Articles Posted in Trucking-related Injury Accidents

One of the most important issues in any Maryland personal injury case is determining which parties may be responsible for an accident victim’s injuries. This is especially important because accident victims typically only get one chance to bring their case, and if a potentially liable defendant is not named in a case the plaintiff may lose their ability to recover altogether.

In most Maryland truck accidents, certain parties should always be considered as potential defendants. For example, the person driving the truck, the owner of the truck, and the company that employed the truck driver are commonly named as defendants. However, there may be additional parties who are responsible for an accident victim’s injuries. A recent case discusses whether a mechanic was liable for injuries caused by a forklift.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was employed as a truck driver. The plaintiff parked his truck at his employer’s warehouse, and other employees began to unload the truck. As one of the other employees was using a forklift to unload the truck’s cargo, the driver ran over the plaintiff’s foot, resulting in serious injuries. The forklift was not manufactured with a back-up alarm, and did not have one installed at the time of the accident.

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When most people think of a Maryland truck accident, they visualize images of an overturned semi-truck on the highway. Indeed, most Maryland truck accidents occur on the highway and these are the most often seen examples of truck accidents. However, there are many other types of truck accidents, including those involving construction vehicles, tow trucks, and other heavy equipment.

Most heavy equipment accidents involve the employees who are working around these dangerous machines and vehicles. Given the fact that the accident victims agree to work around these, certain issues arise that may not come up in traditional truck accident cases. A recent state appellate decision illustrates the scope of a release of liability waiver that was signed by an accident victim.

The Facts

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was injured while she was standing in a “non-spectator restricted area” on the Daytona International Speedway. Evidently, the plaintiff was standing in the pit-stop area while employees of the racetrack instructed a tow-truck to back-up. The employees gave the all-clear to the tow-truck driver, who backed up over the plaintiff.

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Anyone who has spent significant time driving on Maryland roads knows that they are seemingly always under construction. Indeed, according to a report from the Maryland Department of Transportation, there are currently twelve major construction projects underway or about to begin along the I-270 corridor alone.

For the most part, the fact that the government is investing in the state’s roadways is a good thing. However, with so many construction projects underway, motorists are put at an in increased danger of being involved in a Maryland construction zone accident. At the same time, construction workers are also put in danger and, under a new Maryland law, motorists have a duty to either slow down significantly or change lanes as they approach roadside construction crews.

Construction zones are notorious for presenting motorists and workers with unseen and unanticipated hazards. Crews should take care to ensure that there is accurate signage leading up to the area clearly indicating how drivers should navigate the construction zone. Additionally, construction workers must keep open lanes free of debris and safe for travel; however, even the most well-intentioned construction crew can make mistakes.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia wrongful death case arising out of a fatal workplace accident. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s product liability case against the manufacturer was sufficient as a matter of law. Finding that it was not, the court reversed the award that had been issued in favor of the plaintiff.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the estate of a factory worker who was killed while using a loading truck manufactured by the defendant. During a busy shift, the employee’s supervisor asked him to operate the lift truck, although the employee had not been certified to do so. The employee was loading bales of paper out of a trailer when the truck got stuck on the inclined ramp into the trailer.

With the assistance of a colleague, the employee engaged the parking brake, got out of the truck, and attached a tow chain to the rear of the truck. However, when the employee was behind the truck, the parking brake failed, and the truck traveled down the inclined ramp, crushing and killing the employee.

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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.

In 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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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.

The 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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Not all courts are the same. While judges are all supposed to follow the law as it is written, there are situations in which a case does not neatly fit into the laws as they currently stand. In such cases, judges may be required to interpret statutes or give meaning to previous judicial opinions and apply this analysis to the facts in the case before them. This can result in a situation in which the judge “creates” the law as it applies to the specific case.

Because of this, it can be very important which court hears a case. A recent case before the Texas Supreme Court highlights the lengths parties will go to in ensuring that the venue hearing the case is of their own choice.

In re J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc.

In this case, J.B. Hunt was a trucking company that employed a truck driver who was involved in a fatal accident that claimed the life of another motorist. According to the court’s written opinion, an Isuzu Rodeo broke down on the highway and pulled off to the far-right lane. A truck owned by J.B. Hunt was driving in that same lane, and after a few moments, the truck slammed into the rear of the Isuzu, killing one of the occupants.

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Earlier this month in Decatur, Georgia, a cement truck carrying a several-ton load was involved in an accident with a small passenger car. According to one local news report, the accident occurred when the cement truck driver ran a red light and crashed into the car that was traveling through what was a green light for the car at the time.

Evidently, after the collision, the car became wedged in between the cab of the truck and the truck’s load. One nearby citizen showed up seconds after the accident to take pictures. He told reporters: “I didn’t even realize there was a car even there when I first walked up to the accident … It’s hard to see how somebody could survive that.”

But survive she did. The driver of the car was taken to the hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the truck was also sent to the hospital with serious injuries but is expected to make a full recovery.

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Earlier this month in North Carolina, an accident between a large truck and an Amtrak train sent 62 people to the hospital with minor injuries. According to a local Washington DC news source, the accident occurred near Halifax, North Carolina.

Evidently, a large semi-truck was traveling with an escort vehicle when the truck got struck attempting to maneuver across the tracks. It seems that the truck driver was attempting to make a turn over the tracks when the truck got stuck and couldn’t free itself. Roughly 15-20 minutes later, an Amtrak train with 212 passengers and eight crew members aboard slammed into the immobilized truck. In all, 62 people were sent to the hospital with minor injuries.

As more information was discovered about the crash, it seems that the truck driver had access to a number to call when such unusual situations arise on or near railroad tracks. The number, if he had called it, would have alerted the train’s conductor that there was a problem ahead and likely would have avoided the accident. As it turns out, the number was posted at the very crossing where the truck got stuck.

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Earlier this year in a California appellate court, a plaintiff’s case was allowed to continue over objections from several defendants after the plaintiff was involved in a serious tractor-trailer accident. According to court documents, the plaintiff was riding in the sleeper cabin of the tractor-trailer when the driver got into an accident. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries as a result.

The plaintiff then sought financial damages from the driver of the truck, the truck’s owner, and the owner of the trailer that the truck was towing at the time.

At Trial Two Defendants Are Excused Based on a Lack of Vicarious Liability

The trial court accepted the argument of both the trucking company as well as the trailer owner that they should not be held vicariously liable for the actions of the truck driver. This was based largely on the fact that the actual driver of the truck was merely an independent contractor, rather than a benefited employee.

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