When most people think of filing a lawsuit after a Maryland bus accident, they usually picture that they will just be suing one person—whoever caused the accident. While this is true in some cases, there may be some other cases where it actually makes sense to sue more than just that person. For example, the agency, organization, or company that employed the negligent driver. For instance, negligent bus and truck drivers are often not driving their own vehicle on their own time, but instead are driving an employer’s vehicle as part of their job. In Maryland truck and bus accident cases, it is important to remember this option for suing a negligent party’s employer because often they may be able to pay more in damages than the negligent driver, meaning that Maryland plaintiffs may have more of an opportunity to fully recover for their injuries.

For a recent, high-profile example of when a plaintiff may consider bringing a lawsuit against both an employee and their employer, take a recent crash that made national headlines. According to NBC News, the crash occurred around 12:20 PM one afternoon when a tour bus carrying 48 people was driving to the Grand Canyon rolled and landed on its side. It is not clear what caused the accident, and it remains under investigation. However, what is clear is that one person was tragically killed as a result. Additionally, immediately after the accident, two others were in critical condition, and seven others were injured, such that they had to be taken to the hospital. An additional thirty-three people on the bus had minor injuries not requiring hospitalization.

While it’s not known at this time whether or not there will be litigation resulting from this injury, the accident sheds light onto an important aspect in Maryland truck and bus cases—holding employers liable for their employees’ actions. Maryland state law allows those injured in these circumstances to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver and their employer. So, if the employee was somehow responsible for the crash—if the bus driver was texting while driving, for example—then the driver and their employer may both have to pay the plaintiffs for their injuries. Often, the employer is better able to afford these lawsuits, meaning plaintiffs may have an easier time obtaining full recovery when they include an employer in their suit.

Maryland truck accidents are always unfortunate, and in some cases, can be tragic, causing severe bodily injuries or even death. While many of these accidents involve just one or two vehicles—usually a truck hitting a sign, a tree, another vehicle, etc.—some truck accidents can involve multiple vehicles, injuring many people.

Often, these accidents originally just involve one or two vehicles, but this original crash causes a chain reaction, leading to more and more damage. For instance, if a truck crashes into a tree suddenly, a car behind it might swerve to avoid the wreck, but in so doing may crash into other cars. Other vehicles may not be able to stop when a crash happens suddenly and may rear-end other vehicles. Additionally, sometimes Maryland truck accidents can send one vehicle tumbling in an unexpected direction, where they may hit other vehicles. These occurrences can cause large accidents, injuring many people from multiple different vehicles.

A real-life example of one of these multi-vehicle chain-reaction crashes occurred just last week, in an accident involving 13 different vehicles. According to a local news report that covered the accident, the initial crash occurred early on Monday afternoon, when a semi-truck with a trailer driving east did not slow down for a snowplow (in the passing lane) and another semi-truck (in the right lane). The first semi-truck struck the snowplow and then a guardrail, before going into the ditch. The second semi-truck cut across two lanes of traffic to avoid the collision, causing three other vehicles to go up onto the median to avoid hitting the truck, but fortunately, none of these vehicles got into any collisions. However, seven additional vehicles were involved in a secondary crash as they tried to avoid collisions but ended up hitting either other vehicles or the guard rail. These additional vehicles included two pickup trucks, a pickup trailer, two semi-trucks with trailers, a compact car, and a FedEx truck.

Sometimes, in the aftermath of a Maryland truck accident, it’s not exactly clear what happened or who’s to blame. Accidents happen quickly—in the blink of an eye—and those involved (or even eyewitnesses) might not know afterward who hit who or how the two vehicles collided—only that they did. Sometimes, it can take a significant amount of investigation after a crash to determine the cause and the series of events. Accident reconstruction experts may investigate, but sometimes the cause of the accident will not be known until quite a bit after it’s occurred.

For example, take a recent three-vehicle truck accident that occurred in the first week of this year. According to a local news article covering the accident, the crash occurred on a Monday afternoon around 1 PM. A driver in a semitrailer truck came upon a car waiting to turn left but failed to slow down for some unknown reason. The truck driver swerved to miss the vehicle waiting to turn—since they could not stop in time—but while swerving they struck another vehicle traveling the opposite direction head-on, and also collided with the turning vehicle. This three-vehicle crash left one driver—the driver struck head-on—dead. It is unclear what injuries were suffered or the extent of the other damage, but the county police accident reconstruction team came to the scene to investigate, and the road was closed down for a while. The crash remains under investigation.

Because it takes a while to figure out exactly what happened in a Maryland truck accident, many people who are injured in one wait before contacting an attorney. But those injured who might want to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver should contact an attorney right away—even if they are not sure if they have a case, or whose fault the accident was, or even what happened. Working with an attorney right away keeps your options open and also ensures you do not miss the window of time within which you must file suit—the statute of limitations. In Maryland, you must file suit within three years. If you prolong getting an attorney, you may forget or procrastinate, and then miss the statute of limitations. That’s why all those involved in a truck accident are encouraged to speak to an attorney right away, to make sure they are aware of their legal rights and prepared to file suit if need be.

Vicarious liability refers to the liability of a person or entity for another person’s wrongful actions. In a Maryland truck accident case, a person or entity may be liable for an employee’s actions or another individual in some circumstances. The person or entity being held responsible may be liable based on the relationship between the person or entity and the person who acted wrongfully. Vicarious liability does not require wrongdoing on the part of the defendant and is based only on the relationship between the defendant and the wrongful actor.

Vicarious liability often arises in the context of an employer being sued for an employee’s negligent acts. An employer might be liable based on the employer-employee relationship if the employee who acted wrongfully was acting within the scope of the employee’s employment. Vicarious liability is based on the idea that the employer hired the employee and is responsible for the employee’s actions carried out in furtherance of the employer’s business and authorized by the employer. In some cases, an employer may be liable even where the employee is personally immune from suit.

Generally, whether an employee was acting within the scope of the employee’s employment is one for the jury. Many lawsuits have been filed alleging that an employer is liable for an employee’s actions while driving to or from work. In general, Maryland courts have held that employers are not liable for negligent conduct while an employee is traveling to or from work, absent special circumstances. In some cases, there is a dispute about whether a wrongful actor was an employee or an independent contractor. In determining whether an employer-employee relationship existed, courts may consider how the worker was selected, how wages were paid, the employer’s ability to fire the person, the employer’s ability to control the person’s conduct, and whether the work was part of the employer’s regular business.

When someone is injured in a Maryland truck accident, they have the option to sue the person who caused the incident. Through these lawsuits, the injured plaintiffs may be able to recover significant amounts of monetary damages to cover their lost wages, past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. What many people do not realize, however, is that sometimes, injured plaintiffs might be able to sue more than just the individual who caused the accident.

In some situations, plaintiffs may be able to sue the defendant’s employer, if the employee was acting in the scope of employment when they caused the injury. This is an attractive option for many victims of Maryland truck accidents, because often the individual who caused the accident is unable to fully compensate the victim for their losses due to financial strain. Because of this, many Maryland plaintiffs decide to file suit against both the individual who caused the accident and their employer. The doctrine of holding the employer liable is called vicarious liability.

For example, consider a recent state appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the accident in question occurred in June 2015 when the plaintiff was standing on the sidewalk in front of his home when he was suddenly struck and run over by a truck owned and operated by the defendant employee. The defendant employee was backing his truck down the sidewalk to retrieve scraps of metal debris from the roof project on the plaintiff’s house. The plaintiff was severely injured as a result, and sued both the employee and his employer in a personal injury lawsuit. At trial, the jury found both defendants liable and granted almost $1 million dollars in damages. The employer appealed, arguing that they did not have the type of employee-employer relationship necessary for holding them vicariously liable.

In order to successfully recover in a personal injury lawsuit after a Maryland truck accident, a plaintiff must prove that there was negligence on the part of the defendant. In everyday language, negligence just means failing to be careful. However, it is actually a fairly complicated legal term. In Maryland, personal injury lawsuits, proving negligence means proving four distinct elements: (1) duty; (2) breach; (3) causation; and (4) damages.

First, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant (usually the truck driver) owed a duty of care to the victim. Truck drivers—in fact, all Maryland drivers—owe a duty of care to others on the road or around them, including pedestrians, drivers of other vehicles, and cyclists. The duty of care means they must act reasonably carefully as to not injure others. The next step is proving that the defendant breached this duty. Here, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant did not act with reasonable care. Perhaps they were texting while driving, or ran a red light, or driving while intoxicated. All of these things could be sufficient to prove that the defendant breached their duty. Third, the plaintiff must connect this breach of duty to the accident. In other words, did the defendant’s breach cause the accident? If the defendant ran a red light, they might have breached their duty, but if the crash was caused three minutes later because of a brake failure, then the breach was not likely the cause of the accident. Lastly, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered damages as a result of the accident. This can be proved by submitting medical bills, or bringing an expert witness who can testify to the damage the plaintiff suffered.

In some cases, proving negligence can be pretty straightforward, as the facts of what happened are obvious, but it may be more difficult in other cases. Take, for example, a recent truck accident that occurred not on the highway, as many do, but at a truck stop. According to a local news article, the crash happened early one Thursday morning this month at a truck stop and service center off the highway. Many details are not known at this time, but a tractor-trailer struck a pedestrian, killing them. The accident is still under investigation by the state’s highway patrol. Because so few facts are known, and the victim of the accident was tragically killed, this is a perfect example of a case where proving negligence may be more difficult.

Last month, a tragic Maryland truck accident left one dead and another injured in Derwood, Maryland. According to a local news report covering the incident, the crash occurred between a car and a box truck on Shady Grove Road early one morning. As a result of the crash, the box truck tumbled over the embankment, landing on its side and trapping the driver inside. The driver of the car was taken to the hospital with serious injuries, where he was later pronounced dead. Officials found it difficult, however, to immediately access the truck’s driver. Because of the slope of the embankment, rescue workers from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue were brought in and had to use a system of ropes with a medical basket attacked to get the driver of the truck free. He suffered serious, but not life-threatening, injuries and was taken to the hospital for treatment.

In cases like this, those who were injured (or the deceased’s family) may be interested in pressing charges against the other party to recover financially for their injuries. But sometimes, it is very unclear who was negligent and caused the accident. And, in some cases, both parties might believe that the other was negligent. For example, if the family of the deceased driver decides to file suit against the box truck driver, they may bring in evidence and an expert witness who can reconstruct the accident and explain what likely happened in a way that points the finger at the truck driver as being the negligent one. However, the defendant truck driver may come back with a defense of contributory negligence. This means they may bring in other evidence—usually a different expert witness—trying to prove that the plaintiff was also negligent, and that their negligence contributed to the crash.

For example, suppose the plaintiff brings into evidence that the truck driver was texting while driving, and that he swerved and hit the plaintiff’s car. This points to him as being negligent. However, the truck driver may want to bring in other evidence that the car driver ran a red light right before the accident, which placed him in the lane even though he should have been stopped by the light. In this case, both sides argue that the other was negligent and played a role in causing the crash. Depending on the strength of the evidence and the jury, these cases could go several ways—with a verdict finding the defendant not liable, finding the defendant liable, or finding them both negligent. In the latter, the plaintiff’s damages may be reduced by the percentage “fault” he was thought to have been at.

Truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road, making accidents more likely. In the tragic event of a fatal Maryland truck crash, certain family members can file a wrongful death claim against parties at fault after a wrongful death in a Maryland truck accident. Maryland’s wrongful death statute is intended to compensate family members for the loss of their loved one. Eligible family members can recover compensation for a range of damages.

In Maryland, damages are generally made up of two categories of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages, or special damages, are damages with a fixed dollar value, including past and future medical bills, transportation costs, and lost income. Non-economic damages, or general damages, are damages that do not have a fixed value, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and mental anguish. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the victim for their pain and losses. Punitive damages are also available in some Maryland cases and are intended to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in such wrongful conduct. Generally, a wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the decedent’s death.

NTSB Issues Findings After Truck Driver Killed by Fallen Pipe in Tunnel

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently issued findings in a fatal 2018 truck accident. According to the report, a Raymour & Flanigan truck driver was driving a semi tractor-trailer. The driver was driving through a tunnel on a highway when it struck an electrical pipe that had fallen and was hanging by electrical wires. The pipe hit the windshield and struck the truck driver. The truck exited the tunnel and crossed into the median, striking the guardrail, which propelled the truck across the highway and onto the guardrail on the other side. The truck driver died in the crash.

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Spoliation refers to the destruction or the failure to preserve evidence relevant to a case. Under Maryland law, spoliation occurs when there is an act of destruction of discoverable evidence that occurred after a lawsuit has been filed or at a time when the filing is imminent, as well as an intent to destroy the evidence. The doctrine of spoliation of evidence is based on the principles of fairness and equity. The reasoning is that a party should not be permitted to destroy evidence to the detriment of their opponent. In Maryland, if there has been spoliation in a Maryland truck accident case, the court may give a spoliation jury instruction that permits an adverse inference even if it did not involve an act of bad faith. This means that a jury can infer that the evidence was harmful to the party that destroyed the evidence. Apart from a potential jury instruction, courts are authorized to impose a range of sanctions, including dismissing the case.

In a recent case before a state’s supreme court, the court considered whether a trucking company’s case should be dismissed against a manufacturer after it discarded parts relevant to the case. In that case, a truck driver for the trucking company experienced the dump gate activating on its own twice in one week, causing it to open and dump its load unexpectedly. The trucking company replaced the rig’s valve, rewired the control circuit for the system, and added a master switch in the truck’s cab. About a year later, the dump gate in the truck driver’s trailer again activated on its own while he was driving on an interstate. The trailer opened and dumped its load of gravel unexpectedly. The release of the gravel caused several collisions, injuring several people. On the same day, another one of the company’s trucks experienced the same issue, dumping sand unexpectedly on the same interstate.

After several people filed suit against the trucking company, the company filed suit against a company that manufactured the dump gate valves. It alleged that the rig’s valve was defectively designed. Experts retained by the trucking company found that the valve system had design defects and lacked safeguards, and that the valves could activate unexpectedly when exposed to external electromagnetic fields.

In this blog, we focus a lot on Maryland truck and bus accidents caused by semi-trucks driving on Maryland highways. Anyone who has driven on a highway in the state has probably seen multiple trucks driving alongside them, and the trucks’ size makes them particularly susceptible to involvement in accidents. However, a more seemingly innocuous vehicle might be dangerous to Maryland drivers and passengers: the school bus.

While admittedly less common than accidents involving semi-trucks, school bus crashes can be incredibly dangerous, especially considering the number of children often on board. Like other vehicles, school buses are driven by people, and are on the road with other vehicles. The same factors that could cause another accident—distracted driving, failure to follow traffic signs, running a red light, etc.—can also cause a school bus accident.

For example, take a crash that occurred just this month. According to a local news report, the school bus driver, a 42-year-old man, was driving around 23 students to school one morning when the accident occurred around 7:30 in the morning. The school bus ran off the road and crashed into a tree, based on a preliminary report, however, the crash is still under investigation. Of the 23 or so students on board, six suffered injuries and were transported to receive treatment. The driver of the bus was not injured.

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