Articles Posted in Fatal Trucking Accidents

semi-truckIn Maryland truck accident cases, the plaintiff must be able to establish each of the elements of their claim in order to be successful. Simply stated, these elements are duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing the causation element of a negligence lawsuit. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case should proceed toward trial based on the fact that the defendant truck driver created a substantial risk of harm to the plaintiff when he parked on the side of the highway.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was traveling on the highway shortly before 7:00 a.m. when he approached a semi-truck that had been parked on the side of the road. The truck, which was occupied by the defendants, was parked in the emergency lane, about ten inches away from the nearest lane of travel.

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When a jury returns a verdict in a plaintiff’s favor, the jury will then move to the next stage of the process where it determines the appropriate amount of damages that the plaintiff or plaintiffs are entitled to. In most Maryland personal injury cases, the figure the jury arrives at will be given great respect by the trial judge, and will only be modified under certain circumstances. A recent truck accident case illustrates the level of deference that judges give to jury verdicts.

Car on FireThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff lost his wife and daughter, and his son was seriously injured, when the three were involved in a serious accident. The plaintiff’s wife was driving the couple’s two children in the slow lane on the highway when a Fed Ex truck slammed into the back of the family’s car. It was going approximately 65 miles per hour. The collision resulted in the deaths of the plaintiff’s wife and daughter, and seriously injured his nineteen-month-old son.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit on behalf of himself and his son against several of the parties involved, including Fed Ex and the driver of the truck who worked for an independent contractor that was retained by Fed Ex. After the case was submitted to a jury, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The verdict was broken down into economic and non-economic damages. The economic damages consisted of about 1-3% of the total damages award.

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Over the past decade, autonomous vehicles have become a reality. Not just that, but also there are more autonomous cars out on the road each month as more and more manufacturers release autonomous and semi-autonomous models. Of course, autonomous cars present a number of benefits to motorists; however, they also present an equal number of safety risks.

Dark RoadNot only do autonomous vehicles present safety risks, but they also present myriad legal issues that have been unanticipated until now. Thus, courts are going to be required to come up with ad hoc rules to govern the determination of liability in Maryland truck accidents involving autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous Truck Kills Pedestrian

Earlier this month, a woman was killed as she crossed the road in front of a driverless truck that was operated by the ride-share company Uber. According to a recent news report, the truck was traveling at approximately 38 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone, when the woman suddenly came out of the shadows and into the path of the truck.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a truck accident case raising an interesting issue that occasionally comes up in Maryland truck accident cases. Specifically, the court had to discuss whether it was an error for the lower court to refuse to instruct the jury on the plaintiff’s duty to mitigate damages. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trial court was acting within its discretion when it refused to give the requested jury instruction.

Truck on FireThe Facts of the Case

A truck driver was involved in an accident when he rear-ended another truck that was traveling 15-18 miles per hour on the highway. After the collision, the man’s truck caught on fire. The man’s son happened to be passing by and recognized his father’s truck. The son attempted to rescue his father but was unable to do so. He was seriously burned as a result of his rescue efforts.

Later, the son told other members of his family about his father’s death. As may be suspected, the deceased driver’s wife suffered serious emotional distress as a result of hearing the news and had to be hospitalized. She was unable to return to work due to the severity of her depression.

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While the majority of Maryland truck accidents are results of driver error, a significant portion of truck accidents are caused by faulty equipment. Indeed, according to recent government statistics, the single most common cause of truck accidents is brake failure, which accounts for approximately 15,000 truck accidents each year. The second most common equipment error is tire-related issues, which are responsible for about 3,000 accidents per year.

Truck WheelsTruck drivers, like other motorists, are responsible to maintain their vehicles. This includes making sure that all critical systems are in good working condition before heading out on the road. Truck drivers must also take care to ensure that their cargo loads are safely packed to avoid cargo shift, which is another leading cause of truck accidents.

When a truck driver fails to take the necessary precautions, and an equipment failure causes an accident, the truck driver may be held liable for any injuries that occur as a result of the equipment failure. In some cases, the trucking company that owns the truck or employs the driver may also be held liable.

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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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People who operate large trucks for a living have an obligation to make sure that they do so with the utmost care. While all large vehicles have the potential to cause serious injuries in a Maryland truck accident, construction vehicles are some of the most dangerous, due to their moving parts and proximity to pedestrians and construction workers.

Construction VehicleConstruction sites pose a number of hazards both to pedestrians as well as to the workers on-site. While the operator of a construction vehicle always is responsible for its safety, the foreman of the job site also has a duty to ensure that the vehicles are placed in a safe spot in relation to the job site, as well as making sure that the vehicles are properly secured at the end of the day. A failure by either the operator or the foreman to follow the necessary safety protocols may result in a fatal Maryland truck accident.

In such situations, the family members of the accident victim may be able to pursue compensation for their loss through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. These claims must usually be brought by a surviving spouse, child, or parent, but they can be brought by other family members in some circumstances. In order to succeed in a Maryland wrongful death action, the plaintiff must be able to establish that the defendant’s negligent act was the cause of their loved one’s death. This can be done through eyewitness testimony, expert witness testimony, and the admission of other evidence suggesting the truck’s operator was somehow negligent.

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Maryland truck accidents are often results of one or more commonly occurring negligent driving behaviors, such as intoxication, distraction, or drowsy driving. In most truck accident cases, authorities are able to pin down the cause of a truck accident shortly after the collision. However, in accidents involving multiple vehicles or great loss of life, a more in-depth investigation is often required.

Highway TrafficAccording to a recent article, authorities in California announced the results of a year-long investigation, indicating that they will be bringing charges against the driver of a truck involved in the fatal 2016 accident that claimed 13 lives and injured another 31 passengers. Back in October of last year, a charter bus with over 40 elderly passengers aboard slammed into the rear of a semi-truck that was stopped on the highway.

At the time, it was unclear how the accident could have occurred; however, the investigation uncovered what happened in the moments leading up to the fatal truck accident. Evidently, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) had conducted a routine closure of traffic lanes related to a construction project. Traffic began to back up, and the truck driver stopped the truck in the west-most lane. A short time later, CHP officers opened up the lanes of travel, and traffic began to move again. However, the truck driver had fallen asleep behind the wheel. As traffic picked up, the truck driver stayed asleep. He did not wake up until the bus slammed into the back of his truck, going over 75 miles per hour.

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When a large commercial truck is involved in a Maryland truck accident, a chain of events is set in motion that has the potential to result in a major catastrophe. Semi-trucks and other large transport vehicles are designed to carry tens of thousands of pounds of cargo across the nation’s highways. Often, this means traveling on hundreds of miles of open road. Unfortunately, the very design that makes trucks an efficient means of transporting goods also leaves them ill-suited to adeptly respond to sudden changes in the traffic pattern.

Semi-Truck RolloverOne example of a truck driver’s compromised ability to maneuver a large rig is when an accident occurs a short distance ahead of the truck driver. Due to the significant weight of these large trucks – even when they are not fully loaded – a truck driver has a greatly increased stopping distance when traveling at highway speeds. Additionally, the length of a semi-truck prevents a driver from making any spur-of-the-moment evasive maneuvers to avoid an obstacle ahead. When combined, these factors greatly increase the chance of a chain reaction truck accident.

All of this is to say that truck drivers have a difficult job. However, that does not reduce their responsibility to safely operate their vehicle at all times. This may mean slowing down below the posted speed limit or increasing their following distance to beyond what they normally would consider a safe distance. When a truck driver fails to take necessary precautions and ends up causing or contributing to a chain reaction truck accident, both the driver and the driver’s employer may potentially be held liable.

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Most motorists who have spent any amount of time on Maryland highways have probably noticed the frequency of construction vehicles working on or near the highway. These vehicles are necessary to help build and maintain Maryland’s infrastructure; however, when not properly operated or secured, these vehicles can pose a serious risk to motorists and cause Maryland truck accidents.

Construction VehiclesThese large construction vehicles have the potential to cause serious injuries or death when they are not used properly. Indeed, large construction machines are designed to tear down houses, break apart pavement, and move large amounts of earth. Those who use construction vehicles are responsible to operate the vehicle safely, but their duty does not end there. Operators must also ensure that the vehicles are properly secured when they are not being used.

Runaway Dump Truck Kills Two

Earlier this month, a tragic construction vehicle accident claimed two lives, including the vehicle’s operator and another nearby motorist. According to a recent news report covering the accident, the dump truck was parked at a work site that was located atop a hill near a busy roadway. At some point while the dump truck was unoccupied, it began to travel down the hill toward the road below.

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