Maryland truck accidents always present a serious danger to those involved in the accident. However, the dangers of an accident only increase when it occurs on the highway. Between the high speeds involved and the proximity of other motorists, the likelihood of a chain reaction accident greatly increases when an accident occurs on a Maryland highway.

Highway TrafficChain reaction truck accidents occur when two or more vehicles are involved in a collision, and, in the aftermath, other motorists who are unable to avoid the wreckage end up crashing into the other vehicles or crash as they attempt to avoid the other vehicles. Determining which party or parties are responsible for causing a chain reaction truck accident can be complex.

Under Maryland law, anyone who is injured in a Maryland car accident can bring a lawsuit against those they believe to be at fault. However, since Maryland law applies the strict doctrine of contributory negligence, only those accident victims who are completely free of fault will be permitted to recover compensation for their injuries. Thus, it becomes very important for Maryland truck accident victims to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as practicable to discuss their case and prepare for the potential defenses other drivers may raise.

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Many of the large trucks on Maryland roads are operated by state and local government agencies or are working under a government contract of some kind. These include garbage trucks, fire trucks, mail vehicles, and utility vehicles. Like all other truck drivers, those who operate city, county, or state-owned vehicles owe a duty of care to those around them.

Utility TruckNormally, when a driver violates this duty of care by engaging in some kind of negligent act, that driver can be held liable for any injuries that occurred as a result of their negligence through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. Indeed, this may also be the case when the operator of the vehicle is a government employee, but issues of government immunity will likely arise.

Historically, governments have been immune from liability stemming from accidents caused by government employees. However, over time, states have enacted laws that “waive” this governmental immunity in some cases. In Maryland, lawmakers passed the Maryland Tort Claims Act, which waives governmental immunity in certain circumstances. Generally, in order for a government employee’s actions to qualify for a waiver of immunity, the allegedly negligent actions must have taken place in the performance of the employee’s duties.

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Truck drivers spend countless hours on the road each year. In fact, due to the manner in which most truck drivers are compensated, a driver is incentivized to stay on the road for long stretches of time in order to get to their final destination as soon as possible. However, there is a clear tension between a truck driver’s ability to drive safely for hours on end and his ability to get to his final destination as quickly as possible.

JournalAs a matter of fact, a large percentage of all Maryland truck accidents are caused by drowsy truck drivers who have stayed on the road past the time when they are able to safely operate their rig. To combat fatigued driving, the federal government has promulgated regulations that require truck drivers to maintain a certain amount of rest each day and between longer trips. Until recently, truck drivers were able to maintain their own paper rest logs.

According to a recent news report, recently passed federal regulations will soon require truck drivers to install and maintain electronic rest logs to better keep track of the time they are spending on the road. The push for these new requirements arose after authorities realized that too many fatal trucking accidents were caused by drowsy driving.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving the enforceability of an arbitration agreement that an employer signed when renting out a U-Haul truck. The case is important for potential Maryland truck accident plaintiffs to understand because it addresses the enforceability of arbitration agreements, which commonly are at issue in many personal injury cases.

Signature LineThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was working for his employer, delivering some massage chairs to a customer. To help the plaintiff make the deliveries, his employer rented a truck from U-Haul, the defendant. Contained in the rental agreement signed by the employer was a clause agreeing to submit any claim arising from the use of the truck to binding arbitration. The employer signed the rental agreement, but the plaintiff did not.

On the way to make the delivery, a tire blew out on the truck, and the plaintiff was seriously injured as a result. Notwithstanding the arbitration clause contained in the rental agreement, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against U-Haul. In defense, U-Haul claimed that the plaintiff’s claims were barred because he was required to submit them to arbitration, pursuant to the rental agreement.

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Any time a motorist is involved in a Maryland semi-truck accident, there is a potential for serious injury. However, some types of accidents present a higher risk of serious injury or death than others. Underride accidents in particular present an especially high risk of serious injury or death.

Tanker-TruckAn underride accident occurs when a vehicle slides underneath a larger truck. These accidents often result in the passengers in the car being crushed as a result of the impact, and in some cases, passengers are even decapitated. A recent news article discusses underride accidents in the Maryland area, noting that there have been 21 deaths across the country over the past two months due to this specific type of accident.

The article goes on to detail several of the accidents and discusses options to reduce the prevalence of underride accidents. Given the nature of an underride accident, they almost always occur when a motorist rear-ends a truck that has unexpectedly stopped or slowed down on the highway. Thus, one potential solution to decrease underride accidents is to mandate heavier underride guards on more types of trucks. An underride guard is a steel bar that in many cases can prevent another vehicle from sliding underneath a truck in the event of an accident.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case illustrating the type of evidence that Maryland truck accident victims must present in order to defeat a defense motion for summary judgment. The case presented an interesting, albeit unusual, set of facts in which a motorist struck a bull that had gotten loose and wandered onto the highway. The court ultimately determined that summary judgment in favor of the motorist was appropriate because there was no evidence indicating how long the bull had been in the road.

BullThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving a semi-truck eastbound on a highway when he was struck by the defendant, who had been traveling westbound on the same highway. The collision occurred at night. Immediately prior to the collision, the defendant struck a bull that had wandered onto the highway. This caused the defendant to lose consciousness, resulting in her car drifting into oncoming traffic, where it hit the plaintiff’s truck.

There was evidence presented that the bull had been on the loose for several hours and that a team of people had been looking for it the whole time. Several members of the search team had parked their cars along the east side of the highway. There was also a police car parked on the east side of the highway. The plaintiff testified that she did not recall seeing the cars on the side of the highway. It was established that, at the time of the collision, the plaintiff was traveling under the posted speed limit and had the vehicle’s headlights on.

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Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals decided a truck accident case that is relevant to all Maryland truck accident victims considering filing a claim against the driver they believe to be responsible for their injuries. The case presented the court with the opportunity to determine whether a lower court was proper in striking the plaintiff’s statement of facts as a sanction for failing to comply with the court’s discovery deadlines. Ultimately, the federal appellate court held that the lower court was acting within its discretion when it struck the plaintiff’s statement, and it affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Semi-Truck Head OnThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving on the highway when she was struck from behind by the defendant, who was operating a semi-truck. The collision caused the plaintiff to lose control of her vehicle, which ended up crashing into the center median. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the truck driver as well as the company that employed him.

The defendants claimed that the plaintiff was the one who lost control of her vehicle first, and she was the one who collided with the defendant. In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, both sides asked the court to strike the opposing side’s statement of facts. Specifically, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s statement of facts should be stricken because it relied on expert reports that were not disclosed to the defendant until four months after the deadline for discovery had passed.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued an opinion in a truck accident case that presents an important point for potential Maryland truck accident plaintiffs. The case focused on whether the lower court was proper in granting summary judgment to the defendant after striking the plaintiff’s statement of facts. The appellate court concluded that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in precluding the plaintiff’s statement and granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant because the plaintiff disclosed the substance of his expert’s testimony four months after it was due.

Semi-TruckThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in an accident when the defendant truck driver rear-ended the plaintiff while he was driving on the highway. After the initial collision, the plaintiff lost control of his vehicle, and the car spun out into the median.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant truck driver as well as his employer. The defendant responded to the allegations by claiming that it was the plaintiff who first struck his vehicle and that the plaintiff was the negligent driver.

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Many Maryland truck accidents involve multiple vehicles, and determining which parties to name in a Maryland truck accident lawsuit is a critical decision that must be made early in the process. While courts will allow for plaintiffs to amend their complaint to add additional parties for a short period of time after the complaint is filed, plaintiffs have a limited amount of time to join parties. Additionally, plaintiffs normally must obtain the court’s permission to add additional defendants once the complaint has been filed.

Truck AccidentOf course, plaintiffs should only name defendants if there is a good-faith basis for believing that they may be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. However, it is important to conduct a thorough investigation to make sure that all potentially liable parties are included in the lawsuit. A plaintiff’s failure to include all necessary parties may result in decreased compensation in the event of a favorable verdict.

It is important that Maryland truck accident victims keep in mind that plaintiffs get one chance to file a lawsuit after an accident, and they will not generally be permitted to file a subsequent lawsuit based on the same underlying accident. Additionally, if a potentially liable party is not named in the plaintiff’s complaint, the plaintiff risks the chance that the named defendants will successfully shift the blame for the accident onto a non-present party. If this occurs, the jury may be persuaded that the named defendant is not at all liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, completely precluding a plaintiff’s chance of recovering damages for their injuries.

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Most Maryland truck accidents are avoidable with the exercise of due care on the part of the truck driver. However, the rare occasion may arise in which a truck driver experiences a medical event while behind the wheel, causing the driver to lose control of the truck and cause an accident.

SirenIn these situations, the truck driver may be excused from any subsequent liability that would otherwise arise in the wake of a truck accident. However, that will not necessarily be the case. While some medical events occur without warning, others can be detected in advance or may be caused by a driver’s failure to take required medication. Similarly, a driver may take two medications that have an adverse reaction with each other, causing the driver to lose consciousness or otherwise lose control of his truck.

In these situations, the determination of whether the truck driver is liable for the accident will be made on a case-by-case basis by a judge or jury in a Maryland truck accident lawsuit. The crux of the analysis in this type of accident is whether the defendant’s conduct was negligent. For example, if a truck driver is prescribed daily medication to prevent seizures but fails to take his daily medication, suffers a seizure, and causes an accident, a jury may find that the driver was negligent and responsible for any injuries that occurred as a result of this negligence.

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