Whether it be a police car issuing a citation to a motorist or an ambulance responding to the scene of an accident, emergency vehicles are frequently seen on the side of Maryland highways. While these emergency vehicles necessarily must park on the side of the highway for a number of reasons, the reality is that while a vehicle is parked on the side of the highway, the chance of causing a Maryland car accident increases.

Fire TruckOperators of emergency vehicles should follow certain precautions when leaving their vehicles on the side of the highway. For example, emergency vehicles should be pulled as far off the highway as possible to avoid obstructing traffic. When traffic must be obstructed, the operator of the vehicle should make sure that the vehicle’s emergency lights are activated to ensure that passing motorists take notice of the vehicle’s presence. Additionally, traffic should not be obstructed in a manner that leaves approaching motorists with insufficient time to come to a complete stop, such as around a curve or immediately after the top of a hill.

While state and local governments enjoy immunity in some Maryland car accidents, if a government employee acts negligently while carrying out a job-related task, immunity may not attach.

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While there are many causes of Maryland truck accidents, most truck accidents are caused by intoxicated, distracted, or sleepy drivers. Intoxication is such a problem among truck drivers that many states have implemented stricter blood-alcohol content allowances for all commercial drivers. For example, commercial drivers are not permitted to have a blood-alcohol content of .04 or greater, while other motorists are limited at a .08 blood-alcohol content.

Truck on HighwayAlcohol intoxication is certainly responsible for a large share of the total number of truck accidents involving intoxication. However, the use of illegal drugs seems to be increasing among truck drivers over the past few years. In part, this is due to the pressures inherent in the long-haul trucking profession, which places an emphasis on getting cargo to the final destination as quickly as possible. This pressure leads some drivers to take illegal drugs in an effort to stay awake longer and travel more miles per day. Of course, illegal drugs are not without their side effects. Too often, drivers who take stimulants to stay awake find themselves drifting off as the drugs wear off.

Truck Driver Faces Felony Charges for Intoxicated Driving

Earlier this month, two people were seriously injured when the vehicle in which they were traveling was struck by a truck driver who had drifted out of his lane and into oncoming traffic. According to a local news source covering the accident, it was around 4 p.m. as the truck driver was en route to his final destination when he inexplicably crossed over the center line and into oncoming traffic.

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One of the most common causes of rear-end accidents on Maryland highways is when an unaware driver encounters slowed traffic. Most drivers assume that when they are traveling on the highway during non-rush hour times that traffic will continue to move at a quick and reliable pace. However, whether due to road construction or an unrelated accident, traffic patterns are unpredictable and can slow down at any given moment.

Passenger BusWhile an unexpected slowdown can catch any motorist off guard, distracted or sleepy drivers are especially at risk for causing an accident in these conditions, due to their lack of awareness.

German Bus Accident Claims 18 Lives, Dozens of Others Injured

Earlier this month in Bavaria, Germany, 18 people were killed and many others seriously injured when a bus rear-ended a truck that had slowed down for upcoming traffic in an early morning accident. According to a national news source covering the tragic accident, the bus was carrying 48 people, mostly seniors, at the time of the accident.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a truck accident case that was brought by the family of a woman who was killed when her vehicle was rear-ended by the defendant truck driver. The case required the court to determine whether the owner of the truck, who was not driving at the time but was present in the vehicle, should qualify for a limitation of liability under a state statute. Since the court found that the owner of the truck “loaned” the truck to the passenger, the owner was entitled to a limitation of his liability.

Yellow Semi-TruckThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ daughter was driving on a divided highway behind the defendant truck driver. At some point, she attempted to pass the defendant. As she pulled back into her lane, she realized another vehicle in front of her was making a left turn. The plaintiffs’ daughter was able to stop in time, but the defendant truck driver was not able to stop his rig in time, and he collided with the back of the daughter’s vehicle, pushing it into oncoming traffic, where it collided head-on with another truck. The plaintiffs’ daughter was killed as a result of the collision, and her family filed this wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and the owner of the truck that rear-ended her.

The owner of the truck asked the court to limit his liability under a state statute that provides a maximum of $100,000 in liability in situations in which a vehicle owner loans out his vehicle to another person who negligently causes an accident. The truck’s owner explained that, while he was present in the truck, he had temporarily loaned the truck to the operator when he asked the operator to drive the truck while he took a nap in the back. The trial court found that the truck owner was in a joint venture with the truck’s driver and denied the owner’s request to limit his liability.

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Truck drivers, as well as the companies that employ them, have a duty to ensure that the vehicles they use to transport goods across the country are well-maintained and in good working order in order to prevent hazards to other motorists. Part of this duty requires truckers to double-check that their rig is safe to drive after each stop.

Dirty TireWhile it may seem that equipment failures on large trucks are rare, the opposite is true. Many of the parts on a semi-truck are rated at certain speeds, and when a driver exceeds that speed, there is an increased risk of equipment failure. Of course, any part of a semi-truck can fail, but tires are the main culprit and present the most serious risk of causing a serious or fatal accident.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that of the roughly 14,000 truck and bus accidents occurring between the years of 2009 and 2013, approximately 200 were caused by tire blow-outs. In some cases, tire blow-outs are due to manufacturer errors, but blow-outs can also be caused by user errors. For example, if a truck driver fails to ensure that a tire is properly inflated or drives on a tire that is too worn, blow-outs are more likely to occur.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued an interesting opinion in a truck accident case that required the court to determine if the company that employed a truck driver who was responsible for a serious accident could be liable for punitive damages. Ultimately, the court concluded that under some other set of facts, punitive damages may be appropriate, but, given the facts presented in this specific case, they were not.

Trucker's ViewThe Facts of the Case

In 2014, the plaintiffs were driving through a construction zone on Interstate 14 when they were struck by a truck. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the trucking company that employed the driver, arguing that the company was liable for the driver’s actions because he was an employee working within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that the company was negligent for hiring the truck driver in the first place, given the driver’s checkered past. The plaintiffs sought punitive damages on each claim.

In support of their negligent hiring claim, the plaintiffs introduced evidence that the truck driver had previously been convicted of drug offenses and had a significant history of traffic offenses. There was also a report that the truck driver had been found to be traveling at 99 miles per hour while on the job just a week prior to the accident.

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Earlier this year in March, an accident involving a school bus, a passenger car, and a semi-truck claimed the lives of two men and injured several of the students on board the bus. The accident occurred when the semi-truck inexplicably veered out of its lane, across the center median, and into the path of the school bus. The driver of the school bus was able to swerve to avoid a collision; however, the high-school track coach driving in a vehicle behind the bus was struck head-on by the semi-truck.

Truck AccidentAfter evading the oncoming semi-truck, the school-bus driver lost control of the vehicle as it ran off the side of the road. The track coach and the semi-truck driver both died in the collision. In all, 18 students were hospitalized, most with non-life threatening injuries.

According to a recent news report, the police conducted toxicology tests on the semi-truck driver after the collision. The results came back showing that he had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the collision.

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Large trucks have the capacity to cause major damage when they are involved in an accident. These dangers are increased when a truck being driven is on a crowded highway. In general, it is a motorist’s duty to ensure that they are operating their vehicle in a safe manner and in compliance with state and local regulations.

School BusesDue to the size and weight of large vehicles, this often means that truck drivers must leave additional room between their rig and other vehicles on the road. Indeed, a large truck traveling at highway speeds can take the length of a football field to come to a complete stop. When a truck driver fails to take the necessary precautions when operating his vehicle, he may be liable for any injuries that result.

Notwithstanding a truck driver’s negligence, sometimes other motorists contribute to truck accidents. This may be a distracted motorist who swerves out of her lane or an aggressive driver who cuts off a truck that ultimately crashes into another vehicle. In these situations, it may be the case that both the truck driver and another party are liable. In such situations, it will be up to a jury to decide which parties are liable and the percentage of fault for each driver.

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Large trucks always present a danger on the highway, due to their large and cumbersome nature. Moreover, construction zones are an area of increased risk, especially when they are not adequately marked or require drivers to stay in extremely narrow lanes.

Road ConstructionIn most cases, it is the truck driver’s responsibility to ensure that the truck safely navigates the construction zone. However, there can be times when the government entity or contractor responsible for marking and maintaining the construction area is liable. For example, if drivers are not given sufficient notice of a construction zone that requires they come to a complete stop, a contractor may be liable for this failure. Similarly, if the construction zone itself is unsafe due to excessively narrow lanes, debris left on the roadway, or other hazards, the party responsible for the construction may be liable.

In most other cases, the truck driver is responsible for making sure that he is able to safely travel through the construction zone. This may require the truck driver to slow down or even stop to double-check clearances. One of the most common accidents involving large trucks and construction zones is a truck driver’s failure to take notice of the construction zone. In such situations, trucks have been known to plow through construction cones, stopped cars, and even cement barriers, putting everyone from the construction workers to fellow motorists at great risk.

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The truth is that most drivers roll through the occasional stop sign. However, the fact that running a stop sign is a common occurrence among motorists does not make it acceptable. Running a stop sign is a very dangerous driving behavior. In fact, drivers who run stop signs cause approximately 700,000 accidents each year. In roughly one-third of these accidents, someone is seriously injured.

Stop SignWhen a driver runs a stop sign and causes an accident, that driver may be held liable for any injuries that occur as a result. However, several issues can arise in a personal injury case alleging that a driver ran a stop sign. Initially, the issue of credibility may come up, meaning that unless there are independent witnesses who can testify to what happened, a driver may offer up a self-serving version of what happened in the moments leading up to the accident. With the increase in popularity of private surveillance video, there is a chance that an accident is caught on camera, but that may only be revealed through an in-depth investigation.

Another issue that may arise is the injured motorist’s own role in the accident. In Maryland, any motorist who is even the slightest bit at fault for causing an accident is not permitted to recover compensation for their injuries. This means that a defendant may be able to avoid liability completely by shifting just a small portion of the blame onto an accident victim.

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