Intoxicated driving is one of the leading causes of auto accidents. Of course, many Maryland DUI accidents are the result of drivers drinking too much alcohol or taking illegal or recreational drugs before getting behind the wheel. However, many prescription drugs impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle as much as alcohol or street drugs.
Under the law, a driver who is intoxicated by prescription drugs can still be negligent and held responsible for an accident victim’s injuries. A recent case discusses a tragic bus accident in which an intoxicated driver killed a young boy.
According to the court’s opinion, a young boy rode his bike into the street without stopping, right into the path of a school bus. The school bus had just stopped, and was proceeding to go through the intersection when the driver heard and felt the bus hit something. The driver slammed on the brakes, exited the vehicle, and learned that she struck the young boy. The boy later died from his injuries,
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) was passed in the early 1900s in response to the increasing number of railroad worker deaths. FELA allows for injured railroad workers who are not covered by workers’ compensation to sue their employers based on the employer’s negligence. Importantly, a FELA claim may entitle a claimant to compensation for pain and suffering, unlike a traditional Maryland personal injury lawsuit.
Unlike traditional workers’ compensation programs, FELA is not automatically applicable. In other words, an injured worker must present evidence that their employer was negligent. In addition, an employer may try to defeat a FELA claim by showing that the employee was covered under a traditional workers’ compensation plan. If an employer is successful in proving workers’ compensation coverage, that will generally be seen as the employee’s sole remedy against their employer. Thus, a common issue that arises in Maryland railroad accident cases brought under FELA is whether the injured employer is covered by a workers’ compensation program. A recent federal appellate opinion discusses a case involving such a dispute.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured while working for the defendant railway. Evidently, the plaintiff was working on a bridge when the walkway he was standing on gave way. The plaintiff was able to avoid falling into the river, but sustained serious injuries as a result. The plaintiff filed a FELA claim against his employer.
Bus drivers carry enormous responsibility in that they are trusted to safely transport dozens of people each time they get behind the wheel. Because of this weighty responsibility, bus drivers are classified as “commercial drivers” and must obtain a commercial driving license. And while the vast majority of bus drivers are well qualified and buses are usually relatively safe for passengers, Maryland bus accidents are not uncommon.
When it comes to determining potentially liable parties in a Maryland bus accident, the obvious place to start is with the driver. Bus drivers have a legal duty to safely operate the vehicle at all times. This duty extends not just to bus passengers, but also to other motorists on the road.
Most bus drivers work for a company, whether it be a coach business, tour company, or a government agency. In many cases, these organizations can also be liable for injuries caused by their bus drivers. Under a legal theory named vicarious liability, an injured motorist can seek to hold the employer of a negligent bus driver responsible for their injuries. The theory is premised on the idea that the employer should not be able to avoid liability when a negligent employee causes an accident while acting on behalf of his employer.
Earlier this month, a Maryland traffic accident involving a garbage truck sent two workers to the hospital. According to a recent news report, the collision occurred during a regular trash pick-up, when the driver of the truck moved over in an attempt to let oncoming traffic pass. At the time, two workers were holding onto the back of the truck, collecting trash in a residential neighborhood.
Evidently, as the truck moved to the side of the road, one of the truck’s tires slipped off the road, causing the truck to glance a utility pole. After the initial collision, the worker riding on the passenger side of the truck slammed into the pole. The other worker also fell from the truck. When police arrived, they found both men seriously injured. One worker was flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital, and admitted with life-threatening injuries. The other worker was taken to the hospital by ambulance, and is expected to recover from their injuries.
Law enforcement believes that the cause of the accident was driver error because the truck failed to remain in its lane of travel. A police investigation is underway; however, speed is not believed to be a factor, and drugs or alcohol are not thought to be involved in the crash.
Truck drivers are trusted to operate some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road. And while most tractor-trailer drivers take their job seriously and would not intentionally do anything to put themselves or other motorists at risk, there are some exceptions. Some semi-truck drivers place more importance in getting to their destination quickly than getting there safely.
There are many causes of truck accidents. However, distracted and drowsy driving are two causes that are disproportionately represented among all fatal Maryland truck accidents. Truck drivers are compensated by the mile, so the more mileage a driver can cover in a day, the more money they will make. As a result, some drivers ignore the signs of fatigue or try to delay tiredness from setting in by taking both legal and illegal substances.
While it is not against the law for a truck driver to have a legal substance such as caffeine in their system, it can contribute to the driver feeling jittery and may impact their judgment. In addition, when the effects of the caffeine wear off, the driver may experience a significant drop in their energy level, increasing the likelihood that they will doze off while behind the wheel.
Those who have been injured in a serious Maryland personal injury accident allegedly caused by a government employee can generally pursue a claim against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). While the federal government was originally immune from civil liability, the FTCA acts as a waiver of governmental immunity in certain situations. However, if an accident victim is unable to establish that their claim falls under the FTCA, then a court will likely dismiss the case on the grounds of immunity.
The Feres doctrine is an exception to the FTCA. The doctrine was essentially created by the United States Supreme Court in the case, Feres v. United States. Specifically, the doctrine holds that the United States cannot be held liable by military personnel who are injured while on active duty (and not on furlough) and are injured as a result of another military personnel’s negligence. The practical effect of the Feres doctrine is that those on active military duty cannot pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim against the United States if another service member’s negligence caused their injuries.
Application of the Feres doctrine can result in seemingly unfair results; however, before the government can rely on the doctrine, it must prove that each of the elements is met. A recent fatal traffic accident provides an example of a situation where the Feres doctrine may not be appropriate.
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.
Maryland truck drivers are required to safely operate their rigs at all times. However, truck drivers are human and will frequently make mistakes or errors in judgment. One of the more common mistakes we see truck drivers make is driving while too tired. Drowsy driving is most likely to result in rear-end accidents.
According to the Center for Disease Control, drowsy driving accounts for 6,000 fatal accidents each year. The actual figure is believed to be higher due to drowsy drivers failing to disclose the actual cause of the accident, blaming it on some other factor. Regardless, drowsy driving is a significant safety concern, especially among truck drivers, who are often compensated based on each mile traveled. Maryland truck drivers are financially incentivized to drive as many hours per day so that they can more quickly reach their destination, get home, and begin another trip.
State and federal regulations require that truck drivers obtain a certain amount of rest each day, and take breaks in between long trips. For example, truck drivers can only drive 11 hours in a 14-hour period, and must take a 30-minute break such that the driver is not continuously driving form more than eight hours. Additionally, truck drivers must complete “rest logs” in which the driver documents his travel and rest hours.
Many Maryland truck accidents have multiple causes. Of course, the majority of truck accidents are caused at least in part by a driver’s negligence. However, a significant number of these accidents also involve either poorly maintained or defectively designed roads.
Traditionally, states were immune from lawsuits brought by citizens who were injured due to the negligence of a government employee. However, under the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA), much of the state’s governmental immunity is waived. Of course, there are specific procedural requirements that must be strictly adhered to when pursuing a claim against a government entity, and there may also be a cap on the maximum amount of damages that can be obtained.
One issue that frequently comes up in Maryland truck accidents is the government’s potential liability for poorly designed roadways. In a 2011 case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that the state government is not entitled to immunity in a claim alleging the negligent construction of a bridge. Specifically, the plaintiff in that case argued that the government was negligent when it failed to install a barrier that was necessary to make the bridge safe.
After a Maryland truck accident, anyone injured in the accident can pursue a claim for compensation against any party they believe was responsible for causing their injuries. In many truck accident cases, both the truck driver as well as the driver’s employer can be named as a defendant.
To establish liability against a trucking company, the plaintiff must be able to show that the truck driver was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Naming a truck driver’s employer as a defendant can be critical to an injury victim’s ability to fully recover for their injuries because the damages sustained in a serious Maryland truck accident may exceed the personal insurance limits of an individual truck driver.
Under Maryland law, when a plaintiff names multiple defendants in a lawsuit, the jury will first determine the total damages suffered by the plaintiff. Then, the jury will be asked to assign a percentage of fault to each party, including the plaintiff.