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Those who have been injured in a serious Maryland personal injury accident allegedly caused by a government employee can generally pursue a claim against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). While the federal government was originally immune from civil liability, the FTCA acts as a waiver of governmental immunity in certain situations. However, if an accident victim is unable to establish that their claim falls under the FTCA, then a court will likely dismiss the case on the grounds of immunity.

The Feres doctrine is an exception to the FTCA. The doctrine was essentially created by the United States Supreme Court in the case, Feres v. United States. Specifically, the doctrine holds that the United States cannot be held liable by military personnel who are injured while on active duty (and not on furlough) and are injured as a result of another military personnel’s negligence. The practical effect of the Feres doctrine is that those on active military duty cannot pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim against the United States if another service member’s negligence caused their injuries.

Application of the Feres doctrine can result in seemingly unfair results; however, before the government can rely on the doctrine, it must prove that each of the elements is met. A recent fatal traffic accident provides an example of a situation where the Feres doctrine may not be appropriate.

Among the hazards that motorists must address when driving on the highway are large trucks parked on the road’s shoulder. There are a number of legitimate reasons why a Maryland truck driver may pull their rig over. For instance, a truck driver may feel fatigue setting in and decide to pull over rather than risk driving while drowsy. While there is generally no traffic law prohibiting a motorist from pulling over to the road’s edge when necessary, a motorist must take care when parking their vehicle to avoid obstructing traffic and must pull off at an appropriate location.

In May 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing a situation involving a motorist who was seriously injured after rear-ending a truck driver who had pulled over near a highway offramp. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was entering the highway when he crossed into the “gore area,” which is the triangular area between the highway and the ramp. Evidently, the plaintiff’s car rear-ended a parked semi-truck.

Apparently, the truck driver had been traveling on the highway when he noticed red warning lights on the dashboard. Shortly afterward, the engine lost power, and the truck driver pulled into the gore area. The truck driver immediately called his employer, and about five to eight minutes later, the plaintiff rear-ended the truck. The plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of the accident.

Maryland truck drivers are required to safely operate their rigs at all times. However, truck drivers are human and will frequently make mistakes or errors in judgment. One of the more common mistakes we see truck drivers make is driving while too tired. Drowsy driving is most likely to result in rear-end accidents.

According to the Center for Disease Control, drowsy driving accounts for 6,000 fatal accidents each year. The actual figure is believed to be higher due to drowsy drivers failing to disclose the actual cause of the accident, blaming it on some other factor. Regardless, drowsy driving is a significant safety concern, especially among truck drivers, who are often compensated based on each mile traveled. Maryland truck drivers are financially incentivized to drive as many hours per day so that they can more quickly reach their destination, get home, and begin another trip.

State and federal regulations require that truck drivers obtain a certain amount of rest each day, and take breaks in between long trips. For example, truck drivers can only drive 11 hours in a 14-hour period, and must take a 30-minute break such that the driver is not continuously driving form more than eight hours. Additionally, truck drivers must complete “rest logs” in which the driver documents his travel and rest hours.

Many Maryland truck accidents have multiple causes. Of course, the majority of truck accidents are caused at least in part by a driver’s negligence. However, a significant number of these accidents also involve either poorly maintained or defectively designed roads.

Traditionally, states were immune from lawsuits brought by citizens who were injured due to the negligence of a government employee. However, under the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA), much of the state’s governmental immunity is waived. Of course, there are specific procedural requirements that must be strictly adhered to when pursuing a claim against a government entity, and there may also be a cap on the maximum amount of damages that can be obtained.

One issue that frequently comes up in Maryland truck accidents is the government’s potential liability for poorly designed roadways. In a 2011 case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that the state government is not entitled to immunity in a claim alleging the negligent construction of a bridge. Specifically, the plaintiff in that case argued that the government was negligent when it failed to install a barrier that was necessary to make the bridge safe.

After a Maryland truck accident, anyone injured in the accident can pursue a claim for compensation against any party they believe was responsible for causing their injuries. In many truck accident cases, both the truck driver as well as the driver’s employer can be named as a defendant.

To establish liability against a trucking company, the plaintiff must be able to show that the truck driver was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Naming a truck driver’s employer as a defendant can be critical to an injury victim’s ability to fully recover for their injuries because the damages sustained in a serious Maryland truck accident may exceed the personal insurance limits of an individual truck driver.

Under Maryland law, when a plaintiff names multiple defendants in a lawsuit, the jury will first determine the total damages suffered by the plaintiff. Then, the jury will be asked to assign a percentage of fault to each party, including the plaintiff.

When one thinks of a Maryland truck accident, images of an intoxicated, sleepy, or distracted truck driver often come to mind. And while it’s true that these account for a large number of Maryland truck accidents, equipment failure is also a major – and often overlooked – cause of these serious accidents.

Like all vehicles that are licensed to operate on Maryland’s public roads, semi-trucks must pass certain safety inspections. The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that all trucks are inspected at least annually. There are six types of DOT annual inspections, some being much more thorough than others. Generally, these inspections review the fitness of the driver as well as the vehicle. In addition to the DOT annual inspection, motor carriers are responsible for performing periodic vehicle inspections. These periodic inspections focus on the various components of the vehicle, such as the braking system, steering system, lights, exhaust, as well as the tires and rims.

When a semi-truck or other large commercial vehicle is not properly inspected, the chance of the vehicle being involved in a serious Maryland car accident drastically increases. These accidents can have a devastating impact on nearby vehicles. Depending on the nature of an equipment failure, there may be several parties that can be held liable for an accident victim’s injuries.

The Nation’s Capital draws millions of tourists each year. While the area benefits from the tourism revenue, tourists can also make the city, as well as the surrounding areas, feel overly crowded, especially in the summer months. In addition, the influx of tour buses creates a serious hazard for Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists.

While tour buses are probably best known for causing minor annoyances, such as taking up several parking spots on already crowded streets or stopping at inconvenient locations to pick up and drop off passengers, the reality is that tour buses have the potential to cause major catastrophes. Of course, Maryland bus accidents can affect the passengers on the bus, but inattentive bus drivers also put pedestrians and other motorists at risk.

When a tour bus is involved in a serious or fatal Maryland traffic accident, those who were injured in the accident can pursue a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the responsible parties. If the accident resulted in the death, the accident victim’s family members may be entitled to compensation through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. Determining which parties are responsible can be tricky; however, this determination is also imperative because serious Maryland bus accidents may result in significant liability that may exceed the insurance limits of just one party. Commonly named parties include:

  • the bus driver,
  • the company that owns the bus, and
  • other motorists who may have contributed to the accident.

Of course, depending on the facts surrounding the accident, there may be additional liable parties.
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As if dealing with the physical and emotional trauma of being involved in a Maryland truck accident is not enough, accident victims must also worry about how they will pay for their medical expenses given the fact that they may have missed work. Auto insurance is supposed to help accident victims obtain quick compensation for their injuries; however, as anyone who has been involved in an accident before may know, insurance companies are notoriously difficult to work with.

An insurance policy is a contract between the insurance company and the insured. The fundamental nature of a Maryland insurance policy is that the insured agreed to pay a premium in exchange for the insurance company’s promise to compensate them for certain losses in the event of an accident. However, insurance policies are complex legal documents that precisely define what drivers and types of accidents are covered.

When an insurance company determines that a claim is not covered, they deny payment. Because insurance companies have an interest in paying out as little as possible in claims, they invest significant resources in legal representation in hopes of limiting their liability. Needless to say, this can be frustrating for Maryland car accident victims who rely on insurance proceeds to get their life back on track after a serious accident.

In many Maryland truck accidents, an accident victim’s injuries are solely the fault of a single defendant. For example, if an intoxicated or sleep-deprived truck driver causes an accident on a Maryland highway, chances are that the other motorists involved in the collision could not have done anything to avoid or prevent the accident. These cases tend to be straightforward.

There are other Maryland truck accidents, however, in which the determination of who was at fault is far from crystal clear. In fact, it is common in Maryland personal injury cases for the defendant to claim that the plaintiff shared in the responsibility for causing an accident. This is because, under Maryland’s strict contributory negligence rule, if a defendant is able to shift even a small percentage of fault onto the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s claim will be dismissed. Virginia also applies the contributory negligence doctrine to most personal injury actions.

Maryland and Virginia are somewhat unique in their application of the contributory negligence doctrine. Most other states apply what is known as the comparative fault doctrine. Under a comparative fault analysis, a plaintiff who is partially at fault for causing an accident can still recover for their injuries, but will have their total compensation award reduced by their own percentage of fault.

When parents allow their children to take the bus to school, they assume that the bus driver will get their children safely to and from school. Indeed, for the most part, school bus drivers are highly qualified drivers; however, even experienced drivers can occasionally make mistakes.

Earlier this month, a group of Maryland students were involved in a Maryland school bus accident in Schuylkill County. According to a local news report, the accident occurred around 9:45 in the morning as the students were on their way to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Evidently, the bus was on the highway when the driver noticed that a vehicle ahead had come to a stop. The driver of the bus attempted to swerve around the stopped vehicle, but ended up crashing into a propane tanker.

The bus, which was chartered by the school, contained 52 occupants, including 47 students, the driver, and four adult chaperones. Authorities reported that bus driver and two students sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the accident.

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