Articles Posted in Automobile Accident

It’s a familiar, but fallacious argument. A favorite of defense counsel and insurance companies in automobile accident cases: “There was a minor impact, therefore there can only be minor injury, if any injury at all.” Defense lawyers often try to introduce into evidence distorted, grainy or out of focus photographs of minimal property damage without providing any expert testimony about the causal relationship between the amount of property damage and the victim’s injuries. The purpose of this tactic is to disprove by false implication what has been proven by medical evidence; to rebut the testimony of a licensed physician that has reached an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the victim’s injuries were caused by the accident in question. There is no mention of the sudden and very high energy forces that are transmitted through the vehicle in the milliseconds after the impact. No mention of the fact that most modern cars are built to withstand a 10-15 mile per hour rear impact without suffering significant property damage, particularly if you’re dealing with an SUV or truck.

Armed only with poor quality photos, too many defense counsel will attempt to manipulate the ignorance (or prejudice) of would be jurors. Such a defense lawyer hopes to prove by innuendo what they know they can’t prove legitimately: minimal damage to a vehicle equates to minimal damage to a human in the car.

In reality, a crash with very little visible property damage can cause extensive, painful and permanent injuries. Crash impact forces are transmitted into sudden and high energy forces causing unexpected acceleration of the subject vehicle, while the occupants of the vehicle (heads, necks, etc.) try to stay in place as their seat-belted bodies are thrust forward by the impact. This sequence of events can lead to a myriad of injuries, including, strained or torn ligaments, weakened connective tissue, bulging or blown discs, hyperextension/hyperflexion of the vertebrae and other painful conditions.

Under Maryland law, an individual or company that entrusts a motor vehicle to another person with knowledge that such person has a propensity for negligent or reckless driving may be held liable for injuries subsequently caused by that person in a motor vehicle collision. For example, a parent that has given a vehicle to a child as a birthday gift (or even if the parent has simply permitted the use of a family vehicle) with knowledge that the child has reckless driving habits may be held liable for personal injuries caused by the child in a motor vehicle collision. The child’s youth, maturity and inexperience behind the wheel may be relevant factors to consider in the appropriate case. Typically, in order to recover under a theory of negligent entrustment it must be shown that the supplier of the vehicle knew or should have known that the driver would operate the vehicle in a manner that posed an unreasonable risk of harm to others.

In some instances, this theory of recovery may apply to an employer that provides an employee with permission to use a company vehicle with knowledge that the employee-driver would be incompetent or reckless behind the wheel. A key component to this theory of liability is the degree of control over the vehicle exercised by the supplier of the vehicle at the time of the accident. The more control exercised by the supplier the better the chance for succeeding on a negligent entrustment claim. In certain circumstances, negligent entrustment can dramatically expand the opportunity to fully and adequately compensate a victim of personal injury.

Experienced Maryland plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers know that it is essential to evaluate whether a negligent entrustment claim can and should be pursued in the appropriate case. Please feel free to contact an experienced personal injury attorney at www.silvermanthompson.com for a free consultation.

Experienced Maryland plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers know to sue the employer when its employee commits an act of negligence causing personal injury. Often times the injured victim can recover damages from the employer if the tortuous act was committed by an employee acting within the scope of the employment relationship. In Maryland, this is called the doctrine of respondeat superior.

The doctrine of respondeat superior, in Maryland, allows an employer to be held vicariously liable for the tortuous conduct of its employee when that employee was acting within the scope of the employment relationship. With regard to the negligent use of motor vehicles in a respondeat superior claim, the State of Maryland recognizes that a master can be held liable for the negligent operation of a servant’s motor vehicle if the master expressly or impliedly consents to the use of the automobile, and……had the right to control the servant in its operation, or else the use of the automobile was of such vital importance in furthering the master’s business that his control over it might reasonably be inferred. Thus, the doctrine of respondeat superior may be properly invoked if the master has expressly or impliedly, authorized the [servant] to use his personal vehicle in the execution of his duties, and the employee is in fact engaged in such endeavors at the time of the accident.
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A Florida jury returned a verdict of $21.62 million in a wrongful death and survivor action where a 32 year old woman was rear-ended by another driver talking on her cell phone while driving. The force of the rear-end collision pushed the decedent’s car across the median strip and into oncoming traffic. She was killed when an SUV struck her vehicle head-on.

The decedent’s husband, individually and on behalf of his wife’s estate, and their two minor children sued the driver of the vehicle and the company that owned the driver’s car. The vehicle had been given to the driver’s husband for company business.

Incredibly, the defendants claimed that the rear-impact was minor and was not forceful enough to push the decedent’s vehicle across the median strip. The defendants argued that the decedent had accidentally accelerated after the impact and that the car that struck her when her vehicle was pushed into oncoming traffic failed to take appropriate action to avoid the collision. The defendant driver also maintained that she wasn’t talking on her cell phone at the time of the collision. The plaintiffs, however, subpoenaed the driver’s cell phone records, which indicated that she was talking on the phone with her husband at the precise time of the collision.

Experienced Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys know the various ways to recover for injuries suffered if involved in an accident with a vehicle owned by a business or company. If a Maryland resident is injured when their vehicle is struck by a company or business vehicle driven by another person, there are several sources of recovery for their injuries, including the company’s insurance, the other driver’s insurance or their own insurance company. If a Maryland resident is driving a company vehicle that is involved in an accident, they potentially may recover from; 1) Workers’ Compensation, 2) the other driver’s insurance company or 3) their own insurance company.
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Oftentimes, in automobile accident cases, it may be difficult to obtain service for an individual defendant. Perhaps the defendant provided the wrong address at the scene of the accident. Or perhaps the defendant has moved at some point between the date of the accident and the date suit is actually filed. Fortunately, Maryland law sets forth a statutory tool for obtaining a defendant’s last known address from the defendant’s insurance company.

Under section 6-311 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, a plaintiff may request a defendant’s last known address directly from the defendant’s insurance company. In order to obtain this information, the plaintiff must file a certification with the court (i) stating that the defendant had insurance coverage at the time of the incident, (ii) detailing the reasonable efforts made by the plaintiff to locate the defendant; and (iii) stating that the defendant is evading service or that the whereabouts of the defendant are unknown. This certification must also be served upon the defendant’s insurer.

This statutory tool can prove invaluable for tracking down a defendant who is attempting to evade service of process or who had moved since the date of the incident. This statute can be a very inexpensive tool for obtaining very important information. I have used it in my practice a number of times.

Sometimes, individuals that do not carry automobile insurance coverage (because they do not drive) are injured by an uninsured motorist or “phantom vehicle.” The Maryland legislature has created a special fund to compensate these victims. In certain circumstances, it may be possible to make a claim against this government-managed fund when a person has been injured (or his or her property has been damaged) by the negligent act or omission of an uninsured motorist or a motorist that has fled the scene of the collision and cannot be identified.

When someone is struck by a “phantom vehicle,” the injured person must demonstrate that he or she has made all “reasonable efforts” to ascertain the identity of the motor vehicle and the owner/operator of the motor vehicle that stuck him or her, but was unsuccessful. What constitutes “reasonable efforts” is determined on a case by case basis, but Maryland courts have historically applied a much heightened standard. Generally speaking, “reasonable efforts” are the same efforts that one would expect an injured person to make if he or she knew there would be zero recovery unless he or she actually located the driver of the phantom vehicle. These efforts may include, but certainly are not limited to, interviewing all available witnesses, searching the surrounding area for the vehicle, publishing a notice in a local paper and/or hiring a private investigator.

When someone is struck by a disappearing motorist or phantom vehicle, it is imperative that swift action is taken to properly preserve the rights an injured party may have. For that reason, it is important to hire an experienced trial attorney that is familiar with the statutory rules for pursuing a recovery against the fund and who has the resources to make “all reasonable efforts” to obtain the identity of the phantom vehicle.

A Cheyenne, Wyoming jury awarded a husband and wife more than $18 million in a personal injury lawsuit arising out of a tractor-trailer collision. The driver of the tractor-trailer and the trucking company that employed her were found to be negligent in causing the crash. The defendants claimed that the husband, who was very seriously injured and sustained severe brain damage as a result of the crash, was negligent in causing the collision. The jury disagreed. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

Trucking cases can be very difficult and complex cases to handle and it is very important to be represented by an experienced trial attorney who is familiar with the statutes, rules and regulations that are applicable to truck drivers and trucking companies. These statutes, rules and regulations may add another layer of complexity to an otherwise typical automobile accident case. There are certain records that a trucking company is required by law to maintain. These records can be critical to the outcome of trucking case where a party has sustained serious personal injuries. For instance, Department of Transportation regulations govern the inspection and maintenance responsibilities of most motor carriers and truck drivers that conduct interstate operations. These regulations have been adopted by the Maryland legislature and apply with equal force to intrastate motor carriers that conduct business entirely within the State of Maryland.

Some trucking accidents happen when a tire blows on a dump truck or tractor-trailer. At first glance, one might conclude that such “acts of God” are not related to any negligent act or omission on the part of the truck driver or the trucking company. However, that may not be the case. Department of Transportation regulations provide, among other things, that it is unlawful to operate any commercial vehicle unless the driver is certain that the tires and other component parts are in good working order. No motor vehicle may be operated on a tire which has an inflation pressure less than that specified for the load being carried. Wheels and rims may not be cracked or broken when the truck is being operated. Every motor carrier is obligated to systematically inspect, repair and maintain all motor vehicles under its control, including the wheels and rims. The motor vehicle is required to maintain a record of all inspection, repairs and maintenance for six months after the vehicle leaves the motor carrier’s control. Every motor carrier must require each of its drivers to prepare a report in writing at the completion of each work day on each vehicle operated. The report is required to identify the vehicle and list any defect or deficiency which would affect the safety of operating the vehicle. If no defect or deficiency is discovered, the report must so indicate. The report must be signed by the driver. Any deficiency or defect must be repaired prior to the operation of the vehicle. A driver must be satisfied that the vehicle is in safe operating condition prior to operating it. Every driver is required to review the last driver inspection report before operating the vehicle and must sign the report if any defects or deficiencies were previously noted to certify that the required repairs have been performed.

Experienced Maryland personal injury attorneys can help parents or guardians recovery money for injuries suffered by their children in automobile accidents. Whether or not the parent a guardian was involved in the car crash that injured the child is irrelevant to whether a parent/guardian can collect on behalf of the minor child.
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Metro has agreed to pay $2.3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by a man whose wife was killed when she was struck by a Metrobus last year. The man who brought the lawsuit wanted to hold Metro accountable when it struck and killed his wife and his wife’s friend, both of whom were walking in a crosswalk at the time of the incident.

In Maryland, every year numerous individuals are injured by the negligence of the drivers and operators of various methods of mass transportation, whether it’s an MTA bus, the Lightrail or the Metro. When mass transit operators have caused injury, through error or negligence, it is important that they be held accountable. This level of accountability is a profound way to bring about changes that may be advantageous to, and further protect, the health and welfare of the public in general. This level of accountability is also a means to redress whatever wrong or violation may have occurred.

When an individual is seriously injured in a collision involving a bus, metro train, Lightrail or other means of mass transportation, it is important to consult an experienced trial lawyer to determine whether a lawsuit is warranted and necessary. Such cases are extremely important to pursue so that adequate compensation can be obtained for an injured victim so that he or she can get the best medical and other care under the circumstances.

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