, there is no presumption that the rear driver was negligent, unless the rear driver had the opportunity to stop after the need to stop became apparent. Under Maryland Code section 21–310(a), a driver cannot follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, considering traffic, the speed of the other car, and the conditions on the road.

Court Directs Verdict Against Rear-End Driver Despite Jury’s Verdict

In a recent state appellate opinion, a case involved two drivers whose vehicles crashed at an intersection. The driver of the rear vehicle testified that as he was approaching the intersection, he saw the lead driver’s car in front of him, but that another car in front of that car stopped before the intersection for no apparent reason, even though the light was green. Both the rear driver and lead driver braked, but the rear driver rear-ended the lead driver’s car.

Under applicable state law, there is a rebuttable presumption that a rear driver was negligent in a rear-end collision. If not rebutted, a directed verdict should be entered against finding the rear driver was negligent. In this case, the driver in front stopped suddenly. However, the rear driver had the duty to remain alert and to keep a safe distance behind the front vehicle. Because the rear driver showed only that the lead driver stopped suddenly, this was insufficient to rebut the presumption of the rear driver’s negligence. Therefore, even though the jury had found in the rear driver’s favor, the appeals court reversed, finding that the court should have entered a directed verdict in the lead driver’s favor.

Contact a Maryland Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Maryland car crash, contact the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers. Our Maryland accident attorneys have been representing victims throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., for nearly two decades. Our attorneys take pride in advocating for the rights of victims and understand the complex issues involved in personal injury cases. We work with experts who can help assess your claim and seek the full compensation you deserve. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to all prospective clients. To set up your free consultation, call us 1-800-654-1949 or contact us online today.

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