Articles Posted in Maryland Personal Injury Law

Earlier last month, a Maryland jury awarded a man over $21 million after he was severely injured and permanently paralyzed in a workplace accident at a Pepco plant in Montgomery County. According to a report by the Washington Post, the man was working high up in the air on some scaffolding when he was struck by a transformer. The force of the collision sent the man eight feet into the air.Upon landing, the man snapped his spine, paralyzing him from the neck down. In addition to his paralysis, the man also received burns over 10% of his body because the transformer—which the worker had been told was discharged – was still powered on. The man sued Pepco for negligence.

The trial was not focused around whether Pepco was negligent. In fact, Pepco admitted its negligence. The only trial issue for the jury to determine was the amount of damages that would be appropriate for Pepco to pay out.

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In 2010, a young three-year old boy died when he climbed through a gate and into a swimming pool in his parents’ apartment complex. The family of the boy filed charges against the apartment complex, among others, alleging that they were negligent because they breached “a duty to maintain the Country Place pool in a reasonably safe condition for all residents of Country Place Apartments, and particularly children of all ages.”

At trial, the defendants claimed that they didn’t owe the boy any duty of care (and thus could not be held liable for the accident) because the boy was trespassing when he entered the closed pool. However, the boy’s family pointed to a Maryland law that required all pools be properly fenced in and argued that the defendants were negligent per se for their failure to comply with that law.

At trial, the court died with the defendants, finding that the law creating a duty only came into play once it was established that the person in question was not a trespasser. However, on appeal to the intermediate court, the decision was reversed. That court held that the statutory duty arose regardless of the injured person’s status.

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In a recent case in front of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the court held that testimony from witnesses that the driver of the car causing the accident fled the scene and then returned a short time later laughing before he then left again, was inadmissible in a claim for damages against that driver.

In the case Alban v. Fiels, the Albans were an elderly couple who were hit while driving in their truck by Mr. Fiels. The Albans’ vehicle sustained more damages than Fiels, and they were immobilized. In fact, Mrs. Alban was stuck in the car until firefighters came to extricate her.

Mr. Fiels fled the scene but did so down a road that had no outlet. Knowing that the road the driver fled down had no outlet, a nearby witness waited for the driver to return. When he did, the witness noticed that the driver slowed down and then sped off, laughing.

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As an experienced personal injury law firm, we see hundreds, even thousands, of accident cases each year. Some of the cases we see involved an accident that was purely the fault of one party. These types of accidents are typically drunk driving accidents, distracted driving accidents, or other situations involving a clear infraction of a traffic law.

However, there are many accidents that are not clearly only one party’s fault. These types of accidents can pose a problem for Maryland accident victims due to Maryland’s law of contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is a legal doctrine that acts to bar the recovery of any accident victim who is at fault for the accident in which they were injured.

At first blush, such a law seems to make sense. Why should an accident victim be able to recover from another party if the “victim” was also at fault? However, contributory negligence can lead to some seemingly unjust results. For instance, consider a case where a pedestrian is jaywalking but is hit by a drunk driver who ran a red light. Under Maryland law, if the jury found that the pedestrian was partially at fault for the accident, the pedestrian would not be able to recover for any of the damages he or she sustained in the accident.

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