car accidentRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an interesting issue that will occasionally come up in Maryland truck accident cases. Specifically, the case dealt with a settlement agreement that was executed between the plaintiff and several potentially liable parties, whereby the plaintiff accepted compensation in exchange for an agreement to excuse the parties from liability.

The question the court had to answer was whether the broad language of that agreement resulted in the remaining potentially liable parties being excused from liability as well. In so doing, the court took the rare step to consider extrinsic evidence that was not contained in the settlement agreement to determine the intent of the parties.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in an accident involving a sandwich delivery truck. Within two weeks of the accident, the plaintiff entered into a settlement agreement with the vehicle’s owner and the owner’s insurance company. That agreement provided that the plaintiff would receive $25,000, the policy maximum, and in exchange would “release, acquit and forever discharge the said payor(s), their agents and employees, and all other persons, firms or corporations who are or might be liable” for injuries resulting from the accident.

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product liabilityRecently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving an evidentiary ruling that precluded the plaintiff’s proposed expert witnesses from testifying. The case is relevant in Maryland truck accident cases because it illustrates how courts determine whether an expert’s testimony will be admissible and, thus, able to be considered by the jury.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and her infant son were involved in a semi-truck accident. During the accident, the plaintiff’s vehicle was dragged under the side of the semi-truck’s trailer in what is known as a “side underride accident.” The plaintiff suffered serious brain damage as a result of the accident, and filed a personal injury case against several parties.

This particular case involved the lawsuit filed by the plaintiff against the manufacturer of the trailer. The plaintiff planned on presenting testimony of an alternate design that would have prevented, or at least mitigated, the plaintiff’s injuries through two expert witnesses. The expert witnesses intended on testifying about a telescoping side guard, which expands to protect other areas of the truck in the event that the truck’s sliding axle is in the rear position.

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semi truckAny motorist who has spent a significant amount of time driving along Maryland’s highways has likely seen the remnants of semi-truck tires along the edge of the road. These piles of shredded rubber should be a reminder to Maryland truck drivers of the importance of properly maintaining the tires on their rig.

When a semi-truck experiences a tire blow-out, the driver will have to struggle to maintain control of the vehicle when traveling at high speeds. Of course, when a blow-out occurs on a crowded Maryland highway, there will be little the truck driver can do to prevent a serious Maryland truck accident.

Due to the dangers involved, big trucking companies, as well as the individual drivers they hire, have a duty to make sure that their trucks are properly maintained at all times. This includes performing the regular required maintenance on the truck’s tires, as well as conducting a visual inspection prior to driving the truck. When a truck driver fails to take these necessary precautions, they place Maryland motorists at risk.

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semitruckAny time a motorist’s vehicle breaks down on the highway, it’s a stressful occasion. The first thought in most motorists’ minds after a breakdown is ensuring that they are able to stop the car safely and park it in a secure location. After that, however, a motorist’s attention likely shifts to the logistics of how to get the car to a repair shop, gas station, or back home.

Leaving a vehicle on the side of the highway, of course, is very dangerous. Passing motorists may not be paying attention and can run into a roadside vehicle, even if it is not blocking a lane. In fact, each year there are hundreds of Maryland roadside accidents involving parked or disabled vehicles on the side of the road.

Determining fault in a roadside accident can be tricky. For instance, if the motorist was safely parked on the side of the highway and was not obstructing any of the lanes, the passing motorist may be at fault. However, if a driver leaves a portion of their vehicle protruding into a lane of travel the passing motorist may not be at fault. These cases depend heavily on the specific facts surrounding the accident.

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truck accidentIn many Maryland truck accidents, witnesses to the accident or those who were involved in the accident make statements to one another in the immediate aftermath of the accident. Often, these statements are made without forethought, and may be instinctive reactions to what had just happened. However, these statements may be illuminating when it later comes to making a determination as to who was at fault.

By way of example, earlier this month a fatal truck accident claimed the life of one motorist. According to a recent news report, a semi-truck driver inexplicably lost control of his vehicle, crossed over the center median and into oncoming traffic, and then collided with two other vehicles. Three other vehicles then became involved in the accident, injuring a total of three people.

Police conducted an interview of the truck driver after the accident, and while police are not releasing the substance of the driver’s statement, they did explain that it was “unusual.” Whether the statement was some sort of apology or confession remains to be seen. Police are continuing with their investigation into the fatal accident, but have told reporters that they do not believe drugs or alcohol to have been a factor.

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Any time an accident occurs on the highway, there is a chance that the vehicles approaching the collision will not be able to see the collision until it is too late for them to safely avoid it. While the possibility of a Maryland truck accident involving a chain reaction is always present, certain factors make these accidents much more likely.Legal News Gavel

For example, the weather and road conditions may result in motorists having decreased visibility. When this occurs, it is up to motorists to adjust their speed accordingly to ensure that they are driving at a safe speed for the conditions. The type of vehicle being operated also factors into the likelihood that a driver will be able to stop in time to avoid an upcoming collision.

Large trucks and buses literally weigh a ton – up to 40 tons, to be exact. Such an immense amount of weight – especially when traveling at high speeds – puts a major burden on a vehicle’s brakes. In fact, a fully loaded semi-truck traveling at just 55 miles per hour takes about 100 yards to come to a complete stop. A truck traveling at 65 miles per hour takes almost twice that distance to come to a stop.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case upholding a jury verdict in excess of $10 million. The case illustrates one of the many situations in which the victims of a Maryland train accident may be able to obtain compensation for the injuries or losses they sustained in the accident.Legal News Gavel

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was killed in a railroad-crossing accident. Evidently, the plaintiff’s husband was driving with a friend on a country road as they approached a set of railroad tracks. The evidence presented at trial showed that there was one black-and-white “RAILROAD CROSSING” sign. However, the plaintiff’s evidence also suggested that the intersection had become overgrown with vegetation, such that it was difficult to see the sign.

As the plaintiff’s husband approached the intersection, a train approached as well. It was disputed whether the train’s horn was sounded, but the train ultimately collided with the plaintiff’s husband’s vehicle. The plaintiff’s husband was killed in the accident, and the passenger was seriously injured. The plaintiff’s husband filed this case against the railroad company. The passenger filed a personal injury lawsuit against the train’s operator as well as the plaintiff’s husband, and they settled with both parties prior to trial. Thus, the plaintiff’s case proceeded without the passenger’s case.

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Legal News GavelIn Maryland truck accident cases, the plaintiff must be able to establish each of the elements of their claim in order to be successful. Simply stated, these elements are duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing the causation element of a negligence lawsuit. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case should proceed toward trial based on the fact that the defendant truck driver created a substantial risk of harm to the plaintiff when he parked on the side of the highway.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was traveling on the highway shortly before 7:00 a.m. when he approached a semi-truck that had been parked on the side of the road. The truck, which was occupied by the defendants, was parked in the emergency lane, about ten inches away from the nearest lane of travel.

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Over the past few months, Maryland has seen an unusual amount of rain. This weather, aside from ruining summer plans, also creates a hazard for Maryland motorists. Wet roads create numerous difficulties for motorists, most of which can be avoided by slowing down and paying close attention to the road conditions. One of the most common causes of Maryland traffic accidents during a rainstorm is hydroplaning.

Legal News GavelHydroplaning occurs when a vehicle travels not on the surface of the roadway as it would in dry conditions, but instead on a thin layer of water on top of the road’s surface. In order for a vehicle to hydroplane, there only needs to be a tiny amount of water on the roadway. Thus, most hydroplaning accidents occur within the first ten minutes of a rainstorm, when the road doesn’t necessarily look slippery to motorists.

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of a vehicle hydroplaning, including:

  • The vehicle’s gross weight;
  • Driving on improperly inflated tires;
  • Traveling at excessive speeds;
  • Driving on worn tires;
  • The depth of the water on the roadway; and
  • Making a sharp turn.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue for many Maryland personal injury plaintiffs. The case arose after a truck accident in which the plaintiff, a woman originally from Mexico without a valid work permit for the United States, was injured in an accident with a truck driver. The case required the court to discuss whether the plaintiff was entitled to a new trial after defense counsel made several veiled comments regarding the plaintiff’s immigration status.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when the defendant truck driver made an allegedly improper lane change into the plaintiff’s vehicle. Many facts in the case were contested, with the plaintiff and defendant each maintaining different stories of how the accident occurred.

As a part of the plaintiff’s case, she had a medical expert testify regarding her injuries and what treatment she would likely need in the future, as well as the cost of that treatment. During cross-examination of that witness, defense counsel asked the expert if he was aware if the plaintiff was going to “move back” to Mexico. Defense counsel made another reference to the fact that the plaintiff spoke primarily Spanish and only limited English.

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