Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

Among the hazards that motorists must address when driving on the highway are large trucks parked on the road’s shoulder. There are a number of legitimate reasons why a Maryland truck driver may pull their rig over. For instance, a truck driver may feel fatigue setting in and decide to pull over rather than risk driving while drowsy. While there is generally no traffic law prohibiting a motorist from pulling over to the road’s edge when necessary, a motorist must take care when parking their vehicle to avoid obstructing traffic and must pull off at an appropriate location.

In May 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing a situation involving a motorist who was seriously injured after rear-ending a truck driver who had pulled over near a highway offramp. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was entering the highway when he crossed into the “gore area,” which is the triangular area between the highway and the ramp. Evidently, the plaintiff’s car rear-ended a parked semi-truck.

Apparently, the truck driver had been traveling on the highway when he noticed red warning lights on the dashboard. Shortly afterward, the engine lost power, and the truck driver pulled into the gore area. The truck driver immediately called his employer, and about five to eight minutes later, the plaintiff rear-ended the truck. The plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of the accident.

Any time a semi-truck is involved in an accident with other motorists, it is very likely that there will be significant injuries. Maryland rear-end truck accidents, are no exception. Indeed, it is estimated that rear-end truck accidents are responsible for over 23,000 injuries and 700 fatalities across the country each year.

The most cited reason for the large number of rear-end truck accidents is the stopping distance of large trucks, especially when they are fully loaded and traveling at highway speeds. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, it takes the average truck the length of two football fields to come to a complete stop when traveling at 65 miles per hour.

While the significant stopping distance of semi-trucks certainly plays a role in many rear-end accidents, it is somewhat misleading to label the truck’s stopping distance as the cause of these accidents. In reality, many of these accidents are the result of the truck driver’s negligence. Commercial truck drivers are trained to operate large vehicles at high speeds, and should be familiar with how to do so safely. This includes knowing how long it takes their rig to come to a complete stop. However, often, truck drivers follow too closely, leaving little to no time to react if the vehicle in front of them unexpectedly slows down or comes to a stop.

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Under Maryland’s contributory negligence law, a judicial finding that a plaintiff is even the slightest bit at fault for causing an accident can result in the plaintiff being precluded from proceeding with a case against the other motorists involved in the crash. Thus, in many Maryland truck accident cases, a defendant truck driver may attempt to avoid liability by arguing that the plaintiff was also negligent in causing the accident.

Because the doctrine of contributory negligence often results in a minimally at-fault plaintiff being entirely precluded from pursuing a claim against a much more culpable driver, most states have shifted to the more forgiving comparative fault model. However, several states including Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia still apply this harsh doctrine.

A recent case, however, illustrates that mere allegations that the plaintiff is partially at fault for causing an accident will not necessarily result in the plaintiff’s inability to recover for their injuries.

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Any time a motorist’s vehicle breaks down on the highway, it’s a stressful occasion. The first thought in most motorists’ minds after a breakdown is ensuring that they are able to stop the car safely and park it in a secure location. After that, however, a motorist’s attention likely shifts to the logistics of how to get the car to a repair shop, gas station, or back home.

Leaving a vehicle on the side of the highway, of course, is very dangerous. Passing motorists may not be paying attention and can run into a roadside vehicle, even if it is not blocking a lane. In fact, each year there are hundreds of Maryland roadside accidents involving parked or disabled vehicles on the side of the road.

Determining fault in a roadside accident can be tricky. For instance, if the motorist was safely parked on the side of the highway and was not obstructing any of the lanes, the passing motorist may be at fault. However, if a driver leaves a portion of their vehicle protruding into a lane of travel the passing motorist may not be at fault. These cases depend heavily on the specific facts surrounding the accident.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue for many Maryland personal injury plaintiffs. The case arose after a truck accident in which the plaintiff, a woman originally from Mexico without a valid work permit for the United States, was injured in an accident with a truck driver. The case required the court to discuss whether the plaintiff was entitled to a new trial after defense counsel made several veiled comments regarding the plaintiff’s immigration status.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when the defendant truck driver made an allegedly improper lane change into the plaintiff’s vehicle. Many facts in the case were contested, with the plaintiff and defendant each maintaining different stories of how the accident occurred.

As a part of the plaintiff’s case, she had a medical expert testify regarding her injuries and what treatment she would likely need in the future, as well as the cost of that treatment. During cross-examination of that witness, defense counsel asked the expert if he was aware if the plaintiff was going to “move back” to Mexico. Defense counsel made another reference to the fact that the plaintiff spoke primarily Spanish and only limited English.

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The chances are that anyone who has spent much time driving on Maryland’s highways has seen the remnants of an improperly secured load of cargo lying on the side of the highway. Often, a driver may not notice that they have lost part of their load, or the driver may make the conscious decision to keep on moving to avoid the hazard and potential liability from trying to remove the spilled cargo from the highway.

Whatever the cause may be, spilled cargo can easily result in a serious Maryland traffic accident. Indeed, the American Automobile Association estimates that there are over 200,000 accidents each year caused by road debris, including approximately 500 fatalities. This figure includes accidents that are caused by the ubiquitous remains of shredded tires resulting from semi-truck tire blowouts.

Most of the time, spilled cargo falls from vehicles with open-air beds, such as pick-up trucks, dump trucks, tow trucks, and garbage trucks. But on occasion, a semi-truck driver fails to properly secure the rear doors, and cargo can spill out the back of the truck. In any event, a driver who fails to properly secure their load can be held liable for any injuries caused as a result of the spillage. A truck driver may also be liable if the remnants from their shredded tire cause an accident, but locating the owner of such remnants often proves to be difficult.

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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.

The 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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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.

Earlier 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.

A 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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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.

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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