Articles Posted in Legal Concepts in Truck Accident Cases

Generally, after someone is injured in a Maryland truck accident, they will first look to hold the other drivers involved in the accident responsible. However, in accidents involving a single vehicle or even in crashes involving multiple vehicles, state or local governments may also have some liability based on their responsibility to maintain the roadway, particularly in cases involving intersections or other conditions in the roadway that are known to be dangerous.

State and local governments are responsible for keeping roads in a reasonably safe condition for everyone traveling on the road. In a case based on a dangerous condition on a roadway, the plaintiff generally must show that there was a dangerous condition that existed, that the government knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, that the government knew about the condition for long enough to address the condition or warn the plaintiff, that the government had a duty to act, and that the government’s failure to act caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

In some cases, a government may be immune from liability depending on the circumstances of the case. However, in Maryland, state and local governments generally can be held responsible if there is a dangerous condition on the roadway and if they had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition and failed to properly address it. In these circumstances, injured persons normally can file suit against the government for its failure to maintain roads in a reasonably safe condition.

Maryland truck accidents involving mail carriers and mail trucks can raise many unique challenges, and injury victims must understand how the law may impact their personal injury lawsuit. These accidents are inherently different from those involving private delivery carriers, such as Fed-Ex, UPS, and Amazon. The difference lies in the fact that mail carriers are generally federal government employees. Therefore, these cases involve different legal standards, notice requirements, and eligible damages.

Despite the complex and daunting legal process, individuals can sue the U.S. Postal service if they cause an accident. These cases can stem from typical car accidents involving a neighborhood mail delivery vehicle or a larger mail truck from a distribution center. In some cases, the government may not own the mail delivery vehicle because they sub-contracted it from an independent entity. However, when this occurs, the federal government may still retain some portion of the liability.

Claims against the federal government, such as a mail carrier, involve the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which requires plaintiffs to abide by strict procedures and regulations. Under the FTCA, an injury victim pursuing a claim against a federal employee must meet the FTCA’s requirements, unless the driver was a sub-contractor These claims must conform with the law of the state where the act took place, and the negligent conduct must have occurred while the defendant was acting within the scope of their employment. If the negligent party were a sub-contractor, the accident victim would likely pursue a typical personal injury lawsuit.

There is nothing more tragic than losing a loved one in a Maryland truck accident, especially when the accident was completely preventable. While many people are able to drive around the state each day without getting injured, every so often someone will make a careless mistake, leading to a tragic, and potentially fatal, accident. These accidents are a sobering reminder that one mistake or careless decision can literally change an entire life and cause immense pain and suffering.

Recently, a truck driver ran a red light one Saturday morning and hit a car. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the impact of the crash caused a tractor that was on the truck to fall off and onto the car. Tragically, a 10-year-old girl riding in the car with her mother was hit by the crane of the tractor and killed. Her mother was also injured, and was rushed to the hospital, but is expected to survive. The 60-year-old driver of the truck was not hurt.

This accident is a prime example of a collision that could lead to a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits can be brought when someone is killed due to someone else’s negligence, typically by the victim’s family or estate. In this case, the girl’s mother, for example, may be able to sue the truck driver for negligence.

When a truck driver causes an accident after making a careless or reckless driving error—like running a red light or driving the wrong way on a one-way street—state law allows the injured parties to file a Maryland truck accident lawsuit to recover for damages incurred as a result. However, there may be certain cases where states want to limit liability for certain drivers or accidents. One common instance is limiting the liability of or providing immunity to those driving emergency medical vehicles such as ambulances who cause crashes. Granting this immunity allows those providing emergency medical care to escape liability if tragically they cause an accident while trying to help someone else.

In a recent opinion, a state supreme court considered whether an ambulance driver was immune from liability after he ran a red light, causing a serious car accident. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff in the case was injured on March 11, 2016, when a private ambulance driven by one of the defendants (and owned by the other defendant) ran a red light, colliding with the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendants, seeking to recover damages for his injuries based on the negligence or, alternatively, the willful and wanton misconduct of the driver. The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s negligence claim based on an immunity provision in a state statute. The statute provides civil immunity to anyone who is operating an ambulance in the performance of non-emergency medical services at the time of the accident, unless they were operating it with willful or wanton misconduct. Because negligence is much easier to prove than willful or wanton misconduct, having the negligence claim dismissed would significantly decrease the plaintiff’s chance at winning the suit.

Every day, millions of students ride to and from school on school buses. While school buses are generally a safe option for children to get to school, they are not immune from getting into accidents. School buses, including those in Maryland, get into crashes on occasion, which can cause injuries to those on board. Those injured may be able to collect financially from the driver responsible for the accident. However, doing so often requires that the injury victim file a claim with the school district’s insurance company.

Generally, Maryland school buses all have some sort of insurance policy to protect them in case of an accident. This insurance likely includes what is called Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage, or UIM. This coverage protects those who are hit by a negligent driver who does not have enough to financially cover the accident. For instance, if someone is riding in a school bus driven by driver A when driver B, in their car, hits the school bus, driver B may be liable to driver A and the passengers for their injuries. Let’s say these injuries total $300,000. Driver B might only have insurance coverage of up to $100,000, leaving them $200,000 short. Or, in some cases, driver B might not have insurance at all. In this instance, a plaintiff may want to try and recover against the school bus’s insurance provider using the UIM coverage provision of the policy. If the school bus has UIM coverage of up to $500,000, they may be able to pay what the responsible driver was unable to.

If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. Maryland insurance laws can be difficult to understand, and insurance companies routinely reject claims for coverage in an attempt to limit their financial responsibility, meaning that cases like this may end up in court. For example, a state appeals court recently considered a case with a very similar fact pattern to the example laid out above. The victim was injured when a car hit the school bus she was driving in, but the car’s driver did not have enough to cover her injuries. The victim attempted to recover from the school bus’s insurance provider under their UIM coverage provision, but the insurance company refused to pay, insisting that the coverage was limited by statute, even though the contract said otherwise. The case had to go to court multiple times for the plaintiff to finally receive the compensation she deserved for her injuries.

Maryland truck accident cases are subject to the statute of limitations applicable in the case. The statute of limitations is the amount of time in which a lawsuit must be filed and varies based on the type of claim. Generally, under Maryland Code section 5-101, Maryland personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of three years. Typically, Maryland wrongful death claims also are subject to a three-year statute of limitations under Maryland Code section 3-904(g).

In general, statutes of limitations are strictly construed, and failing to file a claim within the allotted time will result in a dismissal of the claim. However, there are some exceptions. The statute may be tolled, for example, if the plaintiff if a minor or could not have known about the injury when it occurred.

In cases involving the city or state, additional requirements and limitations apply. For example, when filing a claim against the state under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, a claimant must submit a written claim with the State Treasurer within one year of the cause of action arising. The claim to the state also has to include a statement explaining the facts and specific damages alleged. In general, the case can be filed in court only after the Treasurer denies the claim. Filing a claim with the State Treasurer tolls the statute of limitations for 60 days after a final denial is made by the State Treasurer.

Typically, individuals are grateful when they see fire trucks on the roads, responding to emergencies and saving lives. Maryland firefighters are first responders to many emergencies and perform an essential governmental function. However, there may be tragic instances when fire trucks, speeding to get to a burning building, cause more harm than good and cause an accident.

A recent incident illustrates this point. Last month, a fire truck was responding to a call at around 8:15 in the evening when it hit a car. According to a local news report, this led to a multi-vehicle crash involving seven other vehicles and significant injuries. Two individuals were trapped inside of a car and had to be extracted, and six people were taken to local hospitals, two as trauma alerts. The nine-vehicle crash was so significant that all lanes of the road were closed in the aftermath. While the condition of those injured is still unknown, there are likely to be long-term severe injuries and medical bills as a result of this tragic accident.

While nothing can undo the damage that was done that evening, those who were injured in the incident may have a route to financial recovery. Under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, the state government, including the fire department, may be sued in personal injury lawsuits. If it was found that the firefighters driving the truck were acting negligently in some way that led to the accident, the injured victims might be able to recover for their injuries, pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical bills, each up to $400,000. However, successfully filing a personal injury suit against a government entity is difficult to do, with more procedural requirements and regulations than typical lawsuits against other civilians or private businesses.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion raising an interesting issue discussing whether a vehicle owner has a duty to install brakes on their trailer. Ultimately, the court did not come to a definitive decision, and remanded the case for further consideration. However, the opinion provides insight into the court’s considerations.

According to the court’s opinion, a woman was asked by her father to transport a load of palm fronds using his truck and trailer. Originally, the woman’s father had planned on making the trip himself, but he was not feeling well on the day of the trip. The trailer was not equipped with brakes and was loaded past its capacity.

While the woman was transporting the load, traffic in front of her suddenly slowed. As the woman tried to brake, she realized she was not going to stop in time, so she swerved onto the shoulder. Unfortunately, as the vehicle entered the shoulder, it struck the plaintiff who was waiting for the bus.

Anytime a driver enters a Maryland highway, they usually share the road with one or more trucks. While most drives do not end in an accident, Maryland truck accidents do happen, and can cause serious injuries or even death to those involved. When someone is injured in one of these accidents, Maryland law allows a motorist to sue the negligent driver to recover for medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Additionally, the state’s law allows injured victims to also bring suit against the negligent driver’s employer, if the driver was acting in the scope of his employment when the accident occured. For example, if a delivery driver runs a red light and gets into an accident while on his way to deliver a package, someone injured as a result may be able to sue both the driver and the company the driver works for.

However, there are strict limits and rules on when an employer can be held liable and when they cannot. Generally, the rule does not apply to independent contractors, as highlighted in a recent federal appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant was driving a tractor-trailer to make a delivery in another state when the driver got into an accident, seriously injuring a mother and daughter inside another vehicle. The two victims filed suit, alleging that the driver had been negligent and that the two companies who he worked for were also liable, since he was acting in the scope of his employment when the accident occurred.

The companies filed a motion for summary judgment, stating that they could not be held liable because the driver was an independent contractor, not an actual agent of the company. The trial court granted the motion, leading to a subsequent appeal. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the driver was an employee and agent, but the court disagreed. Looking at the text of the contract between the driver and the companies, the court found that the companies did not have sufficient control over the driver to be held liable for his actions. As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiffs could not seek compensation from the companies, and their suit could proceed only against the truck driver.

In 2017, distracted driving killed more than 3,000 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The problem has become increasingly common in Maryland and throughout the country over the past decade, posing a serious danger to Maryland drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Handheld devices have become commonplace, and research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that for some drivers, the use of advanced driver technology in vehicles made those drivers more likely to engage in distracted driving.

In Maryland, the use of a handheld phone while driving is prohibited. Yet, the use of handheld devices remains prevalent. Maryland law enforcement officers issued more than 34,000 citations for use of a cell phone and more than 1,800 for texting while driving in 2016. Montgomery County, Maryland has tried to take the law a step further by recently introducing a proposal to install cameras to catch distracted drivers and mail out tickets to them, as used for some red light cameras.

All Maryland drivers must generally exercise reasonable care under the circumstances presented. Distracted driving can form the basis for a case against a distracted driver, which would normally be founded in negligence. A plaintiff has to prove the following in a Maryland negligence claim: the defendant had a legal duty to the plaintiff; the defendant failed to meet the duty; the plaintiff suffered damages; and, the defendant’s failure to meet the duty caused the plaintiff’s damages.

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