Any Maryland negligence claim requires proving that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, that the defendant breached that duty, that the plaintiff suffered an injury or loss, and that the damages proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of the duty. The legal relationship between the breach of duty and the injury is known as proximate cause. Under Maryland law, to establish proximate cause, the plaintiff must show that the negligence was both the cause in fact of the injury and a legally cognizable cause.
Cause in fact refers only to whether a defendant’s actions actually caused an injury. Whether there is a legally cognizable cause considers whether the injury was a foreseeable result of the defendant’s negligent actions. The issue becomes whether the injury to the plaintiff was within the general field of danger that the defendant should have expected or anticipated. Legal cause often requires a consideration of policy considerations and whether a defendant should be held liable under the circumstances. Generally, proximate cause must be decided by a jury (or a judge if the judge is the trier of fact), unless there is only one possible inference that can be drawn based on the facts of the case, or unless “reasoning minds cannot differ.”
Foreseeability is also a consideration in determining whether a duty exists in personal injury cases. In a 1985 case that is still cited today, one Maryland judge explained that “courts have given further effect to the social policy of limitation of liability for remote consequences by narrowing the concept of duty to embrace only those persons or classes of persons to whom harm of some type might reasonably have been foreseen as a result of the particular tortious conduct.”
A recent decision by one federal appeals court illustrates the limits of proximate cause. In that case, a driver crashed his employer’s truck into the back of another vehicle. The accident caused a backup of traffic, and eight to 16 minutes later, another vehicle rear-ended a car stopped at the back of the line. The appeals court held that the employer was not liable for the second car accident. The court held that there was no proximate cause because the driver in the first accident did not cause the driver in the second accident to drive too fast or impair his ability to see the traffic backup. It also found that the second accident was not foreseeable because it occurred at least eight minutes later, after every other driver who approached the accident had managed to safely stop and avoid the wreckage.
Call a Car Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured in a Maryland rear-end collision or another accident, contact a lawyer who is knowledgeable in these kinds of cases. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, our accident lawyers have over 20 years of experience representing victims and their families in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. region. We strongly recommend that if you or a loved one has been a victim of a Maryland car accident, you should meet with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Call us for a free consultation at 800-654-1949 or contact us online.