Maryland truck accident law is based on a fault system. That is, the at-fault driver must pay money damages to anyone who was injured in the accident. This includes other drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

In the broad sense, truck accident claims have two parts. One is called “liability” and the other is called “damages.” In this article, I will discuss both.

Liability

Liability, or legal responsibility, is determined by the answer to this question: “Who caused the accident?”

Negligence

Technically, a truck accident case is a “negligence” claim. What is negligence? Well, basically, negligence means carelessness. Therefore, to prove negligence, you must show that the truck driver was careless by doing such things as these:

  • driving too fast.
  • not paying attention.
  • making an unlawful turn.
  • following too closely.
  • running through a red light or a stop sign.
  • unsafely changing lanes.
  • driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Issues Specific To Truck Accident Cases

There are a myriad of additional issues that are specific to truck accident cases, such as these:

  • Was the truck tailgating?
  • If there was a rollover, how did it happen?
  • If there was a jackknife, how did it happen?
  • Was the driver driving appropriately for the weather conditions?
  • Was the driver driving appropriately for the traffic conditions?
  • Were there any mechanical defects that caused or contributed to the collision?
  • Were the truck’s air brakes working properly?
  • Was the driver qualified to drive the type of rig involved?
  • Was the driver properly licensed?
  • Had the driver been properly trained?
  • Did the driver have a history of previous accidents?
  • Had the truck been maintained properly?
  • Had the truck been properly loaded?
  • Was the truck overweight?
  • Was the driver fatigued or driving in violation of “hours of service” regulations that control how many hours a driver can drive?
  • Had the vehicle been inspected and tested as legally required?
  • Were alcohol or drugs involved?

I hear you wondering: What law applies? Well, if the truck traveled in interstate commerce (between states), federal laws apply. Likewise, if the truck stayed within Maryland, Maryland law applies. Actually, the federal and state rules are similar. That’s because Maryland has adopted many federal rules as its own.

As you see, truck accident cases can be complicated. Therefore, if you have been seriously injured in a truck accident, you should promptly contact an experienced truck accident lawyer.

Defenses To Liability Claims

I’m sure you are wondering how the insurance company will try to defeat your liability claim?

The insurance company may simply deny that their driver did anything wrong. There is no negligence, they will claim. Or, they may raise a legal defense such as “contributory negligence.”

Contributory Negligence

Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only four states that has a very harsh rule called “contributory negligence.” This is a powerful defense which can completely defeat your negligence case.

What exactly is contributory negligence? Simply stated, if you contributed in any way to causing your accident, you have no claim against the truck driver. In theory, if you are to any degree responsible for causing an accident, this rule applies. That’s right, if you are only 1% liable, you cannot recover from the driver who was 99% responsible! (How is that fair?)

In summary, liability exists if the truck driver caused your accident and you did nothing to contribute to causing it, such as speeding or not paying attention.

Having covered liability, let’s talk about damages.

Damages

“Damages” refers to the consequences of the truck driver’s carelessness. In other words, “What harm did the truck driver cause?”

There are two main categories of damages in Maryland truck accident law, property damages and personal injury damages.

Property Damage

Obviously, property damage claims concern the damage to your property, mainly your vehicle. Above all, the at-fault truck driver must pay to repair your vehicle. However, your vehicle is a “total loss” if it would cost more to repair than it is worth. In that case, instead of repairing it, the truck driver has to pay you the vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV). (The theory behind this is that you can use the money you are given to purchase a similar vehicle. Unfortunately, that is almost never a realistic possibility.)

In addition, under your P.D. claim, the other driver must give you a rental car while yours is being repaired. Or, if your vehicle was totaled, you are entitled to a rental until you are paid for your destroyed vehicle.

An Overlooked Property Damage Claim

If your vehicle was “new-ish” and has been badly damaged, you may have a claim for diminished value. This means that, even after it is repaired, the value of your vehicle has been reduced. To illustrate, let’s say you are in the market for a vehicle. Would you pay full value for a vehicle if you knew it had been badly damaged and repaired? Of course not. You would choose a another similar vehicle that had not been badly damaged and repaired. If you are in this situation, look into making a diminished value claim.

Personal Injury Damages

In addition to your property damage claim, if you were hurt, you can make a personal injury claim. This is your claim asking to be compensated for your accident-related injuries. Personal injury damages compensate for both economic losses and noneconomic losses.

Economic Damages

These are the economic losses you can recover:

  • all medical bills for treating injuries that result from the accident,
  • any loss of income, such as employment income, and
  • any other economic losses that resulted from the accident.
Noneconomic Damages

If the truck driver was merely required to pay your financial losses, you would not be fully compensated. Your economic losses are not what you will remember years later about this experience. What you will likely remember more is the pain of your injuries, the mental uncertainty, and the disruption to your life that the truck driver caused.

Therefore, the truck driver must compensate you in money damages for these noneconomic losses:

  • physical pain.
  • mental anguish.
  • disfigurement.
  • inconvenience.
  • physical impairment.
  • damage to your marital relationship.

Further, if your injuries are permanent, you are also entitled to recover for your future monetary and nonmonetary damages. How do you know what will happen in the future? You will rely on experts, such as economists.

To be able to prove your losses, keep a diary. In it, answer this question: How has this accident affected my life? This information will be very helpful to your lawyer.

How Much Can You Recover For Your Injuries?

The amount of money you are entitled to receive for your injuries depends on the unique facts of your case. Such factors as these will be used to determine fair compensation:

  • How seriously you were injured?
  • How long did you suffer with your injuries?
  • Did you recover fully?

If you recover quickly and completely, you will have a less valuable claim than if you do not. That’s obvious, isn’t it? Conversely, more serious and longer-lasting injuries entitle you to more compensation.

Summarizing, you can be paid for three things to compensate for your injuries, First, you can recover the full amount of the medical bills caused by your truck accident. Second, you can recover the full gross amount of the income that you lost. And third, you are entitled to an additional amount as compensation for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the like.

Here are some very general ideas about the compensation you can receive. For minor injuries, you might recover as little as approximately 1 1/2 times the amount of your out-of-pocket losses. Or, you could be entitled to 10 times your financial losses, or more, if your injuries are severe and permanent.

As you proceed with your claim, remember this rule of thumb: The more seriously you are injured, the more the adverse insurance company will resist you. Consequently, if you have been seriously injured, consult immediately with a truck accident lawyer. You need an expert on your side to even the fight. You need someone who is as totally committed to helping you recover all that the law allows as the defense is committed to giving you as little as they can!

Defenses To Damage Claims

As has been discussed, to recover you must be able to prove that the truck driver’s negligence caused your injuries. Often, the defending insurance company will raise the defense that something other than the truck driver’s carelessness caused your injuries. Perhaps, an earlier accident is the cause of your injuries, they will argue. Maybe, a later accident is the cause. Maybe they will contend that the normal aging process is the culprit. You must be prepared for these and any other claims they think up.

Normally, you will use expert testimony to defeat claims that your accident did not cause your injuries. For example, your doctor can testify that your injuries are the result of your car accident.

PIP No-Fault Claim

Here is one final, but important, point about Maryland truck accident cases.

So far, everything I have told you concerns your claim against the negligent driver. (Actually, in almost all cases you won’t deal directly with the driver. Instead, you will deal with that driver’s insurance company. To clarify, they will defend the claim. And, they will pay the claim under the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage, up to the policy limit.)

However, you have another injury claim that you can make under your own insurance policy. That is, unless you waived it. Let me explain.

What Is PIP?

Unless you waived it, you have an insurance coverage called “PIP.” This rhymes with “sip” and stands for “personal injury protection.”
PIP is an exception to the Maryland’s normal car insurance fault system. PIP is a no-fault claim. Moreover, you can make a claim under your PIP coverage without proving fault. You simply have to show that an accident happened and that you were injured. PIP covers your medical bills and (85% of) your lost income, up to the policy limit. How much is that? Well, the policy limit must be at least $2,500. And that is by far the most common policy limit. However, some insurance companies offer as much as $10,000 of PIP coverage. Check your policy to see what limit you have.

The real value of PIP is that it can provide benefits much sooner than your liability claim can. In fact, this is the reason why PIP coverage came into existence.

As I discuss elsewhere on this website, you should not present your injury claim until you fully recover from your injuries. Or, at least until you recover as much as you are going to. However, you can submit your PIP claim without delay. Later, if you have more medical bills or lost wages, you can send in a supplement to your PIP claim. In fact, you can keep submitting PIP claims until your losses stop or you have received the policy limit.

I know you are wondering this. Yes, you can safely make a PIP claim without fear that your insurance rates will increase. Moreover, making the claim will not affect or limit your liability claim against the careless truck driver.

Insurance Tip

I recommend that you purchase as much PIP coverage as your insurance company will sell you. It doesn’t cost much, and it is awfully handy if you are in a serious auto accident that disables you.

Contact Us

If you have been seriously injured in a truck accident, contact us.

Maryland car accident law is based on a fault system. That is, the at-fault driver who caused the accident must pay damages to anyone injured in the accident. That includes other drivers, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Those of us who focus on Maryland car accident cases describe car accident claims as having two components. One is called “liability.” The other is called “damages.” Let me explain them.

Liability

Liability, or legal responsibility, is determined by the answer to this question: “Who caused the accident?”

Negligence

Technically, a car accident claim is a “negligence” claim. Negligence means carelessness. Therefore, to win your case you have to show that the other driver was negligent and caused the accident. These are examples of actions that constitute negligence:

  • driving too fast
  • not paying attention
  • making an unlawful turn
  • following too closely
  • running through a red light or a stop sign
  • unsafely changing lanes
  • driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Gather And Preserve The Evidence

In some types of accidents, such as rear-end collisions, liability is presumed. However, even in the case of rear-end collisions, there are potential defenses. Therefore, your first concern (other than your health) should be to nail down the evidence of what happened. Do these things as soon as possible:

  • Write down the facts. Write down everything you can remember about the accident. Where did it happen? When did it happen? What was your location when you were struck? Where was your vehicle when it came to rest to rest? What were the weather conditions? What did the other vehicle driver say at the scene? Did s/he admit fault?/
  • Take pictures. Include photos of the scene and of the vehicle(s) involved.
  • Identify witnesses. Get their names and contact information. If possible, get statements from them.
  • Get The Crash Report. Get a copy of the State of Maryland Motor Vehicle Crash Report, if one was written.

Maryland car accident lawyers are skilled at gathering the evidence. You should hire a Maryland car accident lawyer as soon as you decide you need help. That gives your lawyer more time to investigate and thoroughly prepare your case. One thing is certain: The at-fault driver’s insurance company will immediately begin investigating the facts of your case, looking for reasons to “deny liability” so they can refuse to pay you anything.

Defenses To Liability Claims

The insurance company for the at-fault driver may simply deny that their driver did anything wrong.

Or, the insurance company may raise defenses to your liability claim such as “contributory negligence.”

Contributory Negligence

Maryland is one of only four states that has a very harsh rule called “contributory negligence!” Basically, any negligence by you, no matter how slight, defeats your claim. That is, if you contributed in any way to causing your auto accident, you have no claim against the driver who was the primary cause of your accident. In theory, if you are only 1% responsible for causing an accident and the other driver is 99% at fault, you are not entitled to recover anything from the other driver!

So, you must prove that the other driver caused the accident and that you did nothing to contribute. If you can, liability exists.

Damages

“Damages” is the term that refers to the consequences of the other driver’s carelessness. In other words, “What harm(s) did the carelessness cause?”

There are two main categories of damages in Maryland, property damage and personal injury damages.

Property Damages

Property damage, or “P.D.” for short, refers to the damage to your property, mainly your vehicle. The at-fault driver must pay to repair your vehicle. The concept underlying Maryland car accident law is that the careless driver has to give you back what s/he took from you — in this context, an undamaged vehicle.

If it would cost more to repair your vehicle than the vehicle is worth, your vehicle is a “total loss.” For example, if you have a car that was worth $5,000 before it was damaged, it is a total loss if it would cost $10,000 to repair it. In that case, the careless driver has to pay you the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle. In my example, that is $5,000. The theory behind the law is that the $5,000 you are given will make it possible for you to get another vehicle just like the one that was destroyed. Unfortunately, that is almost never a realistic possibility.

Under your P.D. claim, the other driver must also give you a rental vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired. If your vehicle was totaled, the at-fault driver must give you a rental until you are paid for your destroyed vehicle.

Here’s a TIP about an overlooked property damage claim. It applies when your vehicle has been badly damaged, especially if it is was relatively new. In that case, even after it is repaired, your vehicle will be worth less than it was before it was damaged. The common sense notion here is that, as between two similar vehicles, a reasonable buyer would pay less for the one that has been badly damaged and repaired than s/he would pay for the one that has not been badly damaged. In this situation, you may be able to prove the diminished value of your vehicle as part of your P.D. claim.

Personal Injury Damages

“Damages” also include injury claims. Some insurance companies call these personal injury claims, or “P.I.” claims. Others call them bodily injury, or “B.I.,” claims. By whatever name, this is your claim to be compensated for the injuries that the other driver caused.

Under Maryland car accident law, P.I. (or B.I.) damages include both economic losses and noneconomic losses.

These are your possible economic losses:.

  • all medical bills you incurred treating injuries that resulted from the accident,
  • any loss of income.
  • and any other economic losses that result from the accident.

But, is that sufficient? It would only be partial justice to only pay you for financial losses. The economic losses are not what you will remember years later about this experience. What you will remember more is the pain of your injuries, the mental uncertainty, the sleepless nights (or whatever your symptoms were) and the disruption to your life that the careless driver caused.

Fortunately, you are entitled to recover more. The driver who caused your injuries must also pay you money damages for such noneconomic losses as these:

  • physical pain
  • mental anguish
  • disfigurement
  • inconvenience
  • physical impairment
  • amage to your marital relationship.

So you can prove these losses, keep a diary which answers this question: How has this accident affected my life? (If you hire a Maryland car accident lawyer, your lawyer will help you gather and develop the evidence of your noneconomic losses.)

Defenses To Damage Claims

You must be able to prove that the driver’s negligence caused your injuries and damages.

Often, the defending insurance company will raise the defense that something other than their driver’s carelessness caused your injuries. They may claim that the “real cause” (their term, not mine) of your injuries was an earlier accident. Or they may claim that a later accident is the culprit. They often blame the normal aging process. You have to be ready for anything else they can think of.

Normally, you will defeat these claims with expert testimony, such as your doctor’s opinion that your injuries are the result of your bicycle accident.

How Much Are You Entitled To Recover For Your Injuries?

The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries depends on the circumstances of your case. Obviously, in addition to the amount of your financial losses, that determination will depend on such things as these:

  • how seriously you are injured
  • how long you suffered with your injuries and
  • whether you recovered fully

What you want is a full and speedy recovery from your injuries. If that happens, you will still have a claim against the careless driver, but it will be for less than the claim you would have had if you do not recover quickly or completely.

Fair compensation for your injuries incurred in Maryland car accidents includes three basic things. First, the full amount of the medical bills that were caused by your auto accident. Second, the full amount of the income that you lost as a result of your auto accident. And third, an additional amount for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the like.

The end result could be as little as about 1 1/2 times your out-of-pocket losses for your medical bill and loss of income. Or, damages could be 10 times your financial losses, or more, if your injuries are very severe and permanent.

Here’s a rule-of-thumb to keep in mind: the more seriously you are injured, and therefore the more you are entitled to recover as damages, the more the at-fault driver’s insurance company will resist you. If you have been seriously injured and have substantial losses, you should have an experienced Maryland car accident lawyer on your side protecting your interests.

PIP No-Fault Claim

Here is one final, but important, point about Maryland bicycle accident law.

Everything that I have told you so far about injury claims concerns your liability claim against the careless driver who caused your accident. (Actually, in almost all cases, although your claim is against the careless driver, you will deal with that driver’s insurance company and that company, not the driver, will pay the claim under the driver’s liability insurance coverage.)

However, there may be another claim you can make after your Maryland bicycle accident.

You Can Submit A PIP Claim Regardless Of Fault

I am referring to a claim under a type of insurance coverage called “PIP” — which rhymes with “sip” and which stands for “personal injury protection.”

Although Maryland bicycle accident law is based on fault, PIP is an exception. PIP is a no-fault claim. That means that, after an accident, you can make a PIP claim without proving who caused the accident. You simply have to prove that an accident occurred and that, as a result, you suffered damages that are covered by PIP.

PIP covers your medical bills and (85% of) your lost income, up to the policy limit. The policy limit must be at least $2,500, and some insurance companies offer up to $10,000 of PIP coverage.

The driver’s PIP insurance coverage is “primary,” which means that the driver’s insurance company must pay PIP benefits to an injured cyclist.

If that driver did not have PIP insurance, the bicyclist’s own car insurance policy provides “secondary” coverage and pays the PIP claim.

The real value of PIP — in fact, the reason that it came into existence — is that it can provide benefits much sooner than your liability claim against the at-fault driver.

As I discuss elsewhere at this website, you should not even present your injury claim until you fully recover from your injuries (or, at least, recover as much as you are going to), but you can submit your PIP claim without delay. Then, if you have additional medical bills or lost wages, you can send a supplement to your PIP claim. In fact, you can keep submitting supplements until your medical bills and lost income stop or until you have received the policy limit of benefits.

Insurance Tip

I recommend that you purchase as much PIP coverage as your insurance company will sell you. It doesn’t cost much, and it is awfully handy if you are in a disabling accident.

Will making a PIP claim increase your insurance premiums? No.

Contact Us

If you have been seriously injured in a car accident, contact us.

Maryland motorcycle accident law is based on a fault system. That means that the driver who was at fault must pay damages to anyone who was injured or harmed by the accident. That includes other drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

Maryland motorcycle accident cases have two components which are commonly called “liability” and “damages.” In this article, I will discuss both.

Liability

Liability, or legal responsibility, is determined by the answer to this question: “Who caused the accident?”

Negligence

Technically, a motorcycle accident case is a “negligence” claim. And, basically, negligence means carelessness. Therefore, to win you have to prove that the other driver negligently did such things as these:

  • drive too fast.
  • not pay attention.
  • make an unlawful turn.
  • follow too closely.
  • drive through a red light or a stop sign.
  • change lanes unsafely.
  • drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Let’s look at an example.

Statistically, the most common cause of motorcycle accidents is a driver’s failure to see the motorcycle. As a result, this carelessness makes the inattentive driver responsible for all of the consequences of the crash.

Gather Liability Evidence

After your motorcycle crash, your first priority (after your health) is to nail down the evidence of what happened. Therefore, you should do these things as soon as possible:

  • Write down the facts.
  • Take pictures of the scene and of the vehicles involved.
  • Identify witnesses and get statements from them, if possible.
  • Get a copy of the State of Maryland Motor Vehicle Crash Report, if one was written.

One thing is certain: The insurance company will immediately begin investigating your case. Above all, they hope to find a reason to “deny liability” and refuse to pay you anything. Therefore, if you have been seriously injured, you should consult with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible. In the same vein, if you decide to hire a lawyer, you should do so as soon as possible. Being hired early gives your lawyer more time to thoroughly investigate and prepare your case.

Defenses To Liability Claims

How will the opposing insurance company defend against your liability claim? I’m glad you asked . . .

The insurance company for the at-fault driver may simply deny that their driver did anything wrong. That is, they will claim that their driver was not negligent. However, the insurance company may raise defenses to your liability claim such as “contributory negligence.”

Contributory Negligence

Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only four states that has a very harsh rule called “contributory negligence.” If proven, contributory negligence completely defeats your claim.

Under this Maryland law, you have no claim if you contributed in any way to causing your motorcycle accident. In theory, you are not entitled to recover from the at-fault driver if you are only 1% responsible for causing an accident and the other driver is 99% at fault! (Not very fair, is it?)

In summary, if you can prove that the other driver caused your accident and that you did nothing to contribute to causing it, liability exists. Now, let’s talk about damages.

Damages

“Damages” refers to the result of the other driver’s carelessness. In other words, “What harm did the carelessness cause?”

There are two main categories of damages in Maryland motorcycle accidents, property damage and personal injury damages.

Property Damage

Property damage, or “P.D.”, refers to the damage to your property, mainly your motorcycle. Most importantly, the at-fault driver must pay to repair your motorcycle. The concept underlying this rule is that the careless driver has to give you back what s/he took from you. In this context, that is an undamaged motorcycle.

However, your bike is a “total loss” if it would cost more to repair your motorcycle than it is worth. In that case, the careless driver has to pay you what your motorcycle was worth before it was destroyed. The theory underpinning this rule is that you can use the money you are given for your bike to get another motorcycle just like its. Unfortunately, that is almost never a realistic possibility.

Under your P.D. claim, the other driver must also give you replacement transportation while your motorcycle is being repaired. On the other hand, if your motorcycle was totaled, the other driver must give you transportation until you are paid for your motorcycle.

Personal Injury Damages

“Damages” also include your claim for personal injuries. Some insurance companies call these personal injury, or “P.I.,” claims. Others call them bodily injury, or “B.I.,” claims. By whatever name, this is your claim to be compensated for dealing with your injuries.

Under Maryland motorcycle accident law, personal injury damages include both economic losses and noneconomic losses.

Economic Damages

These are the economic losses you can recover:

  • all medical bills you incurred treating injuries received in the accident.
  • any loss of income, such as employment income.
  • any other economic losses that resulted from the accident.
Noneconomic Damages

Think about this: You would not be fully compensated if the careless driver merely had to pay you for your financial losses. The economic losses are not what you will remember years later about this experience. More likely, you will remember the pain of your injuries, the mental uncertainty, the sleepless nights (or whatever your symptoms were) and the disruption to your life that the careless driver caused. Consequently, the at-fault driver must also compensate you for such noneconomic losses as these:

  • physical pain.
  • mental anguish.
  • disfigurement.
  • inconvenience.
  • physical impairment.
  • damage to your marital relationship.

To prove these losses, I recommend that you keep a diary. In your diary, answer this question: How has this accident affected my life?

Defenses To Damage Claims

Summarizing, you must be able to prove that the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries.

Often, the defending insurance company will claim that something other than their driver’s carelessness actually caused your injuries. Commonly, they claim that the “real cause” (their term, not mine) of your injuries was an earlier accident. Or they may claim that a later accident is the cause. Likewise, they may claim that the normal aging process is the culprit. Obviously, you must be prepared for these defenses and anything else they think of to try to avoid responsibility!

Normally, you will defeat the defense’s bogus claims about what caused your injuries with expert testimony. For example, your doctor can testify to her opinion that your injuries are the result of your motorcycle crash.

How Much Are You Entitled To Recover For Your Injuries?

The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive depends on all the circumstances of your case. In addition to liability, these are some of the primary considerations:

  • how seriously you were injured.
  • how long you suffered with your injuries and
  • whether you recovered fully.

In summary, fair compensation for your injuries considers three things. Fist, you will recover the full amount of the medical bills that were caused by your motorcycle accident. Second, you will receive the full amount of the income that you lost. And third, an additional amount will be awarded to you for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the like.

The end result could be as little as approximately 1 ½ times your out-of-pocket losses for your medical bills and loss of income. Or, it could be 10 times your financial losses, or more, if your injuries are severe and permanent.

Here’s a rule-of-thumb to keep in mind: the more seriously you are injured, and therefore the more you are entitled to recover as damages, the more the at-fault driver’s insurance company will resist your claim. That’s why, if you have been seriously injured and have substantial losses, you should immediately consult with an experienced Maryland motorcycle accident lawyer. You need an experienced and savvy lawyer fighting as hard to get you all you deserve as the defense is fighting to give you as little as possible.

PIP No-Fault Claim

PIP — which rhymes with “sip” and stands for “Personal Injury Protection” — is a type of auto insurance that Maryland drivers have unless they affirmatively waive it. It pays medical bills and (85% of) lost income in the event of an accident. To be clear, these are benefits that an injured person can receive in addition to her claim against the driver who caused the accident.

However, Maryland law allows insurance companies to exclude motorcycles from PIP insurance; and, of course, that’s just what they do.

Contact Us

If you have been seriously injured in a motorcycle crash, contact us.

Every year, millions of people safely enjoy bicycling for exercise, recreation and, in increasing numbers, to commute to work.

Maryland Bicycle AccidentHowever, from my experience as a bicyclist as well as from my work as a Maryland bicycle accident lawyer, I know that drivers tend to overlook bicycles, putting cyclists at risk.

According to the National Safety Council, 1,089 people were killed while riding bicycles in 2019 and 308,864 more were injured. The total cost of bicyclist injury and death is over $4 billion per year. (Actually, most bicycling injuries are not reported to the police. As a result, some believe that the actual number of injuries could be ten times the number reported.)

How Do Most Maryland Bicycle Accidents Occur?

Most Maryland bicycle accidents occur in these circumstances . . .

  • Left turns in front of bicyclist. This is where a cyclist and a motor vehicle are approaching an intersection from opposite directions and the car driver suddenly makes a left turn in front of the cyclist.
  • Right turns in front of bicyclist. This is when you are riding straight but, as you approach an intersection the car behind you pulls in front and makes a right turn, cutting you off.
  • Car doors opening. Unfortunately, persons in parked cars often open their doors without looking, often causing bicycles to crash.
  • Dogs. Some dogs are attracted to moving bikes, shiny spokes, spinning wheels, tires and chains. They can cause crashes and injuries.
  • Side swipes. This happens when motorists get too close to bicyclists riding on the right side of the roadway. Vehicles with wide trailers or wide mirrors on the tow vehicles pose a special danger to bicyclists.

When a Maryland bicycle accident happens, it can be difficult to determine legal responsibility. Basically, though, Maryland bicycle accident law is based on a fault system. That is, a driver is “liable” and responsible for compensating an injured cyclist only if the driver was at fault.

Those of us who focus on Maryland bicycle accident law usually describe bicycle accident claims as having two components. One is commonly call “liability” and the other is called “damages.”

Liability

Liability, or legal responsibility, is determined by the answer to this question: “Who caused the accident?”

A determination of fault depends on two things: the facts of your case and state law. You should do the following things to be able to provide liability.

Gather the facts

To help the evaluation process, you should do these things as soon as possible to preserve the facts or “evidence:”

  • Write down the facts. Write down everything you can remember about where the accident happened, when it happened, where you were when you were struck, the weather conditions, anything the vehicle driver said at the scene, etc.
  • Take pictures. Include photos of the scene and of the bicycle and vehicle(s) involved.
  • Identify witnesses. Get their names and contact information. In addition, if possible, get statements from them.
  • Get The Crash Report. Get a copy of the State of Maryland Motor Vehicle Crash Report, if one was written.

If you hire a Maryland bicycle accident lawyer, your lawyer will investigate the facts of your case and gather the necessary proof of liability.

The second thing that determines liability, in addition to the facts of your accident, are the rules of the road that govern the relationship between motor vehicle and bicycles.

Maryland Traffic Laws Applying To Motorists

In Maryland, these are the laws that govern a motorist interacting with a bicycle. (As you go through these, remember that a bicycle is considered a “vehicle.”)

  • A driver overtaking another vehicle going in the same direction must pass to the left and at a safe distance.
  • The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle which is going in the same direction may not drive any part of his vehicle directly in front of the overtaken vehicle until safely past it.
  • A driver must not pass any closer than three (3) feet from a bicycle which is being operated lawfully.
  • After passing a bicycle, a driver must make sure s/he is clear of the bicyclist before making any turns. The bike has the right of way, and the driver must yield to the bike when turning.
  • Bicycles have the right-of-way in bike lanes and on shoulders.
  • Motorists must yield the right of way to a bicyclist operating lawfully in a crosswalk at a signalized intersection. (If a bicycle is lawfully riding on a sidewalk, it can use a crosswalk.)
  • A person may not throw any object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle.
  • A person may not open the door of a motor vehicle with intent to strike, injure, or interfere with any person riding a bicycle.

In a nutshell, motorists must pass bicycles carefully (with at least 3 feet of clearance), not cut them off and yield to them in bicycle lanes, on shoulders and when turning in front of them. Oh yea, and you can’t throw things at them or try to knock riders senseless with your car door!

Maryland Traffic Laws Applying To Bicyclists

Under Maryland law, bicycles are vehicles. That means that bicyclists have both rights and responsibilities .

These are some of the main rules that govern bicyclists . . .

  • A bicycle rider must obey all traffic signals, signs and pavement markings.
  • A bicyclist riding slower than the speed of traffic must stay in the right hand through lane. However, a bicyclist can move farther left in three instances. First, to make a vehicular-style left turn. Second, to pass a stopped or slower moving vehicle. And third, to avoid pedestrians or road hazards.
  • A bicyclist riding at the speed of traffic can operate in any lane.
  • Bicycles cannot be ridden in the travel lanes if the posted speed limit is more than 50 mph, However, bicycles may be operated on the shoulder of these roadways.
  • Bicycles may not be operated on expressways but can be ridden on an adjacent path.
  • All bicycles must have brakes capable of stopping within 15 feet from a speed of 10 mph.
  • Bicycles must have two things to operate in low visibility conditions. First, a white beam headlight visible at a distance of 500 feet. And second, a red rear reflector visible at a distance of 600 feet.
  • Riders under the age of 16 must wear a helmet.

Basically, bicyclists must comply with all the normal rules that apply to vehicles, plus a few more bicycle-specific rules.

Defenses To Liability Claims

The insurance company for the driver may simply deny that their driver did anything wrong. Or, the insurance company may raise defenses to your liability claim such as “contributory negligence.”

Contributory Negligence

Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only four states that has a very harsh rule called “contributory negligence.” If it exists in your case, contributory negligence defeats your claim.

According to the contributory negligence rule in Maryland, if you contributed in any way to causing your accident, you have no claim against the driver. In theory, if you are only 1% responsible for causing an accident and the striking driver is 99% at fault, under Maryland bicycle accident law you are not entitled to recover from the striking driver!

Under Maryland bicycle accident law, if you can prove that the driver caused your accident and that you did nothing to contribute to causing the accident, there is “liability.”

Damages

“Damages” is the term that refers to the consequences of the striking driver’s carelessness. In other words, “What harm did the carelessness cause?”

There are two main categories of damages in Maryland bicycle accident law, property damage and personal injury damages.

Property Damage

Property damage refers to the damage to your property, mainly your bicycle. In addition, if anything you were wearing or carrying was damaged or destroyed, the at-fault driver must compensate you for those losses, too.

Personal Injury Damages

“Damages” also include injury claims. Some insurance companies call these personal injury claims, or “P.I.” claims. Others call them bodily injury, or “B.I.,” claims. By whatever name, this is your claim to be compensated for the injuries that the striking driver’s carelessness caused.

Under Maryland pedestrian accident law, P.I. (or B.I.) damages include economic losses and noneconomic losses.

Economic Losses

The economic losses that you can recover include . . .

  • all medical bills you incurred treating injuries that resulted from the accident,
  • any loss of income, such as employment income, and
  • any other economic losses that result from the accident.
Noneconomic Losses

If Maryland bicycle accident law merely required the careless driver to pay for your financial losses, you would not be fully and fairly compensated.

The economic losses are not what you will remember years later about this experience. What you will remember more is the pain of your injuries, the mental uncertainty, the sleepless nights (or whatever your symptoms were) and the disruption to your life that the careless driver caused.

Because you did nothing to cause these losses, fundamental fairness — and Maryland bicycle accident law — require the one who caused your injuries to compensate you in money damages for such noneconomic losses as these:

  • physical pain
  • mental anguish
  • disfigurement
  • inconvenience
  • physical impairment
  • damage to your marital relationship.

To be able to prove these losses, keep a diary which answers this question: How has this accident affected my life?

If you hire a Maryland bicycle accident lawyer, your lawyer will help you gather and develop the evidence of your noneconomic losses.

Defenses To Damage Claims

You must be able to prove that the driver’s negligence caused your injuries.

Often, the defending insurance company will raise the defense that something other than their driver’s carelessness caused your injuries. They may claim that the “real cause” (their term, not mine) of your injuries was an earlier accident, a later accident, the normal aging process . . . or anything else they can think of.

Normally, you will defeat these claims with expert testimony, such as your doctor’s opinion that your injuries are the result of your bicycle accident.

How Much Are You Entitled To Recover For Your Injuries?

The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries depends on the circumstances of your case. Obviously, in addition to the amount of your financial losses, that determination will depend on such things as . . .

  • how seriously you are injured
  • how long you suffered with your injuries and
  • whether you recovered fully

What you want is a full and speedy recovery from your injuries. If that happens, you will still have a claim against the careless driver, but it will be for less than the claim you would have had if you do not recover quickly.

Fair compensation for your injuries under Maryland bicycle accident law includes the full amount of the medical bills that were caused by your bicycle accident, the full amount of the income that you lost as a result of your cycling accident and an additional amount for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the like.

The end result could be as little as about 1 ½ times your out-of-pocket losses for your medical bills and loss of income to an amount 10 times your financial losses, or more, if your injuries are very severe and permanent.

Here’s a rule-of-thumb to keep in mind: the more seriously you are injured, and therefore the more you are entitled to recover as damages, the more the at-fault driver’s insurance company will resist you. If you have been seriously injured and have substantial losses, you should have an experienced Maryland bicycle accident lawyer on your side protecting your interests.

PIP No-Fault Claim

Here is one final, but important, point about Maryland bicycle accident law.

Everything that I have told you so far about injury claims concerns your liability claim against the careless driver who caused your accident. (Actually, in almost all cases, although your claim is against the careless driver, you will deal with that driver’s insurance company and that company, not the driver, will pay the claim under the driver’s liability insurance coverage.)

However, there may be another claim you can make after your Maryland bicycle accident.

You Can Submit A PIP Claim Regardless Of Fault

I am referring to a claim under a type of insurance coverage called “PIP” — which rhymes with “sip” and which stands for “personal injury protection.”

Although Maryland bicycle accident law is based on fault, PIP is an exception. PIP is a no-fault claim. That means that, after an accident, you can make a PIP claim without proving who caused the accident. You simply have to prove that an accident occurred and that, as a result, you suffered damages that are covered by PIP.

PIP covers your medical bills and (85% of) your lost income, up to the policy limit. The policy limit must be at least $2,500, and some insurance companies offer up to $10,000 of PIP coverage.

The driver’s PIP insurance coverage is “primary,” which means that the driver’s insurance company must pay PIP benefits to an injured cyclist.

If that driver did not have PIP insurance, the bicyclist’s own car insurance policy provides “secondary” coverage and pays the PIP claim.

The real value of PIP — in fact, the reason that it came into existence — is that it can provide benefits much sooner than your liability claim against the at-fault driver.

As I discuss elsewhere at this website, you should not even present your injury claim until you fully recover from your injuries (or, at least, recover as much as you are going to), but you can submit your PIP claim without delay. Then, if you have additional medical bills or lost wages, you can send a supplement to your PIP claim. In fact, you can keep submitting supplements until your medical bills and lost income stop or until you have received the policy limit of benefits.

Insurance Tip

I recommend that you purchase as much PIP coverage as your insurance company will sell you. It doesn’t cost much, and it is awfully handy if you are in a disabling accident.

Will making a PIP claim increase your insurance premiums? No.

Contact Us

If you have been seriously injured in a bicycle accident, contact us.

Maryland pedestrian accident law is based on a fault system. That is, a striking driver is only “liable” if the driver was at fault. The driver is not automatically responsible just because a pedestrian accident happened.

Those of us who focus on Maryland pedestrian accident cases usually describe pedestrian accident claims as having two components. One is called “liability” and the other is called “damages.” In this article I will discuss these components of a pedestrian accident case.

Liability

Liability, or legal responsibility, is determined by the answer to this question: “Who caused the accident?”

Negligence

A claim arising from a pedestrian accident is technically called a negligence claim. Basically, negligence means carelessness. So, to have a successful claim arising out of a pedestrian accident, you must be able to show that the driver caused the accident. How do you do that? By applying a series of “rules of the road” to the facts of your case.

One basic rule is that a vehicle operator must exercise ordinary care to avoid injuring others. On the other had, pedestrians must exercise ordinary care to protect their safety. Both have a duty to keep a proper lookout and make reasonable observations concerning the traffic and other conditions in order to protect themselves and others.

Applicable Traffic Laws

These are some of the traffic rules that are used to determine legal responsibility for a Maryland pedestrian accident:

  • Pedestrians must comply with all traffic control devices such as traffic signals. Pedestrians cannot cross a road, for example, if they are facing a solid red signal. In addition, pedestrians cannot begin to cross the street if there is a solid yellow signal.
  • Pedestrians must comply with all pedestrian control signals. They must obey the “Walk,” “Don’t Walk” and “Wait” signals.
  • Pedestrians have the right-of-way if they are in a crosswalk; however pedestrians cannot suddenly leave safety and walk or run into the path of an oncoming vehicle, even if they are in a crosswalk.
  • A pedestrian crossing at any point other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk must yield the right-of-way to vehicles. (An “unmarked crosswalk” basically is an imaginary crosswalk which extends between the sidewalks on each side of the intersection.)
  • Pedestrians cannot walk on roadways if there is a sidewalk they could use.
  • If there is no sidewalk, pedestrians can only walk on the left shoulder, if practicable, or on the left side of the roadway facing oncoming traffic.
  • When entering or leaving an alley, driveway or building, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
  • Drivers must use their horn to warn pedestrians of danger.
  • Drivers must exercise proper precautions when they see a child or an obviously confused or incapacitated individual.

It can be difficult to analyze where liability lies. That is why you should consult with a Maryland pedestrian accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.

Gather The Evidence Of Liability

In the meantime, you should do these things as soon as possible to preserve the “evidence:”

  • Write down the facts. Write down everything you can remember about where the accident happened, when it happened, where you were when you were struck, the weather conditions, anything the driver said at the scene, etc.
  • Make pictures of the scene and of the vehicle(s) involved.
  • Identify witnesses and, if possible, get statements from them.
  • Get a copy of the State of Maryland Motor Vehicle Crash Report, if one was written.

One thing is certain: The driver’s insurance company will immediately begin investigating the facts of your case. Their goal is to find a reason to “deny liability” so they can refuse to pay you anything. Therefore, if you decide to hire a lawyer to help you, you should do that as soon as possible. That gives your lawyer more time to investigate and thoroughly prepare your case.

Defenses To Liability Claims

The insurance company for the driver may simply deny that their driver did anything wrong.

Or, the insurance company may raise defenses to your liability claim such as “contributory negligence.”

Contributory Negligence

Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only four states that has a very harsh rule called “contributory negligence.” If it exists in your case, contributory negligence defeats your claim.

Under this rule, if you contributed in any way to causing your accident, you have no claim against the driver. In theory, you only have to be 1% responsible for causing an accident for this rule to apply. That’s right. If you are only 1% liable, you are not entitled to recover from the striking driver! An example of this is a defense claim that the the pedestrian was somewhere s/he should not have been when struck, such as crossing outside a crosswalk.

With all of this said, if you can prove that the driver caused your accident and that you did nothing to contribute to causing the accident, there is ‘liability.’

Damages

“Damages” is the term that refers to the consequences of the striking driver’s carelessness. In other words, “What harm did the carelessness cause?”

There are two main categories of damages in Maryland pedestrian accident law, property damage and personal injury damages.

Property Damage

Property damage, or “P.D.,” refers to the damage to your property. If anything you were carrying was damaged or destroyed, the at-fault driver must compensate you for your loss(es). The same is true for your clothing that was destroyed.

Personal Injury Damages

“Damages” also include personal injury claims. Some insurance companies call these personal injury claims, or “P.I.” claims. Others call them bodily injury, or “B.I.,” claims. By whatever name, this is your claim to be compensated for the injuries that the striking driver’s carelessness caused.

In Maryland, personal damages include economic losses and noneconomic losses.

Economic Damages

These are the economic losses you can recover:

  • all medical bills you incurred treating injuries that resulted from the accident,
  • any loss of income, such as employment income, and
  • any other economic losses that result from the accident.
Noneconomic Damages

If Maryland pedestrian accident law merely required the careless driver to pay for your financial losses, you would not be fully and fairly compensated.

The economic losses are not what you will remember years later about this experience. What you will remember more is the pain of your injuries, the mental uncertainty, the sleepless nights (or whatever your symptoms were) and the disruption to your life that the careless driver caused.

These are the noneconomic losses you can claim:

  • physical pain
  • mental anguish
  • disfigurement
  • inconvenience
  • physical impairment
  • damage to your marital relationship.

To be able to prove these losses, keep a diary which answers this question: How has this accident affected my life?

If you hire a Maryland pedestrian accident lawyer, your lawyer will help you gather and develop the evidence of your noneconomic losses.

Defenses To Damage Claims

As already discussed, you must be able to prove that the striking driver’s negligence caused your injuries.

Often, the defending insurance company will raise the defense that something other than their driver’s carelessness caused your injuries. They may claim that the “real cause” (their term, not mine) of your damages was an earlier accident, a later accident, the normal aging process . . . or anything else they can think of.

Normally, you will defeat these claims with expert testimony. An example is your doctor’s testimony that your injuries are the result of your pedestrian accident.

How Much Are You Entitled To Recover For Your Injuries?

The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries depends on the circumstances of your case. Obviously, in addition to the amount of your financial losses, that determination will depend on such things as . . .

  • how seriously you are injured
  • how long you suffer with your injuries and
  • whether you recover fully

What you want is a full and speedy recovery from your injuries. If that happens, you will still have a claim against the careless driver, but it will be for less than the claim you would have hd if you had not recover quickly or completely.

Fair compensation for your injuries under Maryland pedestrian accident law includes three things. First, the full amount of the medical bills that were caused by your pedestrian accident. Second, the full amount of the income that you lost as a result of your pedestrian accident. And third, an additional amount for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the like.

The end result could be as little as about 1 ½ times your out-of-pocket losses for your medical bills and loss of income to an amount 10 times your financial losses, or more, if your injuries are very severe and permanent.

Here’s a rule-of-thumb to keep in mind: the more seriously you are injured, and therefore the more you are entitled to recover as damages, the more the at-fault driver’s insurance company will resist you. If you have been seriously injured and have substantial losses, you should have an experienced Maryland pedestrian accident lawyer on your side protecting your interests.

PIP No-Fault Claim

Here is one final, but important, point about Maryland pedestrian accident law.

Everything that I have told you so far about pedestrian injury claims concerns your liability claim against the careless driver who caused your accident. (Actually, in almost all cases, although your claim is against the careless driver, you will deal with that driver’s insurance company. And that company, not the driver, will pay the claim under the driver’s liability insurance coverage.

However, there may be another claim you can make after your Maryland pedestrian accident.

What is PIP?

I am referring to a claim under a type of insurance coverage called “PIP” — which rhymes with “sip” — and which stands for “personal injury protection.” Actually some insurance companies have other names for it — such as economic loss protection — but everyone in the industry knows this coverage as PIP.

Although Maryland pedestrian accident law is based on fault, PIP is an exception. PIP is a no-fault claim. That means that you can make a PIP claim without proving who caused the accident. You simply have to prove that an accident occurred and that, as a result, you suffered damages that are covered by PIP. PIP covers your medical bills and (85% of) your lost income, up to the policy limit. The policy limit must be at least $2,500, and some insurance companies will sell you up to $10,000 of PIP coverage.

The driver’s PIP insurance coverage is “primary,” which means that the driver’s insurance company must pay you PIP benefits. However, if that driver did not have PIP insurance, YOUR car insurance policy provides “secondary” coverage and pays your PIP claim.

The real value of PIP — in fact, the reason that it came into existence — is that it can provide benefits much sooner than your liability claim against the at-fault driver.

As I discuss elsewhere at this website, you should not present your injury claim until you fully recover from your injuries (or, at least, recover as much as you are going to). However, you can submit your PIP claim without delay. Then, if you have additional medical bills or lost wages, you can send a supplement to your PIP claim. In fact, you can keep submitting supplements until your medical bills and lost income stop or until you have received the policy limit of benefits.

Insurance Tip

Here’s an insurance TIP. I recommend that you purchase as much PIP coverage as your insurance company will sell you. It doesn’t cost much, and it is awfully handy if you are in a serious pedestrian accident that disables you for a lengthy time.

You can safely make a PIP claim under your policy without fear that your insurance rates will increase or that making the claim will affect or limit in any way your liability claim against the careless driver. It won’t.

Contact Us

If you have been seriously injured in a pedestrian accident and have more questions, contact us.

Before talking about medical malpractice cases, let’s pause to appreciate the scope of the problem.

Unfortunately, medical mistakes are common in the United States. Analyzing medical death rate data over an eight-year period, Johns Hopkins patient safety experts have calculated that in the U.S. more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical errors. This makes medical errors the third leading cause of death in the country, behind heart disease and cancer! In addition, hundreds of thousands more are injured or disabled each year because of medical mistakes.

These facts make it clear that the primary cause of malpractice cases is not any of the things that the defense propagandists would have you believe — runaway juries, greedy malpractice lawyers, “frivolous lawsuits.” Instead, it is malpractice!

Liability

Malpractice cases have two components. One is called “liability” and the other is called “damages.”

Liability, or legal responsibility, exists if a health care provider fails to comply with the appropriate “standard of care.” Standard of care, in turn, means what a competent health care provider should do in a particular circumstance. For example, a competent surgeon should remove all sponges from the patient before closing at the end of surgery. If the surgeon does not do so, s/he has deviated from the standard of care and committed malpractice.

Typically, the defense will oppose your liability case by arguing that the health care provider did nothing wrong. They will contend that the bad result is just one of those things. It is, they will argue, a known risk of the particular treatment or procedure.

Ultimately, questions of whether malpractice often boil down to dueling experts. In fact, in Maryland, you have a malpractice case — literally — when an expert says you do. When you file your case, Maryland malpractice law requires you to include a Certificate of Merit. An expert in the specialty the case involves must state that the defendant deviated from the standard of care. Without that Certificate, your case will be dismissed.

Damages

If you can prove liability, you are entitled to recover damages. Damages is the term that refers to the consequences of the health care provider’s error. In other words, “What harm did the violation of the standard of care cause?”
Damages include both economic losses and noneconomic losses.

Economic Damages

The economic damages you can recover include these:

  • all medical bills you incurred treating injuries that result from the malpractice,
  • any loss of income, such as employment income, and
  • any other economic losses that result from the malpractice.

And, if you have a permanent injury, you can also recover damages for your future losses.

You may be wondering: How do you prove future damages, such as future medical bills and future loss of income? You probably guessed . . . expert witnesses. This is an example of how that occurs. First, medical experts document the future physical limitations of the patient. Then, there may be a vocational rehabilitation expert to testify about the patient’s vocational limitations. There might also be a life care planner who will testify about the patient’s other needs. Finally, an economist will convert all of this into dollars and cents.

Noneconomic Damages

If Maryland malpractice law merely required the careless health care provider to pay for your financial losses, you would not be fully compensated. You are also entitled to be compensated for having to go through the experience. Many call this element of damages by the shorthand “pain and suffering.”

If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, you can recovery money damages for such noneconomic losses as these:.

  • physical pain.
  • mental anguish.
  • disfigurement.
  • inconvenience.
  • physical impairment.
  • damage to your marital relationship.

Where there are serious, permanent injuries, fair compensation under Maryland malpractice law can be $1,000,000.00 or more. However, you should also know that there are statutes putting “caps” on how much you can recover in a malpractice case.

If you hire a Maryland malpractice lawyer, your lawyer will know the specifics of these statutes.

Final Thoughts

Medical malpractice cases are complicated and expensive, and the results are uncertain.

No matter how obvious the malpractice, the defense will have experts who will defend the actions of the health care provider. On the other hand, you may have difficulty locating an expert, even if your claim is meritorious. Physicians are putting increasing pressure on their brethren who testify for injured plaintiffs.

As a result, somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of court cases are won by the defense.

Contact Us

If you have been seriously injured by medical malpractice, contact us.

Businesses and property owners are not automatically responsible if you fall and injure yourself on their property. Under Maryland slip and fall law, property owners are only responsible for dangerous conditions that they knew about (or should have know about if they had been paying attention) but did not correct or warn you about.

Fall claims arise inside and outside. They occur on public property and on private property. They have many causes.

Common Causes of INDOOR Falls

These are some of the most common causes of INDOOR falls. . .

  • sticky substance on the floor.
  • slippery substance on the floor.
  • wet floor.
  • floors that are not level.
  • torn carpeting.
  • raised carpeting.
  • worn carpeting.
  • poor lighting.
  • narrow stairs.
  • different heights between steps.
  • different depths of steps.
  • defective escalators.
  • obstructions, such as cords.

Common Causes of OUTDOOR Falls

These are some of the most common causes of OUTSIDE falls. . .

  • cracked, broken or uneven sidewalks and pavements.
  • snow and ice that is not removed or treated.
  • inadequate lighting.
  • absence of handrails.
  • holes and depressions.

Those of us who focus on Maryland slip and fall cases usually describe slip and fall claims as having two components. One is called “liability” and the other is called “damages.”

Liability

Liability, or legal responsibility, is determined by the answer to this question: “Who caused the accident?”

If you fall and injure yourself on someone else’s property, the property owner is NOT automatically responsible, or liable, for your injuries.

That’s right. Not automatically responsible.

Duty of Property Owners

In lawyer lingo, these are called “premises liability” cases. The general rule in this area of the law is that property owners or occupiers (such as a tenant in a shopping center) must take reasonable steps to provide a safe “premises” for visitors.

Property owners owe a higher duty to protect “invitees” (that are on the property for the benefit of the property owner — such as a customer in a store) and “social guests” than they owe a “trespasser.” In fact, the only duty owed to a trespasser under Maryland slip and fall Law is to not intentionally injure the trespasser.

When property owners violate the duty they owe you, they are responsible, or liable, for your fall.

Knew Or Should Have Known Of The Defect

Cases are stronger if the property owner actually knew of the defect or clearly should have known of it.

Some defective and dangerous conditions are long term or permanent conditions. Poor lighting, abrupt changes in floor levels, or a gap or a hole in the flooring are examples. These conditions obviously have existed long enough for the property owner to know about them. Falls because of these types of defects are usually strong cases.

Other types of defects may be temporary or short term. Slippery or sticky substances on the floor of a store are examples. These cases are harder to prove under Maryland law. You have to be able to prove that the dangerous condition existed long enough for the property owner to know about it and have a fair chance to correct it.

To distinguish between these two situations, let’s look at two examples.

Suppose you are walking in a grocery store and slip on an ice cream spill that you didn’t see. Assume also that the spill occurred 1 minute before you slipped, was caused by another customer and had not yet been seen by employees of the store.

In this example, the store did not have a fair chance to know about the spill and do anything about it. The store is not liable for your fall.

On the other hand, assume the same facts except that the ice cream is still on the floor, say, 6 hours after it was spilled. Under these facts, the sticky and slippery substance was on the floor long enough for the store to know about it, or, at least, long enough that the store should have known about it if it was doing periodic inspections as it should have. In this situation, the store is liable for your fall.

Gather Liability Evidence

Your first priority after you fall is to nail down the evidence of what happened. This is especially true if you expect the cause of the fall to be challenged. After you fall, do as many of these things as you can . . .

  • If there were witnesses, get their names and contact information.
  • If possible, make photographs of the scene of your fall as soon as possible.
  • Write down all of the details of your fall. Exactly what happened? When did it happen? Why did it happen? What caused your fall? If you fell on a substance, what was it? Exactly how did you fall? What part of your body did you land on? How was the lighting? If you fell outside, what were the weather conditions? What did the property owner — or employees of the property owner — say to you? It is especially important to note anything that they said which indicates that they knew of the defect.
  • Safeguard the clothing that you were wearing, especially your shoes. The defense may claim that your shoes were the problem. Keep them, without using them further, for as long as you are considering making a claim. Keep the clothing that you were wearing, too.

If you decide to hire a Maryland slip and fall lawyer, you should do so as soon as possible to give your lawyer time to investigate and evaluate your claim. If you hire a Maryland slip and fall lawyer later, give your lawyer the evidence that you have saved to help your lawyer catch up to the insurance company who has been investigating the claim from the time that it happened.

Defenses To Liability Claims

The insurance company for the property owner may deny that their policyholder did anything wrong.

Instead, or in addition, the insurance company may raise defenses to your liability claim such as “contributory negligence” or “assumption of risk.”

Contributory Negligence

Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only four states that has a very harsh rule called “contributory negligence.” If it exists, contributory negligence defeats your claim.

This means that if you contributed in any way to causing your fall, you have no claim against the property owner who was the primary cause of your fall. In theory, if you were only 1% responsible for causing your fall and someone else is 99% responsible, under Maryland slip and fall law you are not entitled to recover from the other person or company!

So, if you can prove that the other party caused your fall and that you did nothing to contribute to causing the accident, there is “liability.”

Assumption of Risk

In Maryland slip and fall law, assumption of risk means that you willingly and voluntarily assumed a known risk. If you did, you have no claim if the risk you assumed injured you. An example is walking on a snowy or icy surface. Since you knew it was slippery, with limited exceptions, you cannot recover from the property owner or occupier if you slip and hurt yourself. You assumed the risk that would happen.

Damages

If the property owner is at fault, and you did not contribute to causing your fall or voluntarily assume a known risk, there is “liability” and you can recover your “damages.”

“Damages” is the term that refers to the consequences of the other party’s carelessness. In other words, “What harm did the carelessness cause?”

Damages include economic losses and noneconomic losses.

Economic Damages

The economic losses that you can recover include these:

  • all medical bills you incurred treating injuries that result from the fall,
  • any loss of income, such as employment income, and
  • any other economic losses that result from the fall.

If Maryland slip and fall law merely required the careless person to pay for your financial losses, you would not be fully and fairly compensated.

The economic losses are not what you will remember years later about this experience. What you will remember more is the pain of your injuries, the mental uncertainty, the sleepless nights (or whatever your symptoms were) and the disruption to your life that the careless property owner caused.

Noneconomic Damages

Because you did nothing to cause these losses, fundamental fairness — and Maryland slip and fall law — require the one who caused your injuries to compensate you in money damages for such noneconomic losses as these:

  • physical pain
  • mental anguish
  • disfigurement
  • inconvenience
  • physical impairment
  • damage to your marital relationship.

To be able to prove these losses, keep a diary which answers this question: How has this fall affected my life?

If you hire a Maryland slip and fall lawyer, your lawyer will help you gather and develop the evidence of your noneconomic losses.

How Much Are You Entitled To Recover For Your Injuries?

The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries depends on the circumstances of your case. Obviously, that determination will depend on such things as these:

  • how seriously you are injured
  • how long you suffer with your injuries and
  • whether you recover fully

I wish you a full and speedy recovery from your injuries. If that happens, you will still have a claim against the responsible property owner or occupier, but it will be for less than the claim that you would have had if you had not recovered quickly or completely.

Fair compensation for your injuries under Maryland slip and fall law includes three primary things. First is the full amount of the medical bills that were caused by your fall. Second is the full amount of the income that you lost as a result of your fall. Third is an additional amount for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the like.

The end result could be as little as about 1 1/2 times your out-of-pocket losses for your medical bills and loss of income to an amount 10 times your financial losses, or more, if your injuries are very severe and permanent.

Here’s a rule-of-thumb to keep in mind: the more seriously you are injured, and therefore the more you are entitled to recover as damages, the more the insurance company will resist you. If you have been seriously injured and have substantial losses, you should have an experienced Maryland slip and fall lawyer on your side protecting your interests.

Defenses To Damage Claims

You must be able to prove that the property owner’s negligence caused your injuries.

Often, the defending insurance company will raise the defense that something other than their policyholder’s carelessness caused your damages. They may claim that the “real cause” (their term, not mine) of your damages was an earlier accident, a later accident, the normal aging process . . . or anything else they can think of.

Normally, you will defeat these claims with expert testimony, such as your doctor’s opinion that your injuries are the result of your car accident.

No-Fault Claim

Here is one final, but important, point about Maryland slip and fall law.

Even if there is no liability, you may be able to recover the amount that you spent to treat your fall-related injuries. Many businesses, and private property owners, have a kind of “no-fault” insurance called “medical payments” coverage. It pays for medical bills incurred as a result of an occurrence on the property, no matter who caused the occurrence.

Medical payments coverages, if they exist, are usually limited to five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) or less.

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If you have been seriously injured in a fall, contact us.

Maryland dog bite law is based on a fault system. That means that dog owners are not automatically responsible if their dog bites you. They are only responsible if their fault caused you to be bitten. In this article, I will discuss the circumstances when dog owners are liable for the injuries their dogs cause.

But before we start, let’s pause to see how big of a problem dog bites are.

It turns out that dog bites are more common than you might think. It is estimated that more than 4.7 million people in this country are bitten by dogs each year. Of those, as many as 1 million per year seek medical attention for dog bites. That means that every 30 seconds or so of every day, someone in the United States is seeking medical care for a dog bite injury!

Alright, let’s move on to the law. Basically, dog bite cases have having two components. The first is called “liability” and the second is called “damages.” In this article, I will discuss both.

Liability

“Liability” means “Did the dog owner do anything that makes her responsible for your dog bite injuries?” As you are about to find out, there are two situations where an owner can be responsible for her dog’s actions.

Strict Liability

The first, which the law calls “strict liability,” is where the owner knew — or should have known — of her animal’s propensity to cause harm to humans. If the dog has bitten a person before, you have a strong liability case. Even if the dog has not bitten before, if it has done things that were threatening to humans, such as growl at them or lunge at them, you have a strong liability case. The more times any of these has happened, the stronger the liability portion of your case. On the other hand, a history of threatening other animals is not sufficient to impose strict liability. There must have been previous bites or threats to humans.

Strict liability is what most think of when they think about Maryland dog bite liability. They incorrectly believe that an owner is only responsible for her dog’s bites if the dog had a history of biting.

Negligence

Actually, there is a second situation where an owner can be responsible for her dog’s bites. Maryland dog bite law refers to this as “negligence.” It applies where a dog owner “exercises ineffective control of an animal in a situation where it would reasonably be expected that injury could occur.”

Generally, the amount of control that the owner must exert depends on what she knows about the dog’s propensities. And, an owner is responsible for knowing more about a dog’s propensities than simply its propensity to bite.

To illustrate, here’s an example that is an actual Maryland case. It doesn’t involve a dog bite, but instead it involves injuries caused by a dog’s actions.

A couple was riding a tandem bicycle when a dog suddenly ran from its yard into their path causing them to crash and injure themselves. The dog owners knew that their dog had no history of biting or threatening people. But they also knew that it would leave the yard anytime it was given the chance. That’s what happened here. The dog ran out an open gate, disobeyed the owner’s commands to come back and caused the bicycle crash. These dog owners were held responsible for the injuries received by the bicycling couple because they didn’t exercise adequate control of their dog under circumstances that could be dangerous.

Leash laws are another consideration on the issue of liability. They very from county to county; but, generally they establish an amount of control that an owner must exert. Usually, they provide that a dog must be restrained and cannot run “at large.” Violations of leash laws establish a case against the owner under Maryland dog bite law, even if the dog had no history of biting.

Premises Liability

Often, dog bites occur on private property. In that situation, another body of law comes into play. They are the rules of “premises liability.” One important thing to remember about these rules is that your liability case is stronger if you are in a business establishment or someplace else where you have been invited than you are if you are trespassing on the property where you are bitten. In fact, if you are a trespasser, you probably have no claim at all.

As you can see, it can be complicated to determine whether an animal owner is responsible for his animal’s bites. An experienced dog bite lawyer can analyze and evaluate your potential claim and tell you whether it is worth pursuing.

Gather Liability Evidence

To be able to prove liability, you should do as many of these things as possible:

  • Ask the owner about the dog’s history.
  • Talk to neighbors about the same thing.
  • Write down all of the circumstances of the injury. Draw a diagram of the scene.
  • If you can, get a medical history of the dog.
  • Obtain records from Animal Control concerning the dog’s history.
  • Obtain obedience/training school records if they exist.
  • Get police reports.
  • Especially if your injuries are very serious, take action to have the dog evaluated by experts.
  • Get statements, preferably written, from witnesses.

As soon as you decide to hire a Maryland dog bite lawyer, you should do so. That gives your lawyer more time to investigate and prepare your case.

Defenses To Liability Claims

The insurance company for the dog owner may deny that the dog owner is responsible for your injury. For example, if the injury occurred on private property and the victim was a trespasser, the defense will argue that the property owner did not violate the limited duty that they owed.

Instead, or in addition, the insurance company may raise defenses in dog bit cases. One common defense is “contributory negligence.” Another is “assumption of risk.” Let me explain these two related concepts further.

Contributory Negligence

Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only four states that has a very harsh rule called “contributory negligence.” Contributory negligence totally defeats your claim.

In other words, if you contributed in any way to causing your dog bite, you have no claim against the dog owner. In theory, if you are only 1% responsible for causing the dog bite and the dog owner is 99% at fault, under Maryland dog bite law you are not entitled to recover!

For example, the defense may argue that the victim provoked the dog. If they can prove that, it would constitute “contributory negligence.”

Assumption of Risk

Assumption of risk means that you willingly and voluntarily assumed a known risk. If you assume a risk, you have no claim if the risk you assumed injures you.

An example is not heeding a warning to avoid a dog. Since you were warned to stay away, with limited exceptions, you cannot recover from the dog owner if the dog bites you. You assumed the risk that would happen.

Damages

If the dog owner is at fault, and you did not contribute to causing your dog bite or voluntarily assume a known risk, there is “liability” and you can recover your “damages.”

Damages include economic losses and noneconomic losses.

Economic Losses

These are the economic losses, you can recover:

  • all medical bills you incurred treating injuries that result from the bite,
  • any loss of income, such as employment income, and
  • any other economic losses that result from the bite.
  • Destroyed clothes is an example of this.

Noneconomic Losses

If Maryland dog bite law merely required the dog owner to pay for your financial losses, that would not be full justice.

The economic losses are not what you will remember years later about this experience. What you will remember more is the pain of your injuries, the mental uncertainty, the sleepless nights (or whatever your symptoms were) and the disruption to your life that the careless dog owner caused.

That is why you must be compensated in money damages for such noneconomic losses as these:

  • physical pain.
  • mental anguish.
  • disfigurement (such as scars from your bite injuries).
  • inconvenience.
  • physical impairment.
  • damage to your marital relationship.

To be able to prove these losses, keep a diary which answers this question: How has this accident affected my life?

If you hire a Maryland dog bite lawyer, your lawyer will help you gather and develop evidence of your noneconomic losses.

Defenses To Damage Claims

You must be able to prove that the dog owner’s negligence caused your injuries.

Often, the defending insurance company will raise the defense that something other than the dog owner’s carelessness caused your injuries. They may claim that the “real cause” (their term, not mine) of your injuries was an earlier accident. Or perhaps they will blame a later accident. A real defense favorite is the claim that the normal aging process is the culprit. You have to be ready for anything they can dream up to try to avoid responsibility.

Normally, you will defeat these claims with expert testimony, such as your doctor’s opinion that your injuries are the result of your dog bite.

How Much Are You Entitled To Recover For Your Injuries?

The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries depends on the circumstances of your case. Obviously, that determination will depend on such things as these:

  • how seriously you are injured.
  • how long you suffer with your injuries and
  • whether you recover fully.

I wish you a full and speedy recovery from your injuries. If that happens, you will still have a claim against the responsible dog owner, but it will be for less than the claim you would have had if you did not recover quickly or completely.

Fair compensation for your injuries includes three main things. The first is the full amount of the medical bills that were caused by being bitten. Second, is the full amount of the income that you lost as a result of the incident. And, third is an additional amount for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the like.

The end result could be as little as about 1 1/2 times your out-of-pocket losses for your medical bills and loss of income to an amount 10 times your financial losses, or more, if your injuries are very severe and permanent.

Permanent consequences of the dog bite, such as severe scarring, demand substantial compensation.

Here’s a rule-of-thumb to keep in mind: the more seriously you are injured, and therefore the more you are entitled to recover as damages, the more the opposing insurance company will resist you. If you have been seriously injured and have substantial losses, you should have an experienced Maryland dog bite lawyer on your side protecting your interests.

Can You Collect?

Let’s say you have a claim that entitles you to a million dollars, but the person that you have the claim against has nothing. In that situation, you probably will not recover anything against the dog owner. You know, can’t get blood out of a stone.

If liability exists, the owner is financially responsible under the law; but, practically, you may not be able to collect from that person.

So, where do you turn?

There may be insurance that covers dog bite injuries. They may be covered by the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance, or, in the case of a store, their liability insurance. However, more and more liability policies of this sort are excluding from coverage so-called “dangerou s animals” such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.

These are the general rules of Maryland dog bite law. However, remember that laws change and that it may require an experienced dog bite lawyer to help you apply the facts of your case to the law to determine your rights. Especially if the injuries are serious, you should consult a lawyer.

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If you have been bitten by a dog and seriously injured, contact us.

There are two possible claims in Maryland if an accident or malpractice results in a death. One is a “wrongful death action” and the other is a “survival action.” In this article, I will discuss both.

Wrongful Death Action

A wrongful death claim is made on behalf of the deceased’s heirs to compensate for their losses. There are two categories of potential beneficiaries in a wrongful death case.

Primary Beneficiaries

“Primary beneficiaries” have priority in bringing a wrongful death action. This category of claimants includes the following:

  • spouse,
  • parent,
  • minor child,
  • adult child who is 21 or younger and to whom the deceased parent contributed 50% or more support.

Primary beneficiaries may recover compensation for these losses:

  • mental anguish,
  • emotional pain and suffering,
  • loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education, where applicable.

Secondary Beneficiaries

“Secondary beneficiaries” can file a wrongful death claim but only if there are no primary beneficiaries.

This group of potential claimants includes any person related to the deceased by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased.

Secondary beneficiaries may recover compensation for these losses:

  • mental anguish,
  • emotional pain and suffering,
  • loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, care, attention, advice, counsel, training, education, or guidance, where applicable.

The statute that authorizes wrongful death actions is the Annotated Code of Maryland, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 3-904.

Survival Action

Curiously, in spite of its name, a survival action is not an action by the survivors. Instead, it is an action brought by the deceased’s estate on behalf of the deceased. In substance, this is the case that the deceased could have filed had s/he survived. The name of the claim comes from the fact that it survives the decedent’s death.

These are the damages that can be claimed in a survival action:

  • medical expenses incurred between the time of injury and the date of death,
  • funeral expenses up to $10,000.00 (as of 2013),
  • lost wages from the time of injury until the time of death and
  • conscious pain and suffering.

Survival actions are authorized by the Annotated Code of Maryland, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 6-401.

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If you have a Maryland death claim, contact us to learn more.

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