Articles Posted in Legal Concepts in Truck Accident Cases

When filing a Maryland truck accident claim, it is very important to comply with all of the necessary court rules and procedural requirements. A plaintiff’s failure to do so may result in the dismissal of a case that otherwise could have resulted in substantial compensation. In most personal injury cases, once a plaintiff retains counsel, these matters are left to the attorney handling the case. However, courts very rarely will excuse a plaintiff’s non-compliance, even if it was due to attorney error.

Semi-TruckA recent case illustrates the difficulties one accident victim had after he failed to answer the defendant’s motion in a timely manner and also failed to present any evidence establishing that the defendant was negligent.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a truck driver who was transporting cargo that was packed by the defendant corporation. As the plaintiff opened the truck’s rear gate, several boxes that had been packed by the defendant fell on top of him, resulting in serious injuries.

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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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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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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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When someone is injured in a Maryland car accident that is allegedly caused by the negligent act of a government employee, the injured party may have a claim for damages against both the government employee as well as the government entity itself. However, issues of government immunity often come up in these cases.

Fire TruckEarlier this month, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion in a case involving an accident between a fire truck and another passenger vehicle that required the court to determine whether governmental immunity applied. Finding that immunity did not apply, the court rejected the defendants’ asserted immunity and sent the case on toward trial or settlement negotiations.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in an accident when he drove his truck into an intersection and collided with a fire truck. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the fireman as well as the city where the fireman was employed.

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When a motorist is involved in a Maryland car accident, the law requires that they remain on the scene and exchange certain information with the other people involved in the accident, including their name, address, and vehicle and insurance information. Additionally, if anyone was injured in the accident, the motorist must ensure the authorities are aware of the accident so that those who need medical assistance can obtain it.

Pedestrian CrossingA driver’s failure to remain on the scene following a Maryland auto accident can result in both civil and criminal liability. In the event that a driver is not located or has insufficient insurance coverage to fully compensate the accident victim, the accident victim may be able to file a claim with their own insurance company under the policy’s underinsured motorist provision.

While insurance companies offer fair compensation in response to some claims, too often insurance companies try to evade responsibility by improperly denying a claim. In some situations in which the insurance company knows that it may be liable if the case goes to trial, the insurance company may offer a low-ball settlement offer early in the process in hopes of settling the case cheaply. In any event, Maryland accident victims should not take the insurance company at its word and should retain their own Maryland personal injury attorney to assist them with their claim.

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