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MD. CAR ACCIDENT LAW

Maryland Car Accident Laws

Maryland Car Accident Laws

Negligence is determined by the place in which the car accident occurred.  Proctor v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Auth., 412 Md. 691, 726, 990 A.2d 1048, 1068 (2010); Erie Ins. Exch. v. Heffernan, 399 Md. 598, 625, 925 A.2d 636, 651 (2007); Philip Morris, Inc. v. Angeletti, 358 Md. 689, 744, 752 A.2d 200, 230 (2000).

Negligence

In order to establish negligence for a car accident in Maryland, a plaintiff must prove: 1) a duty owed to the plaintiff; a breach of that duty; a causal relationship between the breach and the harm and/or damages suffered. See Prudential Sec. v. E-Net, Inc., 140 Md.App. 194, 231-32, 780 A.2d 359, 381 (2001); Jacques v. First Nat'l Bank, 307 Md. 527, 531, 515 A.2d 756, 758 (1986); Cramer v. Housing Opportunities Comm'n, 304 Md. 705, 712, 501 A.2d 35, 39 (1985); Scott v. Watson, 278 Md. 160, 165, 359 A.2d 548, 552 (1976); Peroti v. Williams, 258 Md. 663, 669, 267 A.2d 114, 118 (1970).

Duty Owed to Other Drivers

A motor vehicle driver must exercise that degree of care towards other drivers which a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under similar circumstances.  Cooper v. Singleton, 217 Md.App. 626, 649-50, 94 A.3d 250 (2014); Brehm v. Lorenz, 206 Md. 500, 505, 112 A.2d 475, 478 (1955).

Negligence Per Se

While a statute can prescribe a duty, its violation is not necessarily negligence per se.  Brooks v. Lewin Realty III, Inc., 378 Md. 70, 835 A.2d 616 (2003); Absolon v. Dollahite, 376 Md. 547, 831 A.2d 6 (2003).  The violation of a statute may set forth the prima facie case for a driver's negligence.  Kiriakos v. Phillips, 448 Md. 440, 456, 139 A.3d 1006 (2016). However, the trier of fact must still determine whether the defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances.  Polakoff v. Turner, 385 Md. 467, 869 A.2d 837 (2005). 

Proximate Cause

In order to be the proximate cause of injuries the negligent act must be: 1) a cause in fact; and 2) the legally cognizable cause.  Hartford Ins. Co. v. Manor Inn, 335 Md. 135, 156-57, 642 A.2d 219, 230 (1994); Pittway Corp. v. Collins, 409 Md. 218, 243, 973 A.2d 771, 786 (2009); Warr v. JMGM Group, LLC, 433 Md. 170 (2013).

Sudden Emergency Doctrine

Generally, the operator of an automobile who suddenly finds himself in a position of peril is not required to exercise the same care as when he has ample time to reflect upon the course of action he should pursue. However, if the operator is not actually in a position of sudden peril, or, if the peril arises because of his own negligence, then the emergency rule is not applicable.  Warnke v. Essex, 217 Md. 183, 186-87, 141 A.2d 728, 729 (1958); Haney v. Gregory, 177 Md. App. 504, 520 (2007).

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is the neglect of the duty imposed upon all [individuals] to observe ordinary care for their own safety while driving.  It is the doing of something that a person of ordinary prudence would not do, or the failure to do something that a person of ordinary prudence would do, under the circumstances on the road.  Campfield v. Crowther, 252 Md. 88, 93, 249 A.2d 168, 172 (1969).  A person who fails to use ordinary care for his own safety is contributory negligent and is barred from recovery, regardless of how negligent the defendant was.  Harrison v. Montgomery County Bd. of Educ., 295 Md. 442, 444, 456 A.2d 894 (1983); Coleman v. Soccer Association, 69 A. 3d 1149, 432 Md. 679 (2013)

Last Clear Chance

The doctrine of last clear chance permits a contributorily negligent plaintiff to recover damages from a negligent defendant if each of the following elements is satisfied: (i) the defendant is negligent; (ii) the plaintiff is contributorily negligent; and (iii) the plaintiff makes a showing of something new or sequential, which affords the defendant a fresh opportunity (of which he fails to avail himself) to avert the consequences of his original negligence.  Liscombe v. Potomac Edison Co., 303 Md. 619, 638, 495 A.2d 838 (1985); Burdette v. Rockville Crane Rental, Inc., 130 Md.App. 193, 216, 745 A.2d 457 (2000); Wooldridge v. Price, 184 Md. App. 451, 966 A.2d 955, 961 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2009).

Assumption of the Risk

"In Maryland, it is well settled that in order to establish the defense of assumption of risk, the defendant must show that the plaintiff: (1) had knowledge of the risk of the danger; (2) appreciated that risk; and (3) voluntarily confronted the risk of danger." ADM P'ship v. Martin, 348 Md. 84, 90-91, 702 A.2d 730, 734 (1997); Poole v. Coakley & Williams Const., Inc., 423 Md. 91, 131, 31 A.3d 212, 236 (2011).

Unavoidable Accident

An unavoidable accident is an occurrence that is not foreseeable or anticipated and could not have been prevented by the exercise of ordinary care under the attendant circumstances.  Fry v. Carter, 375 Md. 341, 825 A.2d 1042 (2003). The Fry court, however, held that such instructions should not be given in negligence actions.  See id. at 1043. 

Assumption of the Risk

"In Maryland, it is well settled that in order to establish the defense of assumption of risk, the defendant must show that the plaintiff: (1) had knowledge of the risk of the danger; (2) appreciated that risk; and (3) voluntarily confronted the risk of danger." ADM P'ship v. Martin, 348 Md. 84, 90-91, 702 A.2d 730, 734 (1997); Poole v. Coakley & Williams Const., Inc., 423 Md. 91, 131, 31 A.3d 212, 236 (2011).

Respondeat Superior

The doctrine of respondeat superior, in Maryland, allows an employer to be held vicariously liable for the tortious conduct of its employee when that employee was driving a car within the scope of the employment relationship and caused an auto accident.  Oaks v. Connors, 339 Md. 24, 35, 660 A.2d 423 (1995); Sawyer v. Humphries, 587 A.2d 467, 470 (1991); Barclay v. Briscoe, 427 Md. 270, 282, 47 A.3d 560, 567 (2012).

Presumption of Ownership

Registering the title of a vehicle in one’s name raises a presumption of ownership of the vehicle for the named person. Liberty Co. v. American Co., 220 Md. 497, 154 A.2d 826 (1959); One Ford Motor Vehicle VIN No. 1FACP41A8LFZ17570 v. State, 104 Md. App. 744, 751 (1995).  

Presumption that Driver is Driving with Permission

Ordinarily, a presumption exists that the driver of a vehicle is a permissive user.  State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Martin Marietta Corp., 105 Md.App. 1, 657 A.2d 1183 (1995), appeal dismissed, 342 Md. 603, 679 A.2d 104 (1996); Empire Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 117 Md. App. 72, 97, 699 A.2d 482, 494 (1997).

Negligent Entrustment of a Vehicle

The rule for negligent entrustment holds that [o]ne who supplies directly or through a third person a vehicle or car for the use of another whom the supplier or car owner knows or has reason to know to be likely because of his youth, inexperience, or otherwise, to use the car in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical harm to himself and others whom the supplier or car owner should expect to share in or be endangered by its use, is subject to liability for physical harm resulting to them.  Restatement (Second) of Torts § 390 (1965); Kahlenberg v. Goldstein, 290 Md. 477, 488 (1981); Broadwater v. Dorsey, 344 Md. 548, 554, 688 A.2d 436 (1997); Hendrix v. Burns, 205 Md.App. 1, 42-43, 43 A.3d 415.

Boulevard Rule

"[A] driver upon approaching a `through highway' from an unfavored road must stop and yield the right of way to all traffic already in or which may enter the intersection during the entire time the unfavored driver encroaches upon the right of way; [and] this duty continues as long as he is in the intersection and until he becomes a part of the flow of favored travelers or successfully traverses the boulevard."  Creaser v. Owens, 267 Md. 238, 239-40, 297 A.2d 235, 236 (1972); Grady v. Brown, 408 Md. 182, 194, 968 A.2d 1084 (2009)Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. Stokes, 217 Md. App. 471, 488 (2014).

Drivers License Required

In general, a person may not operate a motor vehicle on a public road without a driver's license.  Md. Code, Transportation Article, § 16-101(a); Sullivan v. State, 407 Md. 493, 502-03, 966 A.2d 919, 924 (2009). 

Unsafe Vehicles Prohibited

A person may not operate a vehicle that is unsafe or may endanger other persons.  Md. Code, Transportation, § 22-101(a); State v. Williams, 401 Md. 676, 934 A.2d 38, 42 (2007); Muse v. State, 146 Md.App. 395, 807 A.2d 113, 119 (2002)..

Seatbelt Use Required

A person operating a vehicle must wear a seatbelt.  Md. Code, Transportation, § 22-412.3(b). However, failure to use a seatbelt is not evidence of negligence or contributory negligence.  Md. Code, Transportation, § 22-412.3(h).  

Right of Way

"Right-of-way” means the right of one vehicle or pedestrian to proceed in a lawful manner on a highway in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian.  Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-101(t).

Right of Way When Turning at Intersection

When cars arrive simultaneously at an intersection that has no signal and both cars are attempting to get on the same road at the same time, left turning cars must yield the right of way and right turning cars have the right of way.  Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-402, -601, -604, -605, -606. See also Kelbaugh v. Mills, 108 Md.App. 89, 671 A.2d 41 (1996).

Imputed Negligence

Under Maryland tort law, an owner because of his presumed control over his car when present though not physically handling the wheel, may be held liable in the event of a collision, to the same extent as if he were manually controlling or operating the vehicle. In such a case the negligence of the driver is said to be imputed to the owner.  Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Stroh, 314 Md. 176, 181, 550 A.2d 373 (1988); Bowser v. Resh, 170 Md.App. 614, 907 A.2d 910, 918-19 (2006).

U-turns

Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-401(b):

If the driver of a vehicle intends to turn to go in the opposite direction, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any approaching vehicle that is so near as to be an immediate danger.

Negligent Maintenance

Accidents caused by failure to properly maintain a vehicle can lead to the owner being held liable for damages caused by the failure. Miller v. Montgomery County, 64 Md. App. 202, 304 Md. 299 (1985).

Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-602(a):

The driver of a vehicle on any curve may not turn to go in the opposite direction if the vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of any other vehicle that is within 500 feet and approaching from either direction.

Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-602(b):

Accidents caused by failure to properly maintain a vehicle can lead to the owner being held liable for The driver of a vehicle on or approaching the crest of any grade may not turn to go in the opposite direction if the vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of any other vehicle that is within 500 feet and approaching from either direction.caused by the failure. Miller v. Montgomery County, 64 Md. App. 202, 304 Md. 299 (1985).

Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-602(a):

The driver of a vehicle on any curve may not turn to go in the opposite direction if the vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of any other vehicle that is within 500 feet and approaching from either direction.

Entering Highways

Cars entering highways are supposed to stop and yield the right of way to cars already on the highway. Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-404(a) & (b).  

Emergency Vehicles

Drivers must yield the right of way to emergency vehicles using audible and visual signals, and police vehicles using audible signals. Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-405(a). 

"(b) On the immediate approach of an emergency vehicle using audible and visual signals that meet the requirements of § 22-218 of this article or of a police vehicle lawfully using an audible signal, the driver of every other vehicle, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, shall drive immediately to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the edge or curb of the roadway, clear of any intersection."  Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-405(b).

"(c) On the immediate approach of an emergency vehicle using audible and visual signals that meet the requirements of § 22-218 of this article or of a police vehicle lawfully using an audible signal, the driver of every other vehicle, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, shall stop and stay in this position until the emergency vehicle has passed." Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-405(c).

Res Ipsa Loquitur

With regard to a negligence action based on a perceptually single-vehicle accident, res ipsa loquitur ("res ipsa" or "the doctrine") will be available "if the accident or injury is one which ordinarily would not occur without negligence on the part of the operator of the vehicle" and "the facts are so clear and certain that the inference [of negligence] arises naturally from them."  District of Columbia v. Singleton, 425 Md. 398, 406-07, 41 A.3d 717 (2012).

Crossing Railroad Tracks

The recognized rule in this State is that it is negligence per se for any person to attempt to cross tracks of a railroad without first looking and listening for approaching trains, and that this duty continues until the tracks are reached. If the view of the track is not fully in view in both directions in the immediate approach to the crossing due care would require that the party intending to cross the railroad tracks should stop, look and listen before attempting to cross.  Lord v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 251 Md. 113, 116 (1968). 

Children under 16 not allowed to in truck bed

Children under 16 are not allowed to ride in the bed of a pickup truck.  Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-1121(b).

Persons not allowed to obstruct highways

" A person may not place any structure, building, or vehicle on a highway to sell or display any produce or merchandise if it constitutes a traffic hazard." Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-1113(a)

Government Duty to Maintain Roads

A local government is charged with the duty of keeping its roads in good repair and in a condition reasonably safe for travel and use by the public and may be held liable for injuries caused by a defect in the road resulting from its negligence.  See Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs for Cecil Cnty. v. Dorman, 979 A.2d 167, 174 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2009);  Smith v. Baltimore, 156 Md. App. 377, 383, 846 A.2d 1121 (2004).

Following too closely

"  A person may not place any structure, building, or vehicle on a highway to sell or display any produce or merchandise if it constitutes a traffic hazard." Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-310

Brake Failure Defense

Cars are required to have working brakes.  If those brakes fail and cause an accident, the burden is on the defense to prove that the failure of the brakes was the cause of the accident.  Mintzer v. Miller, 249 Md. 506, 240 A.2d 262, 264 (1968).

Emergency Defense

"Generally, the operator of an automobile who suddenly finds himself in a position of peril is not required to exercise the same care as when he has ample time to reflect upon the course of action he should pursue. However, if the operator is not actually in a position of sudden peril, or, if the peril arises because of his own negligence, then the emergency rule is not applicable." Haney v. Gregory, 177 Md. App. 504  (2007)Warnke v. Essex, 217 Md. 183, 186-87, 141 A.2d 728, 729 (1958).

Duty to Drive on Right Hand side of road

With some limited exceptions, vehicles shall be driven on the right hand side of the road.  Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-301

Exception to Duty to Drive on Right side of road

(1) While overtaking and passing another vehicle going in the same direction, under the rules governing this movement;

(2) Where there is an obstruction that makes it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway, but the driver of any vehicle doing so shall yield the right-of-way to any other vehicle that is traveling in the proper direction on the unobstructed part of the highway and is so near as to be an immediate danger;

(3) On a roadway that is divided into three or more clearly marked lanes for vehicular traffic, subject to the rules applicable to these roadways;

(4) On a roadway designated and signposted for one-way traffic; or

(5) On a roadway that is marked or signposted in a manner indicating that a contrary rule exists.

 Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-301(a)(1-5).

Passing on the Left Required

Passing on the left is required.  Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-303(b).

Duty to Sound Horn

"The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation, give audible warning with his horn, but may not otherwise use the horn when on a highway."  Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-401(b).

Narrow Roads

"If the roadway is not wide enough for more than one line of traffic in each direction, each driver shall give to the other as nearly as possible at least one half of the roadway."  Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-302(b). 

Passing on a One-Way

A driver may pass a another car "[o]n any one-way roadway, if the roadway is free from obstruction and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles," Md. Code, Transportation, § 21-304(a)(3), and it is safe to do so, 21-304(b).  

Right of Car Being Passed

A driver of a car being passed is entitled to assume that the car behind him will not attempt to pass illegally.  Hart v. A.C.E. Taxi, 442 F. Supp. 2d 268, 270 (D. Md. 2006); Iager v. Rogers, 27 Md. App. 556, 560 n.3, 341 A.2d 827, cert. denied, 276 Md. 745 (1975).

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