March 2012 Archives

HIt and Run Car Accidents in Maryland

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You can't run away from the scene of an accident.  It is a pretty simply proposition that is reflected under Section 20-105(a) of the Maryland Transportation Article.  Under this law, it is illegal for the driver of a vehicle to fail to stop after an accident that results in damage to an unattended vehicle or other unattended property. See Conboy v. State, 155 Md. App. 353 (2004) (making reference to the proscriptions provided for in Md. Transp. Art. ยง 20-105). 

If you get in an accident and the other driver leaves the scene, you have a potential uninsured motorist case.  How do you know the other driver was uninsured?  You don't.  But the law typically assumes that the driver was uninsured to pay for an losses that may occur.  

So, in Maryland, if you get hurt in a car accident suffer personal injuries as the result of the negligence of a hit-and-run driver, you may still recover get a settlement for your lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering as if you knew the identity 
My mother took this picture after my car accident

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of the driver by bringing a claim under your own policy's uninsured motorist provision.. Essentially, the law treats that phantom vehicle as an uninsured driver.

Many states require actual contact with the phantom vehicle in order for a Plaintiff to bring a personal injury claim. Under Maryland law, however, contact is not required.  Maryland courts will not enforce any policy provisions from out-of-state insurers that require physical contact between the injured party and the at-fault hit-and-run driver.

Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Laws: They Work

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Twenty years ago in October, Maryland enacted its first universal helmet law.  The number of wrongful death motorcycle in Maryland dropped precipitously.  The statistics:   motorcycle fatality rate dropped from 10.2 per 10,000 registered motorcycles prior to enactment of the law to 4.5 per 10,000 registered motorcycles after enactment of the law.  

I don't have the statistics but I think it is reasonable to assume that there were less traumatic brain injury motorcycle crash after the helmet law was passed.  

Still, it is worth noting.  You are unlikely to get penalized for not wearing a helmet when bringing a claim for the same reasoning that it is not contributory negligence to not to wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle accident.  (t does not make the victim any less stupid for not wearing a helmet or a seat belt.)

Contributory Negligence and Children: Tender Years Doctrine

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In Maryland, the issue of contributory negligence is generally a jury question.  Judges are loathe to make calls as whether the plaintiff's conduct contributed the the injuries suffered.    
One challenge juries face is dealing with the question of contributory negligence of children in pedestrian accident cases.   How do you judge the reasonableness of, for example a 5 year-old child?  

Maryland applies the tender years doctrine to these cases which instructs juries to evaluate children for purpose of contributory negligence by considering the child's "age, experience and training.'" 

The law begs another question.   Are their some ages at which a child cannot be negligence.   Many jurisdictions that apply the tender years doctrine set out age limits as to when a child is presumed to lack capacity for negligence.   The age seems to very largely between 5 and 7 in jurisdictions that have the tender years doctrine.   

Illinois would seem to have the best law for plaintiffs.  In Illinois,a child under seven years of age is conclusively presumed to be incapable of contributory negligence as a matter of law.  Taking it a step further,  children between 7 and 17 years of age have a rebuttable presumption that they were not negligence.  It is hard to say how the Maryland Court of Appeals would address this issue.   I don't believe there are any Maryland high court opinions on point.

Three Maryland Cases Worth Reading