Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

It should come as no surprise that Maryland truck accidents involving large commercial trucks carry the potential to cause major destruction. This is especially the case when the accident involves multiple vehicles or takes place on a crowded highway. Indeed, some of the most devastating Maryland truck accidents involve chain-reaction collisions that begin with one vehicle but end up affecting many others.

Evening City-Scape Determining which driver is responsible in multi-vehicle accidents can be a difficult task, and it is often left up to the courts to decide. Generally speaking, all of the parties who believe they are entitled to compensation will file a personal injury lawsuit against the parties they believe to be responsible for their injuries. In chain-reaction car accidents, this usually results in all of the parties involved in the accident being named in the lawsuit. From there, a jury will hear the evidence from each party and come to a determination regarding each party’s respective percentage of fault.

In Maryland personal injury cases, courts apply a very strict rule when determining which parties in an accident are permitted to recover compensation for their injuries. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, any party who is even the slightest bit at fault for an accident will not be permitted to recover compensation from any other person involved in the accident. This stands true even if a plaintiff is determined to be just 5% at fault. Thus, the importance of a thorough investigation and diligent preparation cannot be overstated.

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Truck drivers have a lot of responsibility when operating large commercial vehicles across the nation’s highways. They must ensure that they remain alert during their trip, follow all posted traffic signs, and stay very aware of their surroundings, due to the significant blind spots most large trucks have. These difficulties are only compounded when inclement weather rolls in. Indeed, the number of Maryland truck accidents spikes during the winter months, when road conditions are most compromised. Often, weather-related truck accidents are caused in part by unexpected or otherwise dangerous road conditions. However, truck driver error also plays a role in most weather-related truck accidents.

Icy RoadTruck drivers are responsible to account for the current weather and road conditions when operating their rig. This may mean pulling off to the side of the road during an especially bad snowstorm or traveling below the posted speed limit. When a truck driver fails to take these additional precautions, it is not just the weather that is to blame but also the truck driver.

Those injured in a Maryland truck accident have the ability to file a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against the allegedly negligent driver and, in many cases, against the driver’s employer as well.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued an interesting opinion in a truck accident case that required the court to determine if the company that employed a truck driver who was responsible for a serious accident could be liable for punitive damages. Ultimately, the court concluded that under some other set of facts, punitive damages may be appropriate, but, given the facts presented in this specific case, they were not.

Trucker's ViewThe Facts of the Case

In 2014, the plaintiffs were driving through a construction zone on Interstate 14 when they were struck by a truck. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the trucking company that employed the driver, arguing that the company was liable for the driver’s actions because he was an employee working within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that the company was negligent for hiring the truck driver in the first place, given the driver’s checkered past. The plaintiffs sought punitive damages on each claim.

In support of their negligent hiring claim, the plaintiffs introduced evidence that the truck driver had previously been convicted of drug offenses and had a significant history of traffic offenses. There was also a report that the truck driver had been found to be traveling at 99 miles per hour while on the job just a week prior to the accident.

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Large trucks are made to bring goods across the country, and as a result, they are specifically designed to carry large amounts of cargo on the nation’s highways. However, at the beginning and end of a truck driver’s journey, he or she will at some point have to drive on smaller surface streets.

Going to SchoolDriving on small city streets can present difficulties for many truck drivers, whose rigs may be upwards of 70 feet long and may consist of several trailers being towed by a single truck. For example, many city intersections are much smaller than truck drivers are used to navigating, and they may require special maneuvers to safely negotiate them. In addition, the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists presents additional hazards that truck drivers must take precautions to avoid.

Despite the additional difficulties of driving on smaller roads, truck drivers remain responsible for safely operating their vehicles and may be held liable when they cause an accident on city streets. Of course, some accidents may be unavoidable even with the exercise of due caution, and truck drivers are not likely to be responsible for these. However, when a truck driver’s negligence or inexperience results in an accident, the truck driver – and potentially their employer – may be held liable for any injuries that result.

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Truck drivers operate some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road, and as a result they have a heightened duty to those with whom they share the road. One of truck drivers’ most obvious duties is to safely operate their vehicles while on public roads. This includes remaining free from the effects of drugs or alcohol, getting enough rest to be fully aware while driving, and also paying full attention to their surroundings.

TruckWhen a truck driver fails to live up to this standard, the likelihood of causing an accident greatly increases. When an accident does occur, the accident victim may be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries from the truck driver and potentially the driver’s employer.

Trucking companies are not liable in every truck accident case; however, they can often be named as additional defendants when the accident victim can show that there was some negligence on the employer’s part, or the truck driver was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. This may also be appropriate when the truck supplied by the employer had a dangerous defect, or the employer failed to conduct an adequate background check of the employee prior to hiring him.

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After any accident, an injured motorist and any passengers are entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party they believe to be at fault for causing the accident. In many cases involving private citizens named as defendants, the process is a fairly straightforward one, requiring only that the motorcyclist prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their injuries. However, when the at-fault party is a government employee or contractor, there may be issues of immunity that must be overcome.

MailboxAs a general rule, government agencies and their employees are entitled to immunity from personal injury lawsuits arising out of any actions related to the performance of a government function. While this seems like an extremely broad grant of immunity, the reality is that there are many exceptions to the general rule. For example, if a government employee is acting recklessly or is in violation of the law at the time of the accident, immunity will not likely attach.

Even if government immunity is not likely given the circumstances of the accident, it is advisable that anyone injured by a government employee contact a dedicated personal injury attorney prior to filing a case. For example, plaintiffs filing lawsuits against government agencies and their employees generally must comply with additional procedural requirements or risk that their case is prematurely dismissed.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion discussing the situations when a court should issue a default judgment when a defendant in a lawsuit fails to respond to the plaintiff’s claim. In the recent case, the appellate court ultimately reversed a lower court’s default judgment after applying a multi-factor test.

Logging TruckThe Facts of the Case

The defendant, a semi-truck driver, was backing a load of logs into his driveway when the plaintiff crashed into his truck. At the time of the accident, the truck was blocking all of the lanes of travel. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, which the defendant failed to answer. After approximately three months, the court issued a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

Two months after the default judgment was entered, the defendant submitted a motion to the court, asking it to set aside the judgment. In support of his motion, the defendant submitted an affidavit from a witness to the accident, stating that the defendant had taken reasonable precautions, including placing cones and using the truck’s four-way flashing lights. The defendant also claimed that, on the day of the accident, he notified his insurance company about the accident. The defendant explained that he thought this meant that the insurance company was investigating the accident and that no further action was needed on his part. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

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Late last month, two republican lawmakers witnessed a major semi-truck accident and acted as first responders, providing assistance to the accident victims until emergency responders arrived. According to one local news source covering the accident, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Joe Heck of Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District were on their way back to their hotel in West Virginia when they witnessed the accident.

Stormy HighwayEvidently, Heck, a board-certified physician, and Rubio witnessed a west-bound semi-truck cross the median after the driver had lost control. After crossing into the median, the truck then struck three cars traveling in the opposite direction. The two lawmakers stopped their vehicle and provided assistance until emergency responders arrived. They pulled one man out of an overturned car. Sadly, a 62-year-old man was pronounced dead by Heck as a result of the collision. The others injured in the semi-truck accident are expected to make a full recovery.

Police do not believe that drugs or alcohol were involved in the fatal accident. However, according to witnesses, it is possible that the semi-truck hydroplaned and lost control as a result, leading to the accident.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Ohio issued a written opinion dealing with that state’s “Good Samaritan Law.” In the case of Carter v. Reese, the court interpreted the law broadly, including anyone who performs any kind of emergency care. Importantly, the law covers anyone, rather than just medical professionals, as the plaintiff had argued.

Old TruckThe Facts of the Case

Carter was a truck driver. He arrived at his destination and began to unload the trailer he had been pulling. After he was done, he pulled his truck about four to six inches away from the loading dock and put it in park. As he made his way around the back of his truck and up to the loading dock, Carter fell. His leg became stuck between the loading dock and the truck.

At this time, Carter began calling for help because, while he didn’t feel any pain, he was unable to get his leg free. Reese heard Carter’s calls and responded. Carter told Reese to get into the cab of the truck and pull the truck forward so that Carter could free himself. Reese agreed but realized soon after he got into the cab that he didn’t know how to operate the rig. He attempted to rev the engine and move forward, but the truck slid backward instead, crushing Carter’s leg in the process.

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According to a recent article, a driver was severely injured on a highway in Maine last month in an accident involving a tractor-trailer. The injured driver was driving behind the tractor-trailer in an SUV when the truck unexpectedly slowed and tried to turn around in a vehicle turnout reserved for police and other government vehicles. The injured driver swerved to avoid crashing into the rear of the tractor-trailer, but he lost control of the vehicle and crashed anyway. In the article, the Maine State Police stated that the driver of the truck faces criminal charges for endangering the life of another driver.

No U TurnIn Maryland, drivers who cause a serious bodily injury to other drivers may face criminal charges. Drivers may also be liable for damages in civil court if the driver is found to be negligent. A driver is negligent if he or she fails to take reasonable care while operating a motor vehicle, and this failure causes an injury to another person.

Maryland law provides for two types of damages. Economic damages compensate injured drivers or passengers for out-of-pocket costs like lost wages, unpaid medical expenses, and decreased future earnings. Non-economic damages, which are sometimes referred to as damages for “pain and suffering,” are also available to injured parties who can no longer enjoy life as they did before being injured.

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