Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Historically, governments have enjoyed immunity from lawsuits brought by citizens seeking compensation for injuries that were due to the negligence of a government agency or employee. However, over the years, states have passed a variety of laws permitting victims to pursue a claim of compensation against various government entities. These laws vary by state but are generally known as “Tort Claims Acts.”

Law LibraryWhile the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) does allow for victims to obtain compensation for their injuries from government entities in some situations, there are additional procedural requirements that must be followed. Most commonly, potential plaintiffs are required to provide notice of their injury to the state treasurer within one year of the occurrence.

The way in which these requirements are phrased makes them jurisdictional, meaning that a court often has little to no discretion in approving a non-compliant plaintiff’s case. A party’s failure to provide this notice will likely result in their case being dismissed and their losing the ability to recover compensation for their injuries. A recent case illustrates just how strictly these requirements are taken.

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When a jury comes to a decision in a Maryland car accident lawsuit, that verdict is given great respect by the legal system. Except in the most unusual circumstances, a jury’s conclusion as to a party’s liability is insulated from judicial review. However, in some situations, a judge does retain power over the amount of a plaintiff’s jury verdict.

Wrecked CarMaryland Rule 2-535

Under Maryland Rule 2-535, when asked by a party in the lawsuit, a court can “exercise revisory power and control over the judgment.” Essentially, this means that a judge has the power to review a jury’s award amount for reasonableness. Thus, if the court finds that an award amount was too small or too large, it can revise the award. If, after the judge comes up with a revised award amount, the party that requested the revision is not satisfied, the judge will then grant a new trial. Importantly, once a judgment becomes final, which is 30 days after it is entered, a judgment can only be revised if it is a result of “fraud, mistake, or irregularity.”

A recent case from another jurisdiction discusses a similar rule and how it applied in a car accident case in which the jury failed to consider uncontroverted evidence.

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Insurance companies can be one of the biggest roadblocks to a Maryland car accident victim receiving the compensation they deserve. Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case involving the question of whether the plaintiff was “occupying” the insured vehicle at the time he was struck by a passing motorist. The court ultimately concluded that the plaintiff was occupying the vehicle and that the insurance company covering that vehicle should not have denied his claim.

Deployed Air BagThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the passenger in a car driver by her then-boyfriend. The two had just pulled up to a grocery store and were talking in the car before getting out to enter the store. As the two were talking, they heard two cars collide on an adjacent road.

The plaintiff got out of the car and approached the accident scene. As she walked behind one of the cars to get its license plate information, another vehicle came down the road, crashing into the two cars that were just involved in the accident. The plaintiff was injured as a result of this second accident.

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Last month, a Georgia appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case arising out of a car accident between the plaintiff and a government employee. Since the case was filed against a government entity, the plaintiff had to comply with certain additional requirements. One of the requirements was that the plaintiff specify the exact amount of damages sought. Ultimately, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case because, rather than specify the exact amount of damages, she sought “the full amount of damages allowed by law.”

PaperworkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with an employee of the Georgia Department of Transportation. Under the theory of vicarious liability, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Department, seeking compensation for the injuries she sustained in the accident. In her complaint, the plaintiff listed the damages sought as the “full amount of damages allowed by law.” Under the applicable statute, that was $1 million.

In Georgia, as well as in Maryland and many other states, lawsuits filed against a government entity must comply with certain additional requirements. Specifically, the law requires that a plaintiff naming a government entity as a defendant specify the amount of damages sought. If a plaintiff fails to comply with this or any other procedural requirement, the government defendant may be successful in asking the court to dismiss the case.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Oklahoma issued a written opinion in a car accident case brought by a passenger who was involved in an accident against the driver’s insurance company. Specifically, the court had to determine if the lower court was proper in granting the defendant’s motions for summary judgment based on the fact that it did not act in bad faith when it questioned the reasonableness of the medical care the plaintiff received.

PaperworkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident while a passenger in her mother’s car. According to the facts as described in the appellate opinion, a driver ran through a stop sign and struck the plaintiff’s mother’s vehicle. After the accident, the plaintiff was taken to the hospital. She was initially taken to the emergency room, and then was transferred to the “L2 trauma center.” She was discharged four hours later with a cervical collar, but was not provided a prescription for pain medication. The plaintiff continued to receive outpatient treatment for her injuries.

The plaintiff later filed a claim under the uninsured/underinsured motorist provision of her mother’s insurance policy. She requested a total of roughly $67,000. Of that sum, $24,420 was incurred from the treatment that the plaintiff received at the L2 trauma center. The insurance company denied coverage for any charges arising from treatment in the L2 trauma center, claiming that such treatment was unnecessary. In support of its position, the insurance company consulted with an expert who stated that the plaintiff did not need to be transferred to the L2 trauma center.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nevada issued a written opinion affirming the reversal of a $1.2 million jury verdict in favor of a wrongful death plaintiff after a lower court determined that the plaintiff’s attorney committed fraud on the court. In the case, Adams v. Fallini, the court upheld the lower court’s decision to reverse the verdict, based on statements made in court documents that were known to be untrue when they were made.

Cow's FaceThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the mother of a man who was killed when he struck a cow while driving on a Nevada highway. In Nevada, there is an “open range” law that prevents a farm owner from being held liable if one of his animals causes a traffic accident while in an area specifically designated as an open range.

After her son’s death, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant, who owned the animal that caused the accident. The defendant’s attorney failed to respond to the allegations, and judgment was entered for the plaintiff in the amount of $1.2 million. Once the defendant realized her attorney failed to participate in the case, the defendant sought reconsideration, but that request was denied.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in New York issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that required the court to discuss the foreseeability element of the plaintiff’s claim and determine if the plaintiff’s injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s alleged negligence. Ultimately, in the case, Hain v. Jamison, the court determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligence and allowed the plaintiff’s case to continue toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Calf in a FieldThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case is the surviving husband of a woman who was struck and killed by a passing car while she was attempting to rescue an escaped calf belonging to the defendant. After his wife’s death, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against both the driver of the car that struck his wife as well as the farm that owned the calf. Specific to the farm owner, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s negligence in allowing the calf to escape and failing to return it to the farm was a proximate cause of his wife’s death.

In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the farm owner sought dismissal of the case against him on the basis that any alleged negligence in allowing the calf to escape was too remote a cause of death to establish liability. The trial court disagreed, denying the motion.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a woman who claimed that she was injured after the defendant ran her off the road. In the case, Long v. Arnold, the court affirmed the court’s decision below, ultimately upholding the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant.

Car Off RoadThe Facts of the Case

Long was driving her car when Arnold turned onto the road, cutting Long off. Long was traveling at approximately 10 miles per hour at the time, and she was forced to steer the car off the road and into a small ditch. Long’s vehicle slowed as it came into contact with some road-side brush and eventually came to a complete stop without ever contacting a solid stationary object.

Initially, Long did not notice any injury. However, two days later, she began to feel sore. She then filed a personal injury lawsuit, seeking compensation for her injury, medical expenses, economic loss, loss of enjoyment of life, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in West Virginia issued a written opinion in a case brought by the surviving family members of a woman who was killed in a car accident. In the case, Department of Transportation v. King, the court held that the DMV was entitled to governmental immunity, reversing a lower court.

License PlatesThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a man who lost his mother in a fatal car accident. The driver who struck and killed his mother had previously had her license suspended but had it reinstated two years later. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was responsible for reinstating the woman’s license.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver of the vehicle as well as the DMV. He claimed that the DMV violated a non-discretionary duty to refer the woman’s application to reinstate her license to a medical board to review if the woman was medically fit to have her license reinstated.

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Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 9.39.33 AMThe burden of proof is on the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases. A defendant can challenge evidence based on the police’s conduct at the time of the arrest. If a traffic stop or search violated a defendant’s constitutional rights, the court may suppress any evidence obtained as a result. In some cases, however, a civil rights violation by an officer might not directly affect the outcome of a DWI case. Instead, a defendant must seek recourse through a civil claim. This is very different from DWI defense, but it is important to understand in cases in which, for example, police intentionally or recklessly cause an injury to a defendant. A New Jersey court recently ruled in favor of a DWI defendant’s claim for this type of alleged injury in Landa v. Twp. of Plainsboro.

Drunk Driving Laws

Although this case took place in New Jersey, DUI is not technically considered a criminal offense there, or under Maryland law, but the procedures involved are very similar to those used in Maryland criminal courts. Prosecutors initiate a case by filing charges against a defendant. They have the burden of proving guilt. The defense’s job, in large part, is to identify defects in the state’s case. A defendant may move to suppress evidence, or even to dismiss a case, prior to trial. If the defendant does not enter a plea, the case goes to trial, where the prosecution must present its case.

A civil claim for injuries takes place in the civil court system. The plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant is liable for whatever harm or injury they are claiming. The burden of proof is a preponderance of evidence, which is significantly less stringent than the state’s burden in a DWI case. It essentially means that the plaintiff must prove at least a 51 percent probability that the defendant is responsible.

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