Each time a motorist gets behind the wheel, they expect to encounter certain risks. Most of the time, these risks are manageable, and drivers can often avoid an accident by taking certain precautions. However, dump trucks and other large construction vehicles can pose a serious and unavoidable threat to many Maryland motorists. For example, in 2018, dump truck accidents comprised over eight percent of all fatal truck accidents. This amounted to 380 fatalities caused by dump trucks. Indeed, according to a local news report, just last month, the driver of a dump truck lost control of the vehicle and ended up crashing into a ditch. While the driver of the truck died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident, no other vehicles or pedestrians were injured.

Dump truck drivers have an obligation to take the necessary precautions to prevent accidents. This duty extends not only to operating the truck in a safe manner, but also to ensure that the truck is loaded in a safe manner, to prevent load spillage. Indeed, a significant number of dump-truck related accidents involve debris falling from the truck onto the road.

Dump truck drivers, however, are not the only ones who could face responsibility for a truck accident. Under the theory of vicarious liability, a truck driver’s employer may also be on the hook for damages, depending on the situation. Typically, to establish an employer’s liability, an accident victim must show that the accident occurred within the scope of the truck driver’s employment. Doing so can significantly increase the likelihood that an accident victim will be fully compensated for their injuries.

Anytime someone is injured in a Maryland truck accident, they have the option to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. These lawsuits can hold whoever caused the accident responsible for the resulting harm, and successful plaintiffs may receive monetary compensation to cover their pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and more. However, in some cases plaintiffs can bring their case against multiple defendants—a driver who caused the accident, and the driver’s employer.

Often, Maryland truck accidents involve truck drivers who are “on the job” and driving the truck for their employer—whether they are carrying mail, produce, or industrial materials. When one of these drivers makes a negligent mistake and causes an accident, the driver as well as their employer could be liable for any injuries caused by the accident. Maryland state law allows employers to be held liable for their employee’s actions when the employee was acting within the scope of their employment when they caused the accident. Importantly, to win in these lawsuits you do not need to prove that the employer was negligent—only their employee. The elements of negligence in a Maryland truck accident are the same as in all other Maryland personal injury accidents; the plaintiff must prove: (1) that the driver owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; (2) that they breached that duty; (3) that their breach was the proximate and actual cause of the damage; and (4) that the plaintiff suffered real damages as a result.

For example, take a recent tragic truck accident that killed a 61-year-old woman. According to a local news report covering the incident, the woman was riding her bicycle one afternoon when an Amazon truck, driven by a 44-year-old man, turned out of the parking lot and struck her. The bicyclist died at the scene, and the investigation of the incident is ongoing. While it’s unclear who was at fault and caused the accident, the victim’s family may be able to bring a case against both the driver and Amazon if the driver was at all careless or at fault. If the driver was driving the truck in furtherance of Amazon’s business—by delivering or picking up packages, for example—then they were acting within their scope of employment. As such, proving that the driver himself was negligent may very well be sufficient to hold Amazon liable as well.

Maryland requires all vehicles to be covered by liability insurance. This requirement is meant to ensure that all drivers and owners are able to financially compensate others for damages resulting from motor vehicle accidents. However, in a Maryland truck accident case, evidence of insurance of lack of insurance is not always permitted as evidence in a civil case. Under Maryland Rule of Evidence 5-411, evidence that a person was or was not insured is not admissible as evidence that a person acted negligently or wrongfully. Evidence of insurance can be admitted as evidence for another purpose, including proof of agency, control, ownership, or bias or prejudice of a witness. For example, evidence that a witness is insured by an insurance company might show that the witness has a potential bias. Evidence of insurance might also be relevant to the issue of whether a party was an employee or an independent contractor, which would impact liability in the case. A driver’s lack of insurance could also be relevant to the issue of whether a company negligently employed an individual to work as a driver.

Maryland’s rule is derived from Federal Rule of Evidence 411. It is meant to prevent unfair prejudice because a jury might infer that a party was at fault based on the party’s lack of insurance. A jury might also infer that a party was not at fault based on the party’s proof of insurance. Even if evidence of insurance or lack of insurance is admissible for another purpose, it may still be excluded on another basis. For example, evidence of a lack of insurance may be unfairly prejudicial and a court might still exclude it. A court has discretion to admit or exclude evidence when it is not prohibited by Rule 5-411. Maryland Rules 5-402 and 5-403 state that evidence that is not relevant is not admissible and that relevant evidence may still be excluded if the probative value is “substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury.”

Woman Killed in Recent Truck Accident

To be sure, truck drivers have difficult jobs. Typically, they drive for long hours at a time, many days in a row. Because of this, they may get distracted, restless, fatigued, or careless while driving, causing them to make mistakes and potentially cause an accident. Because of the sheer size of most trucks, accidents involving these vehicles are some of the most dangerous to Maryland drivers. When driving near a truck, it is impossible to know if the truck driver is exhausted, paying attention, or how many hours they have been driving without resting. Because of this, drivers are always encouraged to be on high alert and as careful as possible when driving, especially near trucks, to try and minimize the risk of a Maryland truck accident.

The federal government has also taken steps to decrease the number of truck accidents across the nation. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has promulgated regulations that limit how many hours truck drivers can drive each day. Property-carrying drivers (those carrying goods and materials, as opposed to passenger-carrying drivers) can only drive 11 hours within a 14-hour period. This 14-hour period must only start after the driver has been off-duty for 10 consecutive hours. It is important to note that the 11 hours cannot be consecutive: drivers cannot drive more than 8 hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Additionally, the regulations place a limit in how many hours a driver can work each week—if a driver has been “on-duty” for over 70 hours in the past 8 days, or 60 hours in the past 7 days, they cannot drive any more until that is no longer the case. A driver can “reset” the 7- or 8-day period by taking 34 or more hours off.

These regulations are put in place for drivers’ safety, and to minimize the occurrence of truck accidents across the United States. However, truck accidents do still occur, and when they do, people may be injured or even killed. Maryland state law allows those injured in these instances to file a civil negligence suit against the driver—if they were being careless or made a mistake that led to the crash, they can be held liable and ordered to pay monetary damages to cover the resulting harm. Importantly, if a driver was violating the hour of service regulations described above, a plaintiff’s case against them may be more straight-forward, since the defendant was clearly violating federal regulations.

If a defective product is to blame in a Maryland truck accident, a party may be able to bring a product liability claim against the responsible party. A party may be at fault for defective brakes, steering, or another component in a motor vehicle accident if the defect contributed to the accident victim’s injuries.

A Maryland product liability case allows a successful plaintiff to recover monetary compensation for injuries the plaintiff suffered as a result of the defective product. In a Maryland product liability case, a plaintiff generally must show that the product was defective when it left the defendant’s control, that there was not a substantial change in the condition of the product from the time between when it left the defendant’s control and when it reached the consumer, that the product was unreasonably dangerous, and that the defect in the product caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Those who have been injured by a defective product understand that holding the company responsible for causing or allowing the defect is one of the most critical parts of a product liability case, so that others will be protected. If a defective product is to blame for an accident, a plaintiff usually can bring a claim against the manufacturer, along with anyone else in the chain of distribution. If the defect arose from a defect in the design or in the manufacturing process, a plaintiff may be able to bring a claim against the manufacturer and/or designer. A plaintiff generally will be able to sue the party that sold the defective product. In the case of a defective car, this would often be the dealer that sold the vehicle. If a driver knowingly drove a defective car, the driver may also be at fault. It may also be that another party is responsible altogether, such as a car repair shop that made a faulty repair.

A tragic accident has highlighted a sobering truth for Maryland drivers: you never know when catastrophe might hit. A 62-year-old man was killed on April 17th when a semi-truck attempted an unsafe pass. According to a local news report covering the incident, the victim was driving his tractor around 8 a.m. on a Friday morning when a semi-truck, driven by a 43-year-old man, attempted to pass him. The tractor then made a left turn into the driveway and was rear-ended by the semi-truck. This accident left the tractor driver dead.

Although most truck operators drive safely, it is inevitable that when trucks pass other vehicles there is an increased chance of an accident. While passing, in general, can always be risky, trucks are an increased risk because they cannot drive over a certain speed and because of their large size, which blocks other vehicles from passing or merging for a time. Truck drivers, therefore, must be very careful when passing, because they could be held liable in a civil negligence suit if they make an unsafe pass that results in an accident.

If an accident does occur, those injured have a path to recovery under Maryland law. Generally, the plaintiff will need to prove four things. First, that the defendant owed a duty of care to drive and pass carefully. This is generally established if the defendant was operating a truck on the highway. Second, that the defendant breached their duty of care. Usually, proving this involves expert testimony and accident reconstructionists, who explain how the defendant acted carelessly or why they should not have attempted to pass when they did. Third, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s unsafe pass was the proximate cause of the accident. For example, if the driver made an unsafe pass three minutes before the accident occurred, the driver may be able to argue that their unsafe pass did not cause the accident. The final element a plaintiff must prove is that they suffered compensable damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Usually, this is proven through the introduction of medical records and expert witness testimony.

Every day, millions of students ride to and from school on school buses. While school buses are generally a safe option for children to get to school, they are not immune from getting into accidents. School buses, including those in Maryland, get into crashes on occasion, which can cause injuries to those on board. Those injured may be able to collect financially from the driver responsible for the accident. However, doing so often requires that the injury victim file a claim with the school district’s insurance company.

Generally, Maryland school buses all have some sort of insurance policy to protect them in case of an accident. This insurance likely includes what is called Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage, or UIM. This coverage protects those who are hit by a negligent driver who does not have enough to financially cover the accident. For instance, if someone is riding in a school bus driven by driver A when driver B, in their car, hits the school bus, driver B may be liable to driver A and the passengers for their injuries. Let’s say these injuries total $300,000. Driver B might only have insurance coverage of up to $100,000, leaving them $200,000 short. Or, in some cases, driver B might not have insurance at all. In this instance, a plaintiff may want to try and recover against the school bus’s insurance provider using the UIM coverage provision of the policy. If the school bus has UIM coverage of up to $500,000, they may be able to pay what the responsible driver was unable to.

If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. Maryland insurance laws can be difficult to understand, and insurance companies routinely reject claims for coverage in an attempt to limit their financial responsibility, meaning that cases like this may end up in court. For example, a state appeals court recently considered a case with a very similar fact pattern to the example laid out above. The victim was injured when a car hit the school bus she was driving in, but the car’s driver did not have enough to cover her injuries. The victim attempted to recover from the school bus’s insurance provider under their UIM coverage provision, but the insurance company refused to pay, insisting that the coverage was limited by statute, even though the contract said otherwise. The case had to go to court multiple times for the plaintiff to finally receive the compensation she deserved for her injuries.

Maryland truck accident cases are subject to the statute of limitations applicable in the case. The statute of limitations is the amount of time in which a lawsuit must be filed and varies based on the type of claim. Generally, under Maryland Code section 5-101, Maryland personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of three years. Typically, Maryland wrongful death claims also are subject to a three-year statute of limitations under Maryland Code section 3-904(g).

In general, statutes of limitations are strictly construed, and failing to file a claim within the allotted time will result in a dismissal of the claim. However, there are some exceptions. The statute may be tolled, for example, if the plaintiff if a minor or could not have known about the injury when it occurred.

In cases involving the city or state, additional requirements and limitations apply. For example, when filing a claim against the state under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, a claimant must submit a written claim with the State Treasurer within one year of the cause of action arising. The claim to the state also has to include a statement explaining the facts and specific damages alleged. In general, the case can be filed in court only after the Treasurer denies the claim. Filing a claim with the State Treasurer tolls the statute of limitations for 60 days after a final denial is made by the State Treasurer.

Typically, individuals are grateful when they see fire trucks on the roads, responding to emergencies and saving lives. Maryland firefighters are first responders to many emergencies and perform an essential governmental function. However, there may be tragic instances when fire trucks, speeding to get to a burning building, cause more harm than good and cause an accident.

A recent incident illustrates this point. Last month, a fire truck was responding to a call at around 8:15 in the evening when it hit a car. According to a local news report, this led to a multi-vehicle crash involving seven other vehicles and significant injuries. Two individuals were trapped inside of a car and had to be extracted, and six people were taken to local hospitals, two as trauma alerts. The nine-vehicle crash was so significant that all lanes of the road were closed in the aftermath. While the condition of those injured is still unknown, there are likely to be long-term severe injuries and medical bills as a result of this tragic accident.

While nothing can undo the damage that was done that evening, those who were injured in the incident may have a route to financial recovery. Under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, the state government, including the fire department, may be sued in personal injury lawsuits. If it was found that the firefighters driving the truck were acting negligently in some way that led to the accident, the injured victims might be able to recover for their injuries, pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical bills, each up to $400,000. However, successfully filing a personal injury suit against a government entity is difficult to do, with more procedural requirements and regulations than typical lawsuits against other civilians or private businesses.

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.

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