Each day, thousands of students ride Maryland school buses to and from school. For the most part, these trips are short and uneventful. However, each year there are a significant number of Maryland school bus accidents. While most of these accidents involve low speeds and do not result in serious injury to the students, that is not always the case.

Student Killed in Bus Accident on the Way Home from Championship Football Game

Earlier this month, a fatal bus accident in Arkansas claimed the life of one student and injured 45 others. According to a local news report, the accident occurred on an empty highway at around 2:40 in the morning.

Evidently, the bus was carrying a youth-football team that had played a championship game earlier that weekend. The bus departed from Dallas, Texas and was traveling back to Memphis Tennessee. After the accident, the driver of the bus told police that she lost control of the vehicle as it drifted off the side of the road. Once off the roadway, the bus rolled over onto its side. One nine-year-old boy died from the injuries he sustained in the accident, and 45 others were injured. Most of those on board the bus were children; however, there were a few adult chaperones.

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Under Maryland’s contributory negligence law, a judicial finding that a plaintiff is even the slightest bit at fault for causing an accident can result in the plaintiff being precluded from proceeding with a case against the other motorists involved in the crash. Thus, in many Maryland truck accident cases, a defendant truck driver may attempt to avoid liability by arguing that the plaintiff was also negligent in causing the accident.

Because the doctrine of contributory negligence often results in a minimally at-fault plaintiff being entirely precluded from pursuing a claim against a much more culpable driver, most states have shifted to the more forgiving comparative fault model. However, several states including Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia still apply this harsh doctrine.

A recent case, however, illustrates that mere allegations that the plaintiff is partially at fault for causing an accident will not necessarily result in the plaintiff’s inability to recover for their injuries.

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Anyone who has ever run out of gas or had a tire blow out on the highway knows how terrifying it can be to linger on or around the road’s edge. This is especially the case on any of Maryland’s many interstates. Indeed, it is estimated that nearly 20% of all Maryland car accidents occurring on the highway happen off the roadway. This includes both on the shoulder and in the median.

Not only are these accidents common, but they are also very likely to result in serious injury or death because high speeds are usually involved, and motorists are often caught entirely off guard. In fact, roughly 600 people lose their lives each year in roadside accidents. Many of these victims are emergency workers or other roadside workers who are struck while responding to the scene of an emergency or performing some other necessary task.

In an effort to protect roadside workers, Maryland lawmakers have enacted a “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to vacate the lane adjacent to a stopped emergency vehicle. As of October 2, 2018, the law applies to:

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Picking up the phone to hear that a child has been involved in any kind of accident at school is a parent’s worst nightmare. Teachers and school administrators are charged with keeping students safe and, for the most part, do a pretty good job. However, getting children to and from school is beyond the control of administrators and rests with bus drivers who are often contracted out by the school district.

Liability in School Bus Accidents

Determining liability in a Maryland school bus accident, like any other traffic accident, requires an analysis of all potentially liable parties. Of course, when the accident involves other vehicles, the drivers of those vehicles would be considered, as well as the driver of the bus. However, there are often other third parties that should be considered as defendants.

School bus drivers may be government employees that are hired and trained by the school district. If this is the case, then the local government is responsible for making sure that drivers are qualified before they are hired. Similarly, a driver must also be provided with adequate training and oversight. An accident caused by a negligent bus driver who is employed by the school district could result in the district being held liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Importantly, a school bus accident claim filed against a school district or other government entity must comply with the requirements for complaints filed against a government entity.

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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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