Articles Posted in Car Accidents

As the world opens back up again, many are considering taking road trips or traveling as the weather improves and things appear safer. With more people on the road, however, this can also mean an increased risk of a Maryland car accident. Sometimes, no matter how much caution we exercise while driving, accidents still happen because of external factors out of our control such as other drivers, weather conditions, or visibility.

According to a recent news report, a tragic Maryland crash left three individuals dead. Local authorities reported that a Ford van with seven people, including the driver, was driving back home to Maryland from Orlando where they had just wrapped up vacationing with family and friends. While traveling northbound, the driver of the van veered into the shoulder of the road, over-corrected, and then flipped the vehicle several times. The roof of the van tore open and ejected multiple passengers, including a three-year-old. She was airlifted to a local hospital and survived the crash but has broken arms and a fractured neck. Following the accident, two young children who were sisters and a family friend in the vehicle were pronounced dead at the scene. According to officials investigating the crash, the stretch of road that the van was driving on is particularly dark because there are no lights that illuminate the road at night—so visibility was likely low when the crash took place.

Following a major car accident, you may feel at a loss as to what to do next. If you wish to recover from your injuries, however, time is of the essence and filing your claim as soon as possible is in your best interest.

Tragedy struck earlier this month in Bowie when two people were tragically killed in a Maryland car accident. According to a local news story covering the incident, the two-car crash occurred around 10:30 PM one night on U.S. Route 301. According to officials, a 2014 Honda CR-V, driven by a 70-year-old woman, was heading south on the route when it collided with a 2006 Toyota Scion, driven by a 68-year-old man, near Harbour Way. Tragically, the driver of the Toyota died on the scene. The driver of the Honda was transported to the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center, where she passed soon after. The accident is still under investigation, as its cause is currently unknown.

The victims’ communities are heartbroken at their passing. The 70-year-old woman, from Washington, D.C., was the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, deeply committed to social justice and ensuring a quality education for all students. The 68-year-old man was a renowned local musician who also taught music classes and was beloved by his students. Both deaths had a huge impact on the communities, which are still grieving.

One of the things that makes this tragedy worse is the lack of answers—and closure—for the victims’ family and friends. Fatal Maryland car accidents are always upsetting, but they can be particularly difficult when the victim’s loved ones do not know what happened and what caused the accident. Was someone at fault? Was it caused by a negligent driving mistake or some other condition? A deer or debris in the road? A third vehicle that then drove away? The lack of clarity in the aftermath can make the normal grieving process all the more difficult, and Maryland families sometimes may have no clue how to proceed or move on with their lives.

If an individual is acting within the scope of their employment when they are injured in a Maryland car accident, they may receive workers’ compensation benefits for their injuries. Generally, if a worker receives workers’ compensation benefits by way of Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation Act, they cannot seek damages through a civil lawsuit from their employer. That rule, known as the exclusivity rule, was put in place so that workers would receive benefits solely through workers’ compensation, allowing them to receive benefits quickly while limiting employers’ liability. However, injured accident victims can file a Maryland injury claim against a third party under Maryland law based on their negligent conduct.

Under Maryland law, a co-employee is generally considered a third party. In the event that an injured worker or an employer receives compensation through a third-party injury claim, the employer may be able to receive reimbursement for the workers’ compensation paid to the injured worker.

In a recent decision before one state’s supreme court, the court considered whether a passenger in a vehicle driven by a coworker and owned by another coworker could recover benefits under the owner’s insurance policy after a car accident. In that case, the plaintiff and two co-workers were returning from a work trip when the co-worker driving the car fell asleep at the wheel, causing the car to crash and causing the plaintiff significant injuries. The plaintiff recovered workers’ compensation benefits for his injuries as well as uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) benefits through his own auto insurance policy. He also sought benefits from the owner’s insurer, seeking, among other things, UM/UIM benefits.

Individuals injured in Maryland accidents have the ability to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party who negligently caused the accident. In some cases, they can also bring suit against the defendant’s employer, who may be more able to financially compensate the victim. But typically, to recover under this theory of vicarious liability against the employer, an individual must prove that the employee’s negligent actions occurred in the course and the scope of their employment. This can be a confusing doctrinal point for many potential plaintiffs, but it basically means that employers cannot be sued for things their employees did outside of their work—if an employee who gets weekends off gets drunk one Saturday night and goes on a drive to a bar, for example, their employer typically cannot be held liable if they cause a car accident because that accident had nothing to do with their employment. This is an important nuance to understand in the doctrine for plaintiffs considering filing suit against a negligent defendant and their employer.

One recent state appellate case illustrates this doctrine and how it may come up. According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant in the case was an employee at a deli, and sometimes made deliveries with his own car. One morning, his manager called him early to make a delivery later that day, and he agreed. He left for work a little earlier than usual that morning so he could do some prep before taking the delivery. On his way to work, he lost control of his car and struck another vehicle, killing the two men inside. A blood test after the accident showed that he had marijuana in his system at the time of the accident. The deceased driver’s wife filed suit against the employee and his employer, arguing that they were vicariously liable for the accident. The employer filed for summary judgment, arguing that the employee was not acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident.

On appeal, the appellate court found that the employer was entitled to this grant of summary judgment, because going to and from work in one’s own vehicle generally falls outside the scope of employment. The employee was driving his own car, had not yet clocked in, and would not be paid for the time spent in his commute—and thus, it was not sufficiently related to his employment such that vicarious liability was proper. This case highlights the importance of understanding how and when various forms of liability are proper when filing a personal injury lawsuit, to maximize your chances of success.

The tragic thing about Maryland personal injury accidents is that they can happen instantaneously, in the blink of an eye, without any forewarning. While sometimes they may occur in more expected places—such as car accidents occurring while driving on the highway—there are sometimes where Maryland residents are injured, through no fault of their own, out of nowhere. These accidents can be incredibly frustrating for the victim and their families, as they are suddenly injured, have to pay medical bills, might miss work, and may deal with long-lasting physical ailments as well as mental and psychological pain.

For example, take a recent shocking Maryland accident reported by the Baltimore Sun. According to the news article, a car crashed through a front window area of the Parkville Crabs restaurant in Baltimore County one afternoon. It is believed that the driver accidentally hit the gas pedal in the parking lot, causing them to drive through the front of the restaurant unexpectedly. A 35-year-old woman inside was killed after being hit by debris from the crash. Investigators are still looking into the accident and working on an accident reconstruction to figure out exactly what happened, but believe that it was not intentional. Instead, it is thought to be just a tragic and unfortunate mistake.

This fatal accident is just one example of something that can happen unexpectedly and change a life in an instant. While nothing can undo the damage that these accidents cause, and there is no way to fully prevent each and every one from happening in the first place, Maryland state law does at least allow victims one course to recovery. Those injured can file what is called a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent individual or company who caused the accident.

There are instances where a Maryland injury victim has a condition that may increase the severity of damages after an accident. The law frequently refers to these individuals as “eggshell plaintiffs.” The colloquial term “eggshell plaintiff” derives from comparing a person with a typical skull to one with a fragile skull. The theory being that if a defendant causes injuries to a plaintiff with an “eggshell” skull, the defendant would still be liable, even though the plaintiff’s skull was especially vulnerable, compared to that of the average population. In essence, these individuals possess an underlying or complicating health condition that makes a recovery from an accident more difficult.

In many cases, these plaintiffs suffer more significant injuries and damages. However, under Maryland law, a defendant must take the plaintiff or injury victim as they find them. The at-fault party is liable for whatever harm they cause, regardless of what the plaintiff suffered from before the act. Although the law requires defendants to “take plaintiffs as they are,” insurance companies continue to deny claims, often arguing that the accident victim’s injuries are related to a pre-existing condition and not the triggering event. Despite insurance companies’ reluctance to adopt this idea, this principle applies to victims with pre-existing conditions, as well.

For example, a recent national news report described an incident where a teen died after COVID-19 complicated his car accident recovery. According to reports, the 17-year-old suffered multiple fractures and other injuries in a car accident. However, medical reports indicate that the teenager also tested positive for COVID-19, the coronavirus. The virus left the teenager with weakness in his lungs, which prevented him from fully recovering from the car accident. Although details of the crash are still under investigation, doctors indicated that the teenager succumbed to the injuries he sustained in the car accident.

Unfortunately, Maryland drivers encounter dangerous situations all the time—a car stopped in the middle of the road, debris blocking the roadway, or even a chain-reaction crash. Yet, even when a Maryland driver encounters a dangerous situation, the driver must respond reasonably to the situation under the circumstances. Failure to do so may make the driver liable for resulting injuries. Under Maryland law, a driver who “suddenly finds himself in a position of peril” is not expected to exercise the same care as when the driver has sufficient time to decide what he should do. This is known as the emergency doctrine and may apply in some Maryland accident cases. However, the doctrine does not apply when the peril comes about because of the driver’s own negligence or if the driver is not actually in a position of sudden peril. Where a driver does take an action in response to the emergency, a jury (or judge) must consider whether the driver made a choice that a reasonable, prudent person would make considering the choices he had and the time he had to recognize and evaluate those choices.

In a recent case involving the sudden emergency doctrine before one state appellate court, the court explained how and where the sudden emergency doctrine applies under that state’s law. In that case, the defendant was driving on the highway and changed lanes and passed a stopped vehicle to avoid crashing into the stopped vehicle. The plaintiff’s husband’s vehicle was behind the defendant’s vehicle and crashed into the stopped vehicle. The plaintiff’s husband died and the plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against the defendant and others.

The defendant argued that the sudden emergency doctrine applied and acted as a complete defense. The defendant argued that the sudden emergency was the stopped car that he encountered in the road. The plaintiff argued that the defendant created the emergency by changing lanes at an unreasonably late time for the plaintiff’s husband to see the stopped car. The plaintiff argued that the sudden emergency was the husband’s inability to see the stopped car because of the defendant’s late lane change.

Expert testimony is essential in many Maryland car accident cases. Under Maryland law, expert testimony may be admissible if the court rules that the expert testimony will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to decide a fact at issue in the case. Under Rule 5-702, a court must decide whether the witness is qualified as an expert based on the witness’s knowledge, experience, education, skill, or training, whether the expert testimony is appropriate, and whether there is a sufficient factual basis for the testimony.

Expert testimony is essential in cases where an issue is beyond the “common knowledge” of a layperson. One recent decision from a federal court of appeals shows a trial court’s improper exclusion of expert testimony doomed a plaintiff’s case, resulting in a judgment in favor of the defendants.

In that case, the plaintiff was hit by an SUV in a construction-affected area. The defendant, an architectural firm, was hired to redesign traffic in the area to safely control the traffic of vehicles and pedestrians in the area. A construction company installed a temporary concrete barrier along one part of the sidewalk. The pedestrian was crossing the street in the area and was hit head-on by a vehicle, rendering him a quadriplegic. The plaintiff filed suit against entities involved in the construction project, including the architectural firm.

As technology advances, so do the safety features on automobiles. Many new models of vehicles now have automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, blind spot warnings, and more high-tech safety features designed to prevent crashes and make the roads safer. Some vehicles now even have autopilot features, in which vehicles steer, accelerate, brake, and move into different lanes automatically. Although drivers are supposed to be actively supervising the vehicle while it is in autopilot mode, there is a growing body of evidence that drivers often do not supervise their car when on autopilot, mistakenly believing that they are safe just because the feature is turned on. As autopilot and other safety features become more common on Maryland’s roads, drivers should be aware that they do not eliminate the risk of car accidents and remain cautious while driving. Unfortunately, even technologically advanced cars can get into dangerous Maryland accidents.

For example, a Tesla Model 3 was recently engaged in autopilot mode when it rear-ended two cars, including a police car. According to a news report covering the accident, the driver was checking on their dog in the back seat when the incident occurred, rather than actively supervising their vehicle. This is not the first time that cars on autopilot have gotten into accidents, and Tesla’s autopilot mode has been involved in at least three other crashes in the U.S., all of which led to fatalities. It is unknown at this time if the crashes are because of autopilot failures, or because of drivers being negligent while on the road, assuming that autopilot makes them safe.

Drivers, regardless of whether or not their vehicle has advanced safety features, should always remain cautious when on the road. Despite technology advances, car accidents remain a leading cause of Maryland deaths and injuries and can happen in the blink of an eye. When accidents do occur, state law allows for those injured to bring a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. Evidence that a driver was distracted while driving, whether it be from texting, talking to a loved one, admiring a view, or checking on a pet or child in the back seat, can strengthen the plaintiff’s case and make it more likely that they recover damages from the defendant.

The holidays are a time of fun and festivities, with individuals across Maryland taking time off to visit family and engage in yearly traditions. With the cheer of the holidays, however, comes an unfortunate uptick in Maryland driving accidents. There are three main reasons that these accidents increase around the holidays, and Maryland drivers should be aware and particularly cautious when driving this month.

First, the roads and highways are generally busier during the holiday season, as individuals often drive long distances to visit family and friends. Because of work schedules and time off, many individuals who wish to travel for the holidays do so around the same time, causing congestion in the streets and increasing the likelihood of an accident. In fact, the number of Americans traveling by car over the holiday season has been increasing each year—according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), about 102.1 million people traveled by car in December 2018, a 4.4% increase from 2017. The number is expected to be even higher this year.

Second, drivers may generally be more distracted and drowsier on the road, causing more preventable accidents to occur. The holiday season is busy, and individuals may stay out late at a holiday party and then find themselves extremely tired while driving home. Others may stay late at work in the weeks heading up to their vacation, leading to unfocused driving. Unfortunately, distracted and drowsy drivers are more likely to make risky decisions while driving, potentially leading to an accident.

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