Anyone who has spent significant time driving on Maryland roads knows that they are seemingly always under construction. Indeed, according to a report from the Maryland Department of Transportation, there are currently twelve major construction projects underway or about to begin along the I-270 corridor alone.

For the most part, the fact that the government is investing in the state’s roadways is a good thing. However, with so many construction projects underway, motorists are put at an in increased danger of being involved in a Maryland construction zone accident. At the same time, construction workers are also put in danger and, under a new Maryland law, motorists have a duty to either slow down significantly or change lanes as they approach roadside construction crews.

Construction zones are notorious for presenting motorists and workers with unseen and unanticipated hazards. Crews should take care to ensure that there is accurate signage leading up to the area clearly indicating how drivers should navigate the construction zone. Additionally, construction workers must keep open lanes free of debris and safe for travel; however, even the most well-intentioned construction crew can make mistakes.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether the defendant power company voluntarily assumed a duty to provide adequate light for the section of road where a semi-truck struck the plaintiff. Ultimately, the court concluded that the power company assumed no such obligation, and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.

The case is important for Maryland truck accident victims because, although the plaintiff was ultimately unsuccessful in holding the power company liable, it illustrates the principle that there may be parties other than the driver who can be held responsible in a Maryland truck accident. In fact, many Maryland truck accident cases are pursued against the employer of the truck driver, the owner of the truck, or an insurance company.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff set out to go to a convenience store that was located across a four-lane highway with a center median. The plaintiff was crossing from the west side of the road to the east side when she stopped in the center lane to let traffic pass. As she was waiting, a semi-truck struck her, as well as the two others who were with her.

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One of the most critical decisions that must be made early on in a Maryland personal injury case is which parties to name as defendants and which claims to pursue. This is particularly important in Maryland truck accidents because truck drivers are frequently working at the time of the accident. Thus, the circumstances of a truck accident often mean that a truck driver’s employer and the owner of the truck should also be considered as potential defendants.

Under Maryland law, there are several theories of liability that may come into play in truck accident cases. A recent case discusses two commonly conflated claims, and illustrates why they are unique from one another.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was killed in a motorcycle accident when a truck driver attempted to make an improper left turn as the plaintiff approached the intersection. The truck driver was working at the time of the crash, and was later found to be under the influence of prohibited prescription medication.

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In Maryland, car insurance is mandatory. All motorists must obtain must obtain at least personal injury protection for $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. Also, motorists must purchase at least $15,000 in property damage insurance.

Typically, when a motorist is involved in an accident with another motorist, the injured motorist will file a claim with the at-fault motorist’s insurance company. If the claim is approved, the insurance company will cover the costs of the accident victim’s injuries up to the policy limit. However, insurance companies, like other businesses, are subject to numerous internal and external economic pressures. And occasionally, insurance companies become insolvent, meaning they are unable to pay out on the policyholders’ claims.

Each state has set up an insurance guaranty fund to provide motorists with some protection if an insurance company goes out of business or is otherwise insolvent. Under Maryland law, the guaranty fund provides up to $300,000 in coverage per person. If a plaintiff can obtain some compensation for their injuries, but an insolvent insurance company cannot completely fulfill an accident victim’s claim, the plaintiff total recovery amount will be the difference between their actual damages and the guaranty limit. A recent case illustrates how courts may use a plaintiff’s actual recovery to offset their total available compensation under the guaranty fund.

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While semi-trucks present a serious danger on Maryland highways, the risk of a Maryland truck accident only increases when these large trucks exit the highway and begin to travel through Maryland cities on smaller and more crowded roads. In fact, each year about 450 pedestrians and bicyclists are killed in semi-truck accidents, most of these occurring on urban or suburban roads.

Semi-trucks carry large amounts of cargo long distances, and they are specifically designed for this purpose. Thus, these trucks are large, difficult to maneuver in close spaces, and have enormous blind spots when compared to passenger vehicles. This undoubtedly makes it difficult for semi-truck drivers to navigate the tight roads of Maryland’s urban hubs. However, Maryland semi-truck drivers always have a legal duty to ensure that they are safely operating their rig, regardless of the type of road they are on.

Man Run Over by Semi-Truck in Dark Parking Lot

Earlier this month, one man in Georgia was killed when he was run over by a semi-truck while walking across a dark parking lot. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the truck driver was heading into company headquarters for the night when he heard a “bump” that he initially thought was a drop in the pavement.

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A Maryland school bus accident is one of the biggest fears for parents whose children take the bus to school every day. And given that Maryland school buses are not equipped with seat belts, even accidents on rural and suburban roads can lead to devastating consequences. Of course, when a bus route takes students on the highway, the risk of a serious bus accident increases drastically. As a general matter, school bus drivers owe a duty of care not just to the students on board the bus, but also to other motorists on the road. When a school bus driver’s negligence causes an accident that results in injuries to either the students on the bus or to other motorists, the injured parties may be able to pursue a Maryland personal injury claim against one or more parties.

Depending on the specific circumstances of the accident, it may be appropriate to name one or more of the following parties: the bus driver, the school or school district, the bus manufacturer, as well as any independent contractor that may be involved in the hiring, training, or employment of the bus driver. Determining which parties should be named in a Maryland school bus accident should be left to a Maryland personal injury attorney with experience handling these particular claims.

Dozens Injured, Including Several Students, in Recent Bus Accident

Last week, dozens were injured in a single-vehicle school bus accident that occurred while the students were on their way to Sea World in San Antonio, Texas. According to a local news report, the bus was carrying 24 students – all girls – and several administrators when the driver lost control of the vehicle. Evidently, after the driver lost control of the bus, it flipped over and slid off the highway onto the grassy median along the side of the road.

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Any time a truck driver’s negligence results in a Maryland truck accident, the responsible parties may be liable to the victims of the accident for their injuries. In the event that other motorists involved in the accident are killed, the surviving family members may consider filing a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit.

Maryland’s Wrongful Death Statute

Under Maryland Code section 3-904, the surviving loved ones of an accident victim can pursue a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for the loss of their loved one. In order to successfully recover in a Maryland wrongful death claim, a plaintiff must first establish that they are a proper party.

Maryland law allows for a “primary beneficiary” to bring a wrongful death claim. A primary beneficiary is anyone who is the spouse, child, or parent of the deceased. If the deceased does not have a primary beneficiary, then a secondary beneficiary can bring a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. A secondary beneficiary is defined as anyone who was related to the deceased by blood or marriage, and was “substantially dependent” upon them.

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Recently, 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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Recently, 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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Any 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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