Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

Different types of personal injury cases have different procedural requirements. For example, medical malpractice cases in most jurisdictions require that the plaintiff provide some affidavit or other expert opinion explaining that the plaintiff’s case has merit in the expert’s opinion. Medical malpractice cases also often have shorter statutes of limitations than other cases brought under a theory of negligence. If a plaintiff fails to comply with these requirements, the case may be thrown out by the court before reaching trial.

ParamedicA recent case in front of a California appellate court shows, however, that not every negligence case involving a medical professional should be subject to the heightened medical malpractice requirements.

Aldana v. Stillwagon:  The Facts

Aldana was involved in a serious accident when she was struck by Stillwagon, who was an on-duty paramedic on his way to the scene of an accident. Aldana then filed a lawsuit against Stillwagon under a theory of negligence, claiming that Stillwater’s negligence in operating his vehicle resulted in her injuries.

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Earlier this year, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case that excused two semi-truck drivers from liability because the negligence of a third truck driver was deemed to be an intervening cause of the injuries complained of by the plaintiffs. In the case of Baumann v. Zhukov, the plaintiff was a personal representative appointed to represent the interests of an entire family who died as a result of a multi-vehicle accident.

truck-4-1478008According to the court’s written opinion, the accident took place back in September 2012. The facts of the case are a bit confusing but illustrate the “intervening cause” doctrine nicely.

The Facts of the Case

Zhkov was traveling in his truck on the highway when he experienced an equipment malfunction, and his truck would no longer run. He pulled over to the side of the road and waited for assistance. However, before assistance could arrive, Johnson approached in his semi-truck and slammed into Zhukov’s parked truck. Evidence adduced at trial suggested that the safety cones placed on the road to warn passing motorists of Zhukov’s truck were not properly placed.

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Earlier this month, a woman was reunited with the paramedics who saved her life after she was involved in a serious car accident back when the woman was in high school almost 30 years ago. According to one local news report, the woman, who is now a yoga instructor, was providing a free class to a group of firefighters. As she was arranging the class, she mentioned to the coordinator that she would like the opportunity to thank those who saved her life almost 30 years before.

fireman-1238249As it turns out, the coordinator was able to locate the men responsible for saving her life back when she was in high school. In fact, one of the men was still working in his capacity as a paramedic. The paramedics responsible for saving her life told reporters about the terrifying accident. Evidently, when they arrived on the scene, a car with three high-school students inside had been crushed by a dump truck. Two of the girl’s friends were pronounced dead at the scene, and she was trapped inside the car until emergency responders were able to cut her out of the vehicle and take her to the hospital.

The paramedics told reporters that the accident spurred change both in Maryland and across the country in how commercial driver’s licenses are provided to truck drivers.

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136518_7676.jpgAn accident on a Nebraska highway took the lives of a Maryland family. The resulting lawsuit, Baumann v. Slezak, et al, is reportedly the first to invoke that state’s law allowing causes of action for the wrongful death of unborn children. Nebraska’s law, enacted in 2003, differs from Maryland’s wrongful death statute, in that it allows causes of action for prenatal deaths “at any stage of gestation.” Maryland only allows causes of action for the death of viable fetuses.

In the early morning of September 9, 2012, the Schmidt family was stuck in a traffic jam on westbound Interstate 80. The family, which consisted of Christopher and Diana Schmidt and their two children, was driving through western Nebraska on their way from Maryland to California. Diana Schmidt was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with a child they had named Ethan. The couple was driving in separate cars: Diana Schmidt and the two children were in a Toyota Corolla, and Christopher Schmidt was directly behind them in a Ford Mustang. The traffic jam was the result of a deadly collision between two semi-trailers about a mile further up the highway. One semi had become disabled, and although the driver pulled the rig to the side of the road, he allegedly left the trailer blocking traffic. Another semi crashed into the trailer at about 4:30 a.m., killing its driver.

While the Schmidts were stopped at the rear of the long line of traffic, a semi trailer driven by Josef Slezak collided with the back of the Mustang. Slezak was allegedly driving seventy-five miles per hour, and did not make an effort to slow or stop his rig. The collision caused the Mustang to collide with the Corolla, pushing the Corolla under another trailer. All four members of the Schmidt family, as well as their unborn child, died in the collision.

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A four-vehicle automobile accident in Benedict, Maryland, around noon on Friday, September 9, 2011 killed two local senior citizens and injured at least three others. Franz and Evelyn Isabelle Sommer, a married couple, were driving east on Route 231 in their Ford Focus near the Patuxent River Bridge when a Penske rental truck rear-ended their vehicle. The collision caused the Sommers’ vehicle to veer into the westbound lane of Route 231, where it collided head-on with a Mitsubishi Galant. The Penske truck went on to strike a Saturn L200 in the westbound lane. The Sommers’ car and the Saturn L200 were wedged under the Penske truck.

IMG_4353a09202011.jpgFive people were taken to the hospital for injuries: Deborah Ellen Parkinson, the driver of the Galant; Kimberly Leighanne Garcia, the driver of the Saturn and two children who were in her car; and Michael Anthony Duckett, the driver of the Penske truck. Police report that none of the injuries were life-threatening. A passenger in the truck was unharmed, according to police on the scene. According to witnesses, Parkinson’s vehicle flipped over in the accident, and she had to be pulled out by firefighters.

Investigators have concluded that Duckett’s failure to control the speed of the truck caused the accident, and that alcohol was not a factor. Criminal charges have not yet been filed, pending the completion of the investigation. Duckett could potentially face up to ten years in prison if he is charged under Maryland’s “manslaughter by vehicle” statute, which covers deaths resulting from “driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a grossly negligent manner.”

In addition to any potential criminal charges, the driver of the truck could also face civil liability to all of the people injured in the accident, from a wrongful death claim by relatives of the Sommers to injury claims by the other drivers and their passengers. The driver of the truck is responsible not only for the actual rear-end collision of his truck and the Sommers’ vehicle, but for every collision directly caused by that collision. At least three collisions occurred in this case, causing multiple injuries.

A popular notion is that a driver who rear-ends another driver is by definition “at fault.” This is not always the case, but it is a useful principle. If the driver of the rear-ended vehicle behaved negligently, such as braking abruptly without good cause, then both drivers may be at fault. If a driver swerves into a lane of traffic and is rear-ended by a car already in that lane, the swerving driver is probably 100% at fault. A driver who rear ends a vehicle because he was pushed into the car after being rear-ended himself should not be liable, but the driver doing the original rear-ending might be liable for all collisions in that situation. A better general principle to apply to rear-end collisions might be that the driver who creates the conditions leading to the rear-end collision should be primarily liable, and that the driver is liable for injuries caused by those collisions.

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A Montgomery County jury has awarded the family of Xiufeng Wang and Yunshu Li $2.032 million for Wang’s Maryland personal injuries and Li’s wrongful death. The elderly couple were hit by a dump truck in a backover accident On October 9, 2008.

Wang, 78, fractured his back and wrist. His wife Li, 74, was pronounced dead at the Germantown truck accident site. The couple were walking in a crossed traffic lane at a road construction site when the truck struck them.

In their Montgomery County truck accident complaint, their family sought damages from multiple parties involved in the construction project. They contend that Hakes Contracting Incorporated and Milestone Construction Services Inc. did not give pedestrians a safe alternative route in the construction area after taking off a portion of the sidewalk. They also accused the dump truck operator of negligence.

According to Maryland lawmaker James Malone, the state’s law regarding handheld cell phones while driving is not tough enough. Delegate Malone, a Democrat from Baltimore County, is supporting a bill that would make using a handheld cell phone while operating a motor vehicle a primary offense. Hopefully, such a bill will stop more people from distracted driving with their phone or PDA so that they don’t cause a Maryland car crash.

Under the current law, talking on a handheld phone while driving is a secondary offense, which means that the ban can only be enforced if the driver is being cited for another violation. Also, although drivers are banned from sending text messages, they are allowed to retrieve and read them. Malone and others also want to make the text messaging ban tougher. Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore County is sponsoring a bill in the Senate that would make it illegal to also read texts while driving.

According to the Maryland State Highway Administration, in the past five years, there have been over 380 distracted driving fatalities in the state. Distracted driving, as described by US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is an epidemic. It was the cause of 5500 fatalities in the US in 2009—yet many people, when they can get away with it, continue to text, talk on the phone, send emails, surf the Internet, or play games on their cell phone while driving. Although talking on a handheld device is not safe either, at least the driver has both hands on the steering wheel.

A distracted driver can be held liable for Baltimore County personal injury or wrongful death if his/her failure to pay attention caused a catastrophic Maryland car accident. There are steps that an experienced Baltimore personal injury law firm can take to prove that a driver was distracted when the Maryland traffic crash happened. For example, there may be phone records that can be obtained to match up when the crash happened and when a call was taking place. A witness may have observed the distracted driver texting.

Md. Bill to Tighten Cell Phone Use While Driving, ABC News/AP, February 16, 2011
Distracted driving epidemic: U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood calls issue a ‘personal crusade’, Sea Coast Online, October 24, 2010
Related Web Resources:
Cellphone Laws, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Distraction.gov

Related Blog Posts:
US DOT Holds Second Annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington DC, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 22, 2010
Maryland Injury News: Distracted Driving Blamed for Increasing Number of Fatal Teenage Automobile Accidents, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, July 17, 2010
Maryland Auto Injury News: Distracted Driving Blamed in Baltimore Woman’s Death following Fatal Howard County Crash, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, June 26, 2010

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The family of John R. “Jack” Yates has settled their Baltimore truck accident lawsuit with Potts & Callahan Inc. and tanker truck driver Michael Dale Chandler. Yates, 67, died on August 4, 2009 when his bicycle got stuck in the truck’s large wheels. The terms of the Maryland wrongful death lawsuit are confidential.

Yates’s family had initially sought $5 million from the defendants. They had accused the excavation, demolition, and equipment rental company for negligence. Investigators, however, found that Yates was at fault in the Baltimore bicycle accident and charges were not filed against the trucker, who failed to stop at the Maryland truck crash site. Police did not think that Chandler knew he had struck Yates.

However, the family’s Maryland wrongful death lawyer has called the investigation “one of the sloppiest” involving a death that he has seen in a long time. He claims there was evidence that Chandler failed to signal before turning and that this was not included in the police report. Also, the intersection where the crash happened had two large signs warning that there were bicyclists in the area.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently issued its 2009 Traffic Safety Facts Research Note, which includes its motor vehicle traffic crash statistics for the year. According to the NHTSA, 33,808 people were killed in auto collisions in the US, which was a 9.7% drop from the 37,423 people that died in traffic crashes in 2008. This is the lowest number of US highway deaths to occur in a year since 1950.

The drop in traffic deaths happened even as estimated vehicle miles traveled went up by 0.2% in the past two years. NHTSA also says that the lowest injury and fatality rates at 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled occurred last year.

Locally, our Maryland motor vehicle crash lawyers and Washington DC car accident attorneys are happy to report that there also was a decline in the number of traffic deaths for the year. There were 549 Maryland traffic fatalities last year—down from the 591 motor vehicle deaths in 2008 and 29 Washington DC auto crash deaths in 2009—a drop from the 34 Washington DC motor vehicle traffic deaths the year before.

The nation also saw a reverse in the yearly increase in motorcyclist deaths, which has been on the rise for 11 years. In 2009, there were 4.462 US motorcyclist fatalities. Compare that to 2008 when there were 5,312 motorcyclist deaths.

More 2009 US Traffic Facts:
• 23,382 passenger vehicle deaths
• 503 large truck crash fatalities
• 4,092 pedestrian accident deaths
• 630 pedalcyclist crash fatalities
• 2,217,000 traffic crash injuries
• 1,976,0000 passenger vehicle injuries
• 17,000 large truck injuries
• 90,000 motorcyclist injuries
• 59,000 pedestrian injuries
• 51,000 pedalcyclist injuries
• 10,839 drunk driving deaths
• 162 Maryland drunk driving deaths
• 10 Washington DC drunk driving deaths

Highlights of 2009 Motor Vehicle Crashes, Traffic Safety Facts (PDF)

2009 Data Show Major Across-the-Board Declines in all Categories
Despite a Slight Increase in Road Travel
, NHTSA, November 9, 2010
Related Web Resources:

Maryland Department of Transportation

District Department of Transportation

Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog

Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog

Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog

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Police have identified the pedestrian killed in Thursday’s Baltimore tractor-trailer crash on Interstate 95 as Michael A. Coll, 36.The cause of the Maryland traffic crash is still under investigation. Following the deadly collision, all northbound roads were temporarily closed.

Coll’s death comes just two days after New Windsor bicyclist John Martin Jr.,51, was fatally struck in Union Bridge on Route 75 by a semi-truck that was making a right turn. According to a preliminary probe, trucker Anthony Edward Woodie failed to yield to the bicyclist when turning. He may face criminal charges.

Our Baltimore truck crash lawyers want to remind you that it is important that you not speak with the other party’s insurer without exploring your legal options first. Many trucking companies will take persuasive action to get you to settle for less than you may be owed for your injuries or a loved one’s death. It is important that you have a Maryland personal injury law firm advocating on your behalf.

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