On May 16, 2024, Governor Wes Moore signed a landmark law in Maryland that prohibits waivers of liability for negligence in recreational facilities. This groundbreaking legislation ensures that recreational centers can no longer avoid responsibility for injuries caused by their negligence, even if participants have signed liability waivers. This change significantly impacts the legal landscape for anyone injured while enjoying recreational activities in Maryland.

What Are Liability Waivers?

Liability waivers are documents that participants sign before engaging in activities, indicating that they won’t hold the facility responsible for any injuries they might sustain. These waivers have been a common practice in gyms, swimming pools, sports complexes, and other recreational facilities to shield themselves from legal claims. Negligence occurs when a facility fails to uphold a standard of care, such as neglecting maintenance, providing insufficient safety measures, or failing to supervise adequately.

How Maryland’s New Law Prevents the Use of Releases of Liability

Tesla recently recalled over 2 million cars in the U.S. following a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) prompted by a series of crashes involving Tesla cars using the Autopilot feature. In response, Tesla released a software update in December for cars equipped with the system, adding more controls and alerts that would “encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility” while using Autosteer, a component of Autopilot. Despite this, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation said Tesla’s Autopilot system may still be inadequate. The agency identified at least 13 fatal crashes and 32 crashes resulting in injuries where Tesla drivers misused the system, according to a report released Thursday by the agency.

Federal auto safety regulators opened another investigation into Tesla’s recall of its Autopilot system last year, saying the company may not have done enough to keep drivers who use the technology focused on the road. The NHTSA announced on Friday, April 26, that they are opening an investigation into the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot feature, less than a week after a Tesla driver believed to be using it allegedly struck and killed a motorcyclist in Monroe, Washington. Jeffrey Nissen, 28, of Stanwood was on his way home from work on Highway 522 when the Tesla Model S struck his blue 2003 Yamaha R6, Nissen’s fiancée Janae Hutchinson said Thursday. Washington State Patrol spokesperson Chris Loftis said the agency is still investigating whether the Tesla driver was using Autopilot — a combination of cruise control and Autosteer intended to maintain the car’s set speed while keeping a safe distance from other vehicles and in its driving lane. The crash was among a rising number of collisions in Washington involving cars equipped with the technology, mostly Teslas.

Are Totally Driverless Cars Legal?

Autonomous driving, or the operation of vehicles with no human involvement, is currently only legal for testing in Washington state, and only three companies — NVIDIA Corporation, Waymo, and Zoox — have certified with the state’s licensing department to do so, said Loftis, a Washington State Patrol spokesperson. This is likely due to safety issues with totally autonomous vehicles.

The recent collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, Maryland led to widespread destruction and the tragic death of six construction workers. According to CNN, a large container ship lost power and crashed into the bridge in the early morning hours. As a result of the collision, the bridge collapsed, and several vehicles fell into the water. Tragically, eight construction workers were inside the vehicles when they fell. Two people were rescued and later discharged from the hospital. The U.S. Coast guard has ended its search for the other six workers, who are presumed dead. The bridge collapse has halted the flow of traffic and container ships in and out of Baltimore. It will likely take years to rebuild.

Who Can Sue a Ship’s Owner for Damages?

Multiple parties may file a claim for economic and non-economic damages against the ship’s owner. According to the Associated Press, the deceased construction workers’ families may be able to sue for wrongful death. In Maryland, a deceased person’s spouse, parents, and/or children may bring a wrongful death action. Filing a Maryland wrongful death action may allow a deceased person’s loved ones to recover damages for harm resulting from the victim’s death. A person filing a wrongful death action can recover compensation for the deceased’s lost future earnings, emotional pain and suffering, loss of the deceased’s companionship, or loss of parental care, among other damages. However, when suing a company such as a ship owner, the ship’s insurer may seek to limit its liability by asking the judge to impose a cap on the maximum amount of damages it would pay. In this scenario, the plaintiffs would need to respond quickly to ensure the cap is high enough to adequately compensate for their harm. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you act quickly if an insurance carrier attempts to cap your damages award.

On the other hand, businesses whose bottom line will suffer from the collapse may not be able to recover damages against the ship’s owner. A lawsuit for economic damages involving a cargo ship would likely pose complex questions of maritime law, which tends to bar recovery for pure economic loss. Unless the plaintiff has also suffered physical harm, they likely cannot recover damages solely for economic harm. The only exception is for pollution-related losses such as oil spills, which are different from the Baltimore bridge collapse.

Crashes involving commercial vehicles and large automobiles such as fire trucks or semi-trucks are inherently more dangerous than other types of collisions for a number of reasons.

Why Are Truck Accidents More Serious than Other Collisions?

Trucks, especially very heavy ones such as logging trucks or emergency vehicles result in more serious accidents when they are involved in crashes. Additionally, the conditions that many truck drivers operate under force them to drive extreme distances, resulting in fatigue. Further, large emergency response trucks, such as fire trucks, are often driving at extremely high speeds and operating under different driving rules than ordinary traffic, creating more opportunities for accidents. Finally, commercial trucks are also potentially carrying hazardous cargo, complicating truck crashes and accidents. While many people intuitively understand the greater risks involved in truck accidents, they may not know that according to the statistical analysis organization Policy Advice, truck accidents have increased by 52% since 2009, and 74% of all fatal passenger vehicle accidents include a large truck. A recent article discussed a large jury award following a serious D.C. fire truck crash.

According to the news article, a D.C. jury has awarded more than $13.5 million to the family of a man killed in a 2018 crash involving a speeding D.C. fire truck. The award, to be paid to the widow of DeAngelo Green and his six children, came after a jury found that the District was “grossly negligent” in the March 9, 2018 crash. Green, a maintenance man, was killed when the speeding fire engine, which was responding to an emergency with its lights and sirens activated, sped through a red light at an intersection at Rhode Island Avenue and 12th Street in Northeast D.C., plowing head-on into his car. Two other people, including a pregnant woman walking on the street, were hurt.

When a pharmacy distributes the wrong medication, the patient can suffer severe health complications. A medication mix-up can cause physical injury and psychological harm, and a person may face steep medical bills to treat the complications of the mix-up. As a result, victims of a pharmacy error may seek to hold the pharmacy liable for their harm and recover compensation. However, when bringing a pharmacy malpractice lawsuit, plaintiffs should be aware that a pharmacy can defend itself through the concept of patient responsibility.

What Is Patient Responsibility?

In medication error lawsuits, the defendant can argue that a patient should have recognized the mix-up before taking the medication. For example, a pharmacy may argue that a patient should be able to tell that the color and shape of a medication differ from their previous doses. As a result, a patient’s failure to recognize a medication error may bar a damages award. Maryland is one of the few states that follows a contributory negligence theory of liability. Under contributory negligence, a plaintiff cannot recover any damages if they were partially at fault for their injury. Despite this high standard for recovery, some courts have refused to dismiss cases based on contributory negligence.

When Will Courts Allow Medication Error Lawsuits to Go Forward?

Alcohol-impaired drivers are a major cause of car accidents throughout the country. Impaired drivers are extremely dangerous on the roads for a whole host of reasons. Drivers impaired by alcohol or other substances suffer from reduced levels of concentration and slower reaction times when processing their surroundings and actions. Additionally, drunk drivers suffer from poor hand-eye coordination and they are more likely to use poor judgment and experience memory loss while under the influence. These factors and other side effects of substance use greatly increase the likelihood of impaired drivers being involved in car accidents. Signs of impaired drivers on the road include but aren’t limited to, quicker than usual acceleration or deceleration, weaving across the road, erratic breaking, slow responses to traffic signals, or excessively slow driving (10 mph below the speed limit). When on the road, you should exercise extreme caution if you spot any of these signs from other drivers. In 2016, Maryland implemented stricter drunk driving laws throughout the state, including harsher penalties and an Ignition Interlock Program.

Does Maryland Have a High Rate of DUIs?

Unfortunately, Maryland sees a high share of alcohol-impaired drivers. Over the last five years, almost 800 people in Maryland have been killed in crashes involving impaired drivers and over 10,000 people per year die throughout the United States in alcohol-impaired crashes. Each year, tens of thousands of people are arrested throughout Maryland for drunk or impaired driving. Maryland currently deploys a specialized team of Maryland State troopers assigned to the State Police Impaired Driving Reduction Effort (SPIDRE) to enforce impaired driving laws. Since 2013, State Troopers in SPIDRE have taken more than 4,000 impaired drivers off of Maryland roads. A recent news report detailed a fatal Maryland car crash.

According to the news report, the accident happened in the evening on Saturday, February 3, 2024, in Reese, Maryland. The head-on collision involved three vehicles and resulted in multiple injuries when the cars collided around 6:27 pm in the evening. The crash occurred on Route 104 at Emory Road, in front of Lady Baltimore Floors. Reese and Community Volunteer Fire Company crews responded quickly to the scene in the westbound lanes of the road. The investigation into the crash is ongoing and police have requested that anyone with additional information contact them to help with the case.

Assisted living homes are common choices for elderly people living with dementia due to the care and supervision they provide. However, assisted living residents with dementia often wander from their facility if they are confused. In these circumstances, identifying and searching for the missing resident can be the difference between life and death. When assisted living facilities fail to notice a resident is missing, their inaction can have tragic consequences.

As a troubling Washington Post article reported, dozens of assisted living residents have died after wandering away without any staff noticing. According to the article, over 2,000 assisted living or dementia care residents have wandered away unnoticed or were left unattended outside since 2018. Nearly 100 have died. After investigating each incident, state inspectors often found evidence of severe neglect in these facilities. Moreover, in one out of ten cases the Post identified, regulators cited facilities for failing to properly report their missing residents. In one extreme example, an Alzheimer’s patient wandered from her facility, and staff did not look for her until eight hours later when they found her collapsed on the frozen ground. She later died at a hospital from prolonged exposure.

How Does the Government Regulate Assisted Living Facilities?

According to the Washington Post article, the federal government does not regulate assisted living facilities as it does with nursing homes. Individual states regulate assisting living facilities instead, and their level of regulation can vary widely depending on the state. In many states, regulatory fines are minimal, and facilities have largely evaded serious consequences. Maryland requires new assisted living employees to complete five hours of training on dementia and at least some training on other topics. The state does not mandate a certain ratio of residents to staff, meaning there is potential for understaffed facilities. Maryland’s Health Care Commission allows the public to look up complaints and inspection reports for each facility, including those with secure Alzheimer’s units.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety defines hit-and-run accidents as collisions in which at least one person involved in the crash flees the scene before offering any (or sufficient) information or aid to the other involved person(s) or fails to properly report the crash. Hit-and-run accidents are a major issue for a number of reasons, but in particular, they can increase the severity of outcomes given delays or the complete absence of medical attention for the victims. As of 2017, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that both the rate and fatality levels of hit-and-run collisions are on the rise. There were an estimated 737,100 hit-and-run crashes in 2015 (NHTSA, 2016). This translates to a hit-and-run crash happening somewhere in the U.S. every 43 seconds. The 2,049 fatalities that resulted from hit-and-run crashes in 2016 were the highest number recorded up to that point.

What Factors Make Hit and Runs More Likely?

Hit-and-run accidents are often characterized by certain specific factors. Common characteristics include the crash having few witnesses and or poor lighting. If there are many witnesses or the scene is highly visible, people are less likely to flee the scene of a crash. Relatedly, people are much more likely to flee a crash between the hours of midnight and 4:00 am, than between 8:00 am and 11:59 am. This is due to a host of reasons, but one explanation is that nighttime drivers generally engage in more risky behavior. A recent article described a Washington D.C. hit-and-run car accident.

The recent article described how a dangerous Washington D.C. hit-and-run collision unfolded on the evening of Wednesday, October 4, around 5:45 pm. A mother, her 10-year-old daughter, 6-year-old son, and dog were in the middle of the crosswalk at C and 12th Streets in Northeast when a dark-colored Nissan Armada accelerated and hit them. The 6-year-old was pinned under the tire of the SUV and was hospitalized with a fractured foot, according to his mother. A video of the incident shows the driver backing up slowly, following the commands of the mother and a neighbor who jumped in to help. The neighbor then directs the driver to pull over to the side past the intersection and at first it appears that’s what he was going to do but in a moment, he drives off.

The danger of any vehicle crash is compounded when a truck or other large vehicle is involved in the accident. Large commercial vehicles like trucks are on the road to transport heavy items over long distances. That means that trucks can become difficult to maneuver in emergency situations, preventing truck drivers from turning or stopping suddenly due to the weight of their vehicle and cargo. Even without heavy cargo or large trailers, trucks are heavy, making accidents involving them inherently dangerous. Additionally, truck drivers are under extreme pressure to spend long hours on the road, as they need to meet delivery deadlines. This can lead to exhaustion and impaired judgment on the roads. Tired drivers are more likely to make mistakes when driving, increasing the likelihood of accidents. A recent news article discussed a serious truck accident.

According to the news article, one day in late September, a semitrailer was clipped by a car in the southbound lanes of Route 28. The semitrailer then flipped over and exploded into flames, trapping the truck driver inside the cab of the truck. A man driving nearby spotted the accident. He described the crash, saying “While it was rolling, it was already on fire. Then it rolled to a stop, and I immediately pulled over with my kids, told them to stay in the car.” The man then ran to the crash, pulling the truck driver out of the fiery wreckage inch by inch. Eventually, other bystanders assisted him, and they were able to remove the truck driver from the cab. Emergency crews took the driver to a hospital where he remains gravely injured.

What Is the Good Samaritan Law in D.C.

Colloquially known as a good Samaritan law, § 7–401 of the D.C. code, limitation on liability for medical care or assistance in emergency situations, was passed to insulate good faith actors from liability in civil damages resulting from their attempts to assist those in need. The law states “Any person who in good faith renders emergency medical care or assistance to an injured person at the scene of an accident or other emergency in the District of Columbia outside of a hospital, without the expectation of receiving or intending to seek compensation from such injured person for such service, shall not be liable in civil damages for any act or omission, not constituting gross negligence, in the course of rendering such care or assistance.”

The danger of not wearing your seatbelt is compounded when a bus or other large vehicle is involved in the crash. That goes for people in the bus as well as other vehicles on the road. Large commercial or passenger vehicles like buses are on the road to transport many passengers or heavy items over extended distances.

Why Are Busses So Dangerous?

Buses can become difficult to maneuver in emergency situations, preventing bus drivers from turning or stopping suddenly due to the weight of their vehicles and passengers. Even without many passengers or large trailers, buses are heavy, making accidents involving them inherently dangerous. Additionally, bus drivers can be under high amounts of pressure to spend long hours on the road, needing to meet transportation deadlines. This can lead to exhaustion and impaired judgment while they drive, especially towards the end of their routes. Tired drivers are more likely to make mistakes when driving, increasing the likelihood of accidents. A recent news article discussed a serious bus accident.

According to the news article, a car driver tried to turn left onto Laurel Bush Road and into the path of an oncoming passenger mini-bus, resulting in a crash. The accident occurred early in the morning on Monday, September 11, around 8:30 a.m. The mini-bus was a Kensington KinderCare bus transporting the children on the way to their elementary school when the crash occurred. Eleven children and an adult were taken to the hospital as a result of the crash.

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