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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.

When there is an accident involving many vehicles and people, it often means that the legal case will involve many parties. More than one party may be to blame for the plaintiff’s injuries—including the plaintiff. If a plaintiff is alleged to be even partially at fault, Maryland truck accident victims must understand the effect of the doctrine of contributory negligence.

The doctrine of contributory negligence applies in Maryland accident cases. Under this doctrine, if a plaintiff is found to be at fault for their own damages, even partially, the plaintiff is barred from recovering from any other party for their damages. Each party has a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances presented. Every driver must exercise the degree of care that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under the circumstances, including in emergency situations. Maryland accident victims often have to work hard to defend their lack of fault in injury claims in addition to proving the defendant’s fault.

Many people have criticized the contributory negligence doctrine because it can result in extremely harsh consequences. Most states have adopted the doctrine of comparative negligence instead. Under that doctrine, a plaintiff can normally still recover even if the plaintiff is partly to blame. The doctrine has been the law in Maryland since 1847 and the state has rejected adopting comparative negligence.

In the aftermath of a truck accident, injured victims may struggle to cover the related costs, ranging from medical bills to lost wages. One commonly used solution is to file a civil lawsuit against the party responsible for the accident and resulting injuries and hold them liable for the costs. While this process is greatly beneficial for many accident victims, it can become complicated by insurance companies. Auto insurance is meant to help cover victims when accidents occur, but insurance companies are notoriously resistant to paying out compensation and may make the process increasingly frustrating for people who are injured.

A recent state appellate case demonstrates how insurance disputes can slow down the process of receiving compensation. According to the court’s written opinion, a semi-tractor trailer was hauling logs early one morning in December 2013 when the plaintiff’s vehicle collided with the logs extending from the back of the trailer. As a result, the plaintiff suffered severe and permanent injuries, including a spinal cord injury. According to the complaint, the medical expenses incurred as a result were over $1,000,000.

The plaintiff filed a complaint against several defendants, including the semi-tractor trailer’s insurer, which was the focus of this case. The insurance company filed multiple subsequent motions and defenses, including a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was no coverage for the incident because the policy excluded incidents involving the truck driver who was driving at the time of the accident. The insurance company also disputed the uppermost limit of coverage in this case, arguing for the state’s minimum coverage of $100,000 rather than the federal minimum coverage of $750,000. In addition, and to complicate the case further, the insurance company claimed that the state court did not have proper jurisdiction to hear this case.

When a school bus is involved in a Maryland bus accident, plaintiffs need to deal with the additional complication of navigating governmental immunity. In injury claims filed against a public school district, plaintiffs have special considerations.

First, a claimant normally must provide timely notice to the state or municipality, advising the entity of the claim. The Maryland Tort Claims Act generally requires that a claimant first submit a written claim to the Treasurer within one year of the injury. The notice needs to comply with the requirements provided in the Act, which include a statement of facts and specific damages. The Treasurer then has the opportunity to grant or deny the claim. If the Treasurer denies the claim, the plaintiff can file the case in court. A claim generally also needs to be filed within three years of the accident, although this can be extended in certain, limited circumstances.

Second, immunity is often raised as a defense in claims against governmental entities or employees. The doctrine of immunity limits the ability of plaintiffs to proceed with claims against state and local governments in some cases. Immunity normally must be waived in order for the claim to go forward—which usually happens through a statute. In cases against local government entities, such as school districts, Maryland law protects them from suit as long as the entities are carrying out certain duties. Immunity normally functions to protect government employees, as long as they are acting in their official capacity, and the employee’s actions are carried out without malice or gross negligence.

Reckless drivers can face serious and long-lasting consequences for their actions. If a reckless driver causes injuries or property damage in a truck accident, the driver can be found guilty of a crime, and they may be held liable and ordered to pay compensation in a civil case. Truck accident victims can be crippled with medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.

Maryland drivers are required to exercise reasonable care in driving, including taking into account the relevant circumstances and exercising reasonable care in responding to other drivers and emergency situations. The definition of reckless driving under Maryland’s transportation code is driving in “wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property,” or in a way that indicates such behavior. A negligent party should be held accountable. If a defendant is found liable in a civil case, a plaintiff may be able to recover financial compensation for economic and non-economic damages.

Truck accident victims seeking to hold a reckless driver accountable through a Maryland negligence action must show that the driver failed to exercise the required amount of care under the circumstances by acting in a negligent manner. Reckless drivers may also be held liable for gross negligence if the plaintiff is able to show that the driver had a wanton or reckless disregard for others. Examples of negligence include speeding, following too closely, and failing to pay attention to the road. In addition to proving that a defendant acted negligently, a plaintiff must also prove that the defendant’s negligent conduct caused the plaintiff’s damages. This requires showing that the damages were actually caused by the defendant’s conduct and that the conduct was sufficiently connected to the damages to be held responsible.

Under Maryland law, the employer of an independent contractor generally is not liable for damages caused by the actions of the independent contractor. However, there are a number of exceptions to the rule. For example, employers may be held liable in instances in which the employer was negligent in selecting, instructing, or supervising the contractor, the work was inherently dangerous, or the employer had a non-delegable duty.

The non-delegable duty exception means that an employer is not absolved of certain responsibilities even if the employer hires an independent contractor. In these situations, an employer is still free to delegate those responsibilities—but the law views such duties as being so important that the employer is still on the hook for improperly carrying out these duties or for failing to carry them out. There are a number of duties that courts have found are non-delegable duties. For example, duties imposed by statute, such as following building code provisions, are often non-delegable duties for building owners.

An appeals court in one state recently decided a truck accident case in which the court found that the employer did not have a non-delegable duty despite alleged violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. In that case, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against a company after a tire from one of its trailers detached and crashed into a vehicle in which the plaintiff was a passenger. She claimed that a mechanic failed to properly repair the trailer in the month before the crash, and that the defendant had a non-delegable duty to inspect, repair, maintain, and operate the trailer in a safe condition. She argued that the defendant knew or should have known that the repairs were not properly done.

In cases where more than one party is at fault, some plaintiffs may be barred from recovery altogether. The laws concerning the effect of the plaintiff’s negligence vary depending on the jurisdiction. The law that applies in Maryland truck accident cases is the doctrine of contributory negligence, which is a particularly harsh law for Maryland personal injury plaintiffs.

Contributory negligence comes from the common law, and has been the law in Maryland since 1847. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, if the plaintiff is found even partially at fault for the damages, the plaintiff is barred from recovery. Many have criticized the doctrine of contributory negligence, as it leads to harsh consequences and what many consider unfair results. Few states still follow the contributory negligence doctrine.

The General Assembly of Maryland has so far rejected the adoption of comparative negligence, which could replace the contributory negligence doctrine. Under the general comparative fault doctrine, or “pure comparative negligence,” the fault of both the plaintiff and the defendant are considered, but comparative fault only reduces the award by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. Under pure comparative negligence, a plaintiff can recover even if the plaintiff is found mostly at fault. Under some comparative fault doctrines, a plaintiff can recover as long as the plaintiff is found 50% or less at fault. This is generally referred to as “modified comparative negligence.”

To hold another person accountable in a Maryland truck accident claim, a plaintiff must prove that the other person caused the plaintiff’s injuries, at least in part. Proving these facts is part of establishing the essential elements of a negligence claim.

In Maryland, a negligence claim requires proving that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, the defendant failed to meet the relevant standard of care, the plaintiff was injured because of that failure, and the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff damages. Proving causation requires proving both legal cause, and cause-in-fact. Cause-in-fact means proving that the defendant’s conduct actually caused the injury, whereas legal cause means showing that the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s damages. A court may decline to hold a defendant responsible even where a plaintiff proves that the defendant’s conduct was the cause-in-fact of the plaintiff’s injuries, based on policy considerations and fairness. Such a decision usually involves considering whether the injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions.

A plaintiff generally has the burden to prove all elements of a negligence claim, including causation. The standard for establishing causation, like all elements of a negligence claim, is whether it is more probable than not that the defendant’s acts caused the plaintiff’s injuries. A mere possibility that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries is insufficient to prove causation. This means that in a Maryland truck accident claim, a plaintiff cannot simply declare that there was a crash and that the plaintiff was injured in the crash—a plaintiff has to point to the defendant’s specific acts that were negligent, that those acts resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries, and that those injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions. If a plaintiff fails to prove causation, the claim will be dismissed.

Motorists confront a variety of dangers on Maryland highways. A significant number of these hazards have to do with the many semi-trucks or other large commercial vehicles that seem to be a permanent fixture along the I-95 corridor, the Beltway, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

While the dangers presented by large trucks number too many to count, one of the most unrecognized hazards arises when a truck driver has the need to pull over onto the shoulder of the road. A Maryland truck driver may need to pull over for many reasons, including a blown tire, shifting cargo, or some other equipment failure. Truck drivers may also pull over if they feel too drowsy to safely operate a truck. Whatever the case, when a semi-truck pulls over onto the side of the highway, it can present a serious danger for passing motorists.

Included in the duties of a Maryland truck driver is the responsibility to safely operate the rig at all times. This includes parking a truck on the side of the highway. Except in cases of an emergency, truck drivers must only pull off the road in designated areas. Moreover, truck drivers must ensure that they are completely off the road, and not blocking any lane of travel. A driver’s failure to take these basic precautions may result in a serious Maryland truck accident.

Maryland hit and run accidents occur when one party collides with a vehicle, person, or object and knowingly leaves the scene of the incident without providing their identifying information or arranging for medical care for anyone injured in the accident. These types of accidents contribute to the financial burden and physical injuries typical of truck accidents but also escalate the severity of harm because many victims do not receive timely or adequate medical attention. Additionally, Maryland hit and run truck accidents create burdens for victims and families looking to recover damages from the at-fault party’s insurance company.

According to the Foundation for Traffic Safety (FTS), the rate of fatalities and injuries related to hit and run accidents are steadily increasing. Data suggests that a hit and run accident occurs approximately every 43 seconds in the United States. Maryland ranks as one of the top 20 states with the highest rates of hit and run accidents.

Typically, hit and run truck accidents occur when the at-fault driver panics, and decides to leave the scene of a crash. This panic may occur because the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or they were engaged in some other negligent behavior. To avoid a hit and run charge, drivers must stop their truck and pull off to a safe location. They should call for medical and police assistance. The driver should provide all of their identifying information including, driver’s license and insurance information.

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