Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog

On April 22nd of last year, a fatal truck accident claimed the lives of five young nursing students from Georgia Southern University. Earlier this month, a settlement agreement was reached with four of the five families of the deceased students. According to one local news source, the exact terms of each of the settlements is not yet known, but one family will be receiving $14 million for the loss of their daughter.

road-train-1185254_960_720The Accident

At around six in the morning on the day of the accident, seven nursing students were carpooling to a Savannah hospital for training. The students were split up in two cars and were driving on Interstate 16, when an unrelated collision up ahead of the students slowed traffic down to stop-and-go speeds. As the students’ vehicles were stopped, a truck driver came at full speed from behind and crashed into the vehicles.

The truck first made contact with a Toyota Corolla carrying three of the students. After the initial collision, the truck rolled over the Corolla, killing all three inside. Then, the truck slammed into a Ford Escape carrying four other students. The Escape was thrown into the air as a result of the collision and then rolled multiple times. Two of the occupants were ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. The driver of the Escape was trapped behind the car’s steering wheel, and she needed to be extricated by emergency responders. She was taken to the hospital but was unable to recover from her injuries. She passed away a few hours later.

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One of the reasons that tractor-trailers and other large trucks are prone to getting involved in serious accidents is the fact that they require a longer distance to come to a complete stop. This is true even with an empty trailer, but when a truck is fully loaded, it can take up to three times the distance to come to a complete stop, compared to other, smaller vehicles.

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It is for this reason that in geographical areas where visibility may be limited for one reason or another, truck drivers need to take extra precautions. The limited visibility may be due to fog or other weather conditions present on the road, but it may also be a function of the road itself. For example, winding roads that travel through heavily forested areas, as well as roads through the hills with peaks and valleys, present difficulties for truck drivers.

Notwithstanding the difficulty of operating a truck in these conditions, it is the truck driver’s duty to ensure the safe operation of his vehicle at all times. This often means researching a route in advance, slowing down to below-posted speeds, or even calling ahead to make arrangements with local law enforcement for safe passage.

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Earlier this month, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a truck accident case, holding that evidence of a defendant’s lack of insurance is not relevant and should be excluded from the jury’s consideration. In the case, Perry v. Asphalt & Concrete Services, Inc., the appellate court reversed the nearly $530,000 jury verdict and ordered a new trial.

volvo-1201106_960_720The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was crossing the street in Frederick, Maryland, when he was struck by a dump truck that was working on a paving job at a nearby church. As a result of being struck by the dump truck, the plaintiff sustained head trauma and fractured several ribs. He then filed a lawsuit against the truck driver, the truck’s owner, and the defendant in this case, ACS, which was the company that hired the truck to complete the paving job.

The plaintiff’s theory against ACS was that the company negligently hired the truck driver. The plaintiff claimed that ACS was negligent because it failed to look into the truck driver’s licensing. In fact, the truck driver was not a licensed driver at the time of the accident. He also did not have liability insurance at the time of the accident.

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In most personal injury cases, the judge plays a fairly limited role, leaving the ultimate decision of whether the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries up to the jury. In the early stages of litigation, a judge also acts as a gatekeeper, ensuring that only meritorious cases reach the jury. If a party asks the judge to dismiss the case based on a lack of evidence, and the judge agrees, a case may get dismissed before it is even put before a jury. That is exactly what happened in a recent wrongful death case involving an allegedly negligent truck driver.

car-438730_960_720Moreno v. TLSL:  The Facts

In the case of Moreno v. TLSL, the plaintiff brought a wrongful death case on behalf of a man who was killed when the pickup truck he was driving slammed into the back of a semi-truck. In pre-trial depositions, several parties provided the court with testimony. After that process was complete, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the case, based on there not being any evidence of his being negligent.

The parties presented wildly different versions of what had occurred. The semi-truck driver testified that he merged onto the highway when he saw the deceased’s headlights in his mirrors. He estimated that the vehicle was about three-quarters of a mile behind him at the time he entered the highway. However, the vehicle behind him quickly approached and eventually crashed into the back of his truck. The truck driver guessed he was going at about 35 miles per hour when the collision occurred.

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Commercial carriers, such as buses, trucks, trains, and taxi-cabs, all have a duty to their passengers to operate their vehicles in a safe manner and do everything reasonable to ensure a safe trip. This duty extends to others sharing the road with the common carrier as well. On occasion, however, a bus driver’s attention drifts away from the road, or a truck driver dozes off in the middle of a long journey, putting his passengers and others on the road at an increased risk. When this type of conduct results in an accident, that driver can be held legally responsible for his actions in violating the duty he owed to his passengers and others.

bus-923199_960_720This type of case, generally brought under the legal concept of negligence, relies on an accident victim showing that the common carrier was negligent in attending to the duty he owes his passengers or others on the road, and that the breach of that duty resulted in the passenger’s injuries and damages. If this can be established, the injured party may be entitled to receive monetary compensation for the injuries they sustained in the accident. Such compensation is not normally limited to out-of-pocket expenses and may include additional amounts for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.

Minibus Accident in France Claims 12 Lives

Earlier last month, a devastating accident in France involving a minibus and a truck resulted in 12 Portuguese tourists losing their lives. According to one local news source covering the tragic event, the accident occurred while the minibus was taking the passengers from Switzerland back to Portugal.

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Large trucks that carry products from one end of the country to the other are necessary to our society, but they come with a good amount of risk as well. Trucks are large, cumbersome, difficult to control, and require a specialized knowledge to operate safely. In fact, in all fifty states, commercial truck drivers need a special license before they are permitted to drive a rig.

amish-444058_960_720While driving a truck is not an easy task, it is one that a truck driver voluntarily assumes. The same can be said about the heightened duty that truck drivers take on, as well. In fact, any time a truck driver is found to have negligently caused an accident, that driver may be held liable to anyone injured as a result. In cases where a truck accident results in a fatality, then that accident victim’s family may pursue a wrongful death case against that driver.

A wrongful death case is a special kind of lawsuit brought by the surviving family members of a deceased accident victim. Once a person is deemed an appropriate plaintiff by establishing their relationship to the deceased, a wrongful death case operates much like a traditional negligence case, requiring the plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s negligent actions resulted in the death of their loved one.

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Unlike most other vehicles, most busses do not have safety belts. In addition, they are large, slow to come to a stop, and can be very difficult to control. It is for these reasons that bus drivers are required to obtain special licenses that permit them to operate these potentially dangerous vehicles, called commercial drivers licenses. In addition to extra licensure requirements, bus drivers are held to a high standard of care when operating their vehicles. This stands true for other commercial vehicle operators as well, such as taxis and large trucks.

streets-690616_960_720Bus drivers have a duty to each of their passengers to take reasonable precautions to ensure a safe trip. Of course, this includes remaining free from the intoxicating effects of alcohol or drugs, even prescription medications. Additionally, in Maryland and Washington D.C., there is a hand-held device ban in place, prohibiting all drivers from using cellphones for texting or talking while behind the wheel. Bus drivers should constantly keep their full attention on the road, and should refrain from talking to passengers, or talking to other drivers over the radio.

When a bus driver causes an accident that results in injury to his or her passengers, that driver may be held liable for any injuries caused through a Maryland or Washington D.C. negligence lawsuit. In addition, it is also possible that the driver’s employer may also be held liable, depending on the circumstances of the accident and the employer’s involvement, if any. Typically, employer liability may arise when a bus driver is negligent in carrying out his or her assigned duties.

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Earlier this month, a Missouri appellate court issued a written opinion in the case of Brown v. Davis, holding that a truck driver’s employer could properly be held liable for his role in a fatal accident occurring on a narrow bridge. The court determined that the employer did owe the victim a legal duty to ensure a safe crossing across the narrow bridge where the accident occurred, and that the employer breached that duty when he failed to arrange for a safe crossing.
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The Facts of the Case

The defendant was the employer of a truck driver who was towing a logging machine on a flatbed trailer. Since the loaded trailer was wider than a single lane, it protruded into the oncoming lane in areas where the road was narrow. One such location where the load protruded into the opposite lane was a narrow bridge.

Before the truck driver crossed the bridge, the driver’s employer crossed and made sure that it was clear. However, the employer told the driver that the bridge was “all clear” when it was not. A car came over the bridge, and the truck driver knew that there was not likely room for both, so he moved over as much as he could. As he moved over, the logging machine struck the side of the bridge, came loose, and collided with the other vehicle, killing the driver.

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With their excessive length, heavy cargo, and long stopping distances, logging trucks are some of the most difficult to control, even compared to other large semi-trucks and tractor-trailers. Increasing the danger, logging trucks often drive on small rural roads on their way to pick up and drop off their cargo. It is for this reason that logging truck drivers need to be properly trained and vetted by their employers.

wood-933303_960_720Most people are familiar with the fact that a negligent driver can be held liable for any injuries that are caused by their dangerous driving. What is less known, however, is that a commercial driver’s employer may also be held liable if it can be shown that the driver did not possess the adequate training, experience, or support to safely operate their vehicle. In some cases, trucking companies will even encourage their employees to “bend” the rules and stay out on the road longer than is legally permissible.

In fact, whether or not it is explicitly stated, almost all truck drivers are financially incentivized to drive longer and rest less. This is because most drivers are paid per mile, rather than per hour. Thus, the more miles covered in a day, the higher the driver’s take-home pay.

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All motorists have a duty to safely operate their vehicles when on public roads. Of course, this includes following all posted traffic signs as well as following the written traffic laws of whatever jurisdiction they happen to be driving in. Not only does this general duty apply to truck drivers, but also a heightened duty applies in many situations.

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One of the situations in which truck drivers are held to higher expectations is when it comes to drowsy driving. Truck drivers are required by state and federal laws to document the amount of time they spend on the road, as well as the amount of time they spend resting. This is in order to keep tabs on truck drivers’ total number of hours on the road, in the hope of reducing serious or fatal truck accidents caused by drowsy driving.

Truck drivers are incentivized by their employers to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Many truck drivers are paid per mile, and the quicker they get to their destination, the quicker they can turn around, load up, and make another profitable trip. However, being on the road for countless hours on end is naturally taxing on a driver, and a driver’s awareness, judgment, and ability to stay awake and safely operate their vehicle is greatly compromised after a while.

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