Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Being involved in a Washington, D.C. car accident can be a traumatic experience. Aside from the obvious concerns of physical injuries and emotional distress, car accident victims often find themselves in financial hardship. Thankfully, car accident victims are often able to pursue financial compensation from those responsible for the accident through a Washington, D.C. personal injury lawsuit.

Pizza BoxDetermining which parties to name in a lawsuit is not necessarily as easy as naming the other drivers involved in the accident. In fact, naming only the other drivers can be a major mistake. For example, in many cases, third parties can also be named in a lawsuit, not only increasing the chances of a favorable verdict but also increasing the chances of being fully compensated for any injuries sustained.

The doctrine of vicarious liability permits accident victims to name third parties in some situations. Essentially, vicarious liability allows a plaintiff to hold one person or entity responsible for another person’s actions. A common example is when an employee is involved in an accident while on the clock. In some cases, the employer can also be liable for any injuries sustained. However, as a recent case illustrates, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that the relationship between the employee and the employer is sufficient to impose liability on the employer.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Connecticut issued a written opinion in a car accident case requiring the court to discuss and analyze the difference between the question of whether evidence is admissible at trial and how much weight that evidence should be assigned. The case is important for Washington, D.C. personal injury plaintiffs because it illustrates the principle that a judge or jury must determine how much weight to assign the evidence presented by both sides.

Roll-Over AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving on the highway when she passed a Department of Transportation vehicle on the side of the road. As she passed the vehicle, she heard a loud noise, and her car flipped over, sliding on the roof for some distance before coming to a stop.

In her complaint naming the Department of Transportation as a defendant, she claimed that the driver pulled out into the road as she was passing and struck her vehicle. The trial took place in front of a judge, rather than in front of a jury. When the plaintiff testified, she explained that she was not looking at the Department of Transportation car and did not notice it until it struck her.

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Last month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a car accident case, highlighting the importance of a thorough pre-trial investigation. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff should have been permitted to amend her complaint to add the name of the owner of the vehicle that struck her in a hit-and-run accident. Ultimately, the court did permit the plaintiff to amend the complaint because the court determined that the vehicle owner was a “necessary party.”

T-Bone AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving in the car with her two daughters when she was struck by a hit-and-run driver. While the driver did not stop after the accident, the plaintiff was able to see that the driver was a male and was able to get the license plate of the vehicle.

The responding police officer ran the license plate number and determined that the vehicle was registered to a female owner. However, the owner could not have been the driver, since the owner was female, and the hit-and-run driver was male. The plaintiff initially filed a personal injury lawsuit against the woman whom she believed to be the owner of the vehicle. The plaintiff later requested insurance information for the vehicle, and another woman’s name was provided as the insured. The two women were mother and daughter. Later, the plaintiff attempted to add the daughter to the lawsuit; however, the trial court prevented the plaintiff from amending the lawsuit.

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Last month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a police officer who was injured while responding to an emergency call. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the officer was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, the “firefighter’s rule” prevented him from recovering compensation for his injuries.

Police SirensThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a police officer who was responding to the scene of an accident that had been called in while he was on duty. The call was for a single-vehicle accident that left a pick-up truck blocking the southbound lanes of the highway. The plaintiff was given the location of the accident and told that the blockage was in the southbound lanes.

As the officer was responding to the scene, he saw headlights up ahead. He believed them to be those of the disabled vehicle. However, the headlights belonged to another motorist’s vehicle that had stopped to assist the pick-up truck driver. As the officer approached the scene at 104 miles per hour, he crashed into the pick-up truck, which had its lights off. The driver of the pick-up truck was later determined to be legally intoxicated.

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In 2016, the National Safety Council estimated that roughly 40,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents across the country. According to an insurance industry news source, this represents a 6% increase in fatalities over the previous year and reflects the highest number of deaths since 2007. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported similar numbers, with an 8% increase in traffic deaths year-over-year.

Cell PhoneIn fact, since 2007, the number of traffic deaths has dropped dramatically. It was not until 2014 that the rate of traffic deaths started to slowly increase. However, since 2014, there has been a 16% increase in the number of traffic deaths.

Those who conducted the study point to several non-problematic factors that contributed to the sharp increase, including reasonable gasoline prices and a healthy economy. However, the researchers note that even taking these factors into account, the year-over-year total increase in miles traveled was only a 3% increase. This suggests that other factors are also in play.

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Late last year, an appellate court in Ohio issued a written opinion affirming an intermediate appellate court’s decision that a city that allowed a stop sign to become overgrown with foliage was not entitled to governmental immunity. In the case, Bibler v. Stevenson, the court concluded that the city was not entitled to immunity because the stop sign was placed due to a state law requiring stop signs to be placed at intersections of “through highways.”

Stop SignThe Facts of the Case

Bibler was injured in a car accident when another motorist, Stevenson, allegedly ran a stop sign. Stevenson claimed that he did not see the stop sign, and the responding police officer agreed that the sign was overgrown with foliage and not visible to approaching motorists.

Bibler later filed a personal injury lawsuit against both Stevenson and the City of Findlay, the local government of the place where the accident had occurred. Bibler settled with Stevenson, and the case proceeded against the city only. In a pre-trial motion, the city argued that it was entitled to government immunity because under state law, governments are only liable for negligence involving “public roads,” which do not include traffic-control devices. Bibler agreed with that general statement but argued there was an exception when the traffic-control device was by the state’s “manual of uniform traffic control devices.”

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Earlier this month, an Arizona appellate court issued a written decision in an auto accident case, holding that the lower court erred in not allowing the sole defendant to name an additional defendant whom she believed to be in part liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The court in Cramer v. Starr based its decision on the fact that Arizona was a “several liability” state.

Car AccidentIn short, Cramer struck another motorist, Mungia. Mungia then sought out medical treatment, culminating in a surgery. The surgery ended up making her symptoms worse, and she sued Cramer for negligence without naming the doctor in the lawsuit. Cramer then asked the court for permission to name the doctor as an additional defendant under a medical malpractice theory of liability.

“Several Liability” Versus “Joint and Several Liability”

There are two basic statutory schemes that states use to determine how much an at-fault defendant can be required to compensate a plaintiff. In a “several liability” state, defendants are severally liable to the plaintiff for the damages they caused. This means that any one defendant cannot be required to pay more than their share of the damages. For example, if a defendant is determined to be 30% at fault in an accident, and the total damages suffered by the plaintiff were $500,000, the defendant who was 30% at fault will only be required to pay $150,000.

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Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an opinion dismissing a plaintiff’s case against a state employee, based on the plaintiff’s failure to strictly comply with the notice requirements outlined in the state’s statute governing cases against governments and government employees. In the case, Sorenson v. Batchelder, the issue was whether personal notice of the lawsuit provided to the state’s attorney general complied with the requirement that notice be provided through certified mail.

Wrecked CarThe Facts of the Case

In October 2010, a state employee rear-ended a vehicle that was pushed into the plaintiff’s vehicle, causing property damage and personal injury to the plaintiff. Three months later, the plaintiff served notice of the claim to the attorney general in the state’s capitol. After investigating the claim, the state government issued a check to the plaintiff in the amount of $241. Not satisfied with the compensation, the plaintiff then filed a negligence lawsuit against the state employee, seeking a fuller award.

Before the case reached trial, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the case because the plaintiff failed to strictly comply with the state’s notice requirement, which required that notice of a claim be delivered by certified mail. The lower courts determined that service was proper, but the state employee appealed to the highest state court.

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Earlier this month, a Nebraska appellate court issued a written opinion regarding an appeal filed by a personal injury plaintiff who was awarded a zero-dollar award after a jury trial. In the case, Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, the court determined that, while a zero-dollar award normally requires clarification from the jury, in this case it was clear what the jury intended, so no clarification was necessary.

accident-641456_960_720The Facts of the Case

Lowman was a passenger in a car being driven by her husband when the car was struck by an uninsured driver. The Lowmans’ uninsured motorist carrier was State Farm, so they filed a claim with the company. State Farm admitted that the uninsured driver was liable but disputed the issues of causation and damages. The case proceeded to trial on these two issues.

During the pendency of the trial, the Lowmans withdrew their claim for lost wages and admitted that all medical bills had been paid. Thus, the only claim remaining was that for her pain and suffering. At trial, Lowman’s attorney told the jury “If you think [Lowman] is exaggerating, there should be no verdict. If you think she’s a liar, a cheat and a fraud, there should be no verdict.”

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Earlier this month in Hyattsville, Maryland, not far from Washington, D.C., an accident between a church van and a pick-up truck resulted in four people losing their lives and another 14 being seriously injured. According to one local news source, the accident took place on a Sunday afternoon on Hyattsville Street.

slow-traffick-1449352Evidently, police believe that the driver of the pick-up truck rear-ended another passenger vehicle and then lost control of the truck. After traveling several hundred feet past the site of the initial collision, the truck crossed over a double yellow line into the line of oncoming traffic. A church van with 16 people inside traveling in the opposite direction was unable to avoid the collision, and it struck the truck on the passenger side.

After that collision, the pick-up truck ignited in flames. The flames burned intensely until emergency workers were able to get the fire under control. However, ultimately the driver of the truck was pronounced dead at the scene. Thankfully, the flames from the truck did not spread to the van. However, three people in the van – two adults and one child – were killed as a result of the collision. Fourteen others in the van were injured and were taken to various hospitals in the area.

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