The Act of God Defense in Maryland Car Accident Cases

Most people know that Maryland law allows those injured in car accidents to bring a civil negligence suit against the responsible party. What is less commonly known, however, is that the law also provides a variety of “affirmative defenses” that a defendant can use to defend themselves. Affirmative defenses, if proven, can shield a defendant from civil liability even if they would otherwise be held responsible for the accident. Understanding these defenses is important, as defendants may raise one or more of them in any civil negligence suit arising from Maryland car accidents.

One important affirmative defense is the “act of God defense.” To claim this, the defendant must prove that the accident was caused by an act of God, rather than the defendant. What exactly constitutes an act of God? Typically, the term is limited to unstoppable and unexpected physical and/or natural forces, such as lightning, earthquakes, meteors, sudden death or illness, or other such events. The key is that the cause of the accident was not an act of the defendant, but an act of God, or the universe.

A state appellate court recently issued an opinion considering the act of God defense in a car accident case. According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant driver was a 16-year-old girl, turning into Costco one afternoon. As she turned right into the parking lot, she, unfortunately, hit the plaintiff, who was walking his dog and crossing the parking lot entrance. The plaintiff was transported to the hospital, and subsequently had serious injuries, making him unable to work.

The plaintiff sued the driver for negligent driving, and in response, she claimed an act of God affirmative defense. Specifically, she claimed that intense sunlight, a natural occurrence, had obscured her vision when she turned into the parking lot, causing her to hit the plaintiff. However, the court found that this did not meet the standard for an act of God. The court reasoned that, while the sunlight may have obscured her vision, the defendant had admitted that she had been driving for approximately 25 minutes before the accident in the same sunny conditions, and thus she was on notice it might obscure her vision. She also failed to use her sun visor. As a result, the court found that the defendant could not use an act of God defense in this case.

Contact a Maryland Car Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one have recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be wondering how to hold the responsible party liable for your injuries. Contact Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, today to discuss your case with a dedicated and compassionate personal injury lawyer. With decades of experience, our attorneys have successfully recovered over $60 million for our clients. Our attorneys are knowledgeable in all areas of Maryland personal injury law, including defendants’ potential affirmative defenses and how to defeat them. To learn more and schedule a free, no-risk, initial consultation, call us today at 800-654-1949, or fill out our online form.

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