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.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver, as well as the driver’s employer. The plaintiff’s theory was that the truck driver was negligent for parking in the gore area, suggesting that the driver should have pulled over on the road’s shoulder. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was negligent for driving into the gore area. The court instructed the jury: 1.) that the defendant could be found negligent per se for parking in the gore area, and 2.) that the plaintiff could be negligent per se for pulling into the gore area. The court rejected the plaintiff’s request to instruct the jury that the defendant could be found negligent per se for pulling into the gore area. The jury returned a defense verdict, finding that the defendant was not negligent for parking in the gore area. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court concluded that the lower court was correct to deny the plaintiff’s requested jury instruction. The court explained that while the defendant was negligent when he pulled into the gore area, the defendant’s negligence was not the proximate cause of the accident. The court reasoned that the truck driver pulled into the gore area five to eight minutes before the crash, and the truck’s presence in the gore area did not cause the plaintiff’s vehicle to enter the gore area and collide with the defendant’s truck. Essentially, the court held that the jury instruction provided by the lower court adequately summarized the law and enabled the jury to use the facts to find that the defendant was negligent, if that was the jury’s belief. However, since the jury found that the defendant was not negligent, as opposed to finding that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent for driving into the gore area, the court explained that even if the instruction had been given, it would not likely have changed the result of the case.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Truck Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a truck accident, contact the dedicated truck accident lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we represent victims and their loved ones in all types of Maryland injury cases, including truck accident cases. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on the injuries you have sustained, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a consultation today.