Results tagged “negligence” from Maryland Car Accident Lawyer Blog

Value of Your Maryland Automobile Accident Case: Negligence and Liability

April 16, 2014

Car Accident (2 people)(11-22-11).jpgTwo major factors in deciding the value of any automobile accident case are liability and damages. Damages, which we'll discuss in a later post, include things like medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering and incapacity.

Liability is used (often incorrectly) by lawyers to refer to negligence. In some cases, lawyers might tell the judge or jury that they have conceded liability, which is taken to mean that the defendant admits to being negligent. Technically, if a driver is liable, he was negligent, and his negligence caused damages. However, in some cases, a driver may admit negligence, but argue that his negligence did not cause damages.

So, though lawyers sometimes use the terms liability and negligence interchangeably, we'll use the correct term "negligence." Negligence is simply a fancy way to describe fault. A negligent driver is one who caused the accident--it's as simple as that.

So, why is negligence important in determining the value of your car accident case? Why is it important in your ability to get an accident settlement, or to convince a judge or jury that you were wronged? The reason is that a case with clear negligence is a simpler case--the only thing you need to prove is causation and damages (that is, you have to prove the at-fault driver's actions caused your injuries). A case with clear negligence is usually a winner, and the only issue is how much you will win.

However, if negligence is harder to prove (or, if the victim may have also been negligent, called contributory negligence), then it makes proving your case harder. Not only do you have to fight causation and damages, but you must also fight to prove who was at fault.

If negligence is easy, lawyers will typically take most cases, even if the damages are minor. Lawyers often analyze difficult negligence cases on a sliding scale. If proving negligence is hard or unlikely, we won't take minor damages cases. However, if negligence is difficult to prove but the damages are extensive (say, a broken bone, or some level of permanent injury), then we are more likely to accept the case. In those cases, the potential rewards may exceed the risks.

Applied to common auto accident scenarios, consider the following:

  • Victim's car was rear-ended by another vehicle. This is usually a good negligence case, and most lawyers would take it regardless of what the damages are.

  • Victim's car went through a green light intersection, and the negligent driver ran a red light, causing a T-bone collision. Damages include an ER visit and 5 visits to the physical therapist. If there are no independent witnesses, and no traffic camera video/photographs, then most lawyers will not accept that case.

  • Victim's car went through a green light intersection, and the negligent driver ran a red light, causing a T-bone collision. Damages include a broken leg, 2 days in the hospital, and a surgery, with 3 months of physical therapy. If there are no independent witnesses, and no traffic camera video/photographs, then many lawyers will accept the case.

In court, it's all about what you can prove. We all know that some people will remember the facts of an accident incorrectly, and some people will lie to protect themselves (or their insurance companies). The victim has must prove his case, and must prove that the other driver was more likely negligent than not. If you can do that, and if the insurance company knows you can do it, your case is more valuable. If there is a question about whether you can do it, any settlement offers will be discounted because of the chance that you may lose the negligence argument.

Filing Lawsuits Against Corporations

June 10, 2013

18-wheeler truck accidentOften when an auto accident involves a business vehicle, there are two specific types of claim that should be alleged against the business--the first is that the business is liable simply by virtue of employing the negligent driver; the second is that the business is liable because it did something incorrectly.

No. 1: Respondeat Superior

Respondeat superior is Latin for "let the master answer." Lawyers frequently use Latin, mostly because that's how lawyers in ages past were trained, and as a profession we are hard-pressed to put things in the regular, understandable English. What it means is that the employer is going to be responsible for the negligence of his employee if the injury occurred in the normal scope of employment. There are many important exceptions to this, but in general, if a UPS driver falls asleep at the wheel and rear-ends another car, UPS is going to be responsible for that accident.

No. 2: Employer Negligence

The other type of claim that can be brought for an auto accident is some type of negligence of the employer. Here, the claim is that the employer did something wrong to cause the accident. Some examples include:

  1. Negligent hiring, retention, supervision or training: if the employer failed to do a background check that would have revealed excessive speeding tickets, road rage and a vehicular manslaughter conviction, the employer probably should not have hired that employee. Likewise, the employer must train and supervise their employees, and if they cannot act in accordance with the law, they should be fired.

  2. Failure to create or enforce policies and procedures: particularly in this age of distracted driving, it could be argued that an employer must have a company-wide policy on distracted driving. Are phones allowed in the car? What about hands-free phones (which some studies suggest is just as dangerous).

In many ways, the corporate negligence is more important than the employee negligence. When an employee makes a mistake, it can often be chalked up to "just a mistake." When a corporation makes a mistake, however, it can have long-lasting and foreseeable consequences, including the deaths of others. Those mistakes are so much more preventable, with a little bit of planning.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a business-related automobile accident, contact our personal injury lawyers at 443.850.4426, or send us a confidential message online.

Proving The Other Driver Was At Fault In A Maryland Auto Accident

February 20, 2012

Maryland Car Accident Lane Signs.pngMaryland automobile injury lawsuits come in three types:

  1. One driver was clearly at fault (for example, the average rear-end collision);
  2. It's uncertain which driver was at fault, but the rules are clear (for example, a "lane change" case where one driver, we don't have any outside evidence, merged into the other driver); and
  3. Someone is at fault, but it's hard to know who.
Let's talk about No. 3, today. The auto accident rules of the road are usually pretty easy--most of them are "common sense" acquired by most of us drivers over the years. Many rules on the "standard of care" owed by drivers to one another have been lovingly written by the Maryland legislature, mostly in the Transportation Code.

But sometimes, a client comes in and tells you what happened. It might sound okay, but some of the details are fuzzy. Technology is a wonderful thing, so I frequently visit Google Earth for a bird's eye view and street view of the accident.

Unfortunately, not all rules are laid out in the Maryland Transportation Code. Sure, there is some discussion of traffic control devices, flashing signals and the like (see here). But what about the actual rules regarding when you can cross a double yellow line? There are a lot of road signs and other marking rules, and they are not always obvious.

One source of additional rules, infrequently used in court, is the Maryland Driver's Manual. If you have questions about the single white hashed lines, or the meaning of sign colors, or the meaning of roadway symbols, this is the place to look. If you know that some tidbit from the MVA Driver's Manual might be useful at trial, you might ask the defendant interrogatories to figure out when he/she last took a written driving test. You can try to obtain the driving manual from that year to use in cross-examination to help establish the standard of care. Or, you can try to use the driving manual from the current year. That manual can help to establish some of the "common sense" rules.