Articles Tagged with negligence

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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.

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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.

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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.