Articles Posted in Automobile Accident

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The Baltimore Sun is reporting very sad news coming out of Westminster this morning. Apparently a driver of a Ford pickup truck slammed into the rear of a Chevrolet Cavalier that was full of McDaniel College students around 11:00pm yesterday. The 19 year old student, Thomas Rouleau, of Gilboa, N.Y., died at the scene. Four other students were in the car, three of which were taken to University of Maryland-Shock Trauma. Fortunately those injuries were not life threatening and they were released.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Mr. Rouleau, who apparently was not responsible for this accident. It is reported that this was the second accident in a matter of minutes the driver of the Ford pickup had caused and fled. Sadly in these situations, experience shows that their is a strong possibility the hit and run driver may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Hopefully the police will find the driver today and bring him/her to justice. Just by leaving the scene of an accident involving death, the fleeing driver is subject to a penalty of up to ten years in jail. Additional charges may be warranted.

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Question Presented: What standard of care is owed by a Maryland driver upon entrance into a controlled intersection, where the traffic signal is blank due to malfunction?

Short Answer: Maryland statutes do not specifically address the standard of care applicable where traffic signals at a controlled intersection fail to operate. Drivers of motor vehicles in Maryland always owe a duty of reasonable care, and whether a driver has exercised reasonable care in a particular circumstance is generally a question of fact for the jury. A driver’s right to assume he has the right of way is an important factor in determining whether the standard for reasonable care is met. Should Maryland’s “boulevard rule” apply to the facts, the “favored driver” is presumed to have the right of way.

Analysis:

In Maryland, drivers of motor vehicles always owe a duty of reasonable, ordinary care. Kaffl v. Moran, 233 Md. 473 (1964). The caution required to meet this standard will vary depending upon the circumstances, but the standard remains the same. Heffner v. Admiral Taxi Ser., Inc., 196 Md. 465.

Approaching an intersection, the amount of caution constituting “ordinary care” is elevated because of the increased potential for collision with other vehicles. Heffner, 196 Md. 465. Right of way at an intersection is assigned in accordance with how the intersection is controlled and how the intersecting roads are characterized. At an uncontrolled intersection where neither road is designated as a “through highway”, a vehicle has the right of way over any other vehicle approaching from the left and must yield to any vehicle approaching from the right. Md. Code Ann., Transportation, §21-401; Valcourt v. Ross, 201 Md. 17 (1952). At controlled intersections, traffic signals, stop signs, or yield signs will indicate the right of way. Md. Code Ann., Transportation, §21-403.

At an intersection involving a “through highway”, right of way is determined in accordance with Maryland’s “boulevard rule”, codified in Md. Code Ann., Transportation §21-403. A “through highway” is defined as a “highway or part of a highway (1) on which vehicular traffic is given the right of way; and (2) at the entrances to which vehicular traffic from intersecting highways is required by law to yield the right of way to vehicles on that highway or part of a highway, in obedience to either a stop sign or yield sign placed as provided in the Maryland Vehicle Law.” Md. Code Ann., Transportation §21-101. A “highway” is any “road” or “street”. Md. Code Ann., Transportation §8-101.

Pursuant to the “boulevard rule”, the driver traveling on a through highway is deemed the “favored driver” and the driver traveling on the intersecting highway is deemed the “unfavored driver”. The unfavored driver must stop before entering the through highway and afford the favored driver right of way. The favored driver may safely assume that the unfavored driver will yield, and may proceed through the intersection without stopping. Though the favored driver has the right of way, he is not absolved of his duty to drive lawfully and to proceed through the intersection with reasonable care. MPJI-Cv 18:2 Boulevard Rule. Favored drivers may assume that unfavored drivers will obey the law, but they may not ignore an obvious danger. Dean v. Redmiles, 280 Md. 137 (1977). The “boulevard rule” reflects a policy goal of expediting traffic on boulevards or through highways, so that the larger or more traveled of two intersecting highways will be considered favored. Id Continue reading →

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Experienced personal injury attorneys know there is no question asked more often and as difficult to answer than; What is my case worth? The answer to this question is based upon many factors which an experienced personal injury lawyer can best answer.

Our system of civil justice is terrible at valuing the loss, but rather consistently values the lawsuit. For instance, there are many cases involving horrific tragedies such as the death of a child, the loss of which can never be compensated for. Nonetheless, our judicial system attempts to assign a value to such an incomprehensible losses. Hence, the value of most lawsuits never truly compensate for the irreplaceable loss of life or limb. So how do we lawyers come up with a value for injury cases? Understanding this is an imperfect science, lets get cracking.

Most experienced personal injury lawyers will consider the below factors, as well as personal experience, to provide clients with a range of what a case may be worth. The factors that determine value of a personal injury case include:

1) Strength of liability
2) Venue
3) Severity of Injury
4) Medical Bills: past and future
5) Economic Loss: Wages and Loss of services
6) Aggravating Factors
7) Skill of Attorneys

Strength of liability: The settlement value of a case will often be greatly affected by the strength of the liability. For instance, if two auto accident plaintiffs have the same injury (broken back) the pretrial settlement offers may vary greatly based upon the strength of the liability argument.

If liability is clear (rear end collision), than the pretrial offer will be higher to take into account that there will be a verdict, and it is just a question of how much. On the other hand, if liability is disputed and the defendant has a chance of winning on liability, the pretrial settlement offer will be considerably less to reflect the real possibility that the defendant may walk away paying nothing.
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LIST OF INSTRUCTIONS (Maryland Civil Pattern Jury Instructions-Unless Otherwise Indicated)

1. Introduction 1:1
2. Questions of Law During Trial 1:2
3. Witness Testimony Consideration 1:3
4. Expert Opinion Testimony 1:4
5. Impartiality in Consideration 1:5
6. Inferences from Statements of Court 1:6
7. Burden of Proof-Preponderance of Evidence Standard 1:7
8. Case Submission on Issues 1:12
9. Conclusion-Unanimous Verdict 1:13
10. Introductory Statement on Damages 10:1
11. Compensatory Damages for Bodily Injury 10:2
12. Susceptibility to Injury 10:3
13. Damages – Collateral Source Rule 10:8
14. Mortality Table – Life Expectancy of Laura Moore 10:26
15. Standard of Care 18:1
16. Definition – Negligence 19:1
17. Definition – Causation 19:10
18. Contributory Negligence – Generally 19:11
19. Last Clear Chance 19:14
20. Definition of Pedestrian 23:1
21. Duty to Pedestrians – Generally 23:2

MPJI-Cv 1:1 INTRODUCTION
a. Instructions at Beginning of Trial
(i) Explanation of Trial Procedure
Members of the jury, in this case the plaintiff, (name), has sued the defendant, (name), claiming damages for (brief description of claim).
The trial will proceed in the following way. You will first hear opening statements by the lawyers. Each party has the right to make an opening statement for the purpose of outlining for you what the party expects to prove. The plaintiff’s lawyer will make the first opening statement and then the defendant’s lawyer may choose whether to make an opening statement.
The plaintiff will then present evidence. After the plaintiff’s case has been presented through witnesses and exhibits, the defendant will then have an opportunity to present evidence. Each witness is first examined by the party who calls the witness to testify and then the opposing party is permitted to cross-examine the witness.
During the trial the lawyers may make objections to the introduction of evidence, or make motions concerning the law. Arguments in connection with objections or motions are usually made out of the hearing of the jury, either here at the bench or after the jury has been excused from the courtroom. This is because questions of law and admissibility of evidence do not involve the jury; they are decided by the judge. It is the duty of a lawyer to make objections and motions which the lawyer believes are proper. You should not be influenced by the fact that a lawyer has made objections or by the number of objections which have been made. You should draw no conclusions from my rulings, either as to the merits of the case or as to my views regarding any witness or the case itself.
After the conclusion of all of the evidence, I will instruct you as to the law which is applicable to this case. You must follow and apply the law as I will explain it to you. After these instructions, the lawyers will make their closing arguments. In their arguments, the lawyers will point out to you what they contend the evidence has shown and the conclusions they would like you to draw from the evidence. The plaintiff’s lawyer will make the first closing argument, then the defendant’s lawyer will make a closing argument. After the defendant’s argument, the plaintiff will have an opportunity to make an argument in rebuttal to the defendant’s argument. What the lawyers say in their opening statements, in their closing arguments, and in making objections or motions during the trial, is not evidence. The reason the plaintiff goes first in each instance is because the plaintiff has the burden of proof.
After closing arguments, you will retire to the jury room and begin your deliberations. It will then be your function and responsibility to decide the facts. You must base your findings only upon the testimony, the exhibits received and the stipulation(s) of the parties and any conclusions which may fairly be drawn from that evidence.

(ii) General Principles
The following general principles are intended to assist you in judging the evidence and to guide you in the performance of your duties as jurors during the course of the trial: [MPJI-Cv 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:6, 1:7 and 1:8, to the extent they are applicable, are to be used here.]

(iii) Admonitions as to Juror Conduct
This case will probably take (insert number) days to conclude. During that period, there will be recesses and adjournments of court when you will be excused. From this point forward, until the case is over and you have rendered your verdict, you may not discuss the case with anyone who is not on the jury. You may not discuss the case even with each other during the trial. You must wait until after you have heard (1) all of the evidence, (2) my instructions as to the law, and (3) closing arguments. In fairness to all the parties to this case, you should keep an open mind throughout the trial. You should reach your final conclusions only during your deliberations after having heard all of the evidence, my instructions as to the law and the lawyers’ closing arguments. Until the trial is over, you must avoid all contact of any kind with any of the participants in the trial, except for common courtesy such as the exchange of greetings. That includes the parties, the lawyers, the witnesses and any persons whom you see in close contact with these individuals. Do not visit the scene of any incident mentioned in the testimony or seek advice from friends or acquaintances as to any issues in this case or otherwise conduct investigation outside the courtroom. The reason for this is that you must decide the case only on the evidence which you have heard and seen in the courtroom and on nothing else.

b. Instructions at End of Trial
Members of the jury, the time has come for the Court to give you its instructions with respect to the law which is applicable in this case. You must apply the law as I explain it to you. Any comments I may make about the facts are only to help you and you are not required to agree with them. It is your function and responsibility to decide the facts. You must base your findings only upon the testimony, the exhibits received and the stipulation[s] of the parties, including any conclusions which may be fairly drawn from that evidence. Opening statements and arguments of the lawyers are not evidence in this case. If your memory of any of the testimony is different from any statement that I might make during the course of these instructions or that counsel might make in argument, you must rely on your own memory.

c. Witness and Party
Any person who testifies, including a party, is a witness.
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Nissan recently decided to recall 204,361 vehicles from its 2007 and 2008 model years in the United States due to the possibility that a passenger side airbag could fail to deploy properly in an accident. The recall covers 2007 and 2008 Nissan Altima, Altima Coupe, 350Z, Murano and Rogue; and Infiniti G35 Sedan, G37 Coupe and EX35 built from March 12, 2007 to May 27, 2008. Please click here for the full article.

The defect was in the passenger side “Occupant Classification System,” which figures out whether the front passenger is present, and if so, whether it’s a child or small adult. Apparently, the problem is with Nissan’s “Occupant Classification System,” which didn’t work properly since it was out of spec. As a consequence, the passenger airbag may not deploy in a serious crash.

For more information regarding Nissan’s recall, or to speak with a trial attorney with experience litigating similar product liability claims against automobile manufacturers, please contact us for a free consultation.

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As leading Maryland personal injury lawyers, we are often asked to explain Maryland law regarding wrongful death lawsuits.

Generally, a wrongful death claim is brought by a surviving spouse, child or parent. A Survival claim is brought by the personal representative of an estate.

To recover for a Wrongful Death cause of action, plaintiff must prove: 1) death; 2) negligence of the defendant; and 3) defendant’s negligence proximately caused death of decedent. Weimer v. Hetrick, 309 Md. 536, 547 (1987). In addition to the elements set out by case law, the Wrongful Death statute provides that the plaintiff must be within a category of defined beneficiaries under the statute and the claim must be brought within the applicable time period, 3 years after death of decedent. Md. Cts & Jud. Proc. Art. § 3-904.

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A four year old girl and her mother were severely injured when an individual, employed by the federal government, ran a red light and broad-sided the SUV in which the toddler and her mother were traveling. After the collision, the victims’ vehicle struck a utility pole and rolled over. The young girl sustained multiple injuries, which required 25 surgeries. She was hospitalized for 250 days. Her past medical expenses totaled approximately $3.5 million. The toddler’s attorneys maintained that future life care costs for the young girl would approach $22 million. The mother sustained approximately $29,100 in past medical expenses and $212,500 in future medical expenses.

The toddler’s mother sued the federal government, which employed the negligent driver that caused the accident. The mother claimed that the federal government was vicariously liable because the negligent driver was acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident and had failed to stop for a red light. The government ultimately conceded that it was liable, but argued that the damages were significantly less than claimed. A California court disagreed. After a bench trial, the court entered judgment in favor of the toddler and her mother for $55.18 million.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of the negligence of another driver, contact an experienced Maryland plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer for a free consultation about how best to pursue your claim.

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Each year, more than forty percent of the total number of traffic fatalities are alcohol related. In this country, nearly 17,000 thousand people are killed on an annual basis in accidents caused by drunk drivers.

Sadly, notwithstanding these horrific statistics, Maryland law does not permit a cause of action against a bar owner, restaurant, homeowner or other individual or entity responsible for negligently serving alcohol to individuals who later get behind the wheel of a car and cause serious, and oftentimes catastrophic, injury to others. See Veytsman v. New York Palace, Inc., 170 Md.App. 104, 122 n.11 (2006). Such a claim is known as tavern liability or “dram shop” liability. In fact, Maryland is one of only three states that do not permit such lawsuits. Maryland law also does not allow an injured victim to recover punitive damages in automobile accident cases, even in instances where the driver that caused the injury has consumed excessive quantities of alcohol or other mind-altering drugs. See Komornik v. Sparks, 331 Md. 720 (1993).
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Many individual automobile insurance policies do not provide adequate coverage for catastrophically injured victims. As a result, a product liability case against the manufacturer of the automobile may need to be explored. Such cases can be extremely complicated and expensive to prosecute effectively. As such, it is imperative to consult a trial attorney with significant experience handling such cases.

In addition to a simple “negligence” theory, Maryland law recognizes the “crashworthiness doctrine” and doctrine of “strict liability.” A claim may also be pursued under Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act in appropriate circumstances. Pursuing such avenues may be the only way to obtain full compensation for the catastrophically injured client. Therefore, at the beginning of a case, counsel should take affirmative steps to determine whether a product liability theory of recovery should be considered. At a minimum, counsel should take steps to secure the vehicles involved in an accident and send a “spoliation” letter to any parties involved in the accident to preserve evidence for later inspection.

My law firm and I recently obtained a substantial settlement from an automobile manufacturer in a product liability case on behalf of a woman who was blinded in an automobile accident case by the vehicle’s airbag. For more information regarding your catastrophic automobile injury case, please contact us for a complimentary consultation.

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Maryland is a major transportation corridor for trucking and other interstate travel with Interstate 95 running from North/South and Interstate 70 running East/West. As such, accidents involving tractor trailers and other large motor carriers oftentimes occur on Maryland’s frequently traveled roadways. In many of these cases, the tractor trailer is equipped with a “black box” containing critical information, such as average speeds of travel, top speeds, braking information for “hard stops” or other valuable information just prior to the point of impact. It may also contain information regarding the number of hours the truck was in operation; information that can be compared with the log books the driver and trucking company are required to keep. The black box can be a gold mine of information. The information contained in the black box can be critical to proving liability not just for the negligent truck driver, but for the company that employs him or her. This information can be used to show that a trucking company should have known there were problems with a particular driver.

If you’ve been involved in an automobile accident involving a tractor trailer or other trucking company, it is important to retain counsel early and act quickly. Counsel should send a “spoliation” letter requesting that the trucking company take affirmative steps to preserve evidence, including the data contained in the black box. A substantial amount of the data can be lost if the tractor trailer is put back into service after an accident. Counsel should notice the inspection of the tractor trailer unit. Counsel should also retain expert assistance to download the black box information. You don’t want the defendant-trucking company to beat you to the punch because they can easily erase critical information in the process. In addition to a black box, some trucking companies also use satellite tracking on their vehicles. This too can be a critical resource to explore when prosecuting a trucking accident case.

If you’ve been injured by the negligence of a truck driver, contact an experienced Maryland plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer for a free consultation about how best to pursue your claim.