Tragedy recently struck when a 32-year-old woman was instantly killed in a truck accident. According to a local news article covering the accident, the incident occurred when the victim, a 32-year-old woman, driving a Jeep failed to respond to oncoming traffic and ran directly into the rear of a semi-tractor trailer in front of her. She was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. While truck accidents occur all the time, this type of accident was a particular type called an “underride crash,” which can be especially fatal for Maryland residents.

An underride crash is a particular type of accident where a car slides underneath a large truck or semi-trailer. These crashes happen all across the country, including Maryland, and are often fatal, killing hundreds of people every year. While some large trucks have underride guards on them – large metal barriers at the back to stop vehicles from sliding under—research has found that these often fail to protect drivers. The guards tend to collapse and bend under when a car runs into them.

Congress has attempted to stop underride crashes. In March of 2019, the STOP Underrides Bill was introduced into Congress, which would allow engineers to put more effective protections on every truck, helping to end preventable tragedies. However, the bill has not been passed. In fact, according to a petition supporting the bill, it’s been 22 years since the last underride regulation was passed. In that time, more than 4,000 people have died in these tragic accidents.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion raising an interesting issue discussing whether a vehicle owner has a duty to install brakes on their trailer. Ultimately, the court did not come to a definitive decision, and remanded the case for further consideration. However, the opinion provides insight into the court’s considerations.

According to the court’s opinion, a woman was asked by her father to transport a load of palm fronds using his truck and trailer. Originally, the woman’s father had planned on making the trip himself, but he was not feeling well on the day of the trip. The trailer was not equipped with brakes and was loaded past its capacity.

While the woman was transporting the load, traffic in front of her suddenly slowed. As the woman tried to brake, she realized she was not going to stop in time, so she swerved onto the shoulder. Unfortunately, as the vehicle entered the shoulder, it struck the plaintiff who was waiting for the bus.

Recently, three family members were killed in a truck accident while on vacation. This accident serves as a sobering reminder of how quickly Maryland truck accidents can change someone’s life in an instant. According to a local news report covering the tragic incident, the family of eight—two parents, two grandparents, and three children—were driving in a rental van on a Florida highway one day when traffic started to slow down. Then, for reasons still unknown to authorities, a truck suddenly rear-ended their vehicle, causing it to roll over and resulting in serious injuries. The truck also hit two other vehicles, but no one in either of those vehicles was seriously injured.

The three victims in the family van were a 41-year-old woman, her 5-year-old daughter, and her 76-year-old mother. The father, grandfather, and one of the other children were also injured and had to be hospitalized, with the 11-year-old child still in critical condition the next day. Authorities are still unsure why the truck did not stop but were able to determine through an investigation that the truck driver was at fault. The crash remains under investigation, and so it is not yet clear whether or not criminal charges will be filed. However, regardless of whether or not there are criminal charges, the surviving victims may be able to bring a claim on their behalf and on behalf of their deceased family members to recover some monetary compensation in the wake of this tragic accident.

If the plaintiffs are able to prove that the truck driver owed a duty of care to their loved ones, and that their loved one’s death was caused by the defendant’s breach of that duty, they may be able to recover financial compensation for their losses. Depending on the specific facts of the case, this may include amounts for funeral and burial costs, past and future medical bills, psychiatric care needed to emotionally recover, lost wages, and general pain and suffering endured. While this monetary compensation will not undo the damage that has been done or bring back the loved ones, it may help the family by allowing them to not worry about finances in the aftermath of such a devastating tragedy.

Anytime a driver enters a Maryland highway, they usually share the road with one or more trucks. While most drives do not end in an accident, Maryland truck accidents do happen, and can cause serious injuries or even death to those involved. When someone is injured in one of these accidents, Maryland law allows a motorist to sue the negligent driver to recover for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Additionally, the state’s law allows injured victims to also bring suit against the negligent driver’s employer, if the driver was acting in the scope of his employment when the accident occured. For example, if a delivery driver runs a red light and gets into an accident while on his way to deliver a package, someone injured as a result may be able to sue both the driver and the company the driver works for.

However, there are strict limits and rules on when an employer can be held liable and when they cannot. Generally, the rule does not apply to independent contractors, as highlighted in a recent federal appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant was driving a tractor-trailer to make a delivery in another state when the driver got into an accident, seriously injuring a mother and daughter inside another vehicle. The two victims filed suit, alleging that the driver had been negligent and that the two companies who he worked for were also liable, since he was acting in the scope of his employment when the accident occurred.

The companies filed a motion for summary judgment, stating that they could not be held liable because the driver was an independent contractor, not an actual agent of the company. The trial court granted the motion, leading to a subsequent appeal. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the driver was an employee and agent, but the court disagreed. Looking at the text of the contract between the driver and the companies, the court found that the companies did not have sufficient control over the driver to be held liable for his actions. As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiffs could not seek compensation from the companies, and their suit could proceed only against the truck driver.

In a recent opinion, a state appellate court considered a wrongful death claim arising out of a train accident, ultimately concluding that the plaintiff was not entitled to relief. The tragic facts of the case and the plaintiff’s loss in court highlights something Maryland train accident victims know all too well: the difficulty in recovering against railroad companies when accidents occur.

According to the court’s written opinion, the tragic accident happened one morning when the victim, a 16-year-old girl, was walking to her school bus stop, a route which required her to walk through a railroad crossing and across railroad tracks. The railroad crossing’s warnings, including the bells, whistles, flashing lights, and automatic lever blocking cars, were all working and activated, indicating to the public that a train was approaching. The victim did not heed the warnings, and instead began to walk across the crossing. Almost immediately after she stepped onto the tracks, a freight train hit her, killing her instantly.

The victim’s mother filed a wrongful death action against the railroad company, the train conductor, and the train’s engineer, alleging two things. First, that the company failed to ensure proper safety measures, such as a pedestrian barrier, were in place at the railroad crossing to prevent children from walking onto the track. Second, the plaintiff alleged that the train conductor and engineer were negligent in operating the train, making them vicariously liable for the accident. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Subsequently, the plaintiff appealed.

Over 450,000 school buses transport about 25 million children to and from school every weekday in the United States. While the majority of these trips happen without any issues or injuries, school buses are unfortunately susceptible to involvement in car and truck accidents just as all other vehicles are. For example, shocking footage of a tragic accident in Columbus, Ohio was recently released, showing a catastrophic crash from the inside of a school bus. The crash occurred in December 2019, when a person driving on the road ran a red light and hit the bus, causing it to veer off of the road and flip on its side. The children and the two drivers did sustain injuries, but fortunately, no one was killed in the crash. Maryland school bus accidents are unfortunately far too common.

School bus accidents demonstrate that drivers aren’t the only ones at risk when someone behaves recklessly on the road. Maryland car and truck accidents can have a significant and catastrophic impact on both drivers and their passengers, such as children riding to and from school on a school bus. According to recent statistics compiled by the National Safety Council, school bus crashes killed 117 people nationwide in 2018 and injured many more. These crashes can also seriously injure pedestrians and drivers and passengers in other vehicles, particularly due to school buses’ size.

Some may think that because many of the victims of these accidents are often underage school children that there may not be litigation in the aftermath. But that is not actually the case. While young children cannot feasibly bring a suit themselves, suits are frequently brought on their behalf in both state and federal court, seeking damages for their injuries from the party responsible for the accident. Oftentimes these suits are brought by the injured child’s parents, who have been financially burdened by their child’s medical bills and are seeking compensation. Parents and/or the family’s estate may also bring wrongful death suits in the tragic case that a child is killed in an accident, where they may recover for pain and suffering, burial and funeral costs, and more. Family members considering bringing such a suit are advised to consult with a Maryland personal injury attorney to maximize their chances of successfully navigating an oftentimes difficult area of the law.

In 2017, distracted driving killed more than 3,000 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The problem has become increasingly common in Maryland and throughout the country over the past decade, posing a serious danger to Maryland drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Handheld devices have become commonplace, and research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that for some drivers, the use of advanced driver technology in vehicles made those drivers more likely to engage in distracted driving.

In Maryland, the use of a handheld phone while driving is prohibited. Yet, the use of handheld devices remains prevalent. Maryland law enforcement officers issued more than 34,000 citations for use of a cell phone and more than 1,800 for texting while driving in 2016. Montgomery County, Maryland has tried to take the law a step further by recently introducing a proposal to install cameras to catch distracted drivers and mail out tickets to them, as used for some red light cameras.

All Maryland drivers must generally exercise reasonable care under the circumstances presented. Distracted driving can form the basis for a case against a distracted driver, which would normally be founded in negligence. A plaintiff has to prove the following in a Maryland negligence claim: the defendant had a legal duty to the plaintiff; the defendant failed to meet the duty; the plaintiff suffered damages; and, the defendant’s failure to meet the duty caused the plaintiff’s damages.

In the unfortunate event of a Maryland truck accident, if an employee was behind the wheel, in some circumstances the employer may be able held liable as well. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer may be liable for the wrongful acts of its employees, as long as the acts were committed while acting within the scope of employment. The doctrine attributes the acts to the employer even without any wrongdoing on the part of the employer. Instead, the employer is held liable based only on the employer-employee relationship. Under Maryland law, an employer may be sued without suing the employee. The doctrine is meant to hold employers accountable for the actions of an employee because the employee is acting in the employer’s interest and also because the employer often can bear the financial loss better than an employee.

One recent case before a state appellate court illustrated the limits of respondeat superior. In that case, a car crash left a woman dead and her daughter injured. The crash occurred after the tire of another car separated from the car, crossed the median and hit the mother’s car. The husband of the woman (and father of the daughter) filed lawsuits against the driver, his employer, and other parties. According to the court’s opinion, as the employee was driving, another vehicle suddenly came into his travel lane and to avoid a collision, and he quickly changed lanes, causing his tire to come off. The plaintiff claimed that the driver failed to maintain the truck in a safe operating condition and that the employer was vicariously liable. The driver recently did work on his car and had removed the wheels. The employer filed a motion for summary judgment to be dismissed, but the trial court denied the motion.

On appeal, the employer argued that the driver was not driving negligently at the time of the collision. The driver of the vehicle worked as a construction technician. That day, he drove to a warehouse for work, and then drove with a co-worker to a job site. They left the job site and were driving to a guitar store before they had to be at the next job site. He and his co-worker both said that they did not notice anything wrong with the car.

Under Maryland law, trucks and other motor vehicles are required to carry a certain amount of liability coverage under their insurance policies. The state of Maryland regulates insurance policies, including uninsured motorist policies. Under the Maryland Insurance Code, uninsured motorists are defined as motor vehicles of which the “ownership, maintenance, or use” has resulted in the injury or death of an insured, and for which the liability limits for the injuries are less than the amount of coverage provided under the statute, or the limits have been reduced by other payments to an amount less than the amount of coverage provided under the statute. In Maryland truck accidents involving uninsured motorists, who may not carry sufficient coverage, can make recovery more difficult for accident victims.

In one recent case, the Supreme Court of Virginia considered whether an uninsured motorist provision covered the injuries of a special needs child who was injured on a school bus. In that case, the child, who was 10 years old, had autism and was not able to speak. The bus driver and an aide allegedly kicked, choked, and elbowed another student on the bus, and hit the plaintiff more than once during the incident. Both students were restrained by special needs harnesses. The plaintiff requested a determination by the court that the uninsured motorist provision in the policy provided coverage for his injuries. The bus’s insurance policy contained an uninsured motorist provision, which covered the insured’s damages for bodily injuries that arose out of the “ownership, maintenance, or use” of the uninsured motor vehicle.

The issue before the court was whether the injuries arose out of the use of the school bus as a means of transportation. The court found there was no causal connection between the boy’s injuries and the use of the school bus as a means of transportation. The court found that because the alleged conduct was criminal, it was not a foreseeable risk of transporting a child to school, and was not within the bus’s policy.

Anytime someone is injured in a Maryland truck accident, they have the ability to file a civil suit against the person or party responsible for the crash. However, there may sometimes be confusion about where they can bring that suit when the crash happened in a different state than the one where the victim resides. Maryland residents traveling for work or pleasure might be injured while in other states. When this happens, they may mistakenly believe they cannot ever bring suit in Maryland because the crash occurred elsewhere. This is not true. While the laws regarding personal jurisdiction—where someone can be sued—are complicated, there are many times where a Maryland victim can sue in Maryland, even if the crash happened in another state.

This is especially important to remember when crashes occur on a highway, because many of the victims may not be residents of the state in which the crash occurred. For example, a bus, three semi-trailers, and a car were all recently involved in a massive multi-vehicle crash in Pennsylvania. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the incident occurred early on Sunday morning on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. A tour bus was traveling downhill on a curve when it hit an embankment. Then, a UPS truck, the two FedEx trucks, and the passenger car, all of which were behind the tour bus, hit it from behind and caused it to topple on its side, causing the massive multi-vehicle crash.

The magnitude of the crash was reflected in the tragic fatalities and injuries—at least five people were killed, including a 9-year-old boy, and 60 others were taken to local hospitals with injuries. First responders called the accident a “mass casualty incident.” In the aftermath, 86 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was closed in all directions for several hours.

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